This afternoon we met up with our local home education group and visited Sutton Ecology Centre, where the amphibian and reptile charity Froglife were hosting a Life Under the Surface Exhibition, all about pond life.
Froglife is a national wildlife charity committed to the conservation of amphibians and reptiles – frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards – and saving the habitats they depend on. The exhibition is running from today until Sunday 9th June and is totally free and suitable for everyone, kids and adults alike.
I knew this would be popular with my bug-crazy kids, especially as we haven’t been pond dipping anywhere but the back garden yet this year, and as soon as we told them about it Jasmine went to find her net so she could take it with her to catch a pond skater! Luckily we managed to convince her she wouldn’t need it because they would have nets there!
All the way there the kids were talking about the animals we saw at the Ecology Centre last year. Strangely it seems the one that stood out the most for them was the leech and both Thomas and Jasmine kept saying they didn’t want to find one today in case it tried to suck their blood!
As soon as we arrived the lovely lady running the session asked us if we’d like to do some pond dipping first. Well, of course the kids said yes! So they got their nets and bowls and off they went. We had a really good catch today and saw lots of different pond animals including tadpoles, sticklebacks, pond skaters, whirligig beetles, water boatmen, mayfly nymph, damselfly nymph and a smooth newt.
As is always the way with an activity like this one child fell in the water and today it was Jasmine’s turn. She just lost her balance and wobbled right at the edge of the platform (despite the fact that we had told her numerous times not to stand right at the edge!) and she had no choice but to either fall or jump in the water! Luckily it is only waist deep for her so Gordon pulled her out and after a few seconds she had got over the shock and was right back at the edge of the platform dipping her net in again, only without her trousers this time as they were drying over the fence!
After a long pond dipping session we released all the animals back into the pond and went to do the craft activity. The kids (or grown-ups) cut a pre-drawn tadpole shape out of a piece of card and covered it in black fabric. Then the kids stuck on a googly eye and painted it with some gold paint. It was a very simple, effective activity which kept most of the kids busy for a while.
Whilst most of the kids were making their tadpoles, Thomas had made his way back to the pond to do more dipping. Because the nets had been put away he was just using his hands! Impressively though he caught several tadpoles and a nymph!As the craft activity was coming to an end I suggested that we go and see if we could find any slow worms. The ecology centre have several pieces of what look like old carpet tile dotted around the grounds, and if you lift these up very carefully you can usually find several of these legless lizards lurking underneath. Slow worms are neither a worm or indeed slow! Once they are warm they are in fact very quick! We didn’t manage to catch any today but we did see 3 under one carpet tile.
After the slow worm hunt, Gordon took some of the kids off for a wander around the grounds. The final catch if the day was a lizard, and Jasmine held it! I wasn’t there though because Thomas was still pond dipping by hand so I was watching him, but she was very pleased that she had not only been, but held, a lizard!
We had a great time at the ecology centre today and it has definitely re-sparked our passion for pond dipping. We’ll definitely be going back soon to hunt out more bugs, both in and out of the water.