Monday, 23 May 2011

Letter-join: joined-up handwriting made easy!

Ever wondered what we do here? Well, meet Letter-join, and help spread the word of a great handwriting teaching aid for schools!

Letter-join is a new online resource for the teaching of joined-up handwriting. Formally launched at the London BETT education show in January 2011, Letter-join has been trialed extensively and is used in schools across the UK (indeed worldwide!).

For teachers, Letter-join is a unique teaching aid, combining interactive animations (optimised for whiteboards), with unlimited use of downloadable practice worksheets for real handwriting practice.

Letter-join is available in two editions: 'school' and 'home'. The School edition contains an interactive whiteboard practice facility. The 'Home' edition contains all the good stuff of the school edition except the whiteboard facility. Letter-join is available as a free 10 day trial at:

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Blue Tits fledgling

George, rescuing a Blue Tit fledge from the lawn.

Actual size, these Blue Tit fledgling birds were probably no bigger than a 50p coin and felt weightless in the hand.

Last night, I pondered the thought with friends that there where no young Blue Tits on the wing yet, and today our garden birds have left the nest. I wish they Hadn't! These Blue tits appeared out of the box, in the middle of very blustery weather today, and I believe their departure is a little premature. They appeared too small and frail, - some were very weak in flight and falling to the ground to easily. Luckily, no neighbouring cats were about at the time.

Other fledglings occasionally seen around the garden at the moment include, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin and Starling.

Village Spotted flycatchers

This picture was taken last Saturday, when I first noticed our Shadoxhurst Spotted flycatchers had returned. Most years one pair of Spotted flycatchers is at least present in the village, and this pair are faithful to the overhead wires and gardens and farm buildings at the top of Duck lane.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Golden Oriole singing - first record Shadoxhurst.

Another early morning slow-paced ramble through the woods south of Shadoxhurst brought my first record of a singing Golden Oriole today. Like the Wood warbler two weeks ago, patience, (which, generally I have none of), was key. Having been cycling and walking since 5.45am, the bird was heard singing for just a 5 minute spell at around 7.00am. I could not view the bird at all, - just about take in, that I was hearing the beautiful flute-like song of a very rare visitor.

Other birds present include, 5 Bullfinches, 2 Cuckoo, Long tailed Tit, Garden Warbler, and Nightingale, all still in 'song' and faithfully occupying territories for a month now. Also a Lesser Whitethroat is singing from the wasteground by the old Car Garage and a pair of Spotted flycatchers are present at the top of Duck Lane.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Wood warbler - a rare visitor to Shadoxhurst

An early morning walk through the woods of Shadoxhurst brought a fine and scarce bird to view.
I was just about to call it 'a day', when, out of nowhere, the distinctive trill of a Wood Warbler joined a chorus of Nightingale, Willow Warbler, Chifchaff, Garden warbler and Blackcap. I managed just a few distant images of this beautiful leaf warbler before it disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. This is my first Wood Warbler in-land record for Kent, so quite an exciting event, as they're an increasingly scarce visitor to the South East. Probably, this bird is 'on passage', and may well find itself in a wooded valley in Scotland or a Wales in the next day or so.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Dunnocks - the almost secret nest

Back in the garden, we've been watching our Dunnock's first egg-lay and now, rearing these healthy chicks. The nest is no more than 3 feet off the ground in a small conifer. The chicks are getting more audible when begging for food, and hopefully will not attract the attention of our neighbour's cats.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Pomarine Skuas fly-by Dungeness

Five Pomarine Skuas close to the first buoy at Dungeness

Seawatching from Dungeness this spring has been very rewarding. The annual migration of Pomarine Skuas can be a hit and misss a fair, but good weather, good light, and a dollop of good luck has brought Pomarines reasonably close to shore. With high pressure and north - north easterly winds, the channel has a become a super-highway of birds moving North including Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Grey Plover, Common and Velvet Scoters, Whimbrel, Divers and Skuas.

Bar-tailed Godwits
Bar-tailed Godwits, Sanderling, Turnstone and Grey Plover