Eastbrookend Country Park meeting
Saturday 27th May 2017
The Quekett is keen to increase the number of meetings outside central London, and so we gratefully accepted Robert Ratford’s offer to arrange a meeting in Eastbrookend Country Park with a room in the Millennium Centre for us to set up exhibits and microscopes. The park was created by reclaiming gravel pits that had been filled with rubble and now includes ponds and lakes as well as grassland and patches of trees and shrubs. A band of rain had just about cleared by the time we had set up our microscopes, so we were able to explore the park and collect specimens in the sunshine.
Grassland and trees [by Robert Ratford]
Willow (Salix sp.) and yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus L.) on the bank of Bardag Lake
We saw ducks, geese, grebes, herons and swans on and around the lakes.
Canada geese (Branta canadensis (L.)) with goslings [by Paul Smith]
Fish in the lake [by Paul Smith]
Jacky McPherson used a telescopic golf-ball retriever to hold a small jar for collecting samples from Bardag Lake.
Jacky McPherson collecting
To hold her specimens, Jacky uses clean herb or spice jars that she carries in a canvas bandolier that she made. To carry all her gear, she uses a Bandon folding basket that she finds much more convenient than a rucksack.
Jacky McPherson and Thanya Nirantasook examining the catch
The park has been planted with trees and shrubs that look attractive, including broom and wild roses that are in flower at this time of year.
Broom (Cytisus scoparius (L.) Link)
Wild roses (Rosa sp.)
There are also patches that have been allowed to go wild, so there will be lots of blackberries later in the year.
Blackberry flower (Rubus sp.)
There are several patches of stinging nettles with lots of insects and spiders on them, but sadly no nymphalid caterpillars.
Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica L.)
Ant tending black aphids
Robert Ratford brought his Meiji EMT stereomicroscope on a boom stand, using the base of another Meiji microscope as a light source. He also brought 3 of the small Meiji inclined monocular microscopes that used to be included in RMS Microscope Activity Kits, a Russian БМ-51-2 stereomicroscope based on a pair of binoculars, and 2 simple Russian monocular microscopes that use single objectives.
Visitor with Robert’s Meiji stereomicroscope [by Robert Ratford]
Robert had prepared for bad weather by bringing jars and tanks of pond life, and a jar of the alga Haematococcus pluvialis (Flotow) that is classified as a green alga but is actually red because it contains so much astaxanthin.
Pond life samples
Robert also provided a dish of liverworts.
Liverworts (Marchantia polymorpha L.)
Jacky McPherson brought her Nikon SMZ-1 stereomicroscope on a massive boom stand and her Wild M11 compound microscope and used them to examine waterfleas, rotifers, diatoms, algae and other pond-life collected from Bardag Lake.
Jacky McPherson, watched by Robert Ratford, Mo Vaughan, Paul Smith and Joan Bingley
Jacky showed us some no-cost items that she uses, including slurpee straws for taking small samples from the surface of mud, rectangular pâté tubs for carrying 3×1″ microscope slides, and upturned colourless plastic bottle tops for holding aquatic samples. She also showed us her cigar-box lightsource, now with a glass square that acts as a gliding stage.
Jacky brought her Canon EOS M3 mirrorless camera fitted with a Minolta Rokkor 45 mm f/2 lens and a Zeiss 10× eyepiece, an afocal arrangement, and took lots of photos and a video through her Wild M11. We were able to help Jackie adjust some of the settings on her camera, to improve colour balance, make images brighter, and use a faster shutter speed for moving specimens.
Jacky McPherson’s camera
Free-swimming rotifers feeding [by Jacky McPherson]
Click the arrow at bottom left to watch the video (22 seconds), click the symbol to the left of “vimeo” for full screen
Waterflea with epizootic rotifers [by Jacky McPherson]
Bosmina sp. [by Jacky McPherson]
Pediastrum sp. [by Jacky McPherson]
Gyrosigma sp. (?) [by Jacky McPherson]
Nitzschia sp. (?) [by Jacky McPherson]
Mo Vaughan recently cleaned out one of his ponds and brought some of the things that he found, including a rat-tailed maggot (hoverfly larva) and some bloodworms (chironomid larvae), so that we could examine them with his Watson stereomicroscope. Mo also brought a trinocular compound microscope so that we could examine strews of diatoms by mounters including Bernard Hartley and Klaus Kemp.
Paul Smith brought his small battery-powered 20× stereomicroscope and some star sand from Okinawa; the sand grains are exoskeletons of forams, Baculogypsina sphaerulata (Parker & Parker). He also used the microscope to observe pond life from the lakes.
Paul Smith’s exhibit
Steve Durr used a C-mount video camera with a 14-megapixel 1/2.3 inch sensor on a focusing stand, connected via HDMI to an Eyoyo monitor, to examine plant specimens from the park. The camera stores images on a Micro SD card and can be used without a computer. The camera was near an external door, and the books in the picture are to stop the breeze from moving specimens.
The photo below shows stamens (yellow anthers and white filaments) from a wild rose on the Eyoyo monitor.
Steve Durr’s exhibit
Steve Durr’s camera
Alan Wood and Thanya Nirantasook brought their Olympus SZ4045 stereomicroscope with a variety of specimens from their garden and Bushy Park, and collected some lichen and plant material from the Park
Alan Wood’s exhibit
Burr of herb bennet (Geum urbanum L.)
Yellow and grey foliose lichens on a twig
Green feather from Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca (L.))
Immature sori on underside of fern frond
Spines on stem of cleavers (Galium aparine L.)
Female catkin of crack willow (Salix fragilis L.)
Flower head of ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.)
Our thanks to Robert Ratford for all the work involved in organising the meeting, and for providing specimens for us to observe as well as plenty of tea, coffee, soft drinks and biscuits to keep us going. We are looking forward to another meeting at Eastbrookend Country Park in 2018.
Report and photographs by Alan Wood (except where indicated)