Fish Bugs returns to Grayson Highlands State Park

Winding up this season’s Fish Bugs Program

On both May 20th and 21st, Aaron Floyd led groups of grade school age kids, all from Grayson Highlands School, to Grayson Highlands State Park for a day of stream exploration. I was not able to help on Monday, so my report will focus on Tuesday’s outing. 22 kids helped us move our equipment from the Massie Gap parking area to our chosen spot along Cabin Creek, just below the large falls. Under a brilliant spring sky, we set up our sorting tables, distributed waders, nets, and began our first survey. Two seines were employed to gather our macro-invertebrates and other water critters.

To say it was a challenge to keep an eye on everyone, while keeping a focus on our task at hand, would be putting it lightly.

We had teachers Mrs. Sherri Perry and Mr. Van Harris, along with the eager bus driver, Mrs. Roberta Paisley, on hand to help with everything and body.

Aaron Parlier, AmeriCore volunteer for the park, was also an able assistant.

The high count for the day fell to mayflies. Adults were hatching as we dug our nets into the water for the nymph phase samples. A few caddisflies and stone flies were also found and compared. The kids always love to find salamanders and crayfish, which were in abundance at this relatively pristine spot.

We packed up our gear and hiked upstream to an easier spot, and took our second sample, breaking into two groups…boys and girls.

A few girls got very wet, but the day was warm and by the time we made it back to Massie Gap, everyone was dry, thirsty and hungry.

After a picnic lunch, we spread out owl pellets on two picnic tables and spent our last hour digging out tiny bones from the pellets and examining them under magnification.

Several kids wished to take home the tiny rodent and shrew skulls to show Mom. We have never received any feedback from those lucky moms. This was, to my recollection, our first survey work with grade schoolers, and overall, it went very well. There is certainly a different level of enthusiasm when working with younger kids that includes various components such as limited attention span and unbridled energy. All adults on hand were very good with the kids, and together we helped make the day a memorable one for all involved.

Scott Jackson-Ricketts