2016, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Spring is coming…

By Rowena

Spring is definitely on its way, and more boxes are getting filled in on the Spring Index sheet in the tutor’s office! I took a walk up Juniper Top last week one evening, and there was so much birdsong in the air. Almost the first bird I spotted was a blackcap, its squeaky sharp call drawing my eye. First one of the year, perched on a branch of a hawthorn. I paused to admire him and the view before heading further up the hill.

Coal Tit

Blackcap, image source: british-garden-birds.com

The grass is peppered with yellow meadow ant nests as you walk up, huge grassy knolls that would be teeming with life if you were to peel away the vegetation from the top. Not a wise idea, unless you really like ants! In Ants, by Derek Wragge Morely, Lasius flavus’ nests are called “climbers’ compasses” by the author, as;

“…climbers who are lost in a mist or fog can nearly always establish their compass points by observing the way in which the nests of the Yellow [Meadow] Ant are built.”

The steep side of a nest nearly always faces east- and this is the case on Juniper Top!  Along the path, there was a surprising lack of nests, when there were so many further away.

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View to the west

Heading into the woods, the quiet of the open meadow was broken by a thrush, singing from a high-up branch. Another spring tick!

He was overshadowed by a chorus of blackbirds belting out alarm calls as I went further, each surprising the next with their loud chuk-chuk-chuk. A squirrel was surprised too, complaining from the undergrowth as I came to Box Hill viewpoint. It was too late to stop off at the National Trust cafe, so I kept walking down the Burford Spur now, heading back towards Juniper Hall. Dorking was glowing with streetlamps as the light dimmed, the church just about visible along the High Street, a train speeding along the railway tracks towards London. The valley was full of mist hanging low to the ground, Denbies Vineyard and Norbury Park dim outlines. By the time I was back to Juniper Hall, it was dark enough for the goats to have already been put away for bed. A bat zipped across the front lawn as it decided it was nighttime and safe to come out!

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2016, Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

New Bio Spec – Immersion into Ecology

As discussed in one of Rowena’s recent blogs, South Eastern training took place at Juniper Hall shortly after our much needed Christmas break. One of the topics presented to us was an ‘immersion into ecology’ session at the begining of Biology residential courses. This idea was shared by Head of Centre at Flatford Mill, Jo Harris. It is designed to provide a really exciting and inspirational start to Biology courses and to get students thinking for themselves right from the start! The education team here at JH thought that it was such a brilliant idea that we decided to tweak it to suit our environment and landscape and use it in our courses. Exciting times!

Inspired by Jo Harris’ presentation at training I made it my mission to observe the first one of these sessions in action at JH. Taught by one of our tutors, Michelle, the session was tried on seven year 12 Biologists from St.Orleans school. She opened with the simple question “why are you here?” The reponses were “to conduct field research” and shouted out from the front of the class “BIODIVERSITY!” This was the perfect start to the course as you could tell that this was an incredibly keen group who were ready to immerse themselves into Ecology!

In my last blog I think I highlighted that the last Biology lesson I had was in my years as  a GCSE dual Scientist, so I was already expecting to be out of my depth. Michelle opened up proceedings with a quick quiz on key Ecological terms in which I scored, what I thought was a fairly respectable, 4/7, considering my last Biology lesson is now a distant memory! So I thought it would be a good idea to write this blog from the point of view of myself, as one of the students – at least it will give me an excuse for all the spelling errors!

We were asked to write down in groups what factors influence the abundance and distribution of organisms. We were given 90 seconds to do this and then organise the factors into 2 categories – Biotic and Abiotic. Then as a class, we made links between all of these factors, and I soon learnt that this is what Ecology is, the relationship between basically all biotic and abiotic factors.

The top of Lodge Hill was the location from which we would complete our Field Sketch.

15 minutes later we were outside and enjoying the great February weather…

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Despite the wind and rain, still a brilliant view of The Burford Spur, Denbies Vinyard and a fraction of Dorking- Lodge Hill

This photo doesn’t do the dreadful conditions justice…

The relationship between Biotic and Abiotic factors came into play here as there were endless opportunities to note interactions. For example, the field sketch shows the relationship between biotic and abiotic factors over time, including human intervention. With the growth of Dorking into a town with a population now of over 11,000, changes have been made to the local landscape. Town development obviously has caused transport routes into the town such as railways and main roads have developed. Therefore plant and species diversity has lowered, due to transport links breaking up habitats into patches. This has resulted in the need for humans to manage the woodland for example. Monocultures, with one dominant species in an area and little biodiversity, means that genetic variety has been reduced, therefore making the same species more susceptible to disease.

