Category Archives: Butterflies

Outdoor learning just in the garden

Tommy and LJ love our garden, they love Mamma’s greenhouse (Tommy has been calling me that since he began talking and couldn’t say grandma). We are learning so much by playing outdoors just in this small space.

I wanted to share some free and inexpensive  ideas for developing your garden and using it for fun learning

  1. I’ve left a patch of grass ‘wild’ to encourage butterflies and bees. It looks very wild now and the grasses are almost waist height for Tommy and LJ. They love walking through this and feeling the different textures as well as looking for butterflies.
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  2. Seeds – I saved seeds from poppies, sweet peas and foxgloves last year and we planted these earlier this year. They understand the sequence of plant pot, soil, seeds, more soil, water and writing a label and can now plant seeds with very little help.
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  3. We won a book on Toppsta called ‘Bee and me’ this is a stunning book all about the friendship between a little girl and a bee. It arrived with a packet of beautifully illustrated seeds. Obviously we planted theses and nurtured them ( toppsta is a site where you can look at book reviews and recommendations but can also win ‘ giveaways- well worth a look)
  4. As a result of the above we now spend a lot of time looking for ‘buzzy bees’ and talking about pollen and flowers.
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  5. I caught Tommy outside with his camera taking ‘photos of flowers like mamma’
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  6. We allow the kids to fill up the bird feeders and that’s one of the things they ask to do now.
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  7. Tommy has a digger with a bucket on the front and we collect small items to fit in, leaves, feathers, stones all the while talking about big and little
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  8. We listen for sounds – I could have cried when Tommy said ‘listen to the birds singing’ -Tommy particularly likes aeroplane spotting.
  9. We have picked tomatoes from the green house and eaten them outside ( I have stressed he must always ask me first before eating anything!! Paranoid grandma.)
  10. Tommy uses the hosepipe to water the tubs and we are gradually learning what is the correct amount of water – we’ve had weeks of too much water to get to this stage!


None of this is rocket science I know but I’ve really started to learn about the joys of outdoor learning as I have been privileged to work with Juliet Robertson ( take a look at her blog there are so many ideas on there!)  on two of her books Dirty Teaching and Messy Maths ( both by Crown House ). I now think about the language I use and can see joy in the kids faces when we lay on the floor to look at a green caterpillar or Tommy asks what the berries are on the tree. I love it when they are excited to see starlings feeding their young or when LJ makes piles of pebbles. Yes they get dirty and my hosepipe is Tommy’s favourite toy but they are outside playing and learning to love nature which has got to be a good thing 

We did buy some items, a magnifying glass which meant we could look closely for caterpillars and bugs, children’s gardening gloves – they were £1 a pair at a local hardware store, smaller watering cans and the children’s first book of birds from The RSPB.

Signs of Autumn – my favourite season

A couple of months ago a bought a Canon 100 – 400mm zoom lens with the intention of hoping to improve my bird and wildlife photography. This is a slow process and I maybe get a couple of shots per session which are OK. It’s hard stepping out of your comfort zone but rewarding learning new techniques. We live near RSPB Old Moor and spend time there most days. It’s a wonderful place to visit, for a stroll, to take children or as a serious nature lover and watcher, not to mention a relaxing cafe- highly recommended. The people there are very friendly and there is always someone around to point out an unusual bird or name something if you aren’t sure.

RSPB OLD Moor
Tommy’s first visit to Old Moor

This morning there was  a slight nip in the air and the first real signs of Autumn. I couldn’t resist slipping back into my comfort zone and photographing plants and berries. The colours are starting to arrive. The beauty in decaying leaves is really breathtaking if you look carefully.

Autumn leaf lace pattern
Deacying leaf – beautiful patterns
Autumn colours RSPB
Signs of Autumn at RSPB Old Moor

I did take a couple of nature shots, a robin a dragonfly and the tiny butterfly in the header. I love Autumn and so enjoy watching the leaves turn – isn’t nature wonderful?

Robin in tree dragonfly

Autumn leaves first signs
Autumn colours

Stepping out of your Comfort zone

It has taken a long time but I now feel confident to say that I can take a decent photograph of flowers. I have practised, I have edited, deleted, re shot but I now have my own style and feel comfortable with what I do.

Wildflower 6 JMH resized

I bought myself a new lens earlier this year – a 100 – 400 mm zoom with the aim of developing my skills and trying new things. Over the last few weeks I have been taking photos of dragonflies and butterflies. What a change, what a challenge! You can’t retake several times as your subject has flown off! It won’t wait for you to ‘faff about’ with settings and lighting, you get one shot. It won’t allow you to move around it and find the best angle … you get where I am coming from. I now have hundreds of photos of empty twigs and branches as well as several blurred attempts.

However, I remain undaunted. I’m reading around my subject. I’ve learnt that dragonflies often return to the same spot. Patience isn’t one of my virtues but I am learning!

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JMH_6581a dragonfly 1

RZ2 butterfly 1

I would like to say  a special thank you to the gentleman who held the blade of grass still whilst I took a photograph of a dragonfly  this morning!

RSPB Fairburn Ings

I’ve been a member of the RSPB for a number of years now but have only recently had time to actually visit some of the sites apart from Old Moor which is fortunately within walking distance. Although they all vary in size, type of reserve and wildlife found there – they are without fail, wonderful places to visit. There is something so calming about nature and wandering around with a camera. Today I took photos of ‘common’ birds and butterflies, as well as weeds but they are all beautiful in their own way. (I love the way that the french for weed is ‘Mauvaise herbe’ ). Fairburn Ings is only 20 miles from us and was really easy to find. Staff were friendly and helpful without being pushy. Certainly worth the trip. Worth noting that your RSPB membership allows free access and parking to all RSPB sites. We went to an English Heritage site yesterday and had to pay £20 entrance fee – no comparison really.

PicMonkey Collage