Catch up on all the latest news to find out what's going on with nature at this time of year.
Exploring Our Woodlands
Chicks at St Fagans!
13/05/10 Mum and Dad feeding the chicks
Captured on 19/04/2010 09:11:38 Gathering soft furnishings - sheep hair.
Captured on 19/04/2010 09:47:31
Follow our Great Tit nest box camera at St Fagans!http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/2736/
Eight eggs were laid on the 27th of April and finally hatched yesterday. The chicks are so small you can only really see them when they open their mouths. Mr & Mrs Great Tit are now very busy feeding their family in the woodlands at St.Fagans.
Great Tit nesting captured on 19/04/2010 09:47:31
The woods are a carpet of Lesser Celandines at the moment
After one of the coldest and longest winters on record, spring has well and truly arrived. The weather over the past few weeks has been warm enough to put recent summers to shame. Add to that the explosion of flowers in every field, garden and crack in the pavement and you’ve got a spectacular spring in the making.
The extra-long winter has meant that many species that normally flower early in the season have delayed until now. For example the Hazel catkins (‘lambs tails’ to you and me), which flowered here at the end of January in last year were only just starting to emerge in early March this year.
At St Fagans this late flowering has meant that many early and late species are flowering together; Snowdrops and Celandines, Daffodils and Bluebells, so there’s an absolute feast for the eyes at the moment! See here for an interesting article about this year’s unusual weather and what it may mean for wildlife.
Spring isn’t all botany though, and the birds have been getting steadily louder since the weather has been improving. This is the time of year when the feathered folk attempt to attract a mate and defend a territory by singing as loud and as often as possible. Once this task is achieved they have to build a nest and raise a brood (or maybe even two if they have the energy).
This leads me to some rather exciting news that we have a Great Tit nesting in our specially rigged nest box. At the moment she is just building the nest and roosting there in the evening, but once she lays her eggs (fingers crossed) it is going to be extremely exciting! I’ll be keeping a keen eye on events and posting any activity on my Twitter page – so sign up if you want to get tweets about our nest of tweeters on Twitter!
Many birds have flown from the continent or even Africa to take advantage of the glut of insects that hatch here at this time of year. Warblers such as Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Wood Warbler and Blackcap make up a large number of these migrants and they add plenty of new voices to the dawn chorus which is at its best right now. There are still a few places on my dawn chorus walk this Saturday if you fancy an early start and a walk about St Fagans.
Anyway, best be off. But keep checking back as this is going to be a busy season!
With the arrival of strong winds and heavy rain over the last week or so I am preparing myself for the end of autumn and the imminent arrival of winter. It’s a shame to say goodbye to the mild autumn we’ve been having, I’m going to miss the many warm hues on display amongst the trees of St Fagans. But farewell it must be, as the sudden blast of heavy weather has stripped the trees of their finery and left the leaves gathering in thick layers upon the ground.
Despite this brutal de-glamorisation, trees are to be the focus of my activities over the next few weeks as we celebrate National Tree Week. During the last weekend of November we will be looking at the many different types of tree at St Fagans and finding out the best way to identify them by looking at leaf, seed, bark and bud. The RSPB will also be with us, running activities that highlight the importance of trees to our native birds. Incidentally the bird cam at St Fagans is pretty busy at the moment and you can follow the action via my twitter page
And if you’ve ever wanted to be a world record holder why not join us on Saturday the 5th of December for Tree O’Clock? We will be attempting to set a new Guinness world record for planting the most trees in one hour in collaboration with BBC Breathing Places. And if you enjoy getting into the festive spirit why not stay on and make sustainable Christmas decorations from the Hedgerow at T? Gwyrdd?
Sustainable Christmas will also be the theme of my activities at the ever popular Christmas nights on the 9th, 10th and 11th of December. Be sure to bring a torch and warm clothes as it can get pretty cold here at night!
Dail castanwydden y meirch
Acorn on an oak tree
Firstly, apologies for my extended absence from these pages. I don’t have an excuse other than the summer activities kept me very busy this year! However, I find myself in a bit of a calm period at the moment so I thought I’d update you on what’s coming up over the next few months.
The autumn is fast approaching and the evidence is all around St Fagans. A quick walk about the site reveals bursts of bright red berries on hawthorn bushes and rowan trees and delicate highlights of yellow and orange edging into the green leaves of the beech woodland. A walk in the woods is accompanied by the steady sound of beech mast dropping with the breeze. The horse chestnuts have already begun to fall too, and the acorns and sweet chestnuts look like they won’t be long to follow.
In October activities will focus on this season of change. For Seed Gathering Sunday we will be looking at the variety of tactics trees use to disperse their seed during an enjoyable walk about the grounds.
On October the 24th there’s a real treat in store as the Ty Gwyrdd kitchen will be in action for the first time in years to demonstrate some traditional apple recipes.
The apple theme continues in the Ty Gwyrdd on the 25th of October where you can take part in Feed the Birds Day with the RSPB, and learn how to use apples to make great bird feeders.