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Artistically gifted – this is my attempt at a Biology field sketch. I was pretty proud of the annotations too.

The “Classification Scavanger Hunt” followed which encouraged immersion and the use of exciting technologies.We were given 15 minutes to explore Templeton woods, find and take photos of as many of the “5 Kingdoms of life” as we could. To do this we used the app Popplet. Popplet allows you to create a classification diagram, including pictures, links and labels- a really visual and interactive way of learning.

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Fungi are so distinct from animals and plants, they have been allocated their own “kingdom”

A session that sums up what the FSC is all about. I definitely gained a lot of environmental understanding, thanks to the education team for creating this programme and to Michelle for the excellent delivery!

by Rory

2016, Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, geography, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Top 5 fieldwork apps

By Rowena

I said I would eventually get round to writing a blog post on the apps we use here at Juniper Hall, and here it is! As we’re not always in classrooms (as expected, as we are field studies tutors, after all!), tablets are really valuable resources for recording data in new and interesting ways. They’re even better in the rain, as they don’t disintegrate like paper does- and before you question, “don’t Ipads die in the rain?”- yes they do, but not with Lifeproof covers on them!

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They’ve even been dropped in the river before and survived!

I’m not going to mention all of the apps we use, just because there are so many, but here’s a top 5 of my favourites.

 

  1. Freezepaint: Remix the world around you with FreezePaint – the easiest way to create fun, strange, impressionistic or beautiful compositions.

Coming in at number 5, Freezepaint is fantastic for making layered photo collages in the field. When up on the Burford Spur or the Woodlands, we use it for showing the difference in vegetation across a gradient, or between two different areas. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that would be useful, with its smiling dog logo, but it’s actually a great way of visualising change where it might not be instantly obvious there’s a difference!

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  1. Dropbox: Dropbox is the place for your photos, docs, videos, and other files. Files you keep in Dropbox are safely backed up and you can get to them from all your devices. It’s easy to send large files to anyone, even if they don’t have a Dropbox account.

Dropbox is so useful from day-to-day! It’s not quite as fancy and exciting as the other apps, but it’s so helpful, I just had to include it. Cloud storage is super useful, especially in this line of work, as it means you can get resources out in the middle of nowhere (if you have the mobile data for it). Pretty great if you forget something! The best bit for the teachers about cloud storage is they can access files from school once they head home from Juniper Hall.

dropbox

 

  1. Popplet: Popplet is the simplest tool to capture and organize your ideas. With Popplet you can quick jot down your ideas and sort them visually.

This is my favourite new mindmap generator. The app costs a little money, but there’s a free web version as well. You can add text, pictures, lines between as many boxes as you can possibly think of… videos as well! If you’re really clever with it, you can turn it into a presentation as well, which is a bit more exciting than using another powerpoint…

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New astronomy resources using Popplet

  1. Night Sky: Just point your device to the sky to identify stars, planets, constellations and even satellites!

Although I’ve not used this much in teaching yet, Night Sky is a fantastic little app that I instantly downloaded onto my phone. It projects loads of information onto a phone or ipad; constellations (with pictures!), stars, the planets… sometimes you see the International Space Station whizz past as well. I’ve been developing some new stargazing resources for night walks, and this is an app that’s definitely making an appearance. It can tell you all about the different things in the sky, and there’s a pretty nifty “red light” version that you can switch to so you don’t ruin your night vision.

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Ursa Major, the Great Bear

  1. Skitch: See something that sparks an idea? Use Skitch to snap it, mark it up, and send it on in an instant. Your bold ideas stand out even brighter with Skitch.

Skitch is definitely my favourite app out there. It’s a really simple way of creating annotated photos, which are great to have in coursework. There are loads of different things you can add to a photo- text, stickers, highlighting- so it’s really versatile. You can also annotate a map of wherever it is you find yourself, or a webpage or PDF if you really wanted to. Makes it useful for studying, as well as for using out in the field.

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Not the best annotated photo, but it’s speedily done

So there you go, some really great apps you should all download. Enjoy!

2016, FSC, geography, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Broadwood’s Folly

By Rowena

Big changes have been happening up at Broadwood’s Folly today! Sitting in the office halfway through the morning, we were surprised to see someone scaling the side of the tower, a dark blob halfway up the masonry. Then, what should have perhaps been somewhat more obvious, we spotted the rather large cherry picker rising up out of the woods next to the tower. What was going on? A quick scour of the internet popped up the following result from the National Trust:

We’ve had to make the difficult decision to remove the tree growing through the tower known as Broadwood’s Folly at Box Hill.

We have long known the tree was having a detrimental effect on the tower, but on balance thought the tree within the tower offered our visitors a unique experience.

Read more here

Wow- bit of a surprise from the National Trust there! Over the course of the morning the tower started to change from it’s normal furry outline to one a bit more bare, so at lunchtime three of us decided to take a quick walk up to the top to see how it had changed.

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Cherry picker on the move

It was quite evident that the tower is not going to look like it has for the past decade. The tree, a holm oak, was starting to look a bit unwell, so the National Trust have decided to remove it from the tree to save the tower. A look at some of the wood they cut down does show there was some pretty nasty rot going on in parts of the tree, which probably wasn’t helping its health…

Sections of wood cut from the holm oak

Holm oak is an evergreen oak from the Mediterranean region, with leaves that are spiky like holly. Sometimes it’s called holly oak, because of this strange feature. Coming from the Mediterranean, it’s obviously non-native, so probably was dropped by a bird as a seed, and has grown up since. In the heartwood there are amazing radiating lines from the centre, which are much paler than the rest of the wood- which has a lovely pinkish tinge in the very middle. The tower is Grade II listed, so the National Trust have decided to cut the tree so that it is not impacted by the tree. It’s a popular walk from the National Trust visitors’ centre on Box Hill, out to the tower and then back via Happy Valley, so the National Trust want to keep the popularity of this walk by preserving the Folly.

Then and now

It’s not quite the same without the tree growing out the top though! Watch this space for some more pictures when they cut down the tree completely, and we get a very different tower from the one we’ve known…

Jason and Michelle check the tower out

2016, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Big Garden Birdwatch & Spring Index

By Rowena

This weekend was the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, apparently the biggest wildlife survey in the world! If you’ve not heard of it, you sit by a window and record the birds you see in your garden over the course of an hour. Easy stuff. At Juniper Hall, we have a pretty big “garden”, so Daniel Farnes took it on himself to spend his hour over the weekend watching what came past. Can you ID what he spotted too?

Answers at the bottom of the page. Images from Wikicommons

I didn’t get to do my own birdwatch this weekend as I suddenly decided to go away (it happens…), but when I spot birds around the centre- and out and about as well- I add recordings to the BTO’s Birdtrack list. This is a recording site for birders around the country, recording what they see in their local patches and on formal transects too. I don’t use it quite as much as I probably should do, as I tend to forget to upload common birds and get excited about recording rarer birds (a woodpecker will make it, whereas the blue tits always outside East & West classrooms might not), but it’s pretty cool. Over January, I’ve spotted some other nice birds around centre though…

Long-tailed tit, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Blackbird, Green Parakeet, Red kite. Images from Birdguides

You might have guessed by now, I quite like my birds. It’s true, and I love recording them! The FSC run something called the Spring Index, which is a long-term study looking at when Spring “officially starts”. The aim is to look out for iconic indicators of Spring. The FSC Spring Index records 4 spring indicators; the first flowering of hawthorn and horse chestnut, the first orange-tip butterfly, and the first swallow. The Woodland Trust take things a bit further and run the Nature’s Calendar, which has a whole load of different indicators they ask people to look for. If you like recording nature, definitely get involved!

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Some records filled in already!

There’s a bit of data on the movement of Spring already, and it seems to be getting earlier and earlier every year. Certainly I don’t remember seeing daffodils in December like I did at the end of 2015! The first snowdrops came out this weekend, so warmer weather is on its way… A tad different to a couple of years ago when there was snow on the ground.

ID Answers (from left to right); Carrion crow, Eurasian magpie, Feral pigeon

Buzzard, Black-headed gull, Ring-necked pheasant (female)