Here is our pond this week:
Although we have crept into the autumn months, there remains a dusty summer murkiness to the pond. I think in order for the pond to return to its former glory we need rain and lots of it. However, when the first day of home school celebrations were discussed the pond was still the first suggestion on everyone’s lips.
First day of home school is rather a tradition in our household. Much emphasis is put on just how much sugar one can cram into a single breakfast. The children have oatmeal or Wheatabix everyday without sugar, so anything with sugar is a treat, anything with a double dose is near by Heaven! Usually first days are celebrated with warm homemade cinnamon rolls. This year, however, we went to our local bakery and bought jam doughnuts. Our village bakery is one of the best in the land and is run by one of the nicest ladies ever. She gets up early, early every morning and bakes everything on the premises fresh for that day. We arrived at about 7.30ish and they were still warm. Oh, my:
We decided to do a quick pond study whilst we were there, before heading home for the rest of our celebrations. Daddy always tries to be available for the first day back as we have one-to-one chats with each child to discuss all of our expectations and goals for the year. This ensures we are all on the same page so to speak.
The first thing we noticed was that the Mallard Drakes’ colourful coat had returned. I’m not sure what was going on with my camera, but my pictures really weren’t very good:
Because this happened whilst we were away, we have no way of knowing whether they molted (as they did when they lost their colourful coats a few weeks back) or whether the feathers simply gradually turned back to their normal colours. It was during week 25, just 5 weeks ago that we noticed the ducks were entering eclipse plumage (after mating they molt). I looked up this whole phenomenon in order to understand it more:
In the Spring the Mallards have their full coat, looking like the male Mallard we all know and love. After their mating season, the males are temporarily rendered flightless as they lose all their feathers (including their flight feathers) and produce a dull coloured basic plumage. At this point they are known to be in eclipse plumage. And here they stay for a few weeks until their mating season begins once more in early autumn. It seems the bird then goes through a second molt (we missed this one as we were away on holiday) accompanied by the regrowth of the colourful coat once more. This is known as the mating plumage. During the eclipse plumage the birds are quiet, shy and reclusive which is exactly what we observed in week 25 when I wrote up our pond study commenting on the change of atmosphere around the pond.
How cool is that? We knew nothing about the eclipse plumage at that point and yet we not only observed the physical changes, but because we knew our ducks so well we were able to pick up on the nuances of the character changes. Seriously, everyone should study one facet of nature for a year. We are learning so much; nature is giving us so much and yet we do so little to aid the process (unlike much of the education that goes on in our homes). I love it.
Elsewhere around the pond the children discovered many treasures, some were a little puzzling:
Of course when we got home we had to look it up and there is indeed a bivalve mollusc called a swan mussel which is found in fresh water. I was so sure it had come from the beach! They usually bury themselves quite deeply, but maybe because there is so little water in the pond it was found nearer to the surface. Or maybe it has been dumped there by someone after a visit to the beach. It was quite an exciting find, whatever the truth.
T11 found his first conker of the season. Our guys love conkers so he was pretty excited:
We also spotted some black berries, not quite ripe, but a lovely autumnal colour:
All the while we kept our eyes open for the Moor hens. Remember shortly before we went away the adult Moor hens had made another nest and hatched two more little chicks, bringing their brood to five in all. The three older siblings were now independent and although stayed close by each other, they no longer needed their parents. They were safe and sound this week:
It wasn’t until just before we left that we managed to get a glimpse of the parents and the chicks (and actually I could only see one chick):
And then we spotted a beautiful site right at the top of a nearby tree, across the road:
It is so, so good to be back among our friends and know they are all doing so well.