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.

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.

The Ups and Downs of Nesting

After a really sad end to the Great tit brood last Friday night, we can report that we have our first Blue tilt chick this morning! The Great tits abandoned the nest, possibly due to difficulties keeping the brood fed during last week’s bad weather. Spring has been a bit delayed this year so let’s hope that the Blue tits have got it right by nesting later. The Oak trees have finally come into leaf so hopefully the adults will be able to find plenty of caterpillars to feed their chicks.

Chicks being fed at one week old

10th June – At two weeks old, the chicks have feathers and can be seen stretching their wings. Their eyes are open and the nine chicks fight for the best position when the parents return with some food. On average, Blue tit chicks fledge around three weeks after fledging so you might start to see signs of them wanting to leave from this weekend (15th June).

Feeding, cleaning up and a lot of wing flapping – 14th June

Sunday 16th June – The surviving four chicks spent the night in the box without any adults. The smallest chick didn’t appear to be getting its fair share of food during the following morning and by lunchtime it had died. The remaining three chicks look very active and the adults have been trying really hard to tempt them out of the box but they have only ventured to the hole once or twice. Flies have been attracted to the box which seems to bother one of the adults; it has tried jumping up to catch them. The chicks are three weeks old tomorrow so they should fledge any time now.

One of the chicks fledged on Monday morning (17th June); the other two spent another night in the box and fledged in the early hours of the following morning.

Our New Bird Hide

Our new bird hide/wildlife hut arrived at school on Friday, 10th May and was promptly erected to overlook our pond and wooded area. The purchase of the hide was funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund which has also enabled us to purchase binoculars, a bird feeding station, bird food, a hedgehog house, a ladybird/lacewing box and a replacement colour camera for our B&W birdcam box. In the coming weeks we will also be planting up the area around the hide with plants to encourage further wildlife into the school grounds.

Our Wildlife Diary

Our Wildlife Diary

The children have been busy checking out the new hide giving their suggestions for kitting it out and improving its surroundings. A list of these has been added to the comments of this post; please feel free to give your ideas by leaving a comment.

During our initial trips to the hide we have manage to spot 17 species of birds: Stock Dove, Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Rook, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock, Tree Sparrow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Robin and Chiffchaff (heard). They also saw some Orange-tip butterflies, a white butterfly and a squirrel. All sightings are recorded in our new wildlife diary which has been beautifully decorated by CL.

We Have Great Tit Chicks!

The female Great Tit has been sitting patiently on her five eggs for two weeks and today all that hard work paid off! Four chicks have hatched so far and hopefully the fifth will follow shortly. Both adults have been busy collecting food for the chicks and also keeping the chicks and the remaining egg warm. The weather forecast for the next couple of days is not very good; let’s hope the parents can continue to find the live food their chicks need to survive.

Update 15th May: the 5th chick had hatched by this morning

We will occasionally be streaming live video from the colour birdcam box. Check the live stream if the normal feed isn’t updating.

Update 25th May: Sadly, it appears that the brood were abandoned from late afternoon on Friday 24th May and they did not survive the night. Perhaps the adults found it difficult finding sufficient food during the recent bad weather.

The B&W Birdcam Box – Eggs!

A Blue tit has been roosting in the B&W birdcam box for a few nights now so we suspected that we might have eggs by now. The well of the nest has been kept closely covered during the day but this evening one egg was left on show, there may be more.

At least one egg in the B&W birdcam box

At least one egg in the B&W birdcam box