During October half term we will be running Autumn Feast activities looking at traditional foods grown in the autumn as well as the wild food that grows in our woods, fields and hedges.
And right at the end of November I will be running activities alongside the RSPB that look at ways of telling trees apart and the importance of trees for wildlife. If that appeals to you why not join us on the 5th of December when we'll be working with the BBC to try and break the world record for the most amount of trees planted in one hour!
So I hope to see you at an event this autumn, and in the meantime get out there and enjoy the sunshine!
Muddy knees, bumblebees and anemones!
Wood Anemones at St Fagans
After a prolonged and cold winter I am sure that many of you are as relieved as I am that spring is finally here! Although it is now the start of April, the early signs of spring have been with us for a while. This March was the driest in Wales since 2002 and almost everywhere in the UK had higher than average levels of sunshine. This resulted in an explosion of colour as the woods have blossomed with flowers such as lesser celandines, wood anemones and primroses. Bumblebees too have woken up from their winter sleep and emerged from burrows below ground to begin collecting pollen and nectar to feed the colony.
Throughout March we ran activities at St Fagans encouraging you to get involved in bee conservation. Over 400 visitors planted native British wildflowers to attract bees and butterflies and I am happy to report that they are doing very well! If you want to know more about bee conservation why not visit the Save Our Bees website?
A Song Thrush sits on her nest safely hidden in a Holly bush
A quick trip down to the local park or wood will tell you that the birds are in full swing at the moment. Our songbirds are all pairing up and nesting at this time of year. Most have struggled through the harsh British winter but not all. Chiffchaff arrive on our shores in early March from Southern Europe and North Africa. Their distinctive two-note ‘chiff-chaff’ call can be heard echoing around woodlands, parks and gardens as males compete for females and territory. Next time you’re out and about why not see if you can hear one or why not come along to our Dawn Chorus Walk on May the 3rd?
A bright carpet of Wood Anemones on the forest floor
We have plenty of activities coming up this spring, with Compost Awareness Week taking centre stage in early May and signs of spring during the May half term. Visit the events page for more details. In the meantime feel free to let me know what spring wonders you’ve seen recently in the comments box below – any bluebells yet?
Just like the rest of the country we’ve had a blast of cold, snowy weather this week. As a result the birds have been going through the food extremely quickly as they try to build up their fat reserves to survive the freezing nights.
Feed the birds!
The days are short, the rain is cold, there’s frost on the leaves and the wind bites my nose; it must be January! But it’s not just us human beings that feel the cold. Our feathered friends need to eat a lot more during the winter months to keep from freezing to death in the night. Have a look at the bird-feeder cam and you’ll see how busy it is!
Winter is a great time to attract birds to your garden because they are less shy about coming to get food. You might even attract some species that don’t normally visit garden feeders.
There’s some great advice on attracting birds to your garden at the RSPB website, and while you’re there why not get involved in the Big Garden Birdwatch on the 24th & 25th January? You can take part in the world’s biggest bird survey from the comfort of your living room!
Bird Feeder Blog
Hi there all! Hope you’re enjoying watching the feeder cam now that it’s up and running. It’s almost always busy at the feeder at the moment so there’s plenty to keep you entertained (or in my case distracted from work!). It’s particularly popular with Great Tits, Blue Tits and Coal Tits as well as Greenfinch, Chaffinch and House Sparrow. The Nuthatch and Robin are also regulars with Goldfinch and Bullfinch making infrequent visits. The feeder also suffers regular raids from our resident squirrels and although they’re a bit of a nuisance for the birds it’s pretty entertaining watching their acrobatic attempts at getting to the food!
Summer sights, Summer sounds
Firstly, apologies for the larger than usual gap between this posting and my previous blog; I have been very busy! Many aspects of the project are nearing completion and the presence of the woodland project at St Fagans is becoming more and more obvious. So here’s what’s been going on…
The path through the woodland has been dug and the panels will be with us in the next few weeks. I’m very excited about the panels as they have a lot of brilliant hands-on learning displays such as a wind-up arm that plays bird song and a load of models of footprints, feeding remains and droppings of woodland mammals! It looks like the path will be ready sometime in June and it promises to be an excellent addition to the museum.
The website too is near completion and will be live in a couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to watching the birds as they come and go, and am curious as to which species we’ll get visiting our feeders and nest boxes. The pond cam should be a delight too, and I can’t wait to have a go at filming newts!
This week has felt like the first week of summer with temperatures reaching 23 degrees Celsius. I took a group of visitors on a bird walk at 5:30am on Saturday to celebrate international dawn chorus day and it was a great success. As well as resident species we also saw migrants such as Blackcap, and the songs of Chiffchaff have been ringing around since late March. The woods are full of birdsong as the birds sing to mark their territories and attract a mate, and birds with beaks full of nesting material have become a common sight. There has also been a riot of colour in the woods over the past month with the blossoming of spring flowers such as primrose, lesser celandine, wood anemones, garlic mustard and bluebell. The trees too have begun to blossom and grow fresh green leaves and the canopy is getting thicker every day.
That’s it for now, but keep a look out for the website and the woodland path next month!