Life on the tundra: it’s cold, remote and the food is terrible. But what if it were close enough for a daytrip? And it had a café nearby? Ged Cassell and some intrepid young explorers have been having fun designing our new exhibit that will bring the tundra to Slimbridge.
Scientists have to venture into the tundra – the wild arctic landscapes of Russia, Greenland and Canada – if they want to study some of the world’s rarest and most beautiful birds. But once the bird-ringing and observing is done for the day, there isn’t much to do… or is there?
We spent a day with our younger visitors to Slimbridge, trying out some of the activities we plan to feature in our Tundra exhibit.
First, the children got to make nets, used to catch birds for ringing. Our researchers on the tundra make theirs from old bits of wood rescued from the tideline, tied together with string, rope or wire – whatever they can find. The children quickly got the hang of threading their net onto a metal ring and then attaching the handle. The birds wisely stayed well out of the way, but the children soon discovered they could easily use their nets to capture their parents…!
Next, they used binoculars to study the ‘Darvic’ rings we’d fitted to the legs of a small group of Barnacle Geese. Just like our WWT researchers in the tundra, the children spotted the serial number, found their bird on our list, discovered how old it was, whether it was male or female, and where it had hatched.
It’s cold on the tundra and our children were keen to dress for the occasion, in parkas, Russian hats and huge furry mittens, then pose for photographs in front of our backdrop of a tundra landscape.
Finally, we asked the children what they would take on a trip to the tundra – what would remind them of home, or help them cope with the long, lonely days? Your teddy? Photos of mum and dad? Some books? A sketchbook or camera? How about a football or a pocket chess set – or a supply of your favourite chocolate? Family photos, a camera and chocolate proved the most popular items.
What worked? Pretty much everything – net making and watching the birds were the most popular, but the children loved all the activities. We can feel confident about including them in our new Tundra exhibit.