Moth Trapping Summer Term 2014

Woodpecker Class and Year 3 helped to empty the moth trap a couple of times during the Summer Term. They each chose a moth and did some great observational drawings. Year 3s uploaded some of their moth photographs to our ispot account to help identify their moths.

Trap set 16th June, 2014 (by the bird hide)

Total 8 species: 5 Buff Ermine, 6 Heart and Dart, 1 Blood-vein, 2 Silver-ground Carpet,  2 Mottled Beauty, 2 White Ermine, 1 Ingrailed Clay. A female Lime Hawk-moth was found on the playground after the trap was emptied on the 17th.

Trap set 20th July, 2014 (by bird hide)

Before emptying the moth trap, the children released a Peacock butterfly which they had found as a caterpillar and then successfully reared in the classroom.

All potted up

All potted up!

Total 22 species: 4 Riband Wave, 8 Large Yellow Underwing, 1 Marbled Beauty, 4 Common Footman, 5 Dingy Footman, 1 Yellow-tail, 1 Common White Wave, 1 Snout, 3 Small Fan-footed Wave, 2 Heart and Dart, 2 Bright-line Brown-eye, 2 Lesser Yellow Underwing, 3 Scalloped Oak, 1 Dusky Pearl, 4 Uncertain/Rustic agg., 2 Common Rustic agg., 1 Smoky Wainscot, 2 Dark Arches, 1 Ingrailed Clay, 2 Early Thorn, 1 Coxcomb Prominent, Poplar Hawkmoth.


School Wildlife

This term Woodpecker Class are studying minibeasts. Our school grounds provide a good variety of habitats for a great range of plants and animals. Let us know what you have found in the school grounds by leaving a comment on this post and, if you can, take a photograph.

Sole Survivor!

At the end of term (23rd May) we had a box full of eight healthy 11 day old chicks which were being well fed by their parents. Their eyes were open and their feathers were beginning to show their Blue Tit markings.

eight 10-day old chicks

eight 10-day old chicks

However, that was all to change when the weather turned very wet and chilly for most of the school holidays! By Tuesday 27th only 4 chicks remained, the adults were struggling to find enough live food and to keep them warm. They didn’t appear to be bringing in any caterpillars, the stable diet of Blue Tit chicks. On Thursday, there was only one surviving chick in the box and although it looked rather alone and cold it was now getting all the food the adults could bring in to itself. On occasion it could be seen jumping up at the hole and stretching its wings. We held our breath to see whether it could survive the night alone in the box, no adult came to brood it. To our relief it was still bright and chirpy in the morning and Dave Carder, one of our regular birdcam watchers, was privileged to see the chick fledge at 12.44 pm. Good luck little chick as you face a new set of challenges!

Read the comments on the Colour Birdcam 2014 page for a day by day account of this year’s nest box activity.

We Have Blue Tit Chicks!

What an exciting day! We weren’t expecting the chicks to hatch for another couple of days as the eighth and final egg of the Blue Tit clutch was laid on the 1st May. However, a couple of diligent birdcam watchers from Kingfisher Class spotted that two chicks had hatched out by mid-morning. We’ll forgive the boys from being side tracked from working because they brought us this exciting news! After lunch Woodpecker Class watched as a further chick hatched and the female ate the egg shell. We also watched the parents feeding the chicks some tiny caterpillars. These chicks start life helpless, blind and unable to feed themselves unlike the chicken chicks which we watched hatch out a couple of weeks ago. It’s amazing to think that in around three weeks time they will be nearly as big as the adult birds and ready to fledge (fly) from the nest box.

Update: 16th May  We think we’ve managed to spot eight beaks at once which means that all the eggs hatched. One or two of the eggs hatched a couple of days after the others.

Update 27th May – Half the brood have died over this wet bank holiday weekend. Will the remaining four survive their final week before fledging?

Living Eggs

The eggs arrived on Monday, they were placed in the incubator to keep them warm and soft. We kept a close eye on the eggs looking to see whether the eggs were rolling or signs that the chicks were pipping out. By Wednesday morning some of the eggs had hatched, the chicks emerged from the eggs looking exhausted! Over the next 24 hours, all 10 eggs hatched. They stayed in the incubator until they had fluffed up and then they were moved into the brooder box.

In the brooder box the chicks were fed twice a day with ‘chick crumb’ and any other treats that we had in the classroom!

We watched the chicks as they grew and even had the chance to hold them.

Eggs for Easter!

An avid watcher of our birdcams has reported seeing 3 or 4 eggs in our Colour Birdcam box this morning. The well of the nest is kept covered with feathers during the day but you might catch a glimpse of any eggs when the roosting Blue Tit leaves the nest at dawn or when returning at night. Let us know if you spot any eggs.

