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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Victoria Park (Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada)

We recently went camping and attended the Nova Scotia Bluegrass Festival in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia. While the intent of the trip was to listen to a whole lot of great bluegrass music (which we did), we also wanted to explore some nature while we were there. One place we had heard a lot of amazing things about, and really wanted to see, was just minutes from where we were camped. One evening the kids and I took off to Victoria Park to see just what all the fuss was about and we were not disappointed. We traveled through town, parked next to the play structures and band stand, walked across a wide expanse of manicured grass to the forest – then found ourselves entering a magical land as we wondered the wooded paths, stairways, and trails. This is a spot we will return to again and again.

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Some Interesting Things to Know

Location: Victoria Park, in the heart of Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada

Habitat: 400 acres of mixed woodland forest and gorge with riparian zones

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: We spotted many squirrels and birds during our visit. (One local birder has submitted a list of almost 50 birds they have identified in the park.) There were many wildflowers blooming along the waterways, and the first mushrooms were starting to pop up along the wooded trails. We even spotted some indian pipe growing on a slope – it is always exciting to see this unique plant.

Special Features: This park features two wonderful waterfalls accessible by well maintained trails. You can also find many beautiful wooden walkways, wells, a covered bridge extending over the gorge, and the amazing 175- step Jacob’s Ladder, which takes you right up a steep slope to enjoy stunning views. There are also neat geologic features in the gorge and along the trails.

Best Time to Visit: We have only been in summer, but I imagine the falls would be stunning in spring when the snow starts to melt and in fall with the mix forest changing and giving a beautiful display of fall colors.

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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.

………

Our week off from this here little blog of ours was super productive and filled with projects and writing for the book. We are beyond excited to see it all coming together and can’t wait to share more about the book with you all soon!

We are a bit slow getting a post up this morning (working out the blogger cobwebs), but are exciting to jump back into blogging with these amazing photos by our Flickr group contributors; they really show off the diversity of summer around North America and beyond.

wildflower from 'drive to the top of the world'

Wildflower from the top of the world by Wendy

Oregon 

Too Small for Sunflower Seeds

Too Small for Sunflower Seeds by Chris

Kentucky 

never lose your sense of wonder

never loose your sense of wonder by Kristy

British Columbia, Canada

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Chip by KtLaurel

Ontario, Canada

Liturgusidae

Camouflage Mantis by João

Brazil

The land that just keeps on giving...Idaho

The land that just keeps on giving… Idaho by Hannah

Idaho

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Skiing in July by Siri

Montana

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Bridge by Meryl

Kansas 

Thanks again to our wonderful contributors. Be sure to click on over to the group to check our more of the amazing photos and nature finds being added to the group.

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Book Break

July 21, 2014

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Many of you know we are writing and photographing a book for Roost Books and we could not be more thrilled about the project. We have been very busy working on finishing up projects, writing up introductions, and throwing lots of cool nature science into the mix to inspire families to not only get outdoors, but to understand a bit more about what’s happening out there. And now here we are on the homestretch, with the manuscript deadline right around the corner.

We have decided to take a blog break this week to focus on book work. (It is insanely fun work, but work none-the-less.)

Next week we will be back with lots of great nature to share.

In the meantime, get out there and have a wonderful, nature-filled week of summer!

~ Dawn & Annie

 

P.S. You will still be able to find Dawn on Instagram (She is a bit addicted. Shhhh!)

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Nature Around the Net

July 19, 2014

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There are so many fun and informative things out there around the net. We curated a few to share with you here today.

- Summer bird migration. Oh, yes.

- Is our solar system weird? (The video in this post reads through the article.)

- Have a young herpetologist at your house? They should check out this site.

- “Salamanders Matter” video contest! (entries due July 31st!)

If you have found anything nature related you would like to share please leave a link in the comments.

You can even share link to your own blog. We would love to see what you have been learning and where you have been exploring.

Wishing you all a great weekend!

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volcano7

There has been some chat in the Facebook group lately about the idea of getting a little more personal with the geological sciences. We couldn’t agree more (especially Dawn) and thought that as a bit of a beginning, we’d post this activity from the Alphabet Glue Summer Science Special that we collaborated on last summer. Read on to get instructions for making a great backyard volcano, made even more fantastic by the fact that it is built out of one of the ingredients that makes for an awesome explosion- baking soda!

Here goes:

There are entire generations of people out there who were introduced to the wonders of basic chemical reactions through the reliable science experiment/party trick that is the
baking soda and vinegar volcano. And, with good reason. From the planning stages to the final eruption, the process of constructing a volcano out of clay and then simulating lava flow with ingredients commonly found in the kitchen cupboard is a compelling one. Plus, it pretty much never fails to produce superbly entertaining results.

In an attempt to take this old favorite one step further, the volcano itself is getting a bit of a makeover here. The baking soda and vinegar combination already works so well when poured into the volcano that we thought it might be good fun to see what happens when the
volcano itself is made of some of the same stuff. So, the first part of this activity is
composed of mixing up a batch of baking soda based modeling clay which then becomes the building material for molding your mountain. The resulting eruption is made all that much better by the fact that you can add vinegar again and again, and still get a bit more action out of the volcano before declaring it dormant and moving on to your next project. 

what you will need:

- 2 cups + 3 Tbs. baking soda
- 1 cup cornstarch
- water
- white vinegar (at least 1/4 cup)
- 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap
- pot
- spoon
- a few drop of cooking oil
- a piece of cardboard (optional)
- a plate or pie tin
- paint (optional)
- food coloring (optional)

what you will do:

clay

Start by making the clay. Begin by pouring the water into a saucepan set over
medium heat on the stove. Whisk in the baking soda, and once it is smoothly
incorporated into the water, add the
cornstarch, continuing to whisk to avoid lumps. Using a spoon, continue to stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens and resembles a soft clay.

Turn the clay out onto a lightly oiled plate, and allow it to cool.

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Once the clay is cool enough to touch, use it to form your volcano! The volcano can be any shape or height that you like. Just make sure to leave a deep well in the middle of the volcano for holding the ingredients for your chemical reaction later on.

Once you have shaped your volcano, allow the clay to dry overnight. At this point, you can move it to the piece of cardboard and paint or otherwise decorate it however you like.

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