More than 55 people of all ages gathered along the banks of the South Fork of the Catoctin Creek for the Creek Critters of the Catoctin program at the Chapman DeMary Trail in Purcellville on March 26.
The program, co-sponsored by the Purcellville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, the Purcellville Tree and Environment Sustainability Committee, and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Stream Team, focused on raising awareness about the importance of watershed health and the benthic macroinvertebrates living in our local streams.
Jennifer Venable, Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District’s Education Specialist, engaged the younger crowd with the Enviroscape watershed model. The children added various forms of “pollution” (including shredded paper and cocoa to represent litter and dirt) to the model to discover how storm water runoff carry these pollutants through the watershed.
After learning more about the role of benthic macroinvertebrates in stream ecology and stream monitoring, Stream Team monitors demonstrated the Virginia Save Our Streams collection protocol and gathered several nets of macro samples from the South Fork of the Catoctin. Participants then searched through these nets to find and identify various types of macros, including crane flies, midges, caddisflies and mayflies.
Stream Team volunteers offered participants a closer look at these macros under Magiscopes and other magnifying glasses, and pointed out identifying characteristics including gills, tail types and number of legs. Several people remarked on the cuteness of a flatworm, with its triangular shaped head and oversized eye spots, while others enjoyed watching the spastic movements of the midge larvae.