Bird Box Clear Out

The school’s bird boxes have been cleaned out ready for this year’s nesting season – thank you Mr Marriot for helping once again!

All the boxes showed signs of having been used; six had nests in them and the rest had been used for roosting.

Sparrow terrace 1 –  one section had a partial nest of dried grass and moss and the other two had droppings
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)
Infant Birdcam Box – no nest but droppings (roosting birds)
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 –  nest, cleaned out
Colour Birdcam box – full nest, mainly moss (successful Blue Tit nest)
Flowery bird box – Blue tit nest (box now split so not cleaned out)

Box locations can be seen on a satellite google map

In addition to these boxes, a pair of Robins successfully nested in a bag of leaves in the school’s greenhouse!

Blue tit roosting in Infant box, 20th February

Blue tit roosting,20th February

When the birdcams are left running overnight, a Blue tit can be seen roosting in the Infant box. It has already added some droppings back into the newly cleaned out box!

Big Schools’ Birdwatch 2015 – The Result!

This year, the RSPB has given schools from 5th January to 13th February to do their Big Schools’ Birdwatch surveys. We have taken part in this national survey for the last seven years. This year, each class completed one survey with all children having the opportunity to take part. The surveys lasted one hour during which time we counted the maximum number of each species seen together (i.e. not individual visits).



This year we counted nearly 200 birds over 3 surveys and recorded 26 different species. We were excited to record our first ever sighting of a Brambling which was seen feeding under the Alder trees with other finches and also on the feeders in front of the bird hide. The Brambling is similar in size and shape to the Chaffinch and can be mistaken for one. It is a winter visitor to the UK, breeding in Scandinavia and Western Siberia during the summer months.

Although the ground was covered in snow on the 23rd January, the leaf litter under the Alder trees was fairly clear of snow. We counted a massive 25 Bullfinches feeding on Alder seeds on this day.

Species19th Jan pm - Class 123rd Jan am - Class 223rd Jan pm - Class 3
Species count141520
Blue tit222
Carrion crow12
Collared dove42
Great Spotted Woodpecker11
Great tit212
Mistle Thrush1
Tree Sparrow4
Willow tit1
Total birds seen494790


Autumn Tidy Up

Reception and Year 2 did a fantastic job of de-heading dead flowers in our Learning Garden today. This will help the plants flower for as long as possible providing nectar for insects still out on chilly autumn days. A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was very grateful for all the work the children did!

Year 2 also collected some Lavender flowers to make their classroom smell nice!

Late Bloomers!

Learning Garden in Bloom

Learning Garden in Bloom

We came back to school after the summer holidays to find our learning garden in full bloom, what a fantastic sight! Thank you Mr Cooke for keeping the garden watered over the holidays. The flowers have been attracting large numbers of butterflies such as Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells during the day along with many bees, hoverflies and other insects. At night-time, the heady scent from the flowers also attracts moths.

Moth trap set 18th September, 2014 (by bird hide)

Emptied by Year 6 on the 19th: 2 Copper Underwing agg., 1 Angle Shades, 22 Large Yellow Underwing, 3 Dusky Thorn, 1 Garden Carpet, 1 Pied Smudge, 2 Square-spot Rustic, 4 Lunar Underwing, 1 Mouse Moth, 3 Brimstone Moth, 3 Lesser Yellow Underwing, 3 Setaceous Hebrew Character, 1 Brown-spot Pinion, 2 Green Carpet, 1 Snout, 1 Common Wainscot, 2 Common Marbled Carpet, 2 Common/Dark Marbled Carpet agg., 1 Rosy Rustic.

Average temperature 15ºC, drizzly

From Fork to Plate!

The children worked hard over the summer terms to grow some fruit and vegetables. The strawberries were all eaten before we broke up for the holidays and even featured in our competition winning video. We harvested the tomatoes, purple french beans and garlic on returning in September. Sue, our cook, used the vegetables for school dinners. She used the garlic for garlic bread and tomatoes and garlic in a bolognese sauce. When cooked, the purple beans turn green; these were served as a side dish to the spaghetti bolognese. Delicious!

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