Sunday, 20 July 2014

Summer Strumpshaw

"I think we're going to get wet..." As the thunder rumbled overhead, we were half way along the Fen trail at Strumpshaw Fen, and I have to admit it didn't look promising. Something else that didn't bode well, and what I hadn't accounted for, were the sheer number of mosquitoes that decided to feast on my arms, legs, face every time we stopped walking. The birds seemed to know better than us what the weather had in store, we saw none except for a few mallards, a coot, a heron, a couple of terns and a marsh harrier. The heat and humidity had brought out insects other than mosquitoes though; the butterflies and dragonflies were out in force. There were many more species than I was able to capture or identify on the wing, but here are a few of the ones we spotted before the heavens opened:

Peacock butterfly enjoying the copious amounts of buddleia 

A rather tattered red admiral perching on the gravel

A pair of mating azure(?) damselflies

One of the many black-tailed skimmers to be seen, but only this one perched for long enough to take a shot

A lovely, delicate banded demoiselle sheltering from the impeding storm

The angry sky as the the thunder rumbled overhead...

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Ecology with Year 7 at Reepham High School

I am lucky enough to teach two year 7 classes this year, and they are completely the opposite to each other in many ways. I seem to have found something that has got both classes excited though; catching and identifying all sorts of creepy-crawlies! I was so glad they enjoyed themselves, even if we did have a few girly screams over the wolf spider carrying her eggs! This sort of field work is so important for our students, it does get them interested and excited in their natural surroundings, and curiosity drives them to find out what they are. I hope they stay this interested as they grow.

They were model ecologists really, they gently caught the organisms using pooters and specimen spots. They even carefully examined what I had caught in the pitfall traps I set the night before. There were a couple of ground beetles in these though, so there may well have been more creatures that had fallen in originally... Below are some of the critters they found, some we managed to identify, some we didn't. If anyone has any suggestions, please do comment below - we'd love to know what they are!

My three pitfall traps, two of which contain ground beetles, plus specimen pot with wolf spider and egg sac

Ground beetle, found in pitfall trap (Pterostichus sp.?)

One of two spiders found in pitfall traps

A smaller ground beetle found in a different pitfall trap (Pterostichus sp.?)

Identified by 7S1 (correctly, I think), as a female wolf spider carrying her eggs

A different ground beetle, this time I'm fairly sure it is Pterostichus madidus

Spider, as found by 7N3

Two spiders and baby cricket / grasshopper?

Found by 7N3, this I think is bush cricket, but it could well be a meadow grasshopper, this is not my area of expertise!