Month: November 2015

Garden Birds – The finches

Continuing on our theme of garden birds I thought we’d have a look at some finches. In our garden here in Ireland, we get greenfinches, chaffinches, goldfinches and bullfinches. Finches are found all over the world. It’s interesting to note that the America Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) looks totally different from our Irish goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis).

As you may be able to guess from their beaks the finches are seed eaters, though they do take some insects too. Chaffinches are among the most common finches. You’ll find all four of the finch species in gardens, parks and hedgerows.

The greenfinches are adept at hanging off peanut feeders as are the goldfinch, but only some chaffinches master the trick. They are seen more commonly underneath the feeders picking up what has been dropped by the other birds. The bullfinches appear to be more shy and I don’t think we have ever seen them on our feeders, though they are regular visitors to the garden.

It’s a good idea to plant things in your garden that will provide finches with food. Teasel is a great plant. And don’t be too quick to pull out weeds. Every spring I love watching the bullfinches as they make their way around the dandelions growing in the gaps of our patio removing the seeds. Allow grass to grow tall too and the birds will come and feed on the seed heads.

 

Resources

You can view photos of all our Irish finches on the Birdwatch Ireland page.

Activities

Take part in a garden bird survey. BirdwatchIreland’s garden bird survey starts the 1st of December.

Colour in a chaffinch

 

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Autumn Leaves

Before the wind blows them all away, lets have a quick look at our autumn leaves.

Leaves

Leaves

 

You may be wondering why leaves change colour?

The reason leaves are green in the first place is because they have something called chlorophyll. When sunlight hits the chlorophyll it makes food for the trees. But in the winter there isn’t enough sunlight, because the days are short. So the choloophyll shuts down and the leaves look yellow and orange. The yellow comes from something called  xanthophyll and the orange comes from carotene, the same thing that gives carrots their colour. These colours were there all the time but in the summer the green is so strong it covers them over. And as for those leaves that turn red, they have food trapped inside and those that turn brown have waste material trapped in their leaves.

RESOURCES AND THINGS TO DO

  • In our house one of our favourite autumn activities is leaf rubbing. Find some nice leaves (make sure they are dry). Turn them up-side-down and place a sheet of white paper over the top. Using one hand to keep leaf in place use a crayon to rub out it’s detail. I like to use big thick crayons. For a step by step guide check out this link from First Palette
  • Nature Detectives have some great leaf ID guides
  • They also have some great leaf activity pages including this lovely autumnal tree on dark paper and a leaf treasure hunt

 

HAVE FUN!

Garden Birds

Garden Birds is one of the best places to start learning about nature. Even if you aren’t lucky to have a garden perhaps you could visit your local park.

Let’s start with looking at our European Robin.

Robin

Robin

Robins often live in our gardens, but you’ll also find them living in hedgerows, woodlands and parks too.  They can be quite bold and cheeky birds and will often look for worms if you are digging soil in your garden. That is how I managed to get a photograph of this little fellow.

They don’t like the company of other robins in their home area and will often chase them away, unless of course it is the spring and they are looking for a mate. They like to nest close to the ground. Last year a pair created a wonderful nest in some tall grass next to our garden fence. After they’d left we had a look and the nest was tucked away inside what looked like a cave of grass. It’s important never to disturb robins while they are nesting and they will abandon the eggs.

robin nestbox

To attract robins in your garden you can provide them with a nest box. They like ones with an open front and it’s best placed among lots of vegetation like ivy or other climbers.

When the chicks hatch they are naked! But they soon get their feathers. They remain a speckled brown colour though and don’t get their red breast till late in the summer.

Robins like to eat worms and other insects, but will also take seeds and fruits. They cannot hang from bird feeders, so it’s a good idea to put some food on a bird table for them.

RESOURCES AND THINGS TO DO

Make you own bird nest box

Colour in a robin

Nature and Children

Nature and children always inspire me. And nature can play a vital role inspiring children and encouraging them to become life-long conservationists. There are lots of good nature websites out there doing great work and I will include some of my favorites in the resource page.

What I’d like to do here on this blog is provide some free resources for kids, parents, teachers, guide and scout leaders and anyone else who comes in contact with children.

I hope that the resources will inspire you to learn about the world around you, through fun and fascinating adventures in the natural world.

As this is a new blog it will take a little time to build up the resources, so please be patient but also feel free to pass on suggestions through the comments box.