Nature In Your Neighborhood

September 1, 2014

Nature In Your Neighborhood is a weekly feature that focuses on the nature that we all interact with in our everyday lives. Through the window of these posts you can catch glimpses of nature in action in locations across the country (and sometimes beyond). 

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Today we are sharing a very neat experience Lisa and her kids had with some very fuzzy caterpillars they found near their home in Wales.

In Lisa’s words:

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These are Grass Eggar moth caterpillars. They feed principally on willow, are local to SW England and SW Wales, and fly in August/September. We thought they’d died, which is what has happened to our previous ones (!), but they seem to play dead right before they pupate!

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We woke up this morning to find that one had pupated. Then later we watched as one shed its caterpillar form (you can see the shed skin in the photos) and formed a bright green pupal case, which changed to red then a red/brown over time.

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What a fab experience for us all!

Thank you for sharing with us Lisa! That is a wonderful experience, indeed! 

 

For an extra dose of nature’s beauty to kick off the week, pop on over to the Flickr Group to browse the gorgeous photos contributed last week!

 

A Note About Contributing to Nature In Your Neighborhood:

Did you find a bug on the sidewalk and look it up in a guide book? Have you seen a mama or papa bird feeding babies? Are you seeing the seasons begin to change in your neighbourhood? Did you see some neat clouds and call out shapes? Did you make a habitat to observe insects? What questions did your kids ask when you found something out on your nature walk?

We would love to hear more about your experience!

If you would like to contribute please either add a photo or two with a short description to the Flickr group, post it to the Facebook Group, or shoot us an email with your photo(s) and a few sentences about your experience at: kidsandnature (at) gmail (dot) com.

Please also include your location (your state or country is fine).

We would also love to highlight photos and descriptions from young naturalist out there. If your child would like to contribute a photo of what they found, and tell us a little about it, please encourage them to do so and we will spotlight them in a “Young Naturalist” post. (Don’t worry so much about photo quality. We would love to share their work!)

We are looking forward to sharing your nature finds and continuing to encourage families to look high and low for nature all around.

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Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

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Gettysburg National Military Park (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)

This week we welcome Jessica, who is sharing an often over looked and more intimate view of Gettysburg National Military Park, where she hikes often with her family. 

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Some Things to Know About Gettysburg National Military Park

Location: Gettysburg National Military Park, site of the American Civil War Battle of Gettysburg

Habitat: 5,989 acres of mature and maturing woodlands, agricultural fields, pastures and meadows

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: According to the National Parks website, Gettysburg National Military Park boasts 187 bird, 34 mammal, 17 reptile and 15 amphibian species documented to date. And, floral inventories have recorded 553 species of vascular plants, of which 410 are native.

We have seen white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits, black snakes, red efts, five-lined skinks and numerous bird species. We have also experienced a pair of black vultures perched on Big Round Top as well as the breathtaking butterfly display during ‘honeysuckle season.’

Special Features: The NPS reports over 2,300 acres of the park’s landscape are planted in crops, pasture, or meadows providing the visitor with a glimpse of the local agrarian lifestyle. Over 1,600 acres of woodlots and forested habitat comprise several successional communities, from mature oak/hickory to early scrub-shrub. Wetlands dot the landscape roughly totaling 148 acres of palustrine wetland and over 26 miles of associated riparian habitat.
We consider the area around Little Round Top and Devil’s Den our stomping ground. The huge rock formations and granite outcroppings of Devil’s Den provide serious climbing fun while also providing us with an occasional skink-sighting. A quick hop, skip and a jump across Sickles Avenue and we can spot lots of frogs, turtles and occasionally a water snake in Plum Run. We enjoy exploring the grassy meadow across from Devil’s Den as well as the forest habitat leading from the bottom of Little Round Top all the way up Big Round Top Hill. In the woodland area we’ve found a Luna Moth at rest, the crazy cool Giant Leopard Moth, too. There are dozens of neat fungi species to see, including my favorite discovery, Astraeus hygrometricus, more commonly known as earthstars.

Best Time to Visit: Gettysburg National Military Park is a great destination for nature lovers year-round. Obviously the park can become a bit crowded during the summer (especially during the July 1st-3rd anniversary), but we’ve found the hiking trails are much less-traveled. Fireflies put on a spectacular show in June, while the fall foliage is breathtaking in October and November. During any season and in virtually any weather, the battlefield and surrounding landscape is not to be missed!

