We decided to "stealth hunt" the wildlife. We walked in single file as quietly as we could so that we could concentrate on our listening and seeing skills maximising our chance of seeing all the wildlife on South Efford Marsh. We noticed budding leaves on brambles, the Willow buds bursting open as well as tree leaves starting to appearand heard lots of bird song.
I had previously laid out 4 mammal traps and 8 pitfall 'bug' traps so that we could discover some of the terrestrial insects and the small mammals that might feed on them.
The children were numbered 1 - 12 and would then be responsible for the sequential 12 traps. We approached pitfall No. 1 to discover somebody had kindly tidied it away and was nowhere to be found!
No. 2 could not be found initially (as I was having a senior moment)...although we did discover a nice Earthworm in the meantime and an ant in the trap once discovered. The pitfall traps proved to have a small variety of bugs in them which we put in containers ready to identify once we had got to the bird hide. We were even able to learn how to use a pooter to carefully suck a small spider up for later identification.
I was sure that we would be successful with the mammal traps. There were so many little burrowed holes in the banks. The first trap we came across was sadly not triggered and there was nothing inside. The second was also not triggered but as I peered in I noticed a slug wrapped around the trigger wire and once we opened the trap we found not 1 but 4 ants!! At least we had something!
The third mammal trap was looking good I could see some of the bedding had been pulled out but on closer inspection there was in fact an open door and nobody was home. When we opened the container we discovered mice POO!!! This was exciting but just not good enough...could it mean that the fourth trap under the bird hide might just be the lucky one?
We stealth hunted our way to the bird hide and tentatively approached Mammal Trap No. 4 and myself and number 11 child kneeled down to see that it has been triggered and the door was closed! Number 11 decided that she would rather I picked it up. I discovered it had definitely got the weight of a small mammal who had just gorged on meal worms!
The trap was laid down onto the floor and out popped a very timid looking little mouse!
We were all delighted to see our furry friend and stayed nice and quiet so as not to unduly freak the poor little rodent out! We were all so pleased to have finally caught something in our mammal traps.
Once in the hide we used our field studies key to identify our insects. We had insect larvae, a Harvestman spider, a Ground Beetle and a non-identifiable moth larvae.
Slowly we are painting a clear picture of the diversity of life at South Efford Marsh from the fox to the otter; to the birds and the beetles; the shrimps to the boatmen and now to our new and named friend Helena the Mouse who lives around the lovely habitat of The Water Pipit Hide in South Efford Marsh...lucky mouse.
On the way back I asked one of the children how the session was out of ten and she said, "a billion out of ten". That'll do nicely.
(Water temperature had gone down this week to 12.6C)
|One of the girls carefully captures a Harvestman with a 'pooter'.|
|The trap door is closed and the trap is feeling heavy!|
|Carefully releasing the mystery mammal...|
|...to discover a mouse!|
|We release Helena the Mouse back into the undergrowth.|