Snails, Seeds, and Surprises

We first explored the salt marshes nearly a month ago. Since then it has become a favourite place to revisit, especially to share the great skill of lifting a large piece of skin from the surface of the mud with friends. Mr 8 was delighted to show the space to friends Miss nearly 8 and Miss 6.

Today our walk was timed just before high tide, and while dry DSC01271enough to walk on the surface, the saltmarsh was looking quite dark, I was much more cautious about walking that way even to document the finds.
As with every revisit the focus shifted. It was much harder to lDSC01267 (2)ift the tile than expected, Mr 8 had to try several times. By the time he succeeded, the girls were distracted by discoveries that lay underneath that top layer of mud. Snails! Lots of tiny little snails! So small and minute some of them. There were more clustered under rocks. Mr 2 commented on the glistening salt on the surface of the tile. DSC01273 (2)And Mr 8 took his prize to someone who appreciated it. Together they discovered not just the still snails but a live creature! It had been huddled beside a snail shell then started crawling towards Mr 8. “Something small that squirmed, brownish with a segmented body and little stub shaped legs. Each segment had little crystal like pinkish purple dots.” Mr 8 also tells me “There were tiny antennae DSC01270like things maybe twice the size of its legs but still so tiny so that I almost couldn’t see them.”

Moving onwards, Mr 8 shared his pebble music, only one spider overhead. Miss nearly 8 discovered how hard it is to hold a small camera still when using lots of zoom.IMG_6802 She enjoyed photographing the spiders that weren’t so far away later. At the lookout, we waited and waited but didn’t find any signs of crabs. “The water is too high.” IMG_6799Miss 6 noticed the log was a crocodile, snapping at bubbles, and accidently creating more.  For a few moments all children became involved in comparing and naming the bubble shapes … a butterfly, a seahorse, a bubbly crocodile, a dragon and so many more.

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A GRUB!
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A mangrove seed broken into segments. “You can see the shoot the mangrove will grow from it.”

Around a corner or two and Mr 2 showed his friends the eggs! He’s conceded they are mangrove seeds, but I’m sure that’s more because of the power relationship (adult-child) than because he believes it.
Miss nearly 8 was also keen to share her knowledge of these seeds. The outside can be peeled off, if you carefully scrape, there’s a white layer before you uncover the green. The green is segmented. You can break these apart. Sometimes you can find a shoot inside… sometimes it’s really sticky – a grub!! IMG_6808They’re the same green as the bigger ones nestled in the sea grass and mud. When the seeds are thrown into the water, they float.

Mangrove seeds were deserted when a kookaburra began to laugh, we followed the sound eagerly hoping to catch a glimpse of this bird in the canopy.

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“I can start a fire!”

Walking through the drier trees, bumps were noticed on leaves. We wondered about what could cause these marks, and compared them to other similar leaves. When we finally caught up with Mr 6, we found him trying to start a fire using a stick. He got distracted by the rain of bark pieces that resulted.

Learning discussions

Writing up the Morning and Afternoon walk posts, I noticed I’d taken a photo of the same spiderweb.

Female and male orb spider with spiderlings
Female and male orb spider with spiderlings

DSC01197 (Custom)Mr 6 and Mr 8 were also interested in the photo. Mr 6 thought the spider might have eaten another spider. Mr 8, full of knowledge, told us that one spider shed his skin. We talked about the exoskeleton (a skeleton on the outside) and how the spider would grow too big for it then climb out. We noticed the thread holding the growing spider attached to his old exoskeleton.

Spider Webs follow up

It’s funny how ideas germinate and grow. This idea seemed to grow from a whole garden of influences.

As a kindy teacher, I created a simple collage spider web using pva glue and cut out shapes to follow up a spider encounter with the children I was working with there. Mr 6 was impressed and very keen to try this out.

The spider book
The spider book

Mr 2 loves “The Spider Book” which is known to adults as “One Hungry Spider.” We talked about how the author/illustrator Jeannie Baker creates her illustrations using a collage of materials found in the environment/setting she is trying to illustrate. This book happens to be about an orb web spider.

I was reading the walking in wild weather times blog and came across an awesome photo of an orbweb spider. Of course,

Nestled in a corner of the boardwalk enjoying multiple feasts.
Nestled in a corner of the boardwalk enjoying multiple feasts.

I made a comment and was quickly crowded by Mr 8 and Mr 6. During our discussion I mentioned I hadn’t been able to get any photos as good as that. Both scorned this idea. “But there aren’t any spiders like that in the mangroves,” they said. Of course I had to prove my point. “And then can we make our own spider web?” asked Mr 6.

That’s how “Searching for spiders”, “morning walk” and “afternoon walk” all happened in such quick succession. We collected things we could use to create the spider webs, bodies and legs on the first of these walks.

 

 

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gluey spiderwebs, bark spider

Then came the creating.

Mr 2 in charge of his own art
Mr 2 in charge of his own art

I guided Mr 2’s hands a little to begin with so he got the idea of drizzling the glue onto the paper to make the spider web shape. DSC01228

He got the hang of it pretty quickly and added his own touches. Mr 6 and Mr 8 had no problems. We discussed what we could use to add a golden shimmer to the web.

glittery webs and found materials
glittery webs and found materials

When Mr 6 saw his dried web he told me that he’d added gold to the spider’s legs because the one we found on the boardwalk had gold at the bends.

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image

spider in web
“I’m the only one who put palps on my spider.”

 

Morning Walk

Mr 2 and I returned to the mangroves this morning, for a meandering walk. It’s more peaceful with only one child.