Nest Building Begins

Roosting Blue Tit

Roosting Blue Tit

Earlier last week, we noticed that House Sparrows were going in and out of Sparrow Terrace Box 1 (car park side of building). Checking the camera feed on the the old colour birdcam box on Thursday revealed the beginnings of a nest. Blue Tits have started to build a nest mainly out of moss and one roosts in the box at night.

Derby Cathedral Peregrines Start Laying

The wait is over! Just after midnight last night the falcon (female) laid her first egg of the season. Hopefully we will see 2 or 3 more laid over the coming week. Eggs are usually laid roughly every other day until there is a full clutch. This was a view of the egg from the webcam 4 stream this morning.

Visit the Peregrine Project Blog for the latest information.
Woodpecker Class posted a question on the blog, “Do peregrines always nest high up?” They received this interesting reply:

Nick B (DWT) said…
Hi Woodpecker Class: a good question!
Yes, peregrines usually try to nest as high up a cliff or building as they possibly can….though never too near the top where they culd be at risk. That way, their eggs and chicks are safe from predators like foxes.
Obviously there are some places in the world where peregrines live where there are no cliffs. For example the tundra of the far north. In these places they do nest on the ground because they have no alternative. Amazingly, a kind of goose called a red breasted goose, chooses to nest right up close to peregrine nests. Now that would seem to be a silly thing to do but actually it makes sense. The peregrines value the geese because the geese keep a very good watch for appraoching predators like foxes. So in return, the peregrines do not try to eat the goslings. Isn’t nature marvellous?
Nick B (DWT)
Ps. In cities, tall buildings like our cathedral are really just ‘cliffs’ to our birds…..great, safe places where the birds can look down on all the bustle below but live out ther lives high above it all.

Update: the 4th and final egg was laid on April 5th and full incubation of the eggs has started.

Spring has Sprung!

Small Tortoiseshell butterflies

Small Tortoiseshell butterflies

The beginning of March seems to have brought with it some welcome spring like weather. I spotted a pair of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies and a Peacock butterfly flying around my garden today; I wonder who will  be the first to spot a butterfly in the school grounds this year? Let us know what signs of spring you have seen either at school or at home by leaving a comment on this post.

Several children have seen birds checking out our school bird boxes. We are beginning to leave our birdcams on now to see if we can capture any activity in those boxes. Mr Marriot, our school caretaker, and Dave Carder, another regular viewer, have reported seeing a Blue Tit roosting in the the new Infant Birdcam box on a couple of occasions during this last week. Any droppings left in the box have been cleared out the following morning.

Big Schools’ Birdwatch 2014 – The Result!



Once again we had a very successful Big Schools’ Birdwatch and managed to submit four sets of results, with all the children having the opportunity to contribute. We saw a grand total of 23 different bird species and 275 birds overall. Absent from the count this year were Woodcock, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush; last year’s cold and snowy conditions had encouraged these species to forage in the school grounds. However, this year we were treated to visits from Redpolls which we were able to see close up while they took full advantage of our bird feeders in front of our new bird hide. Another highlight was the presence of 20 Tree Sparrows resting in the hedgerow behind the pond. It’s good to see that this not so common bird is still doing so well in the area. 

Class Kingfisher Kingfisher Peregrine Woodpecker
Species 23rd Jan 27th Jan 27th Jan 31st Jan
Blackbird 2 2 3 2
Blue Tit 4 4 3 3
Bullfinch 10 4 9 12
Collared Dove 2 0 1 2
Chaffinch 9 10 9 12
Coal Tit 0 0 1 1
Jackdaw 0 0 3 1
Goldfinch 10 12 6 8
G.S Woodpecker 0 0 0 1
Great Tit 2 2 3 2
Greenfinch 1 2 2 1
Linnet 1 0 0 0
Long-tailed Tit 4 0 0 5
Magpie 2 0 2 2
Redwing 0 10 0 10
Robin 1 1 1 1
Rook 3 11 5 1
Siskin 2 0 0 0
Tree Sparrow 20 3 6 5
Yellowhammer 1 0 0 0
Redpoll 0 3 4 2
Woodpigeon 1 2 1 3
Wren 1 0 0 0
TOTAL BIRDS SEEN 76   66  59 74 
SPECIES COUNT 18  13  16  19 

The Big Clear Out!

Flowery bird box!

Flowery bird box!

I would like to say a massive thank you to Mr Marriot for helping me clean out all the school’s bird boxes today. It managed to say mostly dry all morning but our fingers were numb with cold by the end of it all! All the boxes showed signs of having been used; four had nests in them and the rest had been used for roosting.

The B&W Birdcam Box was taken down and the new Colour Infant Birdcam Box was put in its place. Unfortunately Sparrow Terrace 3 had to be taken down last season after it was taken over by wasps. A new beautifully decorated box, made by one of the children, has now been put up in its place.

