Monday, 12 May 2014

Wild Flowers - dyed oinkers....

The penultimate session was held last week...sniff sniff. As we are reaching the end of our time on the 2014 Bog Blog we see that the marsh is exploding with colour and life thanks to the wild flowers, plants and trees.

Plants from South Efford Marsh are busy pressing!
This week we were to collect some plants to show just what a wonderful variety of plants support the wildlife at South Efford Marsh.

I had managed to collect a flower press from a car boot sale for the pricely sum of £1. Before the session I opened it up to discover an impressive collection of garden plants! However, we were going to show just how beautiful wild plants are. We started looking through the banks and hedgerows and realised just what variety of plants could be found. Each child chose a plant and they are, as we speak, pressing. We collected plants such as Nettle, Red Campion, Buttercups, Goosegrass and an oak leaf from a sapling. We also chatted briefly about Latin names and how, sometimes, it's good to remember them with funny connections. I explained that at university we had to learn all the Latin names and why it's useful to know the names. It can even be fun! The grass Poa annua, for example, I remembered it by thinking of a poo-y annual. When I asked if they remembered the name at the end of the walk the children almost got it right!

Silene dioica (Red Campion) was a dyed pink pig - died made sense to me!
One of the children shows her chosen plant.

 As we were reaching the end of the sessions I decided to lay a little surprise of laying 3 mammal traps. As we reached the bird hide we discovered that 2 of the traps were triggered. The first was an adult Field Mouse who was definitely not Helena. This mouse had darker colouring we decided. This mouse had to be named...Marianna.  When it comes to connecting children with wildlife I have no hesitation about anthropomorphism!
Marianna the Mouse!

The final trap was hiding under the bird hide. As we carefully let the creature out of the trap out popped a young Field Mouse. I have never heard such a loud and unified, "Awwwww...." from adults and children alike. After naming Sameya the baby mouse we released it back into the wild to go on to forage another day.

Walking towards the bird hide it was fantastic to see that the marsh was busy with feeding Swifts, Swallows and House Martins. We chatted about our summer visitors and how they are feeding low to the ground to catch flying insects from the marsh. The children were able to identify a Swift from a Swallow by the end of the trip!

For our final session next week we will be looking at some of these insects with a sweep net and heading towards the sluice gate to see what structure was put in place to help re-establish this wonderful wetland. It will be sad to visit South Efford for the last time. However, on the walk back to the entrance I was talking to a couple of children who I was reassured to hear loved the marsh - thought it was "epic" and planned on coming back again through the summer! Mission accomplished...

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