Turning over rocks and stones to see what’s living beneath them is a great outdoor activity to get children interested in nature. Salamanders, ants, spiders, worms and slugs all like to snuggle down beneath stones. Though each overturning will produce fairly similar results, once they start, children likely won’t be satisfied until they’ve overturned every stone in sight.
During one such session with my grandson last week, I was amazed at the large number of ant tunnels and ants to be found beneath the stones. Their numbers seem far greater than they used to be. Good thing there are lots of birds here too. This spring I’ve already seen flickers and woodpeckers digging for ants in the lawn and woods. Besides eating great amounts of these insects, flickers are known to keep feather parasites in check by preening themselves with crushed ants.
Frogs and toads also eat their fair share of ants. Homes can easily be made for these creatures among the stones. Reptiles also like to dwell beneath stones. According to my sons, snakes have frequently been found under the rocks at the end of the driveway near the ditch.
One evening years ago, I was startled to see flashlights suddenly brightening the living room window. As I opened the door, I was relieved to see that it was only our friendly neighbors turning over stones along the flower bed in search of bait for the next morning’s fishing trip. Besides humans, raccoons are other omnivores that are known to turn over stones in search of hidden treasure, especially in streams.
If you do turn over stones, be sure to put them back in the same place afterwards. Children will quickly learn to do this if you make it a pre-requisite to turning over the next stone.