Taking many walks down the Water of Leith near our school throughout the year, we found lots of evidence for changes in nature over different seasons. While we were being guided, we stopped and talked about all of the things we could spot, and if they were loose and we were not disturbing any wildlife, then we could add what we found to our group’s tray.
We found lots of evidence in the natural environment, especially from the animals. We found a few eggshells in late summer with some of the markings still inside which told us there must have been a late hatchling. We know that throughout the year you get lots of different living things in the river too, like otters, frogs, newts, fish and algae. Unfortunately we didn’t get see any otters this year. The picture on the top right of the ‘creepy crawlies’ collage, with space between two stones, is where we found a squirrel’s cache with some old hazelnuts inside. We guessed that this squirrel had forgotten about them as they were old, no wonder, seeing as they hide hundreds all over the Water of Leith.
On our walks we were looking out for evidence of the change in the plants and vegetation too. We found lots of leaves which were changing colour from green to yellow at the end of summer while there were lots of buds coming out during spring. You can find some berries during spring and summer, with some lasting until the end of summer, if the weather has been nice! Do you know how to tell the difference between brambles and raspberries? Well, bramble bushes have much thicker thorns on them, similar to rose bushes, whereas raspberry bushes have fuzzy thorns.
We were also learning about the different types of seed dispersal at the end of summer. Some plants disperse their seeds through animals. They look and taste appealing for animals such as birds to eat, then the seeds are spread through the animal droppings. Plants which use this method are berries, nuts and fruits. A different method of dispersal is to use animals in a different way. Plants such as teasel and sticky willow ‘stick’ to animal’s fur with their tiny hooks and can be carried far away from the mother plant. As we all know, it is very windy in Edinburgh, and this wind is taken advantage of by plants such as dandelions and helicopters to disperse their seeds. Finally we have ballistic dispersal, which is when plants explode to spread their seeds such as peas and the dynamite tree. This is by far the most exciting way of dispersing seeds, watch this clip to see it in action https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NsIojj4PzAo !
During winter we learnt about decomposition and the reliance on detritivores such as woodlice, millipedes and worms to help the process. This helps to get nutrients back into the soil for plants to grow. We found lots of mushrooms at this time of the year such as Bracket fungus, which can be really helpful if you get lost because you can write on them, while Tinder mushrooms can be used for lighting a fire and keeping you toasty out in nature! You can see in the winter pictures our initials and school name written on the Bracket fungus.
We had great fun going out and learning more about the natural world and want to say a huge thank you to Andrea and Fran from Earthcalling for teaching us so much this year! We hope the P4s have an equally fantastic time!