We’ve spent a lot of time in the meadow over the last few weeks, weather permitting! Occasionally we have had to resort to ‘look, but don’t touch’ as the showers have left the grass too damp for sweep netting, but this habitat has certainly come alive with a great range of insects, spiders and bugs.
Today we headed there with our Wildlife Tots, after a crafty caterpillar and butterfly making session in the classroom and a quick look in the light trap. We also had a look at the Lime hawk-moth caterpillars we have been rearing in a tank in the centre, they have certainly grown on their diet of silver birch leaves (more accessible than the lime trees we have on the reserve!) and look even more impressive!
Lime hawk-moth caterpillar
On our way to the meadow we were distracted on the lichen heath, finding flowers for our card and pipe cleaner butterflies to nectar on, and discovered these cinnabar moth caterpillars. Once we had our eye in, we found lots of black and yellow caterpillars munching their way through the ragwort:
Cinnabar moth caterpillar
On entering the meadow, we embarked on a still hunt, no mean feat for a group of toddlers! We found a quiet spot on the path so as not to trample the long grass and sat quietly, looking intently at the miniature world going on around us:
We’re going on a still hunt…
After being brilliant still hunters, spotting butterflies, damselflies, bumblebees, grasshoppers and beetles, we had a go at catching many of the creatures using a sweep net.
Bella with her decorated butterfly and all important bug pot!
Bella studying her damselfly
Inspecting our catch
Olivia sweep netting
Thanks too to Wendy for sending us this lovely photo of Wildlife Tot Sam with his very impressive sunflower, planted during our March into Spring session back in, yes you’ve guessed it, March! It’s so tall!!
Sam with his amazingly tall sunflower!!
Carrying on with the meadow theme, this was also the focus of our last Young Naturalists session at the end of June. We were fortunate to have more sun than today, with the butterflies in particular quite happy to let us get close enough for photos.
Small skipper butterfly
Common blue butterfly
Meadow brown butterfly
Cricket, with super long antennae, longer than the length of its body
Grasshopper, with its antennae shorter than its body
Fairy-ring longhorn beetle, I think!
Common blue damselfly
Identifying our meadow creatures
The moth trap as usual revealed a good selection of moths ready for the group to identify, whilst we also spotted Mullein moth and Orange tip butterfly caterpillars:
Poplar hawk moth by Talia Felstead
Double square spot by Talia Felstead
Buff ermine by Talia Felstead
Orange tip caterpillar by Talia Felstead
Mullein moth caterpillar by Talia Felstead
Although the meadow was a fitting spot to visit as we met right at the end of National Insect Week, it wasn’t all about the insects and we still found time to visit Ivy South hide in search of a basking grass snake…
Grass snake by Talia Felstead
…and spotted this toad whilst carrying out Plantlife’s Bee Scene survey, in search of wildflowers good for bumblebees:
Toad by Talia Felstead
Luckily our wanderings found plenty of wildflowers good for bumblebees, a relief perhaps as we were looking on a nature reserve, but still a worthwhile activity for the group to do, encouraging them to brush up on their plant identification. Of the fifteen Bee Scene flowers we had to look for, we found dandelion, white clover, hedge woundwort, foxglove, bramble, red campion, red clover and thistle throughout the day, luckily spotting a few bumblebees too!
Buff tailed bumble bee by Talia Felstead
More details about the survey can be found on Plantlife’s website – all you need is a local green space, which doesn’t have to be a nature reserve, it could be your garden, a park, footpath or school grounds. Happy wildflower hunting!
Red campion by Talia Felstead