Continue your Fountains Abbey Easter trail at home
There are lots of ways you can help nature to thrive in your own gardens or windowsills this spring. Continue your nature adventure at home!
Making a pinecone bird feeder
To make your birdfeeder, you’ll need a pine or fir cone, bird seed, suet or lard and string. It’s handy to have a mixing bowl (and spoon) and scissors too.
If you’ve collected some pinecones on a walk to use, you’ll need an adult to help you clean and dry them. This can take some time, so do this the day before you’re planning on creating your pinecone bird feeders.
Cleaning and drying the pinecones
- Gently brush off visible dirt – you could use an old toothbrush for this.
- Fill a bucket or sink with warm water and add white vinegar – you’ll want about one part vinegar to two parts warm water.
- Fully submerge your pinecones in the water for 30 minutes. Give them a stir halfway through. Don’t worry if they close up – they will open back up in the oven.
- Take them out and shake off the excess water. Leave them to dry naturally for 1-3 hours.
- When you’re ready, pre-head the oven to 200 degrees and line a tray with baking paper or foil.
- Pop the pinecones in the oven – they should take approximately 90 minutes, but this can vary so keep checking on them to make sure they haven’t burnt. When the pinecones have opened up again, they’re ready to be taken out the oven.
- Leave to cool before using them for bird feeders – or your lard might start to melt!
Making the bird feeder
- You’ll want your lard to be at room temperature, so get it out before you start to let it soften (but don’t let it melt). When it is soft, chop it into small cubes and put it in your mixing bowl.
- Add your birdseed to the bowl. Now, it’s time to get messy – use your hands to mix together the lard and birdseed.
- Tie some string to the top of your cone (you may want to clean your hands before you do this).
- Pack your birdseed mix around the cone – you can squidge it and mould it until it covers the cone completely, making a ball shape.
- Put your cones in the fridge to set – about an hour should do.
- When they’re ready, hang them up outside for bids to enjoy. Who can you spot visiting your feeder?
Build a home for a solitary bee
There are about 250 wild species of solitary bees in the UK – this includes mason bees, leafcutter bees and the hairy footed flower bee. You can make a bee hotel using a plastic bottle!
For this, you’ll need a large plastic bottle, bamboo sticks and cardboard tubes (there are ones made specially for bees) and twine. To make it you’ll also need sandpaper, a craft knife and cutting matt and garden secateurs, so make sure you have some adult supervision.
- Use your craft knife to cut the top off the plastic bottle. Sand the edges smooth.
- Cut your bamboo stems using the secateurs – they’ll need to fit the container but make them about 3cm shorter, so they don’t get wet in the rain. Use a variety of widths, so the bees can choose and avoid too many stems with knots in.
- It’s really important to use sandpaper to smooth the ends of the bamboo, including on the inside edges – bees don’t like sharp edges and splinters can cut their wings.
- Thread some twine through the bottle so you can hang up the bee house.
- Pack in your stems and tubes tightly into the plastic bottle. You can fill gaps with twigs and reeds but make sure it is tight and secure.
- Place your bee house in full sun and at least a metre off the ground. Make sure it is secure and no foliage cover the entrance. Between October to February you’ll need to move the house somewhere cool and dry to protect the eggs. Put it out again in March then, once all the solitary bees have made their way out, replace the stems and clean the house.
Create a hedgehog café
Hedgehogs need a helping hand, so why not try feeding them with a hedgehog café?
- Make sure you’ve got a safe spot for your café outside. Placing it against a wall or fence is an ideal spot.
- Cut a hedgehog-sized hole in one of the vertical sides of the box. You can create a tunnel for the hedgehog by cutting the end off a plastic flowerpot and placing it at the entrance.
- Cover the edges of the hole in the box with duct tape (and the edges of the flowerpot if you have used it) to make sure there are no sharp bits.
- Once you have your entrance ready, it’s time to make the inside cosy. Put some newspaper down and perhaps some dry leaves and grass.
- Place some small, shallow and heavy dishes down at the far end of the box, away from the entrance. Add a little bit of food in but avoid bread. Meaty dog or cat food, cat or kitten biscuits and special hedgehog food will make a much tastier snack. Pop clean water in the other dish.
- When the inside of the hedgehog café is ready, pop the lid back on and carefully place a brick or two on top. This will stop foxes and cats getting in.
- Now your café is ready for visitors! Keeping it clean is really important. Make sure there is no one in there first – if it is empty, give the box a quick daily clean. Put fresh newspaper down first. Clean and refill the dishes with fresh food and water. Remember to wash your hands afterwards.
- There are signs to figure out what is visiting your café – hedgehogs leave crumbs, but cats don’t!