Izzy serenaded Cracker and I with carols as we hacked around Umborne. We saw a big flock of Starlings and some seasonal Holly berries.
After lunch, I took Izzy and E out to Seaton Marshes, to return the owl factsheets we had kindly been lent and to take the bikes for a spin. Izzy was in a bit of a whingey mood, so it was a bit of a trial, but we saw plenty of birds – the tame Robin, loads of Blackbirds, Shelduck, some gorgeous Teal, Coots, Moorhen, Pheasants, gulls… Then a tram went past and sent up a huge flock of Lapwing.
Total wild time – Izzy about 2h 25 mins, E about 1 hour
Izzy’s class is learning about owls at the moment, so I thought I’d try to find some owl pellets they could dissect. Luckily, the lovely team at Seaton Wetlands were able to help, so we popped down to the Discovery Hut and picked up a bag of fresh Barn Owl pellets, some ID charts and the remains of one of the owl’s meals – a Starling wing. The volunteer there showed us the skull of a Snipe (complete with long, pointy beak) found in a pellet.
Total wild time – about 30 mins
The car park at Seaton Wetlands was full and a couple of cars had become stuck in the mud using the overflow car park, so we parked in the cemetery, the kids got straight on their bikes and were off towards Reed Base, where we joined a very popular event making halloween crafts. First, we made lanterns using autumn leaves, ironed between wax paper. Unlike our previous attempt to make tea light holders in a similar way, these actually worked and looked great. Next, we made hobgoblins (Izzy made a princess goblin, obviously) using clay on a stick and natural materials. E was kind enough to let me make his! We also made some creatures out of Teasel, Sycamore seeds, pinecones etc. At this point, E started to lose the plot because he was hungry and would not cooperate when I tried to take a photo of him with his creations. He was happy to get back on his bike and head home for lunch.
After his nap, I took E and the dog out for a walk by the river. E was delighted to find a huge stick, which he rode like a horse, used like a crane and then to ‘cut’ the grass like a combine harvester. We had to drag the stick all the way home, of course.
Total wild time – about 1 hour 30 mins
Izzy was shattered and ill, so she didn’t have any wild time today, but E spent most of the day in the garden, playing with his farm and a sensory play tray created using hay and straw. We did our usual loop with the dog and E collected some huge conkers in his buggy.
Whilst Izzy was at zumba, E, Grandmum and I took his new balance bike for a spin on the cycle path at the edge of Seaton Wetlands. Grandmum thought she could smell Autumn in the air – I thought it was actually the sewage works.
Total wild time – Izzy – O, E – at least 1 hour 15 mins
My kids seem to be getting used to spending time outdoors and it was relatively easy to get them out of the house, into the car and to Seaton Wetlands, where they hopped on their bike/scuttle bug and were off. They have also become noticeably fitter since we started the challenge and whizzed along the paths.
Grasshopper song in the background, we did part of the Egg Trail (we will start at the other end of the wetlands to finish it off next time!), which involved finding some nest boxes with replica birds’ eggs in. We wandered around the wildlife garden and then popped into the bird hide next to the Discovery Hut. There were Greenfinches on the feeder that were completely unafraid of us, so we were able to watch them through the window extremely closely as they tucked into some seeds.
Heading back towards the car, Izzy helped a worm cross the path, then we discovered the joy of throwing downy Thistle seeds into the air. Izzy wondered whether they knew where to go and if they would fly all the way to Exeter. Finding our theme, we examined the soft seeds of a Willowherb, which could be pulled apart like a zip and I explained how the hairs inside Rose Hips could be used as itching powder.
Driving back through the cemetery, Izzy said that she thought that the gravestones were pretty. I explained that they marked the place where dead people were buried. The conversation then took a rather morbid turn, when she suggested that we dig up some of the bodies. When I asked why we would want to do that, she said that it would be interesting to see some skeletons (I think this may be the fault of an Usborne ‘body book’ she has, which has a picture of some jolly, dancing skeletons in it.) After that, I steered the conversation back to the pizza we were going to eat for our dinner…
Total wild time – 1 hour 45 mins
I had to take a deep breath as we arrived at Colyford Common, as Izzy was driving me a little bit crazy. We followed the path down towards the marsh and found a Slow-worm under a bit of corrugated roofing felt (obviously left there as a reptile refuge). There were loads of butterflies too – Gatekeepers, Speckled Woods and Red Admirals.
Izzy raced ahead, totally ignoring any instructions from me, onto the boardwalk and towards the bird hide overlooking the tramline. We peered through our binoculars at the Herons and Little Egrets, but there was somebody else in there trying to do some serious birdwatching, so I thought I had better remove my noisy children as soon as possible. I checked the logbook and noticed that a juvenile Marsh Harrier had been spotted there earlier in the day. Back outside, I’m sure I spotted it perched on an overhead wire, but with the kids racing off in opposite directions, I had little chance to double check. We waved to passing trams and I tried to remember my marsh plant ID, as we followed the markers around the reedbed. We tried to guess what had made the footprints we found in the mud, Izzy guessing that they were made by owls, then, munching on banana chips to keep the hunger whinges away, we carried on, along the narrow path between the towering reeds, which rustled loudly in the breeze. Izzy was in her element, pretending she was in the jungle and singing a made up song.
Izzy then took it upon herself to rescue ‘drowning flies’ from a pool, using a feather to scoop the insects out. She also found the remains of a crab shell and insisted that she wanted to take it home to keep (luckily she lost it moments later).
Charging ahead again, she stung her legs on some Nettles. I found her some Dock leaves and she rubbed the stings, noting the little lumps that appeared.
Total wild time – 1 hour 30 mins