19th July 2016 – Trip to Bicton Park

IMG_20160719_115120758The weather was perfect for Izzy’s preschool trip to Bicton Park – hot, sunny and with a lovely breeze. We had a fantastic time exploring the park, which was full of huge trees and inviting shade. The children played on the tractors and playground, then we went on the train, chugging past Moorhens and Mallards on the lake and the tallest tree in the pinetum. Then, we did a loop around the Rose, Italian and Mediterranean gardens, pausing at the Shell House to admire the many different types on display. There were dozens of Common Blue Damselflies in mating wheels over the moat and quite a few dragonflies (mostly Southern Hawkers, I think, but also a Common Darter) buzzing about. We also spotted Whirligig beetles spinning circles on the water surface. After a picnic, more playing and some whingeing about the lack of ice cream, we went back to the stream garden and chilled out there for a while. Unsurprisingly, E fell fast asleep on the coach home (sitting upright – I had to lean across the aisle to prop him up!).

Total Wild Time: 4 hours (although, admittedly, much of that was spent in the playground!)

17th July 2016 – Big butterfly count

thumbnail_IMG_1699It was a scorching day and we mostly spent it lazing around in my parent’s garden, watching the Buzzards soaring overhead. The banks of wildflowers in the garden, filled with Oxeye Daisy, Musk Mallow, Wild Hedge Bedstraw and Common Knapweed, as well as chirping grasshoppers, seemed a good p 1ace to do the Big Butterfly Count, but in our 15 minutes we only counted 2 Meadow Brown and 1 Large White. Just after the count, a couple of Marbled Whites turned up, but I had been hoping to record a few more!

The kids did not really participate, as they were more interested in playing hide and seek with Uncle Adam, who had just returned from travelling, but they still had a good few hours of outdoor play in the sunshine, with or without butterflies.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to submit my results, as the website is down, but hopefully it will be up and running again soon.thumbnail_IMG_1689

Total Wild Time: About 2 hours

14th July 2016 – Lyme Regis beach life

DSC_0519It felt like a paddle-in-the-sea kind of a day, so we popped down to Lyme Regis, parked in the town and wandered down to the beach via the colourful gardens, where the kids took the opportunity to roll down the grassy slopes and chase the seagulls. On the sand, they forgot sibling rivalries for a few moments to bury B together, then we made Izzy a mermaid tail. We dipped our toes in the sea, admired the boats in the harbour and played frisbee. It was a clear evening and we could see along the coast to Golden Cap and Ridge Cliff, where we had flown a kite the other week. The kids were in a great mood all the way home, even though it was past dinner time and they were hungry (although obviously there was an unscheduled wee stop, because there always is). The fresh air and exercise had obviously had the desired effect and hopefully they will sleep well tonight.

DSC_0505DSC_0507DSC_0510Total wild time: About 1 hour 30 mins

13th July 2016 – Seaton Jurassic

IMG_20160713_114042963 We took the bus to Seaton Jurassic, which we’ve been to several times before. However, we last visited a few months ago and the outside area had been extended with new exhibits since then. The wildlife garden had also grown up and was full of bees and birds.

IMG_20160713_112621046_HDRThe kids enjoyed stamping their booklets and Izzy did all the quizzes and brass rubbings. We hunted for prehistoric life, explored the giant rockpool, learned about the tides, dug for fossils, fished for magnetic crabs, created food webs and of course, waved at the passing trams.

Total wild time: 2 hours

12th July 2016 – Practising wildlife photography

IMG_20160712_151636861I gave Izzy her camera and E my camera phone for the journey to and from preschool and set them the challenge of photographing wildlife. E took a very thorough pictorial account of our journey as he saw it (mainly his feet, his thumb and the pavement) and filled my memory card, whilst Izzy was a little more selective, photographing the ferns we found growing on the town’s walls, noting that different species had different shaped sporangia, as well as the drops of water on the leaf of a Lady’s Mantle (which everyone knows are used to make fairy potions) and every flower, cloud and bird we passed. She strayed outside the brief to additionally photograph houses, cars and the fire station.

IMG_20160712_151621730Our usual 10 minute walk took 5 times as long, but the kids loved it.

Total wild time: 50 mins

8th July 2016 – Red Squirrels

DSC_0456 DSC_0458 DSC_0464 DSC_0467 I had a meeting at Escot today, so I took the family along, too and whilst I was busy, they explored the wetlands. Then, we met up back at the Red Squirrel enclosure, where we found the squirrels tucking into their breakfast. The children were absolutely enchanted by them (as were B and I!) as they ran along the rails of the walkway and up onto the feeding platforms. They are used to people and came up very close to us – one even climbed up my trouser leg (on the outside, I should probably clarify)! It was a good place to do a spot of bird-watching, too, with Nuthatches, Blackbirds, Robins and Chaffinches taking advantage of the free food.

Let’s hope that the Red Squirrel Project South West’s conservation efforts are successful and that one day, my kids will be able to see these beautiful creatures in the wild in Devon.

Total wild time: 1 hour

6th July 2016 – Nature at the Donkey Sanctuary

DSC_0440I knew Izzy wasn’t quite herself this morning when she had a complete meltdown because she wanted toast for breakfast but not toast that was ‘cooked’. It was therefore quite an achievement to actually get her and E out of the house and to the Donkey Sanctuary, where I was subjected to a lot of whining about going to the playground.

DSC_0444DSC_0443However, once we followed the path into the woods, she became much more like her normal self. We popped into the Nature Centre and checked out the skulls (cue E’s dinosaur roar) and nest boxes, then continued on the trail through the trees. Jays and Buzzards called and I was impressed to find a Wild Service Tree (the kids less so). The footpath led to the promised playground and the kids played on the tractor until I dragged them home for lunch.

Total wild time: 1 hour 50 min

5th July 2016 – River dipping and paddling

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Finally, the sun shone and it felt like summer, so after pre-school we headed to the river and before I could stop her, Izzy went straight in, wearing her shoes. Before long, E’s trousers were also soaked. Shoeless, sockless and trouserless, they carried on paddling and fishing in the lovely, cool water. Izzy has had plenty of practice and proved a bit of a pro, catching dozens of tiny fish and a Lesser Water Boatman. E was less skillful, but enjoyed splashing about. Occasionally, a loud splash revealed the presence of mysterious, bigger fish in the deeper parts of the river. There were a few fairy-like Mayflies about and we saw one being snatched out of the air by a bird. Izzy would have happily stayed for hours, but E got hungry and we had to head home with the promise that we would be back again soon.

Total wild time: 1 hour

4th July 2016 – The wild finds us

IMG_20160704_153529883 IMG_20160704_153538204I had been ill since last night and accepted that we wouldn’t be having any wild time today. I didn’t expect the wild to find us…

I took E to the toddler’s playground in Seaton, only to find that the strip of uninspiring soil next to the climbing frames had been transformed into a tiny urban meadow, full of Yarrow, Poppies and Corn Marigolds and buzzing with bees, which E rather unwisely tried to catch in his hands. We also checked out the Cactus house and he was fascinated by the huge Koi Carp in the pond there.

Back in the garden, I had a cuppa whilst the kids played on the swing. Then, before I had fully grasped what was happening, a Sparrowhawk crashed down into the hedge and bolted past us in a flurry of feathers, with what I assume was a House Sparrow in its talons. As amazing and dramatic as it was to witness, it is quite likely that the unfortunate prey was one of the parents or fledglings from the nest in our porch, so it was a little too close for comfort.

Total wild time: Probably only 10 mins of really ‘wild time’