Mini Beast Safaris

Mini Beast Safaris!

One of my favourite subjects is nature and the natural world. If there’s ever a programme on the TV with David Attenborough in, I will fight tooth and claw to get to the TV remote. I subscribe to BBC Wildlife magazine and am a proud twitcher. I don’t care if it’s geeky, it’s interesting!

I’m not an expert on the subject, I just have a keen interest in living and growing things. My very earliest memory is from when I was about two years old. I stood in my grandma’s back yard, staring intently at a puddle – looking for animals or fish. I didn’t find anything in the muddy water, but that didn’t stunt my enthusiasm.

We used to live in an old farmouse and my upstairs bedroom window was level with two rowan trees. In the autumn the branches were absolutely loaded with bright red berries, and we’d get loads of birds flocking to the trees to make the most of the harvest. I’d sit on the window ledge, knees pressed to my chin, completely still, and just watch them hopping around, bickering for space and picking off the berries. Over time I learnt some of the names of the birds, a bit about their different calls, and about their habitats etc.

My mum instilled a lot of my interest in nature. I vividly remember her finding a bee, alive, but not moving very much, on the path. She went inside and brought out a saucer with some sugar on, and added a little water to mix with it. Gently she pushed the bee onto a leaf and then onto the saucer edge, where it sat and recovered from its exhausting busy bee life, making the most of the sticky sweet sugar.

Another memory I have is of her telling me about the call of a robin. She took two pennies, and rubbed them flat sides together, making a scratchy, but definitely robin-like noise. Try it…… and compare it with this: (Link to Robin bird call) http://www.10×

The coins were obviously a very useful teaching tool, mum also taught me about a blackbird’s alarm call by taking the edge of one coin and hitting it against the flat side of another. That makes a noise very reminiscent of this recording. (Link to Blackbird alarm call)

These little tips have stayed with me, and I will no doubt pass them onto my kids at some point. I’d love them to have the same interest in nature.

My enthusiasm for teaching them about nature has backfired in the past. I once taught her about Bitter Cress, a fairly small plant that looks a little like a mini version of the water cress that you can buy in shops. It tastes quite similar too. I’d shown it to D, and once added a tiny bit to a salad. D was a bit puzzled at being fed ‘weeds’ but took it in her stride.

Unfortunately this meant that she was found eating some of the ‘weeds’ in the nursery playground. To her credit, she’d identified exactly the same plant; but the nursery assistant was a bit panicked and thrust the plant into my hand when I picked D up and said ‘She’s eaten some of this!’ and looked a bit scared. I had to explain that it wasn’t toxic and had to assure them that I would dissuade D from eating weeds in the playground henceforth! D had a big lecture on the subject of how some things are appropriate in one setting, and not in another, and about how some plants can be poisonous. As far as I know, none of the other kids in her year started eating Dandylions, so I think we nipped that one in the bud before it got out of hand.

Yesterday I took Sol out to wander around the garden outside. We don’t have a garden, but our neighbour kindly lets us use theirs. We found a snail, and I encouraged S to give it a piece of grass to see if it would eat it. Tiny frogs jumped out of our way as we toddled around the hedges, and when we turned over a stone, we found a woodlouse (don’t get me started – see previous blog post!) and a worm. The woodlouse ran off, and the worm wriggled vigorously which S thought was fabulous. We particularly enjoyed just stripping the seeds from the tall grass and showering it all over the place, pretending it was rain. It was a lovely half an hour.

The rest of the day was spent indoors, with me attempting housework. S mostly threw his toys all over the floor, blew soggy, spitty raspberries at me, cried, wee’d at random (potty training is very hit and miss at the moment) and threw lego at me. I put him in front of CBeebies for far too long, made him a dinner that wasn’t very nutritrious and was generally what I’d class as a slacker. It’s not all happy ambles in the garden and I’m not wanting to paint any kind of idyllic picture here. Far, from it!

For me, this is reassuring in a way. As an adult, I don’t remember long, boring days stuck in very much, although there must have been plenty of them. I have very happy memories of long walks with my mum, pointing out plants, and looking for wildlife. This is what I remember most fondly, and I hope, more than anything, that I can do this for my children too. I’m hoping that my kids will forget the times I’ve been a rubbish mum, and will remember the nice bits when we were outside hunting for mini-beasts. I can hope!

So this is why D now has a taste for weeds, and S wants to fish worms out of puddles. It’s a start at least isn’t it!


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