Wimbledon Common Nature Club

Sunday 8th January 2023

The Wimbledon Common Nature Club is run by Auriel Glanville and two teenage assistants (Alexander and Oliver Mallett) and welcomes children from 6–14 years old to come and discover the world of nature on the Common. They meet for 2 hours each month in the Information Centre, the same venue as used by Quekett members on excursions, the Weekend of Nature and the Open Day.

As part of the Quekett’s outreach programme, Paul Smith and Alan Wood took an assortment of microscopes and some interesting slides and specimens to show the children. As usual, some of the parents were keen to have a look too.

Alan took his Olympus SZ4045 stereomicroscope with an LED ring-light, a small stereomicroscope (the STX Stereo Microscope sold on Amazon by GT Vision) and a Natural History Museum Microscope. He brought some lichen, jay and parakeet feathers, a butterfly wing and several microscope slides, and collected bits of brambles and stinging nettles from the Common.

Alan’s microscopesAlan’s microscopes

Paul took his Swift FM-31 portable microscope, a Telmu inverted microscope and a digital microscope with a built-in screen. Paul’s specimens included an insect in a polished piece of amber, insects embedded in resin blocks and a watch. He used the FM-31 to demonstrate how polarising filters and plastic sheets can add colours to some subjects (see the last image on this page).

Paul’s microscopesPaul’s microscopes

When everyone had arrived, Auriel led us on a short walk along the muddy paths through the woods near the Centre. The children collected lots of items to take back and examine under the microscopes, including rotten wood, bark, toadstools, dead fern fronds, mosses and lichens

Start of the walkStart of the walk

Walking in the woodsWalking in the woods

Collecting in the woodsCollecting in the woods [by Auriel Glanville]

We got back to the Centre just as it was starting to rain, and started looking at the specimens.

Family with microscopesFamily with microscopes

Zooming in for a closer lookZooming in for a closer look [by Auriel Glanville]

Two girls with microscopesTwo girls with microscopes [by Auriel Glanville]

Four children with microscopesFour children with microscopes

One of the parents kindly took a group photograph for us:

Group photographGroup photograph
Back row: Auriel, Oliver, Alexander, Paul and Alan

Here are photographs of some of the specimens:

Green lichen on oakGreen lichen on an oak twig

Stinging nettle hairHairs on stem of a stinging nettle

Eye-spot of small heath butterflyEye-spot of a small heath butterfly (1.2 × 1 mm)

Feathers of jay and ring-necked parakeetFeathers of a jay and a ring-necked parakeet

Feather of ring-necked parakeetFeather of a ring-necked parakeet

Watch movementWatch movement

Insect in amberInsect in Baltic amber, about 40 million years old

Insects and scorpion in resinInsects and a scorpion in resin

The specimens on microscope slides need to be very thin. Small ones, like a flea, a flatworm, a foraminiferan or a hydra, can be mounted whole. Larger specimens need to be sliced into thin sections, like an earthworm, a rabbit embryo, a snail or the root or stem of a plant. The sections are so thin that they are almost colourless, so they are usually stained to make them easier to see.

Here are some of the microscope slides:

Microscope slidesMicroscope slides

Microscope slidesMicroscope slides

And here are some of the specimens on the microscope slides, photographed through a microscope:

Root of daisy (Bellis perennis)Stained cross-section of the root of a daisy

Female Ceratophyllus gallinaeEuropean chicken flea (Ceratophyllus gallinae)

Pollen comb of honeybeePollen basket on third leg of a worker honeybee

Larval tapeworm in sticklebackStained cross-section of a tapeworm in a stickleback

EarthwormStained longitudinal section of an earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris)

Planarian (flatworm), gastrovascular cavity cavity injected with black dyePlanarian (flatworm), with black dye injected into its gastrovascular cavity

Rabbit embryo
Stained longitudinal section of a rabbit embryo

Sand from Dog’s BayShell sand from Dog’s Bay on the west coast of Ireland

Star sand from JapanStar sand from Okinawa, Japan

Foram from North CyprusForaminifera from North Cyprus (length 1.35 mm, colours produced by crossed polarising filters and a plastic sheet)

Report and most photographs by Alan Wood

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