Jenny Weston, our Conservation Officer based in our Aberdeen office lives about half an hour inland from Aberdeen. Most of the time though she is a mum to a 21-month-old toddler called Piper and as a result of the current Covid-19 restrictions she’s spending a lot more time trying to entertain her at home. Their childcare is usually shared between herself, her husband, nursery and grandparents.
Lockdown with a little one
We are very lucky to live surrounded by beautiful Aberdeenshire countryside and usually our free time as a family is spent birdwatching and out in the countryside as well as swimming and Bookbugs (Bookbug is Scotland's early years book sharing programme which has regular sessions at local libraries with songs and stories). It’s been really important for me to maintain our connections to the natural world and the causes we are passionate about at this time.
Getting out for a walk has always been really vital for helping to clear my head as well as watching and listening for the birds around me. Skylarks are giving it laldie (my favourite Doric word – meaning giving it his all) just now and our local yellowhammers have just started asking for ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’. However, our daily walks are more often than not severely shortened by someone saying ‘mummy back please’ or ‘mummy up’ and we head home. In order to get a bit further down the lane, this weekend we popped her on her trike (which she loves) and went to our local stream. We saw a dipper (a first for us in the area) and a courting pair of great spotted woodpeckers, plus we had a very happy girl the whole way there and back!
On other days we take the ball for the dog and that keeps everyone entertained for a long time!
For Christmas I had made Piper toilet roll binoculars that look like her daddy’s (there are loads of ideas on Pinterest and older kids can decorate their own). Sometimes we take binoculars on our walk and last week she wore them all day as an accessory – always ready in case a rarity might pop up in the kitchen!
Every morning we feed the birds and spend quite a bit of time watching them out of the window too with our binoculars. Her call for them to come for food may put more birds off than attract but you cannot fault her spirit!
We sometimes have a red squirrel which comes to the feeders too which who has been great fun to watch. The squirrel and our goldfinches, siskins and magpies have all been welcome additions to our Breakfast Birdwatch.
We’ve also got a lockdown bird list (in friendly competition with my RSPB colleagues) which is growing steadily. Highlights so far have been seeing red kites regularly and we’ve even spotted a couple of goshawks. We’re often out doing fieldwork away from home this time of year so have enjoyed new species for the garden such as goosander and grey heron too. A main topic of discussion in our house is always what might we see next. Personally, I’m hoping for a blackcap in the garden.
I’ve been doing lots in the garden in the afternoons (fresh air to help us all sleep) and we usually find some beasties under plant pots and vegetation. With the bird nesting season in full swing we have two pairs of tree sparrows, a pair of blue tits and a pair of great tits using our nest boxes, as well as pairs of dunnocks, robins, magpies and carrion crow all building their own nests. Piper enjoys watching and learning about the animals in the garden. Last weekend it was a ladybird and we spent quarter of an hour watching the little guy and having him run over our hands. When it was time to let him get back to his wanderings and for us to have dinner we were able to shout ‘byeeee ladybird’ from the doorstep. I’m amazed how many bugs she does recognise but I realised that so many of her books have beasties in. I need to order more bird food this week so might add one of RSPB’s kids’ books into the shopping basket too.
As well as reading, we have been colouring and trying to help Piper learn her colours. To complement this, we have been looking for colours in the garden. Our collection of yellow was no match for the BLUE tractor which was working in the field nearby this week though!
As a very birdy family, a lot of our books on the shelf featuring birds (for both adults and kids) so we’ve been looking through those together too as well as some websites with great pictures. We chat about which birds are out on the feeders as well as inside our books like blue tits and goldfinches. Animal noises are always a popular in our house, and, while it’s fun being able to roar like a lion, we have been learning our bird calls too and have been ‘honking’ like geese and ‘caw caw’ing like the crows.
In these times of worry, about the wider world as well as our loved ones and own situation, getting outside the house and of our heads has never been more important. The added pressure of entertaining and educating a toddler or small child can feel daunting and I’ve worried what Piper might be missing by not being at nursery. But kids are really adaptable and for me making sure we get outside and make mini achievements focussed around being creative is making things easier. Although often neglected when we are busy we have realised that creating our own garden mini nature reserve is really important for us and the wildlife we live along side, whether big like the badgers that squeeze under the fence to raid the bird food or small like Piper’s friendly ladybird.
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