Our first stop was one of the replanted trees in the

A hidden spiderweb
A hidden spiderweb

bush leading to the mangroves, interesting buds, and seeds, peeling paperbark and an ant with a golden abdomen. Mr 2 took a photo too. Spiderwebs were hiding in the bark.

An ant moving very quickly.
An ant moving very quickly.

 

 

Further down the path a dirty feather, once admired became a broom to carefully move the stones aside.  Mr 2 was very excited to create “footprints”.

creating footprints
creating footprints

As we walked along the gravel I found the spiders I was looking for stretched between trees and over the path.

Female and male orb spider with spiderlings
Female and male orb spider with spiderlings

Around the corner a golden orb had built her web in the corner of the path… over the water rather than where the visitors wander and more webs stretched to the trees from the board walk.

Nestled in a corner of the boardwalk enjoying multiple feasts.
Nestled in a corner of the boardwalk enjoying multiple feasts.

Mr 2 was absolutely fabulous at helping me find all these webs. He has a gift. And lots of patience while I took multiple photos.

 

stretching from path to tree, the golden colour of the web can be seen in this photo.
stretching from path to tree, the golden colour of the web can be seen in this photo.

 

This walk proved to be a feast of photo opportunities. More birds than I’d ever noticed before, probably because Mr 2 is so relaxed and peaceful when he’s on his own. The tide was low and after sitting quietly for a while we were able to spot hundreds of tiny crabs. None with bright colours.

kingfisher
kingfisher

Mr 2 entertained himself propping the feather he’d collected into screw holes and pretending to drill these and fix the fence and benches. My entertainment was trying to capture a photo of the tiny finches in the mangroves. They were only as big as a mangrove leaf. Mr 2 thought I was imagining them and until he finally saw one swoop and dart away from the tree. “It’s a butterfly!” he exclaimed.

Posing close to the path
Posing close to the path

 

Flitting over the mangrove mud
Perched on a stalk in the mangrove mud

Back around the corner, while Mr 2 and I were admiring a leaf swaying in the breeze hanging from the strong silk of the orb spider’s web, the finch curiously eyed us a metre or so from the boardwalk, before flitting down to the mud. Amazing camouflage.

 

Afternoon Walk

DSC01188 (2)Mr 2 rested, Mr 6 and Mr 8 were joined by two lively Miss 5’s and another Mr 8 and Fergus the Frog. Fergus was visiting from Mr 6’s classroom for the weekend.

It was a very different walk from the morning meander.
Mr 6 and Mr 8 were very keen to show their favourite places to their friends and ran to show these places. The salt marshes were no longer dried out but moist and muddy. Still the boys were able to lift large flakes of the surface off “Like skin” generating awed gasps from their friends.

skin from the salt marsh
skin from the salt marsh
salt marsh skin2
“See how big it is.”

Pebbles on the gravel paths were thrown. Miss 5 threw them as she spun about watching the resulting arc of stones. The Mr 8’s explored the sounds made as the pebbles landed on the path, the dirt on the side of the path and the puddle beside that. “It’s like music,” one said, “Listen.”

Miss five also explored stone music at the lookout point, dropping the stones onto the path and through it’s holes, into the water.

what's it eating?
what’s it eating?

As we looked out to admire the view to the islands, Miss 5 spotted a brilliant red crab perched on a fallen log. All were amazed when the crab scuttled around the side of the log into the waves and later moved back out onto the log.

 

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The boys were reminded to look at the webs the golden orb weavers had spun high above the path. They curiously examined the web that had been spun from the corner of the path, and the spider that ruled there. When we came to a web that stretched from the path to a tree, we talked about the strength of the web. In turn, the children tested the strength of the support strands, they stretched for ages, before they snapped. After the first one or two strands, we noticed the web was no longer so taut. And Mr 6 began to get quite concerned. “Stop” he said, “Imagine if that were your home and an alien came and destroyed it. You wouldn’t like that.” He is exploring commonalities between his own life and the life of this much smaller creature.

Mr 6 found the same egg like seeds that Mr 2 had found during our morning walk.  As he peeled back the outside edge,

handfuls were collected.
handfuls were collected.

he exclaimed “It’s like the beans we sometimes have at home.”  There were many more of these seeds near the end of the walk, the Misses 5 began a collection. They noticed that some were larger than others.  We wondered why.

 

Searching for Spider Webs.

Mr 6 saw an activity I’d planned for my kindy class this week and is very keen to try it. I’m keen for him to make as many links as he can so offered to do it if we had another look at the spiderwebs in the mangroves. We also talked about Jeannie Baker’s book “One Hungry Spider”. This author uses bits and pieces from the environment to create the art in her books and as a bonus the book is about a golden orb spider.
Both Mr 6 and Mr 8 were enthusiastic about gathering some materials to create their own spider picture, but neither believed there were golden orb spiders in the mangroves.

"The Moon isn't on." Mr 2
“The Moon isn’t on.” Mr 2

So we hopped in the car for a very quick trip to the mangroves, the older boys skeptical, the youngest just happy to get out again.

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The flash highlighted this messy web on the boardwalk. Mr 6 “Look! It says MUM”

The sun set before we had parked the car. Not great light for spider spotting, but it was good enough to find a few bits and pieces for our planned artworks. The flash highlighted a few webs that were much harder to see.

Leaves in the web, maybe the spider has moved on? No! look inside.
Leaves in the web, maybe the spider has moved on? No! look inside.