Sparrow terrace 1 –  all  three sections had droppings in them (roosting birds)
Sparrow terrace 2 –  all  three sections had droppings in them (roosting birds)
Corner field box – no nest but droppings (roosting birds)
Silver Birch Box – full nest of mainly moss (successful Blue Tit nest)
B&W Birdcam box – full nest of mainly moss (failed Great Tit nest)
Butler Box – no nest but droppings (roosting birds)
Staff car park box – mainly mossy nest (successful Blue Tit nest)
Sycamore tree box – no nest but droppings (roosting birds)
Pond box – inaccessible, unable to clean out
Bird table roof – not cleaned out
Open fronted nest box – Robin nest, not cleaned out
Colour Birdcam box – full nest, mainly moss (successful Blue Tit nest)

Our 5 Star Wildlife Hotel!

This week, Jill Leheup from the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT) visited school to help the children construct a wildlife hotel in our Learning Garden. The children were assisted by DWT volunteers, school staff and our Chair of Governors. On arriving at the school, Jill was extremely impressed by the amount of materials that parents, grandparents, staff and friends had manage to collect. We would also like to thank the Slating & Tiling Co. (Stonebroom) and Woolley Moor Nurseries for providing additional items.

A Wildlife hotel aims to mimic a wide range of natural habitats to provide shelter and food for creatures such as: amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates and even small mammals.

After a tool safety talk by Jill, the Juniors used bow saws and hacksaws to cut up short lengths of logs and piping; loppers to cut up bamboo canes and a drill to make holes in the ends of logs. They dug a level area near our new herb garden where they placed the first pallet raised slightly on stone blocks. The Infants stuffed this base layer with leaves and bark chippings and watered it to make it damp, mimicking a woodland floor habitat. Further layers of pallets were added each filled with different materials. Tiles, bricks, logs, pipes with bamboo stuffed in them and even old cups filled with different materials were inserted in the spaces around the edges of the pallets to form symmetrical patterns and plenty of crevices for minibeasts such as solitary bees, spiders lacewings and ladybirds to shelter in. Finally, the top pallet was covered with roofing felt to give a waterproof layer which was then covered with overlapping layers of slate to attract insects which like to bask in the sun.

Wildlife Hotel

Learning with Nature

Our winning dragon's den presenters

Our winning Dragon’s Den presenters

Last term our children pitched their ideas for a ‘learning garden’ at a Dragon’s Den style competition which was part of an enterprise project between local primary schools. The Dragon’s Den panel were so impressed with the way the children talked about the plans, and how the ‘Learning Garden’ idea built on and developed what we already had, that we won! The garden is being funded with the prize money, some lottery funding and also with money raised by the children through their Enterprise fund raising activities.

At the end of last term, we purchased some plants and planted up a herb garden (smell), a Buddleia garden to attract butterflies and other insects (sight), and a vegetable patch with runner beans and leeks (taste). This term we hope to complete our ‘touch and hearing’ garden with a range of textural plants and a water feature (our outgoing Year 6s very kindly donated some money to go towards the water feature).

The hot weather certainly kept the children busy with watering the plants which Mr Cooke kindly took over during the Summer Holidays. All their efforts have paid off and the garden is really taking shape and looks great!

We’re Moth-ers Now!

Moth trapThe night before the first day of term, I set up my moth trap in the school’s new learning garden. The trap consists of a black box with a UV light source and vanes mounted above. Overnight, moths are attracted to the light, hit the vanes and fall down into the box below where they hide away amongst some egg boxes waiting to be discovered by eager hands the next day. Those that miss the trap may shelter under additional egg boxes placed around the box.

The next morning Year 4 helped me record what had been caught (a complete list of what we found can be found in the comments for this post).They took some great close up photographs of the moths to help us identify them. During computer class, the children chose one of the moths to identify and find out about. They cropped a photograph and uploaded it to our account on ispot (a web site aimed at identifying anything in nature). They looked up information about their chosen moth on the UKMoths web site and also in a a book about moths. You can see what they wrote about their moths here.

I was really impressed with the children’s photographs and how quickly they picked up information about the moths. With over 2500 different species of moths in the UK, I’m sure we can look forward to some exciting finds in the future.

Year 2 Birdwatching

Year 2 went bird watching from the school hide this morning. They all practised focussing the binoculars on far and near objects. They spotted the following birds: Blue tit, Great tit, Collared Dove, Magpie, Goldfinch, Carrion Crow, Stock Dove, Blackbird and Chaffinch. HR wondered why Blue tits have an undulating (up and down) flight. The Chaffinch, Blackbird, Crow and the Collared Dove only ate food from the ground. When Mrs Mahadevan was tidying up at the end she spotted a Squirrel feeding from the ground feeder.

The children also paired up to watch some of our non-camera bird boxes; they saw Blue Tits going in and out of the Car Park box and also the Silver Birch box. JH and RL heard the chicks calling from the Silver Birch box.

Here are some photographs taken by the children.