Speckled Wood: Golden-ringed Dragonfly: Painted Lady: this migrant butterfly… Common Newt: several Common Newt were recorded by the children when pond dipping during science events days in their nature area.
Goldfinch – these brilliantly coloured little birds are never far away but are most easily seen when feeding on the seed heads of thistles in the nature area during early autumn.
House Sparrow – this once very common but now fast declining British bird needs unkept, wild habitat, hedges and old buildings. The school wildlife areas, surrounding buildings and farmland provide this habitat. The children are lucky to be able to hear the cheerful chirping of House Sparrow all the year round.
Jay – occasionally this normally shy woodland bird comes into the school grounds and can be seen burying acorns in the turf of the playing field.
Swallow – the migrant Swallow arrive in April and can often be seen during the summer feeding on the abundant insect lif around the school. They build their nests in local farm buildings and under the eaves of local houses. Most have left for their wintering destinations in Africa by the end of September.
Magpie – this striking black and white bird with a long tail is a common visitor. It is a noisy predator and will eat anything from small insects to birds.
Lots of other birds can be seen in the grounds because there is a good mix of habitat with deciduous trees, hedges and wild grass areas. Surrounding the school are also fields of hay meadows which attract seed eating birds to the area.
The grounds include a number of deciduous trees species including Hazel, Willow, Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Ash, Rowan and Elder. These trees, along with the hedges and an old orchard with ancient cherry and apple trees, provide an a wonderful wildlife habitat for a wide range of animals.
The varied habitats provide ideal conditions for a large number of diverse plant species. A survey was conducted in July 2009 and compared to the 1966 survey held in the school archives.
12 species of butterfly have so far been recorded. The planting of a wildlife garden with butterfly-friendly plants has been a great success attracting different species.
St Mark’s was the first school in Cornwall to take part in the Garden Moth Scheme, a national recording project. It was very grateful to receive a moth trap and accessories donated by organisers of the scheme. The trap was set every Sunday night and the children shown the moths the next day before releasing them. 125 different moth species were recorded during the year.
Although none of these beautiful Emperor Moths were recorded in the grounds, as part of the science project supported by The Royal Society, groups of Class 1 children were given locally collected Emperor Moth caterpillars to rear. The project was a great success with the children monitoring the astonishing growth rate of the caterpillars until they turned into a pupa. The following spring the moths emerged in nets hung up in the classroom. The females, once mated, laid eggs which in turn turned into hungry caterpillars … and the life-cycle began again. More information can be found on the project website.
Lots of different types have been found but the caterpillar of the Large White butterfly, often called the Cabbage White, is the one most commonly found by the children. It has often been found on the cabbages in the raised vegetable beds and also on nasturtiums. Comma butterfly caterpillars have been found on nettles but are more difficult to find because they are disguised as bird droppings. A tiny Mottled Umber moth caterpillar was found feeding on Goat Willow during a science events day. Emperor Moth caterpillars were reared by the children as part of their Wild About Science Project.
During a public bat and moth night parents, children and members of the public enjoyed listening to Common Pipistrelle bats on the sonic detectors. The bats could easily be to seen once it was dark enough for the moth-trap light to be put on. The bats swooped around just above everyones heads feeding on moths and other insects attracted to the light.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Frogs were occasionally seen in the long grass around the pond and lots of tadpoles were caught while pond dipping with nets.
Slow Worm were recorded by leaving a piece of roofing felt in the nature area on top of some long grass. The Slow Worm were attracted to the felt because it was dry and warm underneath. During a school open day children were able to gently handle the Slow Worm and learn more.
Although Grass Snakes have yet to be seen they are almost certainly to be present in the grounds. The long grass and ponds supporting lots of food is ideal habit for this harmless snake. Those children who were part of the after school Nature Club were shown a young Grass Snake so that they would be able to recognise one.
A Common Lizard was seen sunning itself under a hedge alongside the playing field during a nature recording day.
The unkept nature area and hedges support a wide range of other insects.
St Mark’s CE Primary School, Morwenstow.
Contact details and useful links
St Mark’s V.C.C.E. Primary School Shop Morwenstow Bude Cornwall EX23 9PE Tel: 01288 331395
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