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The lucky students from Wheatfield Primary School were taken to some brambles to collect more creepy crawlies by Tony from the Bristol Naturalist Society, a dedicated insect expert. The students were taught about what defines an insect (three body sections and six legs) and were then given pots to collect any specimens.

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Tony then taught the students how to effectively use a bug-catching net (it is a very technical procedure), before giving them the opportunity to catch some themselves.

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The students also caught (slightly less impressively) a dead tree bumblebee. Also added to the species list were a snout moth, an ant and a moss woodlouse.

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Sara, Lucy and Andrew from the Three Brooks Conservation Group took a group of students from the Holy Family Roman Catholic Primary School to collect and identify creepy crawlies and many different species were found, including a harvestman, a ground beetle (named Brian) and a centipede.

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Within the survey area, the students noticed that there were wooden boxes positioned high up in one of the trees. The boxes are used by bats for roosting and there are three different bat species found within the nature reserve, which are all legally protected.

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With the first session underway we caught up with naturalist Gill Brown and some enthusiastic young wildlife explorers as they searched for signs of mammals in the reserve.

It wasn’t long before the first clues were uncovered and Gill showed the group some tiny footprints and droppings left in homemade small mammal tunnels which had been put out overnight.

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The tunnels had been baited with peanut butter and Gill explained that this meant that the footprints probably didn’t belong to shrews, which have an insectivorous diet and were unlikely to have been attracted by the nutty snack!

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Although tiny footprints are tricky to identify, Gill took the clearest examples with her for closer inspection later. We’ll keep you updated!

Whilst heading out to the next stop, a known badger sett in the reserve, a keen-eyed student spotted two mole hills in the long grass, a great find and another species to add to the tally.

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The students were thrilled when Gill showed them the badger sett, identified by its size and the nesting material at the entrance. They were then ‘sett’ the task of scouring the nearby area for ‘snuffle-pits’, scrapes in the ground made by foraging badgers!

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Finally, Gill showed the group hazelnuts growing on the bank, and explained that finding evidence of nibbled hazelnuts on the ground is a clear sign to confirm the presence of small mammals nearby.

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All in all a great start to the day, the tally is well underway!

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The BioBlitz Media Team are here at the Three Brooks Nature Reserve in Bradley Stoke for the Bristol BioBlitz 2014 to report back on all the action as it happens!  We’ll be photographing plants, filming anything that flies and blogging about mini-beasts! So stay tuned as we tally the species throughout the day.

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The Three Brooks Local Nature Reserve is a tranquil area in the middle of the bustling community of Bradley Stoke. The reserve has a rich mix of habitats and provides food and shelter to a wide range of animals, including reed buntings, skylarks, great crested newts and slow worms.

Schools day is underway with children from schools in the local area already out exploring the site and making the first discoveries!

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Then from 4 pm today BioBlitz will be open to the public and we will have 24 hours to find and record as many different types of plants, animals and fungi as we can find. Everything we find will be logged and will contribute real scientific data to local wildlife monitoring – so every record you collect makes a real difference! So come on down to join in the fun and release your inner wildlife detective!

You can find out more, including directions on how to get here and the different activities you can take part in, by using the links below:

http://www.bnhc.org.uk/festival-of-nature/three-brooks-bioblitz/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/thingstodo/activity/festival-of-nature-three-brooks-bioblitz/occurrence/405060

 

 

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In winter our six legged friends tend to go quiet – but where do all of the insects go in winter?

The smaller you are, the faster you lose heat and insects can’t use their food to heat their bodies like us mammals so they are stuck with the temperature of their surroundings. So when it gets cold there isn’t enough energy around for insects to keep active. So how do they survive?

Some, like grasshoppers and many flies, simply die off and rely on the eggs and larvae that they laid during the summer to survive and hatch out as adults in spring! Thats why the grasshopper can afford to sing all summer in Aesops fable

Image (thanks to Bird and Moon for this comic)

Lots of insects, like queen bumblebees, hibernate by going underground to shelter from the worst winter frosts, emerging in early March to start a new colony and collect pollen from the spring flowers.

Ladybirds sometimes cluster in swarms in good hibernation spots and can even survive frosting over! Thats why they occassionaly find their way  the spaces around your sash windows!

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Thanks to Ladybird expert Richard Comont of Oxford University for some cracking photos!

Follow the link below to invertebrate charity Buglife to learn how to make a bug hotel – a winter home for minibeasts of all kinds!

Build a Bug Hotel

This is a great activity for all the family and uses those dead leaves littering the lawn. Children should be supervised making the hotel for their own safety, but will enjoy joining in!

To build your own Bug Hotel, click here for all of the instructions you will need from the BugLife website.

If you know a keen bug hunter or want to get your kids out enjoying the great outdoors next spring – why not get them a bug hunting kit for christmas to see what moves in to your bug hotel

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It’s cold out there! And as you sit toasting your feet by the fire, snuggling deep into a duvet or layering yourself up with your collection of novelty wooly jumpers, spare a thought for our furry, feathery, scaley and crawly friends out bearing the brunt of the weather.

So what can you do to help your garden wildlife this winter?

TIP 1: Feed the birds

Flying takes a lot of energy and birds need to eat a lot to let them keep active during the winter. Lots of species fly south to avoid the worst of the frists but lots of species stick around all year and some even visit us just for the winter – flying in from even colder climes!

There are lots of comercial bird feeders and foods out there but for an afternoons fun and an energy packed birdy snack, why not make your own bird cakes?!?

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Ingredients:

  • Lard
  • Porridge oats
  • Bird seed
  • Peanuts (unsalted, crushed)
  • Mealworms*
  • Dried fruit*
  • Plastic cup or bowl to use as a mould

*optional extras

Melt the lard in a large pan and allow to cool but not set then add the other ingredients until the mixture is thick but still pourable.

Pour the mixture into your moulds and push the stick, with string attached, into the centre of the mixture so that it acts as an anchor. Then put in the fridge to set. Once set, you can pop the mixture out of the mould and hang it near to some cover (such as a bush or tree).

It may take the birds a couple of days to notice your bird cakes so its usually best to put out just one at first to avoid waste, but as soon as they catch on your garden will become the most popular cafe in town! All you need to do is sit back and watch and you can identify the birds you attract using a field guide – a great pressie for the budding birdwatcher!

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Its a fresh and frosty afternoon in Bristol and a mad summer of BioBlitzes seems like an age away. As Bristol gears up to Christmas we’ve joined the Bristol Green Capital Blogfest to join the city’s finest environmentally minded organisations to help you have green, wildlife friendly festivities this year!

First out of the blocks was Wildscreen with a blog on Green Christmas Trees!

ImageWatch this space for some tips for sustaining your garden wildlife this winter and we’ll be dispelling some wintery wildlife myths! But first, who can identify this berry munching winter visitor?

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