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before you're 11 and 3/4.... The National Trust is full of ideas, click here to see some of them

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  1. So you’re thinking you’d like to be able to spot birds and take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, run by the RSPB in January, or other surveys run by wildlife conservation groups.  But where do you start?

    I was very pleased to see that the National Trust has some tips for anyone who wants to start doing some bird watching, or improve their knowledge of our feathered friends. 

    It points out that there are nearly 600 species of birds in the UK, from your resident migrant to seasonal visitors.

    Most of us can identify birds such as the blackbird and robin – but can you tell your sparrow from your house martin, or your swift from your greenfinch?  

    So here are a few steps you can take to boost your knowledge of bird species:

    Step one:  Just have a go!

    Read about the birds - you could start with those most commonly found by watchers in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch last year.  Get a description of them – the RSPB’s guide to British Birds is a good place to start (it's free).  

    One for kids…

    You could get the kids to draw a bird, describe it and then see if they can spot it.  Birds can be a great way to pass a long journey – each time you stop, see what the family can see the area where you park the car e.g. motorway stations.   Don’t forget that many National Trust properties are surprisingly close to motorways where kids and dog can run riot and let off steam.  (Check out whether you need to be a member first for the place you plan to stop at.)

    And as a family, you could listen to bird song.   

    Top Ten Birds in 2017 in the RSPB BIg Garden Birdwatch

    1. House sparrow
    2. Starling
    3. Blackbird
    4. Blue tit
    5. Wood pigeon
    6. Goldfinch
    7. Robin
    8. Great tit
    9. Chaffinch
    10. Long tailed tit

    The Big Garden Birdwatch has helpful info about what birdwatchers found in England, Scotland and Wales in 2017, and these results are also given by county so that you can start with the most popular birds in your own area. 

    It also has a bird identifier so that you can work out which bird is which. 

    Step Two - Get the birds to come to you!

    The National Trust suggest you encourage birds to come to you…..  give them’ a welcome!  Remember that bread isn’t good for birds – give them seeds in the summer and nuts in the autumn.  You don't need to have a garden - you can just use a window feeder which sticks to your window.

    Step three - Take a day trip to bird Hot Spots

    The National Trust has a number of hot spot sights where you can go for bird spotting, as do the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts (there are 47 in the UK), the Woodland Trust, the WWT and many nature reserves near you.  (You may need to be a member of some of these, but this can be a great chance to go and discover more.  You may see birds you wouldn’t normally see and this can be a fantastic activity to do on holiday when you’re in a new area – see what you can find when you’re away.  So if you’re off on a family holiday, practice your bird watching in other areas where you might see different species J

    Five activities the kids can do

    • Spot birds in the garden, from the window or in the car 
    • Draw different birds and write descriptions of them – all you need is a few pieces of paper and you could pin their drawings on the fridge or a wall
    • Put bird feed out for them (make sure they wash their hands very well with soap afterwards) – don’t use bread as it’s not good for birds.  See who then comes to visit!
    • Listen to bird song – can they identify one bird from another?
    • Have a go at 50 things to do before you’re 11 and three quarters….

     

  2. The 18th-20th August 2017 is a crucial date in the bird lovers' calendar.  

    It's the date for Birdfair, which is an international wildlife event and it's at Rutland Water. 

    Birdfair supports Birdlife International and this year, the theme is "Saving Paradise in the Pacific".  The theme concentrates on seabirds such as Rapa shearwater, white bellied storm petrol and the Rapa fruit dove.  In 2016, the event raised £350,000 to support international conservation.  That's amazing, in just a couple of days! 

    So what will you find at Birdfair?   

    • Hundreds of stands from more than 80 countries, with everything from binoculars to wildlife holidays, birdfood, outdoor clothing, books and more!
    • Over 70 wildlife artists and photographers
    • Over 180 talks and events during the weekend, many hostsed by famous wildlife personalities, including Bill Oddie, Stpehen Moss, Mark Carwardine, David Lindo, Chris Packham, Steve Backshall, Simon King and others
    • Debates concerning wildlife issues
    • Activities for kids throughout the 3 days
    • Fantastic birdwatching on the shores of Rutland Water
    • Great food

    Visit the Birdfair website for more info and for updates :-)

    For Twitter, it's TheBirdfair, and facebook, facebook.com/TheBirdfair.

  3.  

    If you're looking for a way to kick off the summer holidays or get closer to nature, why not take part in the RSPB Big Wild Sleepout

    This year, the Big Wild Sleepout takes place from 28 to 30 July 2017, and it's a great chance to enjoy some nature from your window before you go to bed, or have a quiet evening watching the birds in your garden or to camp out overnight in your garden!

    The RSPB has lots of activities to do and this could be a great way for families to kick off the summer holidays.  

    You could look up to the stars at night or make an animal tracker to see who's been in your garden while you're been sleeping.  The RSPB has lots of wildlife activities you can do at home through the summer holidays, ranging from making a hedgehog cafe to a game of matching poo to the animal who did it. 

    Click here to fly away to the RSPB website for more info

     

     

     

  4. If you're looking for a summer break in the UK, take a look at Sykes Cottages.  

    They've got over 7,500 properties to choose from throughout the UK and Ireland - and many are pet friendly, meaning your dog can go with you!  There are even a few famous cottages in their selection!   All their properties are personally inspected by their staff to maintain their high standards. 

