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Natural History Society

Natural History Society 2016/17

For any pupils (and staff!) who missed it, or even for those who sat riveted and would like to see again:

Big Schools' Bird Watch

It's nearly that time of year: once again we are taking part in the Big Schools’ Bird Watch! This has become an annual event at Methody.  For the past five years, we have spent one hour bird watching and uploading our results to the RSPBs national survey.

This year’s birdwatch will take place in A1 on Friday 3rd February from 8.15 – 9.15.  This is a fantastic opportunity to come along and meet new people, have some breakfast (provided by Dr. Quinn), and look out for our beautiful local birds. Bird identification keys and binoculars are provided.

November 2016: Natural History Club showing of David Attenborough's "Life"

About the Natural History Society

Many pupils have an interest in the living world around them.  From simple childhood experiences of learning about animals, to primary school nature trails, many pupils are quite simply intrigued by wildlife. 

Unfortunately, the Biology taught in classrooms is largely dictated by examination boards and there is little time for showing some of the high quality wildlife programmes available.It was in recognition of this that the idea of the Natural History Society was conceived.  The Natural History Society is essentially a film club, open to pupils of all ages, that exists to celebrate the wonders of wildlife photography and broadcasting.  It also gives a forum for any member to make presentations on areas of special interest to them.

This year, the Natural History Society has focused on showing Sir David Attenborough’s latest series, ‘The Hunt’.  This fantastic series documents the close relationship between predators and their prey.  This series links well with sections from the Biology curriculum across many year groups, in particular form 2 food chains and food webs, GCSE adaptations, and A level predator prey cycles.  Students have been busy preparing posters for our notice board detailing their favourite predators from the series.  Most popular is the Portia Spider which has been given the very worthy description of Genius!  View the link below to the BBC’s website to find out more about Portia.

We are working closely with ECO club to monitor the activity of Hedgehogs within the school grounds. As Natural History involves the observation of organisms in their environment, Natural History Club and ECO clubs projects often overlap. We plan to install one of the RSPB’s night vision cameras to capture nocturnal activity in our school grounds! 

Dr. Quinn and sixth form students placing one of the Hedgehog boxes in the school grounds

Dr. Quinn’s outdoor classroom.  Students from a range of year groups are learning about the activity of Hedgehogs and the natural environment of our school grounds.

We are also keen to monitor the bird population within Methody’s leafy grounds.  Every year we take part in the RSPB’s Big School Bird Watch and this year was no exception!  

Big School Bird Watch 2016: The results are in!

The Natural History Society, in conjunction with ECO Club, took part in the RSPB’s Big School Bird Watch on the morning of January 29th 2016.  Fourteen budding Ornithologists, from a range of year groups came along to A1, which had been transformed into a bird watching hide, to count the numbers of different species of birds they could see over the hour between 08.15 – 09.15.

Dr. Quinn with some of the students who took in the Big Schools Bird Watch 2016.

Preparations had been made by ECO Club over the preceding two weeks to ensure plenty of birds were attracted to that particular area of the school, such as making high energy bird cakes.   To help identify birds correctly, we referred to posters from the RSPB which featured the most common garden birds. 

Using ipads to help identify birds

We also used ipads to access the RSPB’s bird identifier section on their website.  Dr. Quinn and Miss Aranha were also on hand to help identify any birds which we were unsure of.   Our results were collated in a tally chart and subsequently uploaded to the RSPB’s website where they formed part of National data.  Unfortunately storm Gertrude was passing through Belfast that morning which may have put a few birds off flying in search of food, but a few brave feathered friends made an appearance!

Keeping records of birds we spotted

The Results

Methodist College results

Comparison of Methodist College’s results (2nd column) with UK data for the same species (3rd column)


These results are in keeping with the numbers of each species we expected to spot.  We also expected to see Blackbirds, Herring Gulls, Wood Pigeons, and Starlings as these are regular visitors to the College grounds but Storm Gertrude may have put them off! 

How to count birds

Bird food should be place in the garden / grounds for a few weeks before the planned bird count to encourage birds out into the open where they can be seen.  For details on how to make your own bird feeders visit:
NB – bird cake made for school should not contain nuts.

Only count more than one of a particular species of bird if you see them at the same time.  For example, if you spot a Robin and it flies off, then spot a Robin again a few minutes later, it is probably the same Robin that you have seen again.  Therefore, only count more than one Robin if you see them together.

Have a pair of binoculars and a bird identification guide close by to help with accurate identification.  For further help visit: