Become a Naturalist

Ah Spring! There is so much about this time of year that brings out poetry, curiosity and a sense that anything is possible. When the kids get restless and itchy, take a break from video games and household routines and explore the natural world. To make it a more interesting adventure, become Naturalists and record the days observations and sightings. All you need is the following, all of which will fit in a backpack:

1. A pair of binoculars for zooming in on birds or other elusive wildlife. A magnifying glass for closeups of insects and plant life.

2. A Field Guide of insects and birds of North America.  There are many excellent ones you can borrow from a local library or download onto your Kindle or iphone.

3. A journal or notebook will help you record sights, sounds, names of animals and plants you discover, and details to use in writing a story or drawing a picture when you get back home.

4. A camera.

5. Comfortable shoes, water, snacks.

TallTreesLittleKids

Try an outing at different times of day. What is awake in the early morning hours may be totally different from what is active mid day or at sunset. If you’re having difficulty finding “critters”, be still and listen to the sounds of nature. This stillness often leads to amazing discoveries. It will definitely bring you peace and calm your stress. If you’re near water, turn over some rocks at the water’s edge. There are many hatching insects under them to marvel at.

And, like every good naturalist, remember to leave only footprints, and take only pictures and memories, and bring back any trash left behind by the human animal, so we can enjoy the natural world for years to come.

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Snow Birds by Shiela Fuller.

Although spring is around the corner, I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity to share a post from my wildlife expert and children’s book author friend Shiela Fuller. Here is her post on the wonderful winter bird the junco.

Nothing marks the onset of winter bird feeding for bird watchers in the northeastern US like the arrival of the dark eyed junco or “snow bird”.  In late October or early November, these tiny ground feeding birds flock to their northern homes. There are many variations of juncos found throughout the United States but in the eastern part of the U.S., dark eyed juncos are common.  The snow birds have a grey body and a white belly with tips of white on the edge of their tail feathers— visible during flight and sometimes as they’re feeding.

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If you took down your bird feeders last summer, it’s time to put them back up.  Dark eyed juncos are especially noticeable foraging on the ground under the feeders looking for fallen seeds.    After a freshly fallen snow, you may notice that there are more hungry juncos than usual.  Sweep some snow away from under the feeder, and perhaps toss a few extra seeds there, just for the ground feeders.

Watch the feeders all winter long and take note to when the juncos leave.  Mark it down on a calendar.   Do the same with their arrival in autumn.   You will be amazed at the precision in timing of arrivals and departures when comparing year to year.  Compiling and comparing data is the nurturing of a future birdwatcher, scientist, or bird biologist.

Cornell University’s program, Project Feeder Watch is a great way to learn the birds at your feeder. For a nominal fee they send you all the paperwork and instructions to begin your citizen scientist adventure.  https://feederwatch.org/    Winter fun for everyone.

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/dark-eyed-juncohttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark-eyed_junco

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/dark-eyed-junco

shiela and jonas little fig 

Shiela Fuller is author of All Night Singing published by Schoolwide (2015).

 

“Oink, Oink”…Celebrate the Year of the Pig.

Tomorrow is the Chinese New Year of the Pig. You and your family can join in the celebration by learning a few fun facts about this amazing animal.

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  • Pigs are intelligent animals. Don’t believe me? Watch some episodes of that sit-com from the 1960’s GREEN ACRES where Arnold the pig turns on and watches the TV.
  • Like humans, pigs are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals.
  • A pig’s snout is an important tool for finding food in the ground and sensing the world around them.
  • Pigs have an excellent sense of smell.
  • There are around 2 billion pigs in the world.
  • Pigs can run at speeds of up to 11mph, the equivalent of a seven-minute mile.
  • Pigs communicate constantly with more than 20 different vocalizations.
  • Studies have found that, just like humans, PIGS DREAM!
  • Pigs can squeal louder than a super-sonic jet!

pig  “WHO, ME?”

To learn more about these delightful creatures, visit the following websites:

http://thepigsite.com/articles/10-surprising-facts-about-pigs

https://www.reference.com/pets-animals/fun-pigs-kids-910864b9a2dc152d

You can also make some PIG PUPPETS with paper bags and some scrap construction paper. Just follow the pattern below.

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So, why not “get your squeal on” and enjoy a DAY MADE FOR PIGS!

Shiela Fuller:Celebrating America’s National Bird, The Bald Eagle.

This wonderful post is brought to you by my friend, naturalist, wildlife photographer, and soon-to-be children’s book author SHIELA FULLER.

Since Roman times, the bald eagle has been a “symbol of governmental power”. In 1872 the government of the United States chose the bald eagle as the national symbol for the country, signifying freedom and patriotism.  img_4165 (2)

A figure of a bald eagle can be found on U.S. coins, paper bills, stamps, flags, official government documents and passports, and other items illustrating its importance to our country’s history.  Even with the notable attention given to the bald eagle, it wasn’t that long ago that it was near extinction.  Sport hunting and pesticide use were contributing factors to the decrease in numbers of these majestic birds.  The Bald Eagle Protection Act (1940) is a Federal statute that gave legal protection to the bald eagle. In 1972, regulations curtailing pesticides that were found to be a detriment to the eagle’s future (and ours, too) were enacted.  Since that time, the eagle population has grown.  In 1995, the eagle was declared not endangered but a threatened species and in 2007, the bird was removed from the threatened list, as well.

The bald eagle is not bald but has a feathered white head and tail feathers that are not obvious until after the eagle’s fifth year of life. The bald eagle’s legs are featherless. Bald eagles are found all across North America. They have an incredible wingspan of up to eight feet and can fly 45 miles per hour. front yard dec 2017

A female bald eagle with an immature one missing the signature white head feathers.

