Bugs, Birds, Bees And Butterflies

It was a nice afternoon. Lils was off dancing and was going to her friends for tea afterwards so we were left with two bored boys. After a bit of head scratching I suggested we go have a look at the local RSPB reserve, Old Moor Wetlands. Netti  got the boys ready and off we went. On arriving we entered the  where we were met by the very friendly staff. I explained that, as we were home educating the children, we were looking to join the RSPB. At this point a very helpful young man came over to tell us all about joining. Needless to say, by the time he had done pointing out that by the time we’d paid our entrance and backpack hire fees we would have paid more than a months donation, we were joined up and the boys were knitted out with their now free to loan backpacks containing a set of binoculars, a bug jar, paper, pencil and crayons, a stethoscope and a booklet of things to spot around the trails. We made our way outside and set off on our first adventure. The first thing they found was a herb garden with a little shed, full of information about wildlife and how to attract it to your garden. Their next find was a pond with a few pond skaters skimming over the surface of the water. After spending a few minutes there we set off down one of the footpaths which lead us into the wetlands. At various points along the trail there were picnic tables with an old fashioned game for the boys to play and bite sized bits of information pointing out what they should be looking for. It wasn’t long before they had their bug jars out and were capturing bugs to look at. Each bug was carefully put back where it had come from once it had been fully inspected. Harry enjoyed spotting the different leaves and was most impressed to find a baby oak tree. He was even more impressed later on when we looked up how old oak trees get. Joey enjoyed the bird hide where he could use his binoculars and drew an excellent picture of a coot. It was so good even the serious twitchers complemented him on it. The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering through the meadows, bug and bird spotting. The boys had enjoyed it so much they didn’t want to hand the backpacks in and go home.

A couple of days later, since the boys wanted to show Paul and Lils where they had been, as part of an “educational trip” Paul and I took them back to the wetlands. This time we plumped for a bit of pond dipping. We found one of the designated areas, settled down and stared deep into the water, searching for interesting pond life. Much of which was hiding from the bright sun which was blazing down. Harry got a little bored and began messing around so got told off, which put him into one of his moods and Joey had to be told a couple of times not to run along the edge of the jetty. Between the three of them and Paul they did manage to scoop up some interesting creatures to investigate. After about 45 minutes they had had enough so we wandered back to the shop and swapped the pond dipping kit for the backpacks and set off in search of birds, bees and butterflies. Harry made sure he showed everyone the baby oak tree. We were at the leap frog picnic table when Harry and Joey needed to be chastised which put Harry straight back into his bad mood. And when Harry is in his bad mood you might just as well give up what you are doing since he won’t participate any further. So we decided to call it a day. Which made his mood even worse. Back home his mood improved when they found an exhausted butterfly on the pavement outside the front door. They gently stopped it into the bug jar and had a good look. They were particularly impressed with its proboscis with which it sucked hungrily on a piece of peach. Once fully inspected they placed it gently, with the piece of peach, out in the garden where it fed and rested overnight before flying away the next morning.

A couple of days after this Paul suggested I take Lils on her own expedition since we’d had to cut the last one short. Since we now had our own bug jar, rather than borrow a backpack we kitted ourselves out with our own. When we arrived we decided to hire the only thing we didn’t have, a pair of binoculars before setting of on our adventure. We decided to take the trail which leads to all the bird hides. We entered the first hide to find it full of serious twitchers with their huge binoculars and giant camera lenses. As we entered they all turned to see who was coming in. We crept quietly over to an open hatch and set ourselves up. After a while we followed the trail to the next hide, and the next, and the next. Along the way we spotted the ubiquitous gulls, coots, moorhens and a couple of egrets, one of which Lils drew a picture. By now it had started to rain again so we headed back to the visitor centre and treated ourselves to a hot chocolate apiece and Lils made friends with the lady serving in the cafe and chatted to her about our activities. Once refreshed we set off again and made it right to the end of the trail we had done with the boys, where we found some more hides to watch and photograph the birds. All in all we spent four hours wandering around the reserve, we really did get our money’s worth that day! And I can foresee many more trips as the seasons change.

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