We split into two groups, and the boys started by heading to the water's edge, just past the rock lookout. Here, armed only with metal sieves, they were given the job of searching for aquatic macroinvertebrates. The specimens collected would be brought to the Museum of Nature to become part of a future exhibit. Within a few minutes, they began to fill up the collection containers with a variety of creatures. Dragonfly nymphs were very plentiful, and there was a great deal of excitement when a leech and then a salamander larvae (which we later learned was a blue-spotted salamander) appeared in the sieves after dipping. Time flew by quickly and before we knew it, the girls' group arrived and it was time for a switch.
The boys were then led by Alex and Emily on a tour of the pathways. Using a field guide and the ears of our expert guides, we learned to identify birds like the red-eyed vireo, the eastern wood pewee, the gray catbird, and the Cooper's hawk. After heading through the trees for most of the walk, we emerged at the dock to check out some aquatic birds. Ducklings ventured out from the safety of shore, and a double-crested cormorant flew overhead.
Like all fun, our walk came to an end, but not before Alex gave all of the students a poster, and a couple of summer challenges. The first is to create nests for native bees and can be accessed here. Challenge number two involves parasitoid wasps and caterpillars. If you're interested in raising a caterpillar and potentially having a new species named after you, check out this challenge. Dr. Jose Fernandez Triana, who is an entomologist with the Canadian National Collection of Insects, wants you to "hunt" for caterpillars in the area around your house (remember that Mud Lake is off limits, since it's a protected area) and use the instructions found here to take care of your caterpillar and record your observations.
It's been great connecting with Nature Canada this year, and we look forward to getting back together in the fall to resume our partnership. For an excellent summer project, please check out their newest initiative, an app to track wildlife in your neighbourhood, at naturehood.co. If you're in need of a rainy day activity during your summer holiday, remember to check out the Museum of Nature.