The Eco-Garden at Senior School Voorschoten (SSV) is thriving! A firm favourite amongst both students and staff for a spot of gardening or a quiet place to unwind and admire its beauty, the Eco-Garden is home to many different varieties of wildlife.
The BSN’s Archivist, Mike Weston, knows a thing or two about wildlife! A keen wildlife photographer, Mike has captured some beautiful photographs of several animals you can see in or nearby SSV’s Eco-Garden. Read on to find out more about each of these magnificent creatures.
BRIGHT-EYED AND BUSHY-TAILED: THE RED SQUIRREL
There are two species of squirrel in the UK – the red and the grey, but in the Netherlands, only the Red Squirrel occurs. They can be found in The Hague in various woods but are not as common as they used to be. Around about now, they will be making their nests, called dreys, ready for the winter months. They do not hibernate as such but wake up from time to time when the weather permits and go foraging for food. They are omnivorous but have a particular love of hazelnuts.
OYSTER-CATCHERS: THE SHELLFISH-LOVING BIRDS
Oystercatchers not only catch oysters, but they also take a whole variety of molluscs and have worked out different ways of opening shells. This varies from group to group and has to be learnt by each generation, so it could be seen as a form of culture. In recent years oystercatchers have moved more and more inland, and they have found earthworms to their taste, as can be seen in the photo. At SSV, we always have a couple nesting on the roof – much safer than on the ground…no foxes.
Foxes in recent years have spread from the countryside into towns and cities, making the most of all the food that we humans simply throw away. These urban foxes are doing well – plenty to eat and slightly higher temperatures than in the countryside. Recent surveys show that they are living longer and rearing more cubs than their rural cousins.
THE MOST WELL-KNOWN OF BUTTERFLIES
The Red Admiral is one of the commonest butterflies in the Eco-Garden. We always make sure there are plenty of nettles, the favourite food plant of their caterpillars. The adults prefer nectar-rich buddleia, a bush found in many gardens in the Netherlands. They are also partial to a bit of a tipple and, in the autumn, can be seen in numbers on rotting apples. Whether or not they suffer from hangovers is as yet unknown.
THE HAGUE’S MASCOT: THE STORK
White Storks are migratory birds heading south in the autumn and returning in the spring – which is why, over the centuries, they have become symbols for re-birth. However nowadays, with global warming, many storks in the Netherlands have gone against their migratory instincts and, rather than risk a long and hazardous journey, are overwintering here. These three were part of a flock of more than thirty.
(Did you know that the school sets up its own stork nest cam? Based at Junior School Vlaskamp, the BSN community experiences the joys of spring.)
THE MOST COLOURFUL MEMBERS OF THE CROW FAMILY
Jays, despite their colourful plumage, are members of the crow family. They are omnivorous but, in the autumn, are particularly fond of acorns. As well as eating large numbers, they also bury thousands around the woods where they live. Their remarkable memories enable them to relocate about 80% of these to feed on during the harsh winter months. Jays are the biggest single factor in the spread of oak woods due to the 20% or so of the acorns they don’t find and eat.
Ring-necked Parakeets come originally from Africa and India. Back in the 1960s, cage birds started escaping in European countries and gradually established themselves in the wild and towns.
Thanks to slightly higher temperatures and plenty of bird-tables in the winter, they are doing well and have become a familiar sight – and sound – in many areas. In Voorburg, a roost of several thousand starts flocking together late in the afternoon, ready to spend the night safer and warmer in a huge assembly.
Mr Mike Weston
BSN school archivist, detective and storyteller
Mike came to the English School at The Hague (BSN) in 1972 as Head of German, intending to stay for two years. Mike has been at the BSN for nearly 50 years. Over the years, he has taught a range of subjects and has been involved in many school activities. Starting a school archive from scratch and tracing the school’s history is the activity that has given him the most pleasure. Once he reached retirement age, he asked if he could stay on as the school archivist in hopes to be of service for a while yet. In this capacity, he regularly dives into the archives and comes up with some great stories. His stories are all our stories; enjoy them.