Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Wildlife Watch - Moth Morning Madness at NWT Hickling Broad

Jessica Riederer, Seasonal Education Officer

Moth identification is not one of my strengths so this past Saturday morning I took the opportunity to sneak into the Moth Morning Watch event held at NWT Hickling Broad. The event was run by Assistant Hickling Warden, Adam Pimble with the assistance of Seasonal Education Officer, Jo Whitaker. 

What a fantastic morning! First of all - a big ‘thumbs up’ to the kids (and the parents) who attended. As educators, we are always happy to be in the company of super keen kids – and all of the children attending contributed to the event in some way. The morning began with a brief, warden led discussion on moths and butterflies – their differences and similarities, as well as some identification challenges; this was not only fun for the kids but also a great way to see what guests want to get out of an event and what their prior knowledge is. It is always inspiring to see a four year old match the correct photographs of caterpillars to a swallowtail and peacock butterfly, and I think we were all pleased to see another child point out the difference between a moth cocoon and a butterfly chrysalis!

The majority of the two hour event was spent going through the four moth traps that had been set in various places at Hickling the previous evening. All participating children were given insect pots to catch (or try to catch) their favourite moths in. This enabled all of us to see individual species more clearly and also for Adam to tell us a little bit about each one.  Going through the moth traps was great fun! Everyone was running around saying, ‘Look at this one!’ or ‘Look at that one!’ Quite a few moths escaped before we had the chance to see them but of course we were careful to handle all of them in a respectful manner and release them once we had ogled over them. 

I never had the chance to see moths this closely. We saw so many different kinds!  In an hour we looked at more than 50 different species. Moth identification books were spread out on the lawn for our use but Adam was a bit of a moth expert and I think there was only one that he was unable to identify. Ok – so my favourites were the big and beautiful elephant, eyed and poplar hawk moths, but I have definitely gained a greater appreciation (and maybe even a bit of love) for the little guys!  

After immersing ourselves in moths for an hour, we had the chance to embark on a warden led walk around the beautiful NWT Hickling Broad. Gatekeeper, meadow brown and swallowtail butterflies fluttered around us as well as numerous kinds of dragonflies such as Norfolk hawkers and broad bodied chasers. We even had the chance to watch a sneaky little water vole!   

Wardens spend their time immersed in the beautiful reserves they care for. They are incredibly knowledgeable on the plants and animals that live there. They are also very busy! I think the opportunity to spend time with an expert in a setting like this really is a special opportunity. Taking part in the event I found myself thinking – I can’t believe these kids are having the chance to do this. The entire morning was very ‘hands on’ and it is exactly these types of activities that make memorable and powerful learning experiences. 

Wildlife Watch is the junior membership of The Wildlife Trusts and the UK’s leading environmental action club for kids. Taking part in Wildlife Watch is an exciting way to explore your surroundings and get closer to the wildlife you share it with.

Our next Watch event takes place on Saturday 17 August, also at NWT Hickling Broad, but this time hunting for bats. I may try to sneak onto this event as well, but I have a feeling there will not be room on the boats! If you are not crazy about bats (even though you should be) join us on September 28th for a Reptile Hunt! There is a small charge for Watch events and booking is essential. Please call NWT head office on 01603 625540.

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