Tag Archives: Pond Life

Sutton Bioblitz

Today we took part in the Sutton Bioblitz at the local ecology centre.

We arrived around 11.30am and collected our recording sheets and activity booklets for the kids. The area had been split into three zones, aqua, amber and jade. As you recorded in each zone the kids got a stamp in their booklet and once you’d been to all three zones you got a free garden wildlife calender.

We started off in the aqua zone, where they were pond dipping.

As I was on my own with the kids today I decided against looking in the main pond – see here for what happened last time – so we got our nets and looked in the smaller raised ponds.

We spent quite a long time pond dipping and found lots of different animals including damselfly larvae, lesser water boatman, a whirligig beetle, a ramshorn snail, a pond snail and mosquito larvae. We were so engrossed in finding and identifying that I completely forgot to take any photographs! But I did get this one after we had put the nets away and I was trying to convince Jasmine to move on to something else.

Bioblitz 1Once I had convinced all the children we should stop looking in the pond and do the next activity we moved into the amber zone to look for bugs. We didn’t really find many today, just the odd woodlouse and snail; I imagine because all the logs had been turned over several times previously!

On the volunteers table however, we did see thisBioblitz 2Eurycantha, or New Guinea Spiny Stick Insect.

Pretty scary looking if you ask me, but both Thomas and Jasmine were very keen to hold it.

So, after holding the giant stick insect and finding no minibeasts, we headed over to the meadow to complete the final activity and collect our last stamp.

In the meadow we did some butterfly catching with nets and discovered how hard it is to catch, and then keep the butterfly in the net! I did most of the catching and got a few butterflies in the net but took a long time to work out how to keep them there! The only one I managed was a ringlet butterfly. While we were there though someone caught a small blue butterfly, the first one of the day.

As i was trying to catch butterflies, Jasmine and Thomas had found a volunteer turning over logs looking for toads. He found a couple and then as I was chatting to him all 3 kids began their own toad hunt. They did well and Jasmine brought over a small toad and Thomas found a newt.bioblitz 3It was now almost 2pm and we still hadn’t had any lunch. We went to get our calenders and wrote comments on the event tree. Thomas wrote “I found a newt” and Jasmine wrote “I found a toad”! While Thomas was writing Jasmine did a spot more bug catching and managed to catch a couple of grasshoppers by herself! Her eye for spotting and her ability to catch almost any small bug astounds everyone and the volunteers nearby were very impressed with her patience!

But then it was time to leave. I don’t think any of the kids had thought about how hungry they were while we were there because they were having so much fun. But I bought them all a cake on the way out and suggested we go to Macdonalds for some chips, and I didn’t have too many problems getting them back to the car!

We had a really great time today and each time we do something like this I see the kids enthusiasm grow and grow. We’re so lucky to have such a wonderful place nearby!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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An afternoon in the river

This afternoon we met up with our local home education group and went to a local park. Beddington Park is only a five minute drive from our house and we drive past it often. We have talked about going there often too, but for some reason we never have. So when it was mentioned as somewhere to go today I was quite pleased!

I was told there was a place in the river where the kids can paddle and fish. What a perfect activity! So I loaded us up with spare clothes and beach shoes for paddling in, but I was determined to get there on time so I forgot the fishing nets! Luckily someone else had remembered theirs!

We had a brilliant time! Somehow all 6 families arrived at almost exactly the same time so we all walked through the park together. The kids played in the sprinklers for a while, and enjoyed exploring the park with their friends.Beddington ParkBut the best part of the afternoon was the paddling! All 3 kids had been looking forward to going in the river so at the first opportunity they took their trainers and socks off, put beach shoes on and were straight in! Beddington Park 2I didn’t go in myself but apparently the water was very cold! Ben’s paddling adventure didn’t last long and he decided it was better to stay on dry land. But Thomas and Jasmine were so busy playing and exploring they didn’t notice the temperature.

Jasmine spent the entire time we were there fishing. She caught water louse and shrimp, lots of shrimp! Thomas did some shrimp catching too but he also had great fun wading over to a small island, walking down the river to help build a bridge with some of the other kids, splashing around. He got soaked and he loved it!Beddington Park 3For a large part of the afternoon Jasmine stayed close to the side of the river but she kept running out of shrimp to catch! I explained that if she stayed in the same place all the shrimp would run and hide so she would need to move and eventually she did venture further out. She even went on to the island in the end.

They had such a fantastic time I’m sure they would have stayed all day if it was possible!

But we couldn’t stay all day and so to coax them out of the water we got the bubble wands and bubble mixture out and blew some giant bubbles. Giant bubbles are great fun and I am sure all the adults enjoy them just as much as the kids. Well, I know I do!Beddington Park 4But then it was time for us to get dried off and walk back to the car because Jasmine goes to Rainbows on Wednesdays, meaning an early dinner is needed. We said goodbye to all our friends as they went to the cafe for ice cream and as I was packing all the wet clothes in a bag Thomas had a go on the rope swing. He hadn’t been on it all afternoon but as soon as everyone had left he was straight on! He did really well too. He is getting much more confident in his abilities and its really lovely to see.

