Alive and Well: Our Monarch Butterfly Project

I’ve posted a few times about our efforts to help save the endangered Monarch Butterfly.  By planting milkweed, the insect population will lay eggs and produce the caterpillars that make the next generation.  While these butterflies might be attracted to other plants like the popular Butterfly Bush, they ONLY LAY EGGS ON THE MILKWEED. AND THE CATERPILLAR ONLY EATS THE LEAVES OF THIS PLANT.  

Perhaps because we’ve had such a mild fall, the last Monarch cycle occurred just a couple weeks ago.  And, I am happy to say, we “hatched” SIX butterflies this season- up from TWO last year.

That may not seem like much, but  every bit adds to the total.

 

After the caterpillar is done feeding, it attaches its chrysalis underneath the siding of our house.  We went out and checked them each morning and one day…three weeks ago…we found this:

It’s a small effort, with such a beautiful reward.  Long may these lovely creatures live!

To learn about the monarch and how you can help save this endangered species and to get free milkweed seeds to plant for next year visit: http://www.livemonarch.com/free-milkweed-seeds.htm

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1…2…3…Butterflies!

Here’s a novel way to encourage children to practice counting and other math skills: try counting butterflies.  All across the US, volunteers are counting butterflies in the name of science. In 1975, the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) launched it’s annual butterfly count program. Volunteers from all over North America  join together on designated days to identify and count butterflies – no scientific degree needed. By using only your eyes and enthusiasm, you will contribute to scientists understanding of local butterfly populations and how they have changed over time.

For more information on where and when these counts take place check out the NABA website: http://www.naba.org

You can also learn more about butterfly counting at: http://www.monarchnet.uga.edu,  or at: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org.

Happy Counting!

Shiela Fuller Takes you on: A NIGHT HIKE FOR THE ELUSIVE SPOTTED SALAMANDER

If you live in the eastern part of the United States and have access to vernal ponds, you might want to go on a night hunt in search of the spotted salamander.

Get out your flashlight and put on your wading boots because the area around vernal ponds can sometimes be muddy. The absolute best time to find the spotted salamander is after a rainfall just as winter is becoming spring, mid-March through mid-April. This is a very small window of opportunity to find one, as these hibernating amphibians will wake up and march in great numbers in search of the closest vernal pond. It is here that a new generation of salamander eggs are laid.

As larvae, the spotted salamander is dull green in color. It will lie low in the vernal pond under debris.   They will live in the vernal pool breathing with the use of gills for up to 4 months. If the vernal pond should go dry before the salamanders reach the juvenile stage, they will not survive.   If they reach adulthood, the spotted salamander dons a black body with irregular yellowish-orange spots and black vertical costal lines arising from a grey underbelly.  It has a wide snout, perfect for tunneling and burrowing, and gives it the name “mole salamander”.

These salamanders prefer the privacy of the vernal pond to a body of steady open water, like a pond or stream, because there would be a higher number of predators to eat the eggs and larvae. After a few months of living and growing in the pond, the spotted salamander will leave the pond, spending the bulk of its life in a burrow in a deciduous forest. Then the salamanders will emerge once a year and relocate to the vernal pond where it will lay its eggs and begin the cycle over again.

After the salamanders become adults, they prowl for food at night making them nocturnal hunters.   Using their sticky tongue, they eat anything small enough to swallow like worms, crickets, spiders, and slugs.

A an adult, the spotted salamander hides in its burrow below the leaf litter, can separate itself from its tail, and excrete a poisonous substance from glands around its neck, all in an effort to protect itself from predators.  Akin to other salamanders they also have the ability to regenerate or grow new body parts if it becomes injured.

The spotted salamander is not a threatened species but they are susceptible to environmental threats such as the destruction of wetlands or acid rain and the actions of humans.

If you haven’t found a spotted salamander in its natural setting on your own, perhaps a trip to the Sally Rally will increase your knowledge and appreciation of amphibians. The Promised Land State Park in Pennsylvania has organized walks to admire the spotted salamander.  The time to go is now.