Eagles eat mammals like raccoons and squirrels, reptiles like snakes and turtles, and water birds. They will scavenge carcasses and even steal prey from other predators.

If you would like to learn more about our national bird and perhaps see an eagle in the wild, attend the annual Eagle Fest on February 2, 2019.   Located in Mauricetown, NJ the festival is a family fun event featuring vendors, live exhibits, and speakers. After you’ve taken that all in, venture in your car for a short ride to selected eagle nesting areas where volunteers with bird scopes are waiting to show you what you came to see.

2019 Cumberland County Winter Eagle Festival
Saturday, February 2, 2019
8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Mauricetown Firehall
9544 Noble Street, Mauricetown, NJ
$10.00 Adults
$5.00 Children (12 and under)
At the Firehall:
Speakers and presentations
Non-profit and commercial exhibitors
Local fare refreshments & lunch available
Live raptors exhibited by
Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge
Hands-on art activities by
Clay College
Along the Delaware Bay:
Five staffed viewing sites
with scopes & birdwatching experts
Bayshore Center at Bivalve walks,
food & activities
Morning & evening owl watches
Guided trail walks
East Point Lighthouse
Leechester Hall

If you’d like to view a live nesting site online visit the Duke Farms Eagle Cam: http://www.dukefarms.org/making-an-impact/eagle-cam

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

http://www.baldeagleinfo.com/eagle/eagle9.html

https://www.history.com/news/how-did-the-bald-eagle-become-americas-national-bird

https://www.livescience.com/32811-why-is-the-bald-eagle-americas-national-bird-.html

https://www.thoughtco.com/bald-eagle-profile-and-trivia-1140687

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/b/bald-eagle/

shiela and jonas little fig

Shiela Fuller is the author of All Night Singing (Schoolwide 2015) and Cliff Climbers, to be published in 2019 (The Little Fig).
She adores Pembroke Welsh corgis and has a new pup, Jefferson Jonas.
She is a frequent bird watcher and legacy keeper for her family.

 

 

Shiela and Jonas.

 

‘Tis the Season For: Pumpkin Picking Tips.

  • One of the most abundant and popular items seen everywhere this time of year is the PUMPKIN.  It comes in lots of sizes and shapes and is used to flavor everything from desserts, to coffee, and even soup.  Here are some FUN FACTS about this seasonal favorite as well as tips on how to choose a good pumpkin:
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America.

  • Pumpkins are really squash… members of the squash family.

  • A pumpkin is a fruit. Most people think of it as a vegetable.

  • Pumpkins are 90% water. 

  • The largest pumpkin ever grown is 2,323.7 pounds.   You can see it here:  http://www.pumpkinnook.com/giants/giantpumpkins.htm

For more fun PUMPKIN facts visit: http://gardenersnet.com/fun/pumpkintrivia.htm

How to Select Perfect Pumpkins:

Select pumpkins that are completely orange. A partially green pumpkin might not ripen any further.  Be sure it is not too heavy to carry safely.  You might want to bring along a wagon to carry your pumpkin(s).

Use medium pumpkins for carving into a Jack O Lantern. Small pumpkins are better for cooking and baking.   

A ripe pumpkin has a hard shell that does not dent easily when pressing on it with a thumbnail.  Examine the entire pumpkin carefully for soft spots. If you find even one soft spot, try another pumpkin.

If you don’t plan on cutting your pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern, it will last well into Thanksgiving and beyond.   

More Ways to Be Green.

Last month I shared ten simple ways to reduce our footprint on Mother Earth.  Today I will share ten more.

  • Collect rainwater and use it for landscaping. If you’re worried about mosquitoes, put a cover on it after it rains.
  • Bring your own mug or refillable cup to your favorite coffee spot.
  • Buy Fair Trade products.
  • Carpool as much as possible. And, combine errands so you drive more efficiently.
  • Choose reusable rather than disposable products. (razors, pens, cups, cloth napkins, diapers, etc)
  • Buy in bulk to avoid excess packaging.
  • Donate old cell phones and help save the African gorilla. http://www.eco-cell.org
  • Don’t charge your cell phone overnight.
  • Reuse Ziploc bags when you can.
  • Purify indoor spaces with plants instead of artificial room fresheners.

Here’s one of my favorite ways to re-purpose something:

car planter

Got any more good ideas? We can all make a difference in many small ways.

 

Going Green? Ten Easy Ways to Make a Difference.

With the recent news about efforts to haul away the mammoth pile of floating garbage in the Pacific Ocean, some of us may wonder how we can possibly make a difference and help keep our earth and environment healthy. So many things we might do seem feeble and often futile.

I’m here to say that EVERYONE can do something – no matter how small – to reduce the impact we have on planet earth. Today I begin a series of SIMPLE STEPS you can incorporate into your life to help keep our earth home healthy.

  • Bring your own bags to the grocery store and reduce use of disposable plastic bags.
  • Buy local to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
  • Install low-flow shower heads and take shorter showers.
  •  Use a water filter pitcher or install one on your sink to refill water bottles.
  • Instead of driving, ride a bike for short distances. or take a train or bus to work.
  • Don’t let the sink faucet run when you wash dishes or brush your teeth.
  • Unplug electronics when you’re not using them.
  • Wash clothes in cold water. Today’s detergents clean just as well in cold water.
  • Line dry clothes if and when possible.

There are MANY more ways to go green.  I’ll share them in coming weeks. Got any favorite earth-friendly tips of your own you’d like to share?