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05 May 2016

Mammals and Birds and Reptiles, Oh My!

Nature Study this morning was probably our most exciting to date! We saw the most new types of animals that we've ever had in a single trip.

Things started off with a bang when we saw a Fox Snake crossing the path right as we came into the park. Turns out there's a whole mess of them that hibernate in the siding of the nature center. The gentleman we spoke to said that he has personally removed four or five from the building, and some of the other staff have also removed snakes -- and that's down from previous years, because they closed some entrances. 

It was really interesting watching him cross the road. He moved very differently on the asphalt trail, versus when he got into the brush. You can see how he's got the deep side-to-side action going on, and is the classic "S" shape snake here, but as soon as he got into the grass he straightened out a lot, and moved much more directly -- and faster. It was remarkable how well he blended in, even when moving. We sat down and put him in our nature journals quick, before our friends came. Hero has been working with the book Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain, as well as practicing drawing weapons and armor all over, and he is improving nicely. 

When our friends came, the first thing that happened is that the kids went under the tower where we usually meet - and then came running back, shouting about the critter they saw. We eventually decided it was a woodchuck moving its babies, but we didn't manage to get a picture. We also didn't get a picture of the second snake (probably a garter snake) that the kids saw. Or the critter that almost looked like a chipmunk. But I did finish my sketch of a Red Pine pinecone that I started last week. 

We also checked on the Prarie Smoke flower that one of the girls found last week. I'd like to paint that sometime, but today I just had a look. It's a cool looking flower. I was a little surprised that it hadn't progressed any further toward blooming. 

Next, we walked down toward the "Stick Shack". It's an odd little awning out in the woods - just a bit of roof on some poles, maybe 6 feet tall. Last week, that area was exciting because we found half a dozen little frogs in the puddle that has collected there. This week, we didn't stay real long: somebody built her nest right by where the kids usually play. I snuck a picture, then we took off so the poor Mama Bird could come back. We didn't see her, so we don't know what kind of nest it is. 

I was just tall enough to reach my phone over the nest for a picture, so we could spy without disturbing anything. The kids are hoping there will be a baby to spy on next week!

As if that wasn't enough, when we wandered back over toward our pond today, we saw a new bird! Took some doing to figure him out, but we ended up deciding that our new friend is a Tree Swallow. I was wishing I had brought my big camera, instead of just relying on my phone, because the little guy just sat and sat for us, preening, while my friend and I both worked to try to figure him out. 

It was a lovely day. Spring is definitely sprung! Can't wait to go back next week!


Emma said...

Looks like a fun time and your pictures are *pretty*! :)

Ritsumei said...

Thank you!


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