    They've got luxury properties, coastal cottages and pet friendly places to stay.  And it's easy to search for the right property for you - just choose where you want to go in the UK (county, town/village), select your dates and the number of nights you want, the number of people in your party, how many pets you'll be taking and SEARCH!  

    There are also cottage features you can select if you want them - such as wifi, near a pub, near a beach, near a shop, garden, distance to sea etc.  

    And there's a special offer on as well for many propertiesup to 20% off holidays in July and August (latest arrival date 26 August 2017)**.

    Click here to take a look for yourself! 

     

    **Here are the T&Cs for the summer sale

     

  5. Tuesday 11 July at 9pm

    I've just switched over to watch "The British Garden:  Life and Death on your Lawn" on BBC Four.

    Chris Packham and a group of experts from London's Natural History Museum  scrutinise the wildlife in gardens on a surburban street in Welwyn Garden City.  They do this for one year.

    Switch on to BBC Four to watch this 90 minute special.   It shows a world full of wildlife with snails, worms, foxes, woodlice and frogs.  It asks questions such as "are lawns any good for wildlife?"  (The wild garden lawn has 3 times as much insects - even letting our lawns grow a few inches helps.) 

    So to help wildlife, stop mowing all your grass and let some grow long. 

  6. Zoorassic Park at ZSL London Zoo


    Something BIG is happening at ZSL London Zoo this summer....

    Come and see Zoorassic Park.  For 6 weeks between 22 July and 3 September, you can go back in time to a prehistoric world and come face to face with moving dinosaurs - from the giant but gentle Brachiosaurus to the towering Tyrannosaurus Rex.

    Launching on Saturday 22 July, there's a weekend of free live shows to celebrate, Dinosaurs LIVE! with Andy Day (22 & 23 July only and you need specific tickets for it, it's first come first served).

    Click here for more information

  7. If you're looking for something to do this weekend or during the school holidays, why not take a look at the Canal and Rivers Trust?Spend time on the canals and rivers of the UK You could:

     Download the Nature Guide from the Canal and Rivers TrustDownload your Nature Guide

    Click here to find out what's local to you.

     

     

  8. There's great news from Chester Zoo!  

    And it all surrounds this gorgeous Andean Bear Cub, who was born overnight on 11th January 2017.  

    Hello!   I'm at Chester Zoo and I'm an Andean Bear :-)  

    At the moment, Chester Zoo don't know if this is a girl or boy bear.   However, the cub who was born to parents Lima (5 years old) and Bernado (7 years old) is now venturing outside, having spent the first few months of life in a cosy den.  

    This timing is particularly special.   If you're familiar with the stories of Paddington Bear , you may know that Paddington was an Andean Bear.  The stories were created by the wonderful Michael Bond, who has sadly just passed away at the age of 91 years old.  

    Andean bears are the only bears to inhabit South America - Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

    They are listed as vulnerable to extinction by IUCN, so the arrival of the Andean Bear cub at Chester Zoo is very important.

    Conservationists will have a great opportunity to learn more about the Andean Bear and pass their findings on to other conservationists and partners working in South America which can be vital in helping secure the future of the gorgeous Andean Bear.

    Threats to this beautiful bear are all too familiar:

    • 30% of forests with enough food for the bears have gone, cut down
    • There's illegal killing by farmers and businesses - bears are raiding crops and livestocks as their natural habitat shrinks


    Chester Zoo scientists and conservationists are working with the Oxford University Wildlife Conservation Unit to undertake a study on bear-human conflict in Bolivia.   The findings should help the Andean Bear.


    Visit Chester Zoo's website

     

  9. Come on!  Do your bit and see what you can spot on the roads

    It's time for the Mammals on Roads Survey for the People's Trust for Endangered Species.   Dig here for more info

    This is an amazing photo (©Ben Andrews, PTES).   Just look at those eyes and that beautiful face!

    The People's Trust for Endangered Species are just about to kick off their annual Mammals on Roads Survey.

    This a great chance to do your bit for Britain's wildlife and let PTES know what you've spotted.  

    It may not be quite the activity you should be doing when driving - but if you're a passenger in a car, this would be a great way to help wildlife by monitoring mammals on the road this July, August or September.  

    So far, over 500,000 kilometres of road have been surveyed through Mammals on Roads.

    And the public's findings from these annual sightings of wildlife have alerted PTES to problems such as the dramatic decline in hedgehogs - they were the impetus for the charity's hedgehog projects and surveys.  

    So the survey needs to know what you see - whether the mammals be dead or alive - on a dedicated car journey of more than 20 miles.  

    This could be a great activity to do with the kids in the car en route to your summer holiday destination.  See who can spot the most! 

    Click here for more information from the PTES

  10. Good news!  Online retailer Garden Bird have three days of special offers, starting today.    

    You can get wild bird food by mail order with them plus feeders, nest boxes and bird care accessories.  They also have products for wildlife in your garden, too!  

    All you have to do is use the code SPRING10 and you'll get 10% off TODAY.  This deal expires at midnight tonight - 19th March 2017.  

    10% off on Sunday 19th March 2017 using the code SPRING10

    5% off on Monday 20th March 2017 using the code SPRING5

     Codes all expire at midnight on the day mentioned above. 

    Click here to fly away to Garden Bird's website.