Fish rescue & ancient discovery

Good day!

Christmas is approaching and the weather is adjusting, at least it’s trying. A big mix of cold and warm weather. But there’s no such thing as the wrong weather! We here at Forest School are always prepared for an adventure and dressed accordingly!

Lately we have been starting our morning with fires (to keep us warm) and are expanding our fire-keeping knowledge as the children love to help make the fire, especially starting it. After some exploratory free-play the Snowy Owls discovered that there was still mint growing in the Heathcote gardens and wanted to make a tea. What a perfect idea to warm up! Lots of remaining leaves were picked, thrown into our large pot filled with water and over the fire it went. After not even 5 min the water already began to boil and the fresh mint tea was ready to be served just in time for our morning snack!

Afterwards some of the students wanted to earn some more stickers on their bingo-sheets. One of the fields left was ‘make up your own game’ so Aja came up with a mystical monster game where everyone had to invent their own mystical creature and make its movements during various different kinds of mini games. What was really fun about this game was that not only did the kids get very competitive, but after a few round everyone began adding in there own ideas making the game more diverse. We played for over an hour and time went by so fast!

Before lunch time we decided we wanted to leave the property for our nature photography session and the children asked if we could go to Slabtown in hopes that we might get lucky and still see fish trying to jump up the damn and then maybe even be able to take a picture of this! So we packed our lunches, got into the van and made our way. Unfortunatly we did not see any fish, but it’s always fun to watch the water and throw (huge!) sticks into the water to watch them slide down the damn. The water-level was still quite high.

After leaving Slabtown we went to an other damn: the Clendenan damn. Here we would surely be able to take some really good snapshots! Taven suggested going onto a little island and we started hiking into the forest. Once we arrived we saw a beaver home and even discovered beaver tracks and biting marks in trees! While hiking around we then found large piles of small fish in puddles without almost any water left in them anymore. At first we thought the fish were all dead, but after poking them we realized that a lot of them were still alive. The Forest School students went right to action and began saving one fish after an other. There were also a lot of bullfrog tadpoles. It was really great to see that after the fish had been put back into the pond that they began to swim right away. After our first fish-rescue we started talking about what could have led the fish and tadpoles to gather in puddles like this and what made it impossible for them to escape. We assumed that the water level of the pond had risen and suddenly sunken, creating smaller pools and puddles where the tadpoles and fish would remain, but leaving them cut off from the actual main body of water. This rescue and the children’s love and dedication to the animal’s lives was proof of real love for nature, which is why all 3 students have earned their nature-lover bead for this action. Congratulations!

We ventured on to see if we could find more ‘fish-puddles’ like this, and we did. No time for nature photography! Rescuing the fish was at the top of our priorities! While walking around we Aja then made an incredible discovery: she claimed she had found a snake! After taking a closer look it was clear that it wasn’t a snake. Maybe an eel? But does Ontario have actual eels? A quick google search revealed: yes! The pictures of eels and what we were holding in our hands did not exactly match though. So we forwarded a picture from our creature to some exports who then answered that we had found a lamprey! After some research we found out that Ontario has different kinds of lamprey. It’s fairly hard to distinguish between the kinds, but we hope very much that our find belongs to the native, non-invasive northern brook lamprey. Here some interesting facts about this species:

  • unlike some other lamprey species, the Northern brook lamprey is non-parasitic and does not attach itself to larger host fish; the larvae are filter-feeders, consuming microscopic plant and animal life and decaying matter; adults have a non-functional intestine and do not feed
  • multiple adults may spawn in the same nest, and multiple males may spawn with the same female; female Northern brook lamprey can lay over 1,000 eggs
  • lamprey species are one of the most ancient freshwater fish families in the world
  • lampreys are similar to sharks in that they do not have bones, but rather a cartilaginous skeleton

A very awesome and unique day here at Forest School once again!

Next week: animal tracking (& possible the opportunity to catch up on our nature photography!)

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