Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Hotter than hell...well maybe not quite

The Safari was out early for a tots event up at the top end of the North Blackpool Pond Trail with the Early Years Team. While we were waiting for the little ones to arrive we had a look at what was about to show them. There is a friendly Heron, or it's well habituated to people on the other side of the fence.
It does allow closer approach if your careful and don't startle it but it does have a limit you can't cross before it walks on a few paces.
On the had rail we spotted a small fly dining on a blob of bird poo - an excellent photo opportunity, brilliant! But maybe not to the taste of our colleagues.
Look at the length of that labrum
The little ones turned up and we had a close look at the Heron, which was considerably taller than most of them.
And of course being by a suburban lake there were plenty of ducks and geese to collect moulted feathers from. Being in charge of all things wildlife we gave RK our camera to do the pic thing.
We did a bit of pond dipping finding the children lots of Water Boatmen and a small 3-Spined Stickleback. It was still before mid-morning but it was getting seriously hotter by the minute. Time to move on and find some shade round the corner. Here we found lots of Hedge Bindweed flowers for the kiddies to play parachutes with.
We also showed the youngsters some Sycamore 'helicopters' and had a play with those, far from ripe but they still worked. While we were enjoying the whirlies lots of butterflies were fluttering around and a Brown Hawker dragonfly flew over us. RK was still in charge of the camera and had turned all arty with this cobweb shot.
And then was seen looking intently in to the long grass by the side of the path, she'd found several tiny Froglets.
We were looking for some more when we found a full sized adult which was eventually successfully wrangled into our pond dipping tub.
By now it was scorchio and getting far too hot for the little ones so it was back to base and a very refreshing ice lolly.
We had a short time to get through the traffic and back to work to set up for Yr 4 and their final pond dipping study.
They did their science quickly in the now 30C+ heat, it had become one of the top 10 hottest days ever for here, but 'sadly' fell short of the 33.7C record set in the July heatwave of 1976.
Their nets were in the water as soon as possible and they started to pull out some good finds. Tiny Pea Mussels aren't netted very often from our pond, only about 2mm across.
Blobs of snails eggs were found and some of them were seen to be just about to hatch.
There was nothing sinister about the damselfly nymph, it was just resting there. Like it is here on an adult Wandering Snail.
Other snails included large Ramshorn Snails
And the much smaller and skinnier Keeled Ramshorn Snail
Many of the old favourites were found like this rather large Water Boatman, yesterday's group didn't catch any anywhere near this big.
An animal we see on most pond dips in the warmer months but have never photographed before is the Bloodworm, the larva of a Non-biting Midge.
Soon an excited voice called out "water spider, water spider!" asking them to count the legs had them working through the key to find it was a dragonfly nymph.

With all the 3-Spined Sticklebacks in the tubs it wasn't long before we heard the cry "it's grabbed a fish!!!!!!!"
We brought the group round one by one to see predation in action. Then in another tub we were able to watch a nymph attacking the fish, its mask darting out at the blink of an eye, if it wasn't for the shadow we wouldn't have been able to see it. It took several attacks before another Stickleback was captured. We could see the fish being hit by the strike but the nymph wasn't able to make the attack stick until...
What an awesome experience for the kids. We've never seen this before, well that's not unexpected as it usually happens in the bottom of the pond well out of sight! Amazing to witness for real rather than on a YouTube clip or even a David Attenborough documentary.
So how hot did it get in the end? Too hot for working outside all day probably but don't tell that to GB down in the South West forests of Western Australia.
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 if there's no torrential thunderstorms to contend with.
In the meantime let us know who's enjoying the hot heat in your outback.


Stuart Price said...

Heard it's hot back there, you should lie on Blackpool Beach and drink a cold long Gin and tonic...........

Beverley Peacock said...

Fantastic morning for the Little Ones who all enjoyed the experience and knowledge Dave gave us. Even I learnt something from these trips. Hope we can do many more. Thank you to my Early Years Team and of course Dave.