National Tree Week
National Tree Week takes place from March 4th to the 11th 2018.
To celebrate Tree Week I tought I’d point you in the direction of a TED Talk that I love. In 2006 Suzanne Simard, a renowned Canadian ecologist, gave a Ted Talk that has been viewed by over 2.6 million people. Suzanne talks about her research over 30 years that uncovered how trees in a woodland communicate with each other; that instead of competing with each other for resources, they are in fact super-cooperators. Using a vast underground network, they share nutrients, warn each other about drought and disease, support younger trees and more. Trees talk!
“You see, underground there is this other world, a world of infinite biological pathways that connect trees and allow them to communicate and allow the forest to behave as though it’s a single organism. It might remind you of a sort of intelligence.”
Take a look at her talk. You’ll never look at trees or a woodland the same way again.
Hands down what I love most at this time of year is watching the birds in my garden from my kitchen window. Even though our feathered friends need our help throughout the year, providing them with food (and water!) at this time of the year is critical. Being entertained by their antics at the bird feeders will repay you in spades for your efforts.
Here are some tips for enjoying your garden birds this winter:
- To make sure you get the widest variety of bird species, put out the widest variety of food in your birdfeeders. Peanuts and sunflower seeds are much loved by some species, while apples and cheese are winners with others. BirdWatch Ireland has lots of great info on their website to help you select the right foods. Your garden will soon be hopping with lots of happy squabbling birds.
- Invest in a basic identification guide. You’ll become an expert in no time. There are some excellent books out there. The one that I use is Bill Oddies’s Birds of Britain and Ireland.
- So that the kids can join in in the fun, print off the Woodland Trust’s garden bird ID sheet and put it by the window for your kids to tick off when they see one of the species in the garden. The delight is epic when they manage to tick off a bird on the sheet!
- Keep binoculars handy for closely observing the birds. It took me a while to cop the difference between a dunnock and a house sparraw, but with a set of binoculars even I could eventually tell them apart.
- You might also want to give the birds somewhere to nest and perch if you have a garden. Planting native trees, shrubs and flowers whose berries and seedheads will supply the birds with food over the winter is incredibly valuable. Think rowan trees, crab apple trees, dog roses and letting your wildflowers, like dandelions and clover, bloom. Of course these plants will attract insects and these in turn will provide the young birds in your garden with food over the summer. And hey presto, you have a beautiful garden to boot. Win Win Win. Not only will your garden become a lovelier place to behold, but it will make a real difference to wildlife. They’ll now visit your lovely garden regularly while some of them might even call it home.
As a child being outside, inventing games, getting into scraps and running about is incredibly liberating. It makes us feel alive. It’s the stuff of fond memories and nostalgia. Of course it isn’t all about boisterous play, being outside is also about climbing a tree and being alone with your thoughts.
Children need to be outside to explore. Explore their own bodies as they run, climb, jump, cycle and tumble. Use their imaginations to turn sticks to swords and Bally-What’s-It into Tír na nÓg. They receive lessons in resilience as they fall, get up and carry on.
And yet, despite all the evidence of the many benefits of outdoor play to children’s health and wellbeing, these days childhood is increasingly played out indoors in front of screens, rather than in fields, parks and beaches.
74% of children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates, (Persil, 2016).
This is a tragedy in itself, but it has wider more far-reaching implications. If a child has little or no interaction with the natural world, then how can s/he form a bond with it?
In a time of global warming and mass species extinction can we really afford a disconnect to develop between children and nature? After all they are the next custodians of Planet Earth.
It’s time for action: Curtail their screen-time and set yourself the challenge to be outdoors as much as possible. Discover the woodlands in your area for rambling; kids go free on OPW heritage sites; join your local Irish Wildlife Trust; or your local branch of Birdwatch Ireland. They run regular events aimed at children. You could join your local walking group to discover your area by foot. The possibilities for Outdoor Eduction are endless. Make that connection and have heaps of fun in the process!