A Focus On Nature

Advent Calendar

Give Families The Gift Of The Natural World – Dan Rouse

Welcome to our 2015 Advent Calendar series (#AFONAdvent)! For each day in the lead-up to Christmas, we have a post from an A Focus On Nature member on this year’s Advent theme: “The Gift of Giving”. We hope that you enjoy the series and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

When you’re a youngster and by this I mean under 10, your parents have a major impact on the things you like and the path you are likely to follow. For example, my dad always took myself and my brother out to the woods to go for walks, these were mainly woods near Mid-Wales where my dad and brother would sit and watch the Rally cars and I would sit on the roof or in the boot and watch the Red kites above me, this has not only moulded my way of life but my brothers as well, I work for a Bird Organisation and he’s studying to become a mechanic. We, as Naturalists can campaign to get children move involved in nature once they’re old enough to make their own decisions, but getting parents and families on board will allow children to experience the natural world from a very young age. There are a lot of ideas around where families can join together to go under the guidance of professionals, e.g Wildlife Trust, WWT, RSPB and so forth, or they can do it independently.

There are a number of ideas which are hugely popular with families and with the many organisations who are working ever so hard to engage families and children with nature. I will talk a bit more about these and how families can do these on a budget plus making the activities child-proof!

Bat Walks: Now, bat walks don’t have to mean walking for half an hour/a hour down woods or buildings in the middle of nowhere. More of a bat sit-and-watch. The main thing you could need is of course a bat detector, there is a children’s one which you can buy from the Online retailer; Fish Pond, these are very sturdy and I would highly recommend them as they work just as well as the leading brands but of course are a lot easier to use. The Bat Conservation Trust and other Bat organisations do provide the frequencies for different species, plus where you are likely to see them meaning the hard work is done! Simply turn the dial to a frequency and watch as the bats emerge from their roosts, with older children you can sign up to do roost counts which are always fun! Grab some clickers if you are forgetful of numbers like myself, and count each bat you see emerge and submit your data to BCT and help protect the species.

Garden Birdwatch and Nest Boxes: Who doesn’t love peering inside a box hoping for a feathered friend to have taken residence and is rearing it’s young?! You can buy or build your own bird box from as little as £5! Put this up in your garden and check every week by lifting the flat and noting down what you see, the children can do this first and then can work out the stage the bird is at. Garden Birdwatch is hugely popular among families and gives you a sense of pride that you are helping these birds through life, I always took a shine and referred to them as my friends when I was a toddler. Better still, you can build a hide out your garden (table on its side was my hide..) and watch them close up as they visit the food you’ve put out. You can contribute to protecting and collecting data on British birds by signing up to the Garden Birdwatch with the BTO or by just submitting your data on Birdtrack. Simply count and identify and with the number of guides out there, some more advanced as others, you will be able to and your children will be able to identify birds in no time even if it’s just identifying its colours and working it out from there.

Children are the future of conservation and of course are the future naturalists, but we cannot forget the parents who will be supporting them throughout their lives. Parents and families play a vital part in a child’s like and with help from organisations and from people who are standing up to make a change, these families will encourage their children to appreciate and look after the natural world from their children to enjoy.

Dan Rouse is a conservationist, naturalist and birder from Swansea in South Wales. Currently working for WWT Llanelli as a Learning Assistant and head of the Munchkins pre-school scheme which aims to help families connect with the natural world. Dan is a keen bird ringer and currently holds a T permit, she is also a keen cetacean surveyor. Follow her on Twitter: @DanERouse and her website: www.danrouse.org.uk