Spotted Salamander taken by Kristen Fuller

http://events.dcnr.pa.gov/promised_land_state_park#.WO5NZYWcHIU

http://www.paherps.com/herps/salamanders/

http://srelherp.uga.edu/salamanders/ambmac.htm

http://www.naturalheritage.state.pa.us/VernalPool_Salamanders.aspx

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/spotted-salamander/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spotted_salamander

https://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Amphibians-Reptiles-and-Fish/Spotted-Salamander.aspx

 

Johanna Staton, Me, Shiela Fuller at one of the NJSCBWI events.

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.

 

Remembering Animals This Holiday Season.

For many of us, our furry and feathered friends are just as much a part of our family as humans are.  You can show other animals how much you care in a special way by adopting a pet longing for a home.  Visit Home 4 the Holidays for more information.  http://www.Home4theHolidays.org

The NATIONAL DISASTER SEARCH DOG FOUNDATION recruits rescue dogs, trains them and then pairs them  – free of charge – with firefighters and other first respondents to help find victims buried by natural disasters such as earthquakes.  To donate to this worthy cause:  http://www.searchdogfoundation.org

Remembers the Critters this holiday season!

Author Terry Jennings Has Magnetism + A Free Book!

My author friend Terry Jennings has a new book out about magnetism that she wants to share with you.  Here’s Terry.

Who wants another book on magnetism? Like poles repel and opposites attract and that’s the way it is, right? Kids already know all about it.

            So why did I write another book on magnetism? It’s so much more than the dance between the poles! And that’s what I love about writing non-fiction and creative non-fiction. You find out so much cool stuff.

When I wrote Gopher to the Rescue! A Volcano Recovery Story, I never planned to have a gopher as the main character. But those little diggers (8-12” long) helped Mount St. Helens (9600 feet tall before the eruption) recover. They dug up the ash and softened it so that seeds could sprout. They brought up nutritious bacteria from below. What could be cooler than that?

With Sounds of the Savanna, I learned all about prey and predator interactions. I learned that everybody’s gotta eat ‘cause everybody wants to live! That does mean that sometimes another animal has to die, but it’s surprising how unsuccessful predators are. I also heard that predators cooperate. That makes sense, right? Hyenas and lionesses, they cooperate. But what about prey? Zebras, wildebeest and antelopes all eat the same plant. Zebras eat the old, tough stuff—their teeth are made for it. Wildebeest like the next part. Antelopes love the tender new growth but they can’t get to it until the zebras and the wildebeest have grazed. Wildebeest hide within zebra herds because zebra stripes confuse predators. Cool too, right?

So what was cool about Magnetic Magic? We all do know that like poles repel and unlike attract. But did you know that inside a totally unmagnetic copper pipe a magnet can create both a current and a magnetic field? You can also try it with a totally unmagnetic aluminum pipe. Check it out in my website: http://www.terrycjennings.com/Teacher-Guides-and-Activities-Magic.html give it a bit of time to load and click on the You Tube “Is aluminum magnetic?”      magneticmagic_120

But the coolest thing of all, is that the earth’s magnetic pole shifts. It wonders, from the north geographic pole to the south geographic pole and to places in between. Magnetic North changes from year to year and from place to place. So if a treasure map from a hundred years ago gives coordinate directions from a fixed geographic point and we try to find the treasure this year, we won’t be able to, unless we know the magic number. The magnetic declination. It’s a number we add or subtract from the coordinates (depending on whether the declination is east or west that year). With that number, we can find the treasure. Check out the book and activities at http://www.terrycjennings.com/Teacher-Guides-and-Activities-Magic.html        

author-pic-snow-canyonWant to win a copy of Magnetic Magic? Here’s how:

Tell us your favorite recent Non-fiction picture book and why you like it.  I’ll put your name in a hat and draw a winner who will receive a signed copy of Terry’s new book MAGNETIC MAGIC.   WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON THIS BLOG ON WEDNESDAY, 10-26-2016.

Author Charlotte Bennardo Talks Science.

