Our Patch: The Bug Hunt Is On!

By on Tuesday, July 30, 2013

our_patch_sj_jarmanFinally the summer break from school has arrived.  The Sgt Major can retire her voice for six whole weeks as there needn’t be any more military precision in a morning – we can explore our world at our own leisurely pace.

There is a conversation which takes place around four days a week in our house, when the eldest two vocalise most vehemently that they do not wish to take the dog for a walk. Despite our many discussions explaining the commitment involved in adopting a dog, we have to find innovative ways to disguise the purpose of our treks.

So our first rather enjoyable excursions were mini-beast hunts. Virtually no equipment is necessary for a fun few hours examining the micro world, but for us essentials are a large white plastic turkey platter, a magnifying glass and lots of drinks.

bug spider

 

The white plate allows for seeing many invertebrates at once, an ice cream tub would do.  The girls hold it close to the floor in long grass and their brother helps to bash the grass over the platter dislodging mini creatures such as spiders, beetles and ladybirds to see what’s hidden.

We headed to Eaton Street Park in Prescot, first time for the children, and the first in over 20 years for me for whom the “the Reccy” was once the place to stop for a quick illicit cigarette when walking between the two sites of school.

girls_bug_hunting

I must say, the old place in unrecognisable thanks to the work of Friends of Eaton Street Park, creating a safe play area and a more wild scrubland, within easy reach of each other.

Despite the brilliant efforts of people trying to create a lovely space for us all to enjoy, however, I was disappointed to note the amount of litter and dog faeces, which is totally unnecessary when there are bins every few metres.

But we were not let down by the wildlife, which was bursting at the seams. The warm weather brought out swarms of butterflies, and they were a little more cooperative for photographing this week.

The favourite with the children, though, were the Cinnabar Moth caterpillars; wriggly, voracious, black and gold striped decimating the Ragwort, they are easy to identify and do not run away no matter the volume of excited shouts at finding more.

moths

 

caterpillarsladybird

My son loves ladybirds, and there are very many here to be seen. We discovered a lot of harlequin ladybirds in many forms and there was a certain amount of one-upmanship as to who could find the one with the most spots.  My eldest won with a 19-spotted red and black harlequin; and with her usual modesty and grace we didn’t hear the end of it ‘til we were back in the car with a drink!

My personal favourite though, and many look at me incredulously when I say, I just love Corvids – the crow family.  We saw a Jay – a beautiful, shy bird, dusky pink with flashes of blue, unmistakeable in flight and a great benefit to our oak woodlands, as they don’t eat all their stored acorns in the winter, which  then germinate into new trees.  At Eaton Street however,  we were inundated with Jackdaws.

These small crows behave like unruly teenagers, shouting and squabbling, and swaggering around when on the ground.  Their blue eye under a charcoal hoodie is a window to a great intelligence, and in fact, as a family, crows are very smart, showing good memory and problem solving skills. They are bold too, checking us out to see if we were willing to share a picnic with them, or perhaps if we were to uncover or leave some tasty morsel for them.

We were only at the park for a couple of hours, but the children really enjoyed themselves, with no real awareness of the true purpose of our outing.  As usual, a few well-placed bugs, shrubs and birds enhanced a “boring” walk to the extent that ‘mini-beast hunt’ is top of their desirable outings for the rest of the holidays.

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SJ, also known as Sarah and Sarah-Jane, held her dream job as a breastfeeding peer support worker until becoming a full-time mum of three. She still volunteers at Whiston Hospital.

In her spare time, SJ loves to read, and play cello with the Knowsley Youth Orchestra. She confesses to being a secret singer ever since hubby Trev bought her SingStar.

One Comment

  1. Selina Gough

    Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Great stuff! I don’t remember the ‘reccy’ and I’m sure I must have been part of any illicit goings on…I’m strangely torn about the crow family, particularly as they seem to be on the increase – They’re a bit too cheeky for my liking! You got a pretty good bug haul there.

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