Wednesday 29 October 2014

Outdoor Hour: Nature Study at the Beach

Once a month I link up with the Handbook of Nature Study Outdoor Hour and join other families from different parts of the world blogging about Nature Study. It has really helped me focus on specific nature study goals and find inspiration to get out of doors with my children. There are plenty of challenges - no matter where in the world you are situated - to help you get started or pick it up if you've lost the motivation. Why don't you join us?

We had a lovely weekend on the coast this month. There's nothing like the sound and feel of the ocean that seems to both mentally refresh and physically exhaust you (in a good way) at the same time. Here are a few glimpses from our time away.

 Pelicans in for a Feed

Looking out across the Tasman Sea

The jellyfish is shaped like an umbrella and its mouth and stomach in the position occupied by the handle of a real umbrella; the tentacles and other sense organs are attached to the outer edge of the umbrella. By means of its tentacles the jellyfish captures the small animals upon which it feeds.
The Handbook of Nature Study (HONS) Pg. 430

A Common Jellyfish

We have the Bluebottle (Portuguese Man of War) jellyfish here which gives a nasty sting but the one above looked harmless. William Gillies in Nature Studies of Australia (I have a link to the free book here) says this of the jellyfish:

If you could see the first stage in the wonderful life-history of this creature you would hardly believe that this mass could spring from it. The egg of this jelly-fish hatches out into a small creature quite unlike the parent. This little animal swims about by means of the hairs that cover it, and after a time settles down upon a rock, and becomes fixed like an anemone.
Like an anemone, too, it has waving arms by which it feeds. By-and-by it throws off bud after bud. Each of these buds becomes a free-swimming disc-shaped jelly, which grows into a jelly-fish...

Oyster Shells

The Sydney Rock Oyster is endemic to parts of the Australian coast while another, the Pacific oyster is introduced. Apparently it is difficult to distinguish between the two especially if you are only looking at the shells as above. This fact sheet is quite interesting as we couldn't find much information in the books we have which surprised me. What we do know is that oyster shells are awful things to stand on as my eldest son found out once when he ventured out into the water on a camping trip and sliced the under side of his foot. When he went to hospital the doctor told him they leave the wound open for about a week and then they stitch it up as the oysters have oodles of bacteria and if it's stitched right away it won't heal.
Some information on the pearling industry in Australia is on this website.

Oysters are bivalve molluscs which initially hatch out of eggs, swim around for a few days and then attach themselves to rocks. Mother of pearl, also known as nacre is a substance formed within an oyster shell and is often used as decorative material. The oyster has quite a few enemies -  the starfish and us, for example, not to mention The Walrus and the Carpenter...

"The sun was shining on the sea,
      Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
      The billows smooth and bright —
And this was odd, because it was
      The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
      Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
      After the day was done —
"It's very rude of him," she said,
      "To come and spoil the fun."

The sea was wet as wet could be,
      The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
      No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead —
      There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
      Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
      Such quantities of sand:
If this were only cleared away,'
      They said, it would be grand!'

If seven maids with seven mops
      Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose,' the Walrus said,
      That they could get it clear?'
I doubt it,' said the Carpenter,
      And shed a bitter tear.

O Oysters, come and walk with us!'
      The Walrus did beseech.
A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
      Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
      To give a hand to each.'

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
      But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
      And shook his heavy head —
Meaning to say he did not choose
      To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
      All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
      Their shoes were clean and neat —
And this was odd, because, you know,
      They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
      And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
      And more, and more, and more —
All hopping through the frothy waves,
      And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
      Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
      Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
      And waited in a row.

The time has come,' the Walrus said,
      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.'

But wait a bit,' the Oysters cried,
      Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
      And all of us are fat!'
No hurry!' said the Carpenter.
      They thanked him much for that.

A loaf of bread,' the Walrus said,
      Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
      Are very good indeed —
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
      We can begin to feed.'

But not on us!' the Oysters cried,
      Turning a little blue.
After such kindness, that would be
      A dismal thing to do!'
The night is fine,' the Walrus said.
      Do you admire the view?

It was so kind of you to come!
      And you are very nice!'
The Carpenter said nothing but
      Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf —
      I've had to ask you twice!'

It seems a shame,' the Walrus said,
      To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
      And made them trot so quick!'
The Carpenter said nothing but
      The butter's spread too thick!'

I weep for you,' the Walrus said:
      I deeply sympathize.'
With sobs and tears he sorted out
      Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
      Before his streaming eyes.

O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,
      You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
      But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
      They'd eaten every one."

By Lewis Carroll (1832–1898)