Author: ElementsFGS

Going Bats!

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Bats are some of the most charismatic wildlife which we have. They are funny and lovely and adorable and very useful. They eat insects and are an important indicator that our ecosystem is in good nick.

There are many things which you can do for bats and many of them involve you doing nothing at all.

Bats often hibernate in roof spaces in the winter – so just leave them to get on with it. There is no need to call pest control – bats are clean and quiet.

Bats also use trees for this purpose. If you have trees in your garden, especially older ones, if they aren’t about to fall on your house, just leave them there.

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The Northern Ireland Bat Group are a very active group which holds talks and activities for children. They also tell you have to identify your bats!

Link onto their page to see how you can get involved or indeed find out about the bats in your area.

Here are three fascinating facts about bats:

  1. You can use a bat detector to detect the kind of bat – it works on a series of clicks and pips – essentially bats have different kinds of calls. The bat detector makes their sonic frequencies audible to human beings.
  2. There are 8 types of bat in Northern Ireland. They are Common pipistrelle, Soprano pipistrelle, Nathusius’s pipistrelle, Leisler’s bat, Brown long-eared bat, Whiskered bat, Daubenton’s bat, Natterer’s bat.
  3. Bats have nurseries where mothers and young roost together and look after their young. A female bat mates before winter, overwinters and then becomes pregnant when spring arrives.

Here are some bat related activities from the Bat Conservation Trust.

You can make an origami bat, a bat hat and learn to draw a bat. Bats are our friends! We should love them. If you find a bat call the Northern Ireland Bat Group and they will come and rescue it for you!

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Have you seen this bird yet?

Swift - Wikipedia

You have most probably heard them rather than seen them. They are called the Swift and they spend all their lives in the air.

The Swift’s Latin name is Apus Apus, which means without feet. This is because their feet are so crippled that they can barely use them. They are the ultimate bird as they barely spend any time on land or sea.

They spend all their lives in the air and only come down to breed.

They fly all the way from sub-Saharan Africa and nest in either cliff ledges and caves or the eaves of roofs.

You can tell they are Swifts by how they scream as they fly. They are also known as Devil Bird because of this. Swifts make nest from their saliva. This saliva is harvested in countries like Indonesia. The industry is so huge that there are giant warehouses which house the swifts. The nests are sold for their weight in gold. They are eaten as a dessert or drunk for medicine.

You too can make a kite and fly like a swift!

Kites - Bird | Teaching Resources

Or you could get a map out to see where they come from. See how many countries Swift must fly across to get here? Can you name them?

Here are three cool swift facts:

  • They fly sleeping – half of their brain is asleep when they fly!
  • They eat flying – they catch insects! This is why places which have lots of insects are great for swifts. They are often found flying above trees! They don’t like flying too near the ground or they could get grounded
  • If the swift is grounded it cannot fly! To save it you must pick it up and throw it into the air! Isn’t that amazing.

Things you can do for Swifts

  • Make sure you leave your eaves unblocked if you have Swifts that visit. They are site faithful and return to the same place each year
  • Plant a wildlife garden
  • Write to your MLA/MP and ask them to make sure that they have a good policy to look after our heritage buildings and wildlife

Coming to a park near you!

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Wildflowers near Drumbo

Elements Forest and Garden School are looking at ways to bring our wonderful activities and curriculum to you. So keep coming back to this page for dates.

We are currently seeking parks and local forests to bring our own brand of exciting Forest School activities and education near you.

From STEM subjects and storytelling, wildlife activities and wonderful play, we are hoping that our first sessions will take place from August onwards.

If you know of a park or a local forest which you think would be great for us to hold our school in, please let us know!

In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled!

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Stephanie and Jonathan with wee Michael

Making the most of Summer

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Roses and blackcurrants

As the summer head well into July there are many things which we can do to capture a little bit of it.

Rose Petal Tea

Roses can be made into many things, but rose tea is one of the most pleasant and pampering things you can do for yourself.

And it is easy to make:

You will need Roses and nothing else.

Allow the rose petals to fall from your rose, or you can harvest as it. However I find that if you can get the pleasure from a rose in your kitchen perfuming the air, why not right?

Put the petals into a colander and let them dry slowly. Drying them slowly is vital. Keep them away from the sun but in a bright airy place. The sun will dry out the natural oils. When the petals are ready you can place them in an old tea caddy or in a Kilner jar. They are so pretty!

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Dried rose petals – here seen with peony petals

To make the tea steep it in hot water for ten minutes or so. The tea will be a clear light brown. Peony flowers here also add to the colour. Roses are safe to eat although they taste bitter. However bitter tasting flower and herbs are good for the liver and digestive system. Have it first thing in the morning and/or last thing at night.

This it eh same way you’d make any other tea – you can use mint, nettles, verbana, even strawberry leaves. The only thing you must remember is to harvest them from a safe place.

Blackcurrant jam

Fruit jams are also easy to make. Enjoy them instantly or in months time.

Boil fruit with sugar and some water. Adjust accordingly.

Often citric acid is added as a perservative. But don’t worry it is just a fancy name for Vit C.

Blackcurrant jam is wonderful with anything – muffins, pancakes, curds and whey or even yoghurt.

Dandelions are awesome!

With the sun shining continuously, dandelions are now studding grass verges and probably your lawns. Once seen as weeds, these gorgeous flowers are now recognised as the mini powerhouses of early nectar which they are.

Bees and hoverflies LOVE them and they provide that crucial bit of nectar just before the other flowers get going. So, it is EASY to help your dandelions in your garden – do nothing.

Let them bloom. And when they go to seed, let them too. It helps them to reseed for all spring/summer flower. Birds also love eating their seeds. I have seen redpolls sit on a dandelion seedhead and happily gobble the silvery tufts.

There are other things you can do with dandelions too.

Eat Me. Drink Me.

Dandelions are edible and nutritious. You can brew them into a tea, use their leaves in a salad and eat the flowers as well.

Their roots can be roasted to make a ‘coffee’.

Dandelions have a diuretic effect, which is why they are so effective in detoxing the liver.

Photo by Paul Talbot on Unsplash


“The dandelion is an excellent barometer, one of the commonest and most reliable. It is when the blooms have seeded and are in the fluffy, feathery condition that its weather prophet facilities come to the fore. In fine weather the ball extends to the full, but when rain approaches, it shuts like an umbrella. If the weather is inclined to be showery it keeps shut all the time, only opening when the danger from the wet is past.” 

Source: “Camping For Boys,” by H.W. Gibson

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