My writer friend and author Charlotte Bennardo has a debut MG book series coming out soon.  The book is beautifully illustrated by Cathy Thole-Daniels.  Book one is called EVOLUTION REVOLUTION: SIMPLE MACHINES, and explores the notion that animals are a lot smarter than we might think.  Here’s Charlotte to tell us about the science behind the story.

Animals outwitting humans has always been a popular science fiction story premise.

But could it ever happen?

National Geographic, the Smithsonian, scientists, and many experts in animal behavior know that animals learn. They cite studies and tests and brain sizes.

All I had to do to be convinced that animals were so much smarter than being taught to ‘sit’ and ‘fetch’ was watch a BBC television program which showed a squirrel solving and overcoming increasingly difficult obstacles and puzzles to get to a supply of nuts. They don’t give up until they have conquered the puzzle, no matter how long it takes. (One squirrel spent over a month on a single part of the obstacle!) It was the basic premise I needed to write my middle grade book, Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines. I took it one step further—a young boy teaching a squirrel, whom he names Jack, about simple machines like the wheel. Since squirrels are such good puzzle solvers, and share what they’ve learned with other squirrels (usually family members), it doesn’t seem like that big a stretch. Teach one, they all learn.     cover_frontonly_rgb_72dpi-best

So the next step was for the squirrels to teach the other animals. In my novel they can talk to each other which of course they can’t do in the wild. But have you seen recent videos on Youtube and Facebook showing animals of different species doing the unexpected, like a lioness nurturing an orphaned deer instead of devouring it? Everyone knows about Koko and her kittens, and our family dog King ‘mothered’ our cat’s litter of kittens, so maybe it’s not so farfetched…

I took the premise one step further. Loss of habitat is a big concern for the earth’s creatures. When construction machines enter the squirrel’s wood, he applies what he’s learned from humans against humans to stop the destruction. It would only work for a short while because we are infinitely smarter, but this would certainly draw scientific interest and thereby halt destruction of the woods while scientists studied the animals. So maybe it could happen.

I suggest being really nice to the squirrels in your backyard; they’ll bring friends.

View More: http://suziryanphotography.pass.us/char

http://www.charlotteebennardo.blogspot.com/ 
http://kidlitresources.wordpress.com/

Twitter: charbennardo

Facebook: Author Charlotte Bennardo 

bio-pic-300x300-pixelsCathy Thole-Daniels is the Illustrator of the series.

 

 

The Disappearing Butterfly…How You Can Help!

This post originally ran last year, but I find it so important I am running it again.  Help keep monarch butterflies in our world.  Pass it on.

While many insects make a lot of people say “yuck”…butterflies are in a category of their own.  There is no ick factor to these beautiful and amazing creatures.  One of the most recognized – and perhaps most popular – butterflies in North America is the MONARCH. Sadly, this beautiful insect is disappearing at an alarming rate.  In the 1990’s up to 1 BILLION monarchs migrated from the Northern US and Canada each fall to the OYAMEL FIR forests of Mexico.  Another million wintered in forested groves along the California coast.       monarch Now, scientists estimate that only 56.5 MILLION remain.  This represents a decline of nearly 80%.  Most of the decline is blamed on changing use of land; but we homeowners can change that.  You can use your property to create “monarch way stations” by planting MILKWEED and other nectar filled plants.  These plots allow monarchs to successfully produce generations and sustain them for their annual migrations. Milkweeds are the ONLY plants on which monarchs deposit their eggs and on which their larvae feed.  Without milkweed, there would be no monarchs.     To learn more about monarchs and way stations visit: http://www.monarchwatch.org Milkweed is easy to grow from seed.  And, here is a link for free milkweed plants.  They require little care and will spread easily once they take hold.  They can take over a garden, so be careful where you plant them. Go to: http://www.livemonarch.com/free-milkweed-seeds.htm          

Milkweed from my garden.

Milkweed from my garden.

  Not only will you bring beauty to your own habitat, but you will be helping an endangered species. Here’s a link to a wonderful post to start a discussion about Monarchs from Terry Jennings.: http://www.kcswildfacts.com/KCs-Blog.html?entry=monarch-butterflies-amazing-travelers