Thursday, September 17, 2009

Saturday afternoon wildlife sessions are a challenge: repeating activities more than once a year risks boredom and disaffection. Last two sessions have featured variation on the same theme based on two local wetlands with a selection of nets plus Perspex fauna tanks for collecting aquatic & terrestrial species.

Leaving the vehicle under Oak trees, we follow a lane before climbing a stile to Bracken and light woodland. Initial horsing around gives way to concentrated observation as we look at Oaks, Birch and fruit-laden Crab. A black beetle with iridescent blue under-parts is found, then thin, long-legged Crane Flies. A sunny, sheltered, slate-floored glade brings Butterflies: black marked, medium sized, deep orange Small Copper; ring-spotted brown & buff Meadow Brown. A small, yellow, female Common Darter Dragonfly is netted, wings like cellophane fluttering against the Perspex tank, and a tiny, reddish, wart-backed toad. Lake margins bring Water Spiders and Pond Skaters on the water skin and fierce looking Dragonfly larvae from black depths. Excitement of the chase and of overcoming trailing brambles and quaking bogs bring top ratings from the group.


The same format is later applied to a tidal pool behind an 18th Century flood control levee. After successful Goby hunting in tidal creeks, a large, faded orange Painted Lady Butterfly is soon in the dry box, as well as Meadow Browns and Speckled Woods, all feeding on purple Thistle flowers on the grassy dyke. Sudden fluttering, splashes and whistles as a dark shape speeds over Mallard in the margins: probably a Peregrine, though only a circling Kestrel in sight. First Snipe of Autumn rocket from muddy margins where warm shallows seethe with shoals of fry. This time, the wet tank holds silver mail-coated Mullet fry as well as Gobies; Butterflies with a red-tailed, male Common Darter Dragonfly for company.
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Wildlife Wales Activities: www.wildlife-wales.co.uk

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