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Get closer to nature with 7 Days of Wild Christmas

Posted: Wednesday 19th December 2018 by trustadmin

Robin (c) Mark Hamblin/2020VisionRobin (c) Mark Hamblin/2020Vision

Feeling a bit stuffed after all that turkey? Need to escape the in-laws? Fancy getting outdoors to catch some winter wildness? We’ve got lots of ideas to inspire you to get outside, get active and connect with nature by doing one wild thing a day over the Christmas break, from the 25th December to 31st December. So grab your hat and gloves, and get set for #7DaysofWildChristmas!

Do a two-minute beach clean
If you’re heading to the beach for a brisk winter walk, grab a bag and see if you can help reduce marine litter in your local area by doing a #2minutebeachclean. All the family can get involved and make a difference. Some beaches even have special beach cleaning boards, like Glenarm, Newcastle, Portrush and Donaghadee.

Search the strandline for sharks
Take a look along the seaweed strandline to see if you can find any hidden mermaid’s purses. These are egg cases of sharks and skates, which wash up after the pups have hatched in the sea. By recording information about the egg cases, you can help us to identify potential spawning grounds and nursery areas for our endangered sharks and rays. Visit www.seadeepni.org to find out more. 

Wonder at a wetland
Winter is a great time to discover a wetland nature reserve. All are thronging with wildlife, especially with nature’s most beautiful wading birds and wildfowl. Head to Bog Meadows in Belfast and watch geese, herons, swans, and tufted duck from the pond. You might even be lucky enough to spot a kingfisher.

Play poohsticks
Find a bridge, some flowing water and a few sticks, and amuse the little ones by playing poohsticks. Each stick should have a distinct personality, so they can be easily distinguished. Pick a starting point and finishing line and on the count of three launch your sticks into the water. The winner is the first stick to the finish line.

Go on a winter ghost hunt
If you’ve never seen a barn owl before winter is a great time of year to look, as the days are much shorter. Pick a still moonlit evening and seek out a field with long grass where mice and rodents thrive; scan along the hedgerows and the fence posts for a white moth-like bird. Remember to log your sightings so we can help protect these endangered birds. 

Make a bird cake 
Food is getting thinner on the ground, but that should not mean our wildlife loses out. Help a feathered friend out by making a bird feeder! Simply mix some lard, birdseed and chopped nuts and plaster over a pinecone. Then attach a string and hang up on a tree – simple! Visit www.wildlifewatch.org.uk to download an activity sheet. 

 

Spot Brent geese on Strangford Lough
Thousands of pale-bellied Brent geese - three-quarters of the world’s population - can be spotted on the mudflats of Strangford Lough, south of Newtownards. These artic visitors are not just enough to watch – have a good listen too. One of the most satisfying sounds of winter is hearing them argue and muttering over a piece of eelgrass – their favourite food.

‘Ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at baby seals
Winter is grey seal pupping season, as adults come ashore to breed after spending lazy summer days fishing out at sea. Grey seals have a horse-like face, while common seals look like a Labrador dog! Best places to see them haul out with their adorable white-fluffy pups are around Strangford Lough, Minerstown and the North Coast. Remember to keep your distance though and do not disturb them.

Become a wildlife detective
Wildlife can be hard to spot in winter but by investigating animal tracks you can discover who has been visiting your garden, park or countryside. It is easiest to spot them in muddy places, or when it has snowed. Or you could try setting up a footprint trap! Leave a sand-filled tray outside your house overnight and see who’s been to visit in the morning. Visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/identify-tracks to help identify them.

Spot a starling murmuration
One of the best winter wildlife spectacles, right in the heart of Belfast, is the dazzling display of starlings over Albert Bridge as large numbers flock to our shores from the continent. Watch them gather at dusk in the sky above to perform their dramatic 'murmuration-dance' before spiralling down into their roost – the largest one in Northern Ireland.

Don't forget to share your week with us on social media using #7DaysofWildChristmas

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