Tuesday, 3 April 2012


In spring and summer I am often to be found at Kelling Heath, sharing the wild beauty of North Norfolk with families on holiday. Today's was my first trip there this year and I took an excited group of youngsters, and their equally excited parents, pond-dipping. It's early in the pond-dipping year but there were plenty of creatures to be seen, most of them unidentifiable, in the context of a family event, beyond labels such as: damselfly larva, water mite and water beetle. There were, however, some new vertebrates for my list, confidently identified to species. Big blobs of frogspawn were all along the edges of the pond. I worried whether spawn equated to countable frogs but I soon saw tiny tadpoles too, newly hatched from their gelatinous eggs. However undeveloped their backbones these were definitely vertebrates and definitely countable. In the end I also saw two adult frogs and an unhappy-looking toad. Toads, I find, rarely look happy.

In everybody's trays, on momentary loan from the pond and safely returned, were three-spined sticklebacks. It's miraculous how children peer at these flimsy fish and come running to say they've caught one. As described here last week, these soul-releasing experiences can set a child on a path of fascination for nature, of concern for wild species and wild places, and of commitment to their preservation. A stickleback is all it takes.

On a walk through the woods in the afternoon, on which the children's excitement at coconut-smelling gorse and apple-flavoured wood sorrel mounted as the cold grey rain grew heavier, moschatel and oppostite-leaved golden saxifrage smiled subtly from the emergent undergrowth. The children gazed and reverentially repeated the names of these tiny plants. Each child had stories of his or her own to tell, of deer seen, of birds heard. In the words of one very little boy who'd witnessed the exuberance of early spring: 'Do you know, I saw two frogs having a piggyback.'

‘If you’re happy in a dream, Ammu, does that count?’ Estha asked.
‘Does what count?’
‘The happiness – does it count?’
She knew exactly what he meant, her son with his spoiled puff.
Because the truth is, that only what counts counts.
The simple, unswerving wisdom of children.

Arundhati Roy
The God of Small Things 

New this afternoon


European common frog
Rana temporaria
European common toad
Bufo bufo


three-spined stickleback
Gasterosteus aculeatus
2012 Totals
Mammals: 54
Birds: 439
Reptiles: 12
Amphibians: 5
Fish: 3

No comments:

Post a Comment