The kids also found a great tree to explore on the way back to the car.Beddington Park 5Now I know how much fun there is to be had at Beddington Park we will definitely be going back. I still can’t believe I didn’t know what a wonderful place it is, and right on our doorstep!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Big Nature Weekend at Leith Hill

Today we drove to Leith Hill to take part in the Big Nature Weekend/BioBlitz event, run by the National Trust and Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Leith Hill is the highest point in Southeast England and is set within the Surrey Hills. It is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is also designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The event was held in the Rhododendron Woods, a beautiful landscape created by Caroline Wedgwood, the sister of Charles Darwin.

The bioblitz began yesterday evening, when they started with moth trapping and bat surveying. This morning, bright and early, they began trapping small mammals and investigating the moth traps. They also started bird ringing. Of course, we weren’t up late enough last night, or early enough this morning to join in with these activities but we arrived at lunch time today and filled the next four hours with bugs, moths, newts and much, much more!

Our first stop after arriving was the main tent, where they had all the moths and bugs in containers, nets or on egg boxes. We saw a huge selection of different moths, from small to really huge!MothsTop left: Poplar Hawkmoth. Top right: Lime Hawkmoth. Bottom left: Elephant Hawkmoth. Bottom right: Peppered Moth.

These moths pictured made the biggest impression! I was amazed at how beautiful I found the elephant hawkmoth, and Jasmine really liked the peppered moth. Both Thomas and Jasmine got to hold one – Jasmine held a peppered moth and Thomas held a lime hawkmoth.Holding mothsNext we went to the Amphibian and Reptile Group stand where they had newts, snakes, slow worms and tadpoles to see. For most of us this was the highlight of the day because we got to touch a grass snake and a slow worm, and they had a great crested newt in their newt tank! They also had an Adder, which Jasmine asked if she could touch. We quickly explained that it probably wasn’t a good idea because adders are poisonous!

The kids spent a long time looking at, and stroking, the snake and slow worm while I chatted about great crested newts. For anyone who doesn’t know, due to enormous declines in range and abundance in the last century, the great crested newt is strictly protected by British and European law. They had to have a license just to have them on display in a tank today! So it was a real privilege to see it.Newts and snakesAfter reptiles and amphibians we went to see the birds next. They were catching the birds in large nets and then measuring, sexing, ageing and ringing them before releasing them again. We were lucky enough to get there just as they were coming back from checking the nets.

One of the lovely volunteers brought each bird for us to look at once they had collected their data and talked to us a little about it before releasing it. We saw a greenfinch, a nuthatch, 3 siskins and a goldfinch.BirdsOnce all the birds had been released we decided to have a go at the trail around the woods, so we got our map and set off. The rhododendron woods are beautiful, full of life and so much to see. As we did the trail the kids loved looking out for all the markers and answering the questions. The trail was really well thought out and perfect for the kids. Ben was getting a bit tired so he spent some time in the buggy, but mostly they all explored and discovered and chatted and explored some more!Rhododendron woodsOur final activity of the day was pond dipping. We saved the best till last! The kids all got stuck right in, and this produced Jasmine’s highlight of the day because she saw the long-awaited dragonfly nymph. She has been waiting and waiting all year to see one so she was very happy!

Again we got chatting to the volunteers and they were all wonderful with the kids. They let both Thomas and Jasmine hold the newts and move them into the pond dipping trays. They talked to them about what they had found and were just generally lovely. Sadly, by this point of the day the camera was running our of battery so I only got a few photos.Pond dippingI think Thomas and Jasmine could have stayed by the pond, dipping and chatting all day! We had several last go’s before we finally managed to get them away and back to the car!

We all had a great time today and I am really pleased we went and joined in – we almost didn’t go at one point. We will definitely be going back to Leith Hill to see more.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Pond dipping and perfume making

I was beginning to worry this week that I’d never get a #countrykids post written. Our week so far has been pretty boring really!

But then today we had our Home Education group get together and we all met at the home of a family who live on a smallholding. So this afternoon there was plenty of wonderful outdoor stuff happening!

As soon as we arrived Jasmine headed for the pond. They have a wonderful pond in the garden full of tadpoles, frogs, fish, newts and (to Jasmine’s delight) pond skaters! A large part of the afternoon was taken up pond dipping. Pond dippingThe pond does have a “no net” rule at the moment because it has been over-pond-dipped by the kids, so today it was buckets and hands only. Not that that stopped anyone and they were still catching tadpoles, frogs and newts. At one point there was a frog in a watering can and a newt in the underseat compartment of a ride-on toy train!

Whilst Jasmine was busy at the pond, Thomas did some digging and ran over the obstacle course that had been built.ThomasThe other activity that was planned for this afternoon was perfume making, using herbs and petals from the garden. All the kids loved doing this and gave special thought into what they wanted to put in to their mix. Thomas chose to use just mint leaves, whereas Jasmine and Ben both used a combination of different herbs and petals. Once they had selected the ingredients, we added a little water and used a pestle to crush it all together. Making perfumeWe have brought the perfume home and Thomas has asked for a squirty bottle to keep his in! I think I’ll be hunting three out tomorrow!

The final thing we did before heading home was to collect the eggs from the chickens.Chickens

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Pond Dipping and Wildlife Spotting

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.Pond Life

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.Tadpole Craft

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!Pond dipping by handAs 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.Slow worm

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.

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