How to See More Rainbows by Marilyn Ostermiller

Would you like to see more rainbows? You must be in the right place at the right time.

It’s not just a matter of luck when we look into the sky on a rainy day and spot a glorious arc. The sun has to be shining behind you and rain or mist or spray must be in front of you. That’s when you are in the perfect spot to enjoy one.

Rainbows occur when sunlight and rain combine in a very specific way. When a beam of sunlight travels toward Earth, the light is white. But, if the light beam happens to hit raindrops at a certain angle on the way down, the different colors that make up the beam separate so that we can see them as a rainbow.

The angle for each color of a rainbow is different, because the colors slow down at different speeds when they enter the raindrop. The light exits the raindrop in one color, depending on the angle it came in, so we see only one color coming from each raindrop. Light at different angles coming through many raindrops form the rainbow that we see.

The spectrum of colors is always in the same order with red at the top, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. (ROY G BIV is an easy way to remember the order)

April, with its famous showers, is a good time to be on the alert for rainbows. But if Mother Nature doesn’t provide one when you are in the mood, you can create a miniature one for yourself with a garden hose. Meteorologist Joe Rao suggests you simply stand with your back to the sun and adjust the hose to a fine spray. Rainbows can also be seen against the spray of a waterfall.

There are even ways to use water, mirrors and windows to form rainbows in the house. For instructions, visit www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Rainbow

Rainbows are the subject of several children’s picture books including nonfiction books that explain the science behind the beauty and fictional story books. 

Among them:

Ready-to-Read Level One Rainbow. Newbery Honor recipient and New York Times bestselling author Marion Dane Bauer teaches beginning readers about rainbows in this one. It is illustrated by John Wallace.

A Rainbow of My Own, by Don Freeman. A small boy imagines what it would be like to have his own rainbow to play with.

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

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.

Three Cheers for SPRING!!!

The Inspiration Called Spring.

After painting my thoughts from a grey pallet with a cold winter brush, I pick up the same brush and find it changes color like a chameleon. The words coming from its tip are filled with sensory images that wake up the dormant muse. There is no doubt that spring has entered into the picture to spread its influence on my thoughts. How can I stay grey when yellow and purple crocuses wave their tongues as I pass by? How can I be cold when the earth feels warm in my hands? How can I take a breath of air without bringing the scent of grass and hyacinth to my nostrils? Spring is the season of poetry; it is the feast promised after the famine passed. It is the reason birds sing, and the sun shines. It is the reason I pick up a fresh piece of paper and a newly sharpened pencil and bare my soul in words.                    crocus

Get your children outside on a SPRING SCAVENGER HUNT. Make a list of things to look for as you take a walk through the neighborhood or park. Some possible things to include on your list are: flowers of various colors, different kinds of birds, different kinds of trees/leaves, insects, things popping out of the ground, nests, etc. Or, make it a sensory hunt and try to identify various bird songs, nature sounds, smells from blossoming trees and flowers, taste of newly sprouted asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries.


Celebrate all things spring!

Spring Sprouts

If you can’t wait for the weather to get warm enough for planting and digging in the garden, try SPROUTING SEEDS. Seed packets are in grocery stores and it’s easy to try sprouting them with the kids All you need is a package of bean seeds and paper towels.

1. Wet paper towels.  Place 3 or 4 seeds onto the wet towel, fold it to cover the seeds.

2. Place the folded towels in a warm area and keep them moist by sprinkling them with water every few hours.

3. Check the seeds every couple of days.  You should see them sprout before a week is through.  Don’t give up if it takes a little longer.  The warmer the area, and the moister the towels remain, the faster the seed will sprout.

What to do with them once they’ve sprouted?  While it might be tempting to eat your own sprouts, I wouldn’t.  Some seeds are treated with certain chemicals and can cause illness. YOU CAN, however, plant them in dirt and have a “mini” garden on a windowsill.  They can also be put directly into your garden outdoors when the soil is ready.

Try different kinds of beans to see how long each takes and compare their different characteristics.  Take a photo and send it to me. I’ll post some of them here.

Ever See a Crab in the Forest?

  NATURE MAKES US NICER.

A study done by the U. of Rochester, 370 people were shown either images of man-made or natural objects and worked in space with or without indoor plants. Images of nature and indoor plants made people feel more connected, more caring and charitable toward others. Man-made images made people place more value on wealth and fame. Other research tells us that exposure to nature reduces stress.
So, if you’re looking for a gift that keeps on giving, try plants and photos of natural settings to help you through the dreary days of winter. Visit parks and natural areas as often as you can.
To view beautiful photos of nature click on Travel + Nature at:   http://www.treehugger.com
Spring is just around the corner!

To get children interested in nature, take them            

Boston Arboretum

Boston Arboretum

outdoors. It doesn’t have to be a park or forest. A playground, back yard or grassy field will do nicely. Get down on your knees and look for things hiding in the grass and under leaves and rocks. Most children have a natural curiosity when it comes to bugs, birds, and wild creatures. If you’re a bit squeamish regarding members of the insect population, try not to project those feelings onto your child.  Most bugs and insects are harmless and fascinating to watch as they go about their business. A magnifying glass will add a level of “scientific authority” to the activity. It’s also fun to take along a camera or some paper and pencil to record what you discover. Have a contest for whoever can find the most different species.

Buds are springing up from the ground and on trees thanks to our mild winter.  How many can you and your child identify?  There are lots of field guides available to help you identify plants and insects.                             Triple oaks spiderWhat are some of your favorite natural spaces?

Remember: “Take only photos, leave only footprints

Celebrate Earth Day.

EARTH DAY is today.  And Arbor Day is next Friday, April 29.  You and your kids can show your appreciation for our beautiful planet in several ways.

  1. Join the movement to plant 7.8 BILLION trees by 2020 – one tree for every person on the planet.  Go to http://www.earthday.org   for complete details.

2. 50 MILLION trees have been planted by the Arbor Foundation in America’s 155 National Forests over the last 2 decades.  You can plant a tree of your own or give a seedling to someone else.  Or, donate $25.00 and Arbor Day Foundation will add 25 more trees to our landscape.  Visit  http://www.arborday.org

3.  You can check out some fun ideas for celebrating Arbor Day or Earth Day at:  http://tinyurl.com/j9fev58

4.  Go to a local park or playground and pick up litter and items that can be recycled.  Also, check out PREVIOUS POSTS on this blog for other earth-friendly ideas.    Be kind to trees.  They make life on planet Earth possible.

tree hug5.  Read some fun books about the Earth and nature.  One great title: MARTY MCGUIRE DIGS WORMS, by Kate Messner.  Also, these two classics, THE LORAX by Dr. Seuss; and THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein.

For more “Green Books” titles visit:

http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/bookfinder/green-reads/