Friday, June 21, 2013

A day at camp

Weather cooperated and even produced a gorgeous day on Thursday, so I got to spend the day down at a little stream letting kids catch crayfish, frogs, salamanders and minnows. The kids had a blast and caught quite a haul. Dozens of crayfish were caught, most small to medium-sized, including the smallest crayfish I’d ever seen. The tiny thing was only a shy half an inch long. The biggest was about 3.5 inches.

A pickerel frog was caught (pictured), as was a helgramite, two minnows and a small long-tailed salamander, the most common species the kids find. We have more nets this year, so nearly every kid gets to use a net and they didn’t as often have to work in pairs as in previous years. That might have contributed to the high count of crayfish that were caught. I do release some of the prisoners between each session of camp, so likely some of those caught were repeats.

The kids also found a huge spider sunning on a boulder in the center of that stream that served to keep the kids from venturing too far upstream. I believe it was one of the many species of wolf spiders. I am hobbling with my bad knee at the moment, so I wasn’t able to get close enough for a more positive ID. It was big, I know that. Usually I have trouble keeping the kids to the section of the stream where I can keep an eye on them, so the spider served as a good boundary guard for the afternoon.

I have given up trying to get the kids to be quiet as they walk the .75 mile from their base camp to the stream. They are too wound up, and even if they were quiet a group of 10-12 kids is probably in and of itself too many for them to see much wildlife as they walk. I can hear them coming for at least 100 yards before they arrive. To them, more space simply means they have to yell louder to make themselves heard.

When the kids are at the stream, bird calls stop, but the kids aren’t gone a minute before ovenbirds, phoebes and pewees are calling again. At least I get to hear the sounds of the forest in between the groups. A few minutes of birdsong makes for a restful interlude before the next group arrives.

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