The Safari is taking part in Science Week with a local school this week and today we were at the nature reserve with two classes from Year 1. Sadly the weather wasn't as good as it has been over the last few days, being on the chilly side, breezy and with heavy showers blowing through. Early on it looked like we were all in for a very off-putting soaking but thankfully the persistent heavy rain dried up minutes before the mini-buses of children arrived.
They'd been studying plants in class and so we had a good rummage round to see what of interest in the greenery line we could find. It didn't take long to find some Gorse flowers but the lack of sunshine meant they didn't smell of Coconut today, nor did the Blackthorn flowers smell of almonds. We talked about leaves, buds, bark and branches and had great fun with some particularly long Common Reed stems.
They all enjoyed a look across the mere through the telescope at distant 'ducks' (mostly Herring Gulls actually but we didn't want to get them into a discussion about the vagaries of immature gull plumages just yet, although one budding young ornithologist noticed some where white with silver backs and black 'tails' - we liked that boy!!!)
We had a look in the not-so-secret place for a Great Crested Newt or two but only found a couple of Brown Lipped Banded Snails and an old Short Tailed Field Vole's nest for them to inspect. One of the hawk-eyed youngsters spotted a Toad but sadly it was deceased, they weren't at all shocked by the innards hanging out...more fascinated really similarly with a huge Lobworm no shrieks of fear just enjoyment and everyone was lining up to hold it...great stuff! So where does the terror of invertebrates come from - parents?
Another go with the telescope this time at the feeding station had them enjoying a female Pheasant who sat still preening long enough for everybody to have a good look at the 'chicken'.
Walking round to view the mere from the other side we passed a Fox's run and they correctly guess what made the Mole-hills.
Alder catkins and associated 'pine-cones' came next.
Enough excitement for one day for that group lunchtime had come round all too soon.
We had a look round for some Frogs and Toads to show the second group without any joy, we did see a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a displaying Sparrowhawk.
We hit the feeding station first with group two to avoid a rather nasty shower, lots of Great Tits and a Reed Bunting but no sign of the earlier Pheasant. Then we had a look at the mere going past the Fox hole and the Rabbit droppings on the Molehills taking in the Ash tree and telling them of the Oak/Ash rhyme and asking if they thought it would a splash or a soak year. Nearby a Chiffchaff started singing, our first of the year (118; MMLNR #67).
Two dollops of Fox droppings had them fascinated as did the 'Penguins' through the scope (Cormorants to everyone else).
Again time had snuck up on us and it was time for them to go back to school.
Where to next? Might get a look at Patch 2 in the mornmning before we're back in school for the afternoon session - no wildlife this time just science.
In the meantime let us know what got mis-named in your outback.