Steve had set a moth trap the night before and had kept some of the more interesting species. So after a good look at some fascinating moths, our first job was to help release them back into the wild.
We headed next to the east end of the reserve, where areas of grass and wildflowers had been encouraged to overgrow. This was a great area for bugs, and Steve pointed out that Grass Snakes live here too! After a quick lesson in "sweeping", using a butterfly net to sweep up insects from the grass, we started our bug hunt.
Steve gives us a lesson in sweeping for bugs!
We found plenty of Grass Bugs and red-and-black Soldier Beetles, as well as Harlequin Ladybirds. We found at least three beautiful, delicate Azure Damselflies - one female and two males. Interestingly, we found lots of tiny young Common Toads in the grass too.
Azure Damselfly - Denso-Marston Nature Reserve, July 2015
Young Common Toad - Denso-Marston Nature Reserve, July 2015
Despite threatening to rain at first, the weather improved and we marched over to the west end of the reserve to explore the wood. In the woodland, Steve had placed several wooden boards to create living spaces for mammals and amphibians. We were encouraged to lift up these boards to see what lives beneath.
Lifting the boards
Most of the boards had Wood Mouse or Short-tail Field Vole nests under them. Many had fresh cherries under them, with lots of gnawed cherry stones. It seemed the longer the boards had been in place, the more evidence of life we found. As we lifted one board we saw a Wood Mouse running away!
We ended with a great pond dipping session. Everyone caught a varied array of species, and clearly learnt to identify many of them too. There were quite a few tiny young Smooth Newts in many of the trays. We also caught plenty of invertebrates with fantastic names! Such as: Backswimmers, Greater and Lesser Water-boatmen, Hog Louse, Blood Worm, Flatworm, Water Mite, Pond Skater, and Phantom Midge.
Large Red Damselfly - Denso-Marston Nature Reserve, July 2015
Around the pond edges were many Azure Damselflies and Large Red Damselflies. Our eagle-eyed Otters also found three dragonfly exuvia (the exoskeleton "skins" from which the adult dragonflies emerge when the dragonfly larvae crawl out out of the pond), from a Brown or Southern Hawker.
Hawker dragonfly exuvia - Denso-Marston Nature Reserve, July 2015
Another really enjoyable event - thank you to all the families who attended.