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

A Gift for Human’s Best Friend: Homemade Dog Treats

Here’s a great way to spoil the dog in your life and reward him for his devotion and love.  Make these HOMEMADE DOG BONES.  It’s a simple recipe, made with all natural ingredients and so good, you can taste them too!

PEANUT BUTTER BONES

  1. Combine 2 C of white whole wheat flour, 1 C rolled oats, 1/2 C non fat milk powder, 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl.  Stir to combine.
  2. Add 1 C crunchy peanut butter, 2 lg eggs.  Beat at low speed until combined.
  3. Gradually add 1/2 C water, beating until dough comes together.
  4. Turn dough onto a large sheet of parchment paper.  Cover with a second piece.  Roll to 1/2 inch thick 10 x 13 inch rectangle.  Chill 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  6. Cut dough into 3 x 1 1/2 inch rectangles ( or use a dog bone shaped cookie cutter).  Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake 1 hour or until firm and golden brown.

This batch makes 20 3inch treats.  You can store them in an airtight container.  Your dog will love you even more than she already does when you give her this treat.

THE ORB WEAVERS by Shiela Fuller

Spiders are fascinating creatures.  On one hand, they can scare the dickens out of us; on the other hand, they create wondrous webs to behold.  and, they do a lot to reduce the population of pesky flies and mosquitoes.  Here is Shiela Fuller with an informative post on orb weavers:

The orb weavers are spiders that can be found throughout the world and as close as your own backyard. If you look outside your window at night, in late summer or early autumn, perhaps you will see their masterful web creation attached to your front porch or eave. This is because many orb weavers tend to build webs attached to human structures. Their webs are large and comprised of concentric circles that radiate outward with an occasional “zig zag” portion, called stabilimenta. Studies have shown that webs containing the stabilimenta catch 34% fewer insects but these visible decorations are damaged less frequently, keeping the webs intact longer.

If you’re familiar with the orb web-building spiders, did you ever notice that the web is sometimes gone during the day? That is because many orb weavers build a new web every day. Orb weavers are nocturnal hunters and as evening approaches they will come out from their hiding location, eat the old web, rest, and then spin a new web in the same location.
They may bite if they are forced to defend themselves but in general are a gentle spider. The bite is not poisonous and no more painful than a bee sting for most folks.
Orb weavers are often identified by their brightly colored, rounded abdomens, and some have angled bumps or spines. When visible in the web, the spider is usually resting head down and waiting for prey.     Triple oaks spider

This argiope photo is a good example of a common orb weaver found in the backyard garden. It’s brightly colored, its head is facing downward, and the stabilitmenta is clear to see in the web.

If you’re lucky enough to have an orb weaving spider building a web near or on your front porch, or in your garden, enjoy and marvel in the creation. The orb weaver rarely lives for more than one season and while they’re here, they’ll aid in reducing pesky insect populations like mosquitoes.

http://www.spiderzrule.com/orbweaver.htm
http://www.cirrusimage.com/spider_orb_weavers.htm
http://insects.about.com/od/spiders/p/Araneidae.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orb-weaver_spider

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.

As part of National Picture Book Month, here are two PB’s about some extraordinary Orb Weavers:

  1. The classic CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E B White tells the story of an amazing pig as seen through the eyes – and web designs – of Charlotte, a spider who weaves words into her webs.
  2.  A new take on “weaving outside the normal web design” comes from a delightful PB called SEAVER THE WEAVER by Paul Czajak  2014-08-25 02.30.30

Monarch Butterfly Update.

Back in July I did a post about the importance of planting a garden that is Monarch friendly.  Since the butterflies only lay their eggs on MILKWEED, these are the best plants to encourage their re population.  Last week I went out into our garden and found these sights to behold:

Monarch caterpillar on the underside of a milkweed plant.

Monarch caterpillar chewing away on the underside of a milkweed plant.

Monarch chrysalises attached to the house...which is next to the milkweed plants.

Monarch chrysalises attached to the house…which is next to the milkweed plants.

Several days later…there was this!

monarch hatching from the chrysalis.

monarch hatching from the chrysalis.

monarch that just emerged from chrysalis and was drying its wings

monarch that just emerged from chrysalis and was drying its wings.

So amazing to see nature do what it does best!