Thursday, May 23, 2013

Past Deadline: We Went "Outside"!

Here’s the May 2/13 edition of Past Deadline published in The Perth Courier.

We Went “Outside!
On Sunday (April 28), I got to play in ponds! It made me eight again.
Get ready. I’m gonna tell you another “back in the day” story.
When I was a kid, my brother and I spent a lot of time gallivanting near the river not far from our house. This was “back in the day” when kids would leave in the morning and, except for meals, only return when the street lights went on.
Back in the day we had the BEST toy. It was called “Outside.”
We played Outside in every season. If it rained, we wore “puddle suits.” We had gear for all weather. We built forts with whatever we could find and made up stories and acted them out – on stages Outside – instead of watching them on TV.
It was mahvellous.
One of my favourite things to do Outside was to catch stuff at the river. Fish, frogs, snakes, tadpoles, crayfish – I was forever peering under rocks and looking for critters and bringing them home in buckets and jars until I was told to take them back.
There was always something to do Outside.
I am pleased to report that Outside is still here!
That Sunday, Boychild, Girlchild, Girlchild’s friend and I joined some others for one of the Super Kids In Parks programs hosted by the Friends of Murphys Point. It was a pond study led by park naturalist Tobi Kiesewalter at the park and it was coolio!
It was a simple plan. We walked along the main road from the entrance to the park store and stopped at a couple of “vernal pools” along the way. These are ponds that form from runoff and melt water in the spring and gradually dry up over the summer, and they are the nursery for all sorts of wonderful things.
Tobi scooped some water into a container and showed us many tiny creatures. My favourite by far was something I had no idea even existed here – fairy shrimp. Shrimp! Here! At Murphys Point!
Fairy shrimp! Stephanie Gray photo
Fairy shrimp! Stephanie Gray photo
Now, these aren’t the type of shrimp you would find at a grocery store – it would take about a half a billion to make a meal, I would think. They are translucent crustaceans with an orange tinge to them. The ones we saw were less than a centimetre long and had so many appendages they almost looked fluffy on the sides. These were the adults, and they lay eggs that can remain dormant for years – which is really handy when your vernal pool keeps drying up and you need to procreate.
Fairy shrimp are neato mosquito. Speaking of mosquitoes, did you know that mosquito larvae, which we found in the water samples, breathe using a snorkel-like appendage attached to their rears?
Other larvae get around by shooting water out of their butts.
We also learned that some water beetles have a little air bubble (Scuba tank!) on their butts that they use to breathe?
Checking out the water beetles. Stephanie Gray photo
Checking out the water beetles. Stephanie Gray photo
Butts are important.
No matter how much I hang around Murphys Point, I am always learning something new.
Once we finished looking at vernal pools, we headed to a little bay off of Loon Lake behind the park store, where we spent a good hour catching and examining all manner of critters: minnows, tadpoles, baby fish, lots of different larvae, various water beetles, snails, clams, gelatinous goo that was some sort of algae and little houses built in the water by certain insect larvae.
We saw snakes, heard hawks, geese and various song birds and generally enjoyed the sunshine and the opportunity to wear rubber boots, stomp around with nets and, basically, play Outside.
Man, would I love to be eight again.

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