Tag Archives: Sutton Ecology Centre

Another visit to the Ecology Centre

Yesterday afternoon we went back to Sutton Ecology Centre for a wander around while it was a little quieter. We had such a lovely time on Saturday at the BioBlitz event that the kids were keen to go again and knew just where they wanted to look and what they wanted to find.

When we arrived they spent a bit of time playing in the teepee frame and jumping from log to log before we walked towards the meadow, stopping at the log circle to hunt for toads and newts.Ecology Centre 1We found lots of toads, both small and large but only one small newt. Thomas looked under one of the carpet tiles and found a rather large slow worm, which we were all pleased with as we didn’t see any the day before.

We walked through the meadow and saw lots of butterflies, did some minibeast hunting in the woodland, and then walked over to the pond and the kids enjoyed peering in and trying to catch things with their hands!ecology centre 2Jasmine wanted to find more grasshoppers – her latest favourite animal! – so she went off to the long grass and the boys enjoyed a run around the gardens. While the kids were occupying themselves I managed to get a couple of nice photos of a Gatekeeper butterfly.ecology centre 3As we were getting ready to leave, our friends from Caterpillar Tales arrived! They had brought nets with them so the kids enjoyed a bit of pond dipping before it was time for us to walk home. I say walk, but Thomas and Jasmine somehow managed to run almost all the way home with me struggling to keep up with them! (I had taken a buggy for Ben, knowing he wouldn’t manage the walk there and back.) I don’t know where they get their energy from, but sometimes I wish they could pass some over to me!

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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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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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