2017, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Spring on it’s way!

By Rowena

Spring is definitely on its way, with a delightfully warm weekend- barely even coat weather! We’ve been writing up our Spring Index here like last year to calculate when spring is starting. Last year the average index (which is across all the FSC centres) was the 26th April, which was the same as 2015. I think this year it might be earlier though, as we’ve already recorded quite a few early indicators!

Spring Has Sprung – Darcie Rian

We look primarily at 4 indicator species, although we’ve also been recording others as well- and important events such as first lunch outside (11th March), and first time wearing shorts (13th March). The 4 big ones though;

  • Swallow
  • Orange tip butterfly
  • Horse chestnut budding
  • Hawthorn flower

We’ve already recorded our first orange tip last week (27th March), a whole 18 days earlier than last year’s, which was on the 18th April.

Beyond the Human Eye: Orange-tip Butterflies - More Than Just a ...

Train ticket butterfly (Source: Beyond the Human Eye)

Last week brought the first house martin to Crossways Farm as well on the 31st March, an exciting spot by Jack on the coach back from the river. I got my first swallow yesterday on the 3rd April, although up in Hertfordshire, not in our area for the Spring Index, so the competition’s still going for the first spot for us in Surrey.

Barn Swallow in flight - Olympus UK E-System User Group

(Source: E-group.uk.net)

We’re still waiting for our horse chestnut and hawthorn, but no doubt they’ll be on their flowering way soon. The warm weather today rewarded a pair of slow worms under the reptile mats. No mammals, but the bees were flying from the apiary down in the meadow as well, despite the grey clouds.

Slow worm

A post shared by Rowena-Jayne Pattenson (@syn_sharptooth) on

2016, Biology, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Bioblitz 2016

By Rowena

For half term, we ran our annual Bioblitz to record all the birds, bugs, plants and anything else on Juniper Hall’s grounds. In the weeks leading up, Daniel’s been busy handing out tons of flyers around Dorking and Leatherhead…

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So many leaflets!

Thankfully when the big day came the weather was kind to us! It all kicked off with opening our moth traps, which we had put out the evening before. Unfortunately there were only a few moths inside, as it’s getting to the time when they’re all tucked up and hibernating, but happily a few extras were brought along by the AES to admire as well.

Next we had Lisa and Saoirse open mammal traps in Templeton Woods. There were a couple of successes, with a water shrew, and then some wood mice later on in the ha-ha.

 Drawing quite the crowd

Later on in the lineup we had woodland and meadow invertebrate hunting. We got out the sweep nets, pooters and keys to see what we could find, scooping up grasshoppers, shield bugs, leafhoppers and moths. In the woods we had some fun charming worms too, making them wiggle to the surface to be identified.

The reptile mats didn’t reward any reptiles, but Lisa and a few families did find some hiding mammals and lots of insects- the ants just love colonising underneath the felting we’ve put down in our meadow.

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What’s Lisa found?

While Saoirse manned the ponds, looking for underwater critters, Rowena and Helen made some nettle tea with the kelly kettles, that took a lot longer than it should have…

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Putting on a brew!

Also throughout the day we had arts and crafts in the students’ common room, colouring moths and glittering invertebrates, and local societies joining us in the Templeton Room to promote bats, birds and bugs!

A big thank you to everyone that visited and helped, and to the lovely charities that attended; the Bat Conservation Trust, Surrey Bird Club, the Amateur Entomological Society and others!

We haven’t got final totals for everything we recorded on the day yet, but we’ll be sure to update once we do know what we managed to find.

2016, FSC, Juniper Hall

Real Family Holidays

By Rowena

This week we have Real Family Holidays, where families can come and stay at Juniper Hall for a few days. We put on events in the mornings and afternoons, with time to explore the countryside inbetween.

Monday morning mammal traps was the first activity we had- Rory helpfully set up 15 mammal traps in the Ha-Ha and Templeton Woods which we went out and found.

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Mammal traps

4 shut in each place rewarded us with lots of very bouncy mice and a scampering vole. It was easy to see how the two move differently to avoid different predators- mice jump high so they can’t be heard by owls, whereas voles scurry and hide to avoid being seen by kestrels. We also checked the reptile mats, which had lots more voles hiding underneath, a shrew, a toad and a small slow worm.

In the afternoon, we had fun with bushcraft, learning to use strike sticks and building small fires to boil nettle tea.

Today we have been up to Lodge Hill to build shelters. The sun is beautiful and warm, and some amazing shelters were built by the families staying, using the wood and leaf litter around Box Hill.

Some really inventive shelters!

This evening is campfire, and plans are underway for marshmallows, singing and stories… All of the fun!