Thank you for sharing with us, Jessica!

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Nature In Your Neighborhood

August 25, 2014

Nature In Your Neighborhood is a weekly feature that focuses on the nature that we all interact with in our everyday lives. Through the window of these posts you can catch glimpses of nature in action in locations across the country (and sometimes beyond). You are invited to add photos of your own nature finds for sharing here to the Mud Puddles to Meteors Flickr group. Please just remember to adjust your Flickr settings for sharing!

From the changing leaves on the biggest tree in the neighborhood to a tiny beetle scurrying across a sidewalk, we’d love to see what is happening in the natural world where you are.

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First Sign

First Sign by Dawn

Nova Scotia, Canada

Swallowtails in the Bergamot

Swallowtails by Corrie

Ontario, Canada

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beautiful sky by Heather

Arizona 

Tall, Tall Trees

Tall, Tall Trees by Chris

California

Spotted Maize Beetle, Astylus atromaculatus

Spotted Maize Beetle by Manequinho

Brazil

Thank you to our amazing contributors!

Starting next week we are going to change things up a bit for the Nature in You Neighborhood post. While it has been great to share lots of photos from all around each week, we would really like to share more of what individuals and families are seeing out there and hear a little bit about what happened.

Did you find a bug on the sidewalk and look it up in a guide book? Have you seen a mama or papa bird feeding babies? Are you seeing the seasons begin to change in your neighbourhood? Did you see some neat clouds and call out shapes? What questions did your kids ask when you found something out on your nature walk?

We would also love to highlight photos and descriptions from young naturalist out there. If your child would like to contribute a photo of what they found, and tell us a little about it, please encourage them to do so and we will spotlight them in a “Young Naturalist” post. (Don’t worry so much about photo quality. We would love to share their work!)

If you would like to contribute please either add a photo or two with a short description to the Flickr group, post it to the Facebook Group, or shoot us an email with your photo(s) and a few sentences about your experience at: kidsandnature (at) gmail (dot) com.

Please also include your location (your state or country is fine).

We are looking forward to sharing your nature finds and continuing to encourage families to look high and low for nature all around.

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Nature Around the Net

August 23, 2014

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This has been a busy week of editing the book and getting ready to send the manuscript off to the publisher for their first peek. You may have guessed that we are pretty excited about this! Our little book is growing up!

While mamas are writing, and teaching, and photographing, and doing all of the other things mamas do, our little ones have not stopped exploring. We found some fun things this week, did a bit of building, and planning for the season to come. We hope you enjoy a few of the links we found along the way.

  • As you can see from the photo above we found a whole lot of sea stars this week. This resulted in lots of questions about how they work. In seeking answers, we found a great overview of their anatomy in part 1 and part 2 of these dissection videos.
  • Want to head to the forest for some den building? Great inspiration and tips can be found here.
  • Is there a place near you where kids can build a tree house or fort?
  • While we are not pushing fall we are doing a bit of planning, and dipping colorful fall leaves in wax is on the agenda for the coming season!

Did you find any interesting nature links this week? Please share in the comments. Thanks so much!

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On the Shelf: Crab Moon.

August 22, 2014

 

Crab moon

This review originally appeared on Annie’s personal blog some number of summers ago. But it has been on our minds again lately, especially since beach season is starting to wind down for the year. It seemed more than worth sharing with you all, particularly because it is just so, so very good.

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There are a handful of books out there that I feel have truly captured the magic of summer better than any others.  Books like Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha.  Or Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe by Vera B. Williams.  Reliable favorites with beautiful illustrations and a story that rings true year after year.  New to us this summer, but certainly joining the group of summer standbys, is Crab Moon by Ruth Horowitz and Kate Kiesler.

Crab Moon is the story of a young boy and his summer vacation to a cabin on the Atlantic Coast.  When he and his mother realize that their stay at the cabin coincides with the “crab moon,” or the time when horseshoe crabs come ashore to lay their eggs, they plan a midnight excursion to the beach to watch the crabs come out of the water and onto the sand in droves.  The next morning, Daniel revisits the beach to find that the crabs have disappeared back into the ocean, with the exception of one lone crab who seems to be in need of a bit of help.  By providing this help, Daniel finds himself a small part of an ancient cycle that has origins in the time of dinosaurs.

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Crab Moon is an enchanting book with softly colored illustrations and I love that it ends with a page of factual information about horseshoe crabs and their important role in the global ecosystem.  I found that my daughter was especially interested in this information after reading the story and was incredibly pleased to find it included in the book.  Crab Moon does a wonderful job, not only of telling a lovely story about the cycles of life and the magic of summer and shared family experiences, but also of demonstrating the importance of each creature and each individual action, however small, in the preservation of the life that makes our world beautiful.

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velella 2

It is difficult to know where to begin when it comes to talking about these incredible, and undeniably strange, creatures. Velella, despite their resemblance to sea jellies, are actually something altogether different. And these beautiful, brilliantly blue creatures have been getting plenty of press lately because they have been washing up on Pacific beaches in great numbers over the course of this summer. Scientists are unsure what is causing velella to appear in such numbers, but suspect that it is part of a cyclical activity for these surface floating ocean animals. Whatever the case may be, it feels like finding the most unexpected of treasures to come upon these remarkable animals on the beach, and we couldn’t wait to share photos from a recent sighting on the Oregon Coast with you all here.

Read on to find out a bit more about velella as well as to download printable sheets of useful photos and information about them. Each Wednesday, check the bottom of the “What’s That?” post to find a PDF containing a fact sheet about the day’s featured item, as well as photographs and other resources ideal for using in a nature journal, research binder, or lap book.

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Some interesting things to know about velella (Velella velella):

- Velella velella is the only known species in the genus Velella.

- Each velella only appears to be a single animal. In reality, a velella is actually a colony of very small animals living and traveling together. These animals are sometimes referred to as “polyps.”

- Each velella colony is made of either all male or all female organisms.

- Velella are carnivores, primarily ingesting plankton that they capture using tentacles on the underside of the colony.

- Velella do use toxins in their tentacles for capturing prey, but these toxins are not dangerous to people.

- Velella are sometimes called sea raft jellies because of the way that they appear to have a sail on top.

- The sail atop each velella will align with the direction of the wind as they float on the ocean’s surface.

- There is some speculation that the mass stranding of velella on Pacific beaches this time of year is simply the result of the fact that they have no means of movement through the water other than their sail. This leaves them vulnerable to wind direction and being pushed ashore.

Click here to download the velella nature journal resource pages to use with your own family.

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Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

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Huishinish Point, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides (Scotland)

This week we welcome back Lisa, who took a beautiful trip with her family to a gorgeous area in Scotland. This wonderfully diverse region treated them to a variety of sea jellies, beetles, diving gannets, stunning views, and so much more. 

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Some interesting things to know:

Location: Huishinish Point, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Habitat: Beach, upland hills, hill loch and machair—one of the world’s rarest habitats, only to be found in the far northwest of Ireland and the northwestern Isles of Scotland. (Click here to learn more about the machair habitat.)

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: When we visited, blooms of several kinds of jellyfish decorated the sea waters. We found quite a few species of beetle in the machair, including a Scavenger Beetle. But our favourite was watching the gannets dive into the water at speeds of up to 70 mph as they fished in the waters between Huishinish and the island of Scarp.

Special Features: To access Huishinish, it’s a long and winding drive through some of Scotland’s most rugged and unspoilt countryside. En route, look out for the short, flat hike to the Eagle Observatory to spot some Golden Eagles, or just to take in the stunning scenery.
Once at Huishinish, keep an eye out for basking sharks, gannets, terns and other sea birds. Take a short circular hike around the point to the loch and find yourselves on a deserted beach, where the only footprints are made by sheep (please note that the path hugs a hillside and may be unsafe for very young or unsteady hikers). You’re likely to see broken down stone croft houses—a reminder of the Highland Clearances. And this year we were lucky enough to witness the local farmers shearing their sheep—using traditional hand shears.

Best time to visit: If you expect the weather to be changeable, you’ll never be disappointed in Scotland. Bring waterproofs and sun hats, midge spray and sun cream. Anytime is a good time to visit the Outer Hebrides, but to enjoy the wildflowers in the machair and good clear views, go in early to mid-summer.

 

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your amazing trip with us!

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Nature In Your Neighborhood

August 18, 2014

Nature In Your Neighborhood is a weekly feature that focuses on the nature that we all interact with in our everyday lives. Through the window of these posts you can catch glimpses of nature in action in locations across the country (and sometimes beyond). You are invited to add photos of your own nature finds for sharing here to the Mud Puddles to Meteors Flickr group. Please just remember to adjust your Flickr settings for sharing!

From the changing leaves on the biggest tree in the neighborhood to a tiny beetle scurrying across a sidewalk, we’d love to see what is happening in the natural world where you are.

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From the biggest clouds to the smallest spider, there was much to love in the Flickr group this week.

i cannot decide

Big sky by Siri

Montana

Woodland Skipper

Woodland Skipper by Ship Rock

British Columbia, Canada

Seeing Spots

Seeing spots by Chris

Georgia 

Driving in to Tisza-tó

green by Frank

Hungary

Caution,Human ahead.

Caution, Human ahead by Tom

Oregon

Orange

orange by Jessica

Pennsylvania 

barnacle face

Barnacle face by Megan

New Brunswick, Canada

An argiope spider in the garden.

Argiope spider by Nichole

Texas

Ouriço Pigmeu Africano, Headgehog, Atelerix albiventris

Hedgehog by Manequinho

Brazil

Grand Globe Snail, Mesodon normalis

Grand Globe Snail by Stephanie

Tennesse

Thank you to all of our contributors.

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Nature Around the Net

August 17, 2014

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We really had not intended to take three days off from this space, but life sometimes passes by and there are trips to take, book manuscripts to edit, and a whole lot of summer still calling to be to chased around. Hopefully you have all been getting out to take in a little dose of nature during the week. We have a few fun things to share today that might inspire to head out early, and stay out as long as possible in the week to come.

- We find a whole lot of nature loving eye candy at Project Noah.

- Whoa! This shot sent us on a mission to find out more. (You just never know what you are going to see out there!)

- A few very neat reasons to wake up early this week.

- Don’t click on this link if you have arachnophobia. Do click on it if you love insect photography (or at least have a slight interest in how some amazing images are created).

- Some of you are planning for the upcoming school year (either as teachers or homeschoolers) and we thought this would be a great thing to pencil in for the spring.

 

Have you discovered any nature articles or sites you would like to share? Please link up in the comments. Thanks!

 

P.S. We have a growing group of nature lovers over on Facebook if you are interested in sharing nature, learning about what others are finding, and getting help identifying your own nature finds. Come join us!

 

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Winged Ant Text

This time of year it is common to see creatures that look a whole lot like ants flying, or walking around with their wings protruding behind them. In fact, they are ants! As part of their lifecycle ant colonies produce winged members that will eventually take flight, mate, and go on to create new colonies. It is interesting to watch them, as they are often seen crawling along instead of flying. They are not strong flyers and typically wait to use their wings for a nuptial flight in which they mate and move on to the next phase of life, wingless. We had the chance to watch a large female ant precicly remove her wings and leave them behind; she had obviously mated and found a spot to create her new colony.

Read on to find out a bit more about Flying Ants as well as to download printable sheets of useful photos and information about them. Each Wednesday, check the bottom of the “What’s That?” post to find a PDF containing a fact sheet about the day’s featured item, as well as photographs and other resources ideal for using in a nature journal, research binder, or lap book.

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Some things to know about flying ants:

- Winged ants are simply ants that are produced as part of the ant lifecycle

- Both male and female ants can be winged: females are larger than males

- At certain times of year these ants swarm and mate in flight

- This mating time is known as a nuptial flight

- When a female mates she finds a spot to start a new colony and removes her wings

- After mating males die

- Flying ants are often mistaken as termites

- Key anatomy that helps to distinguish them from termites includes:

  • hinged antenna (termites have straight antenna)
  • forewings and hind wings are different sizes (termite wings are the same size)
  • a “waist” is noticeable between the thorax and abdomen (termites have straight body, and a head)

Resources:

This video shows both male and female winged ants, along with the non-winged members of their colony.

Our PDF making department was having some technical difficulties yesterday. The Flying Ant PDF will be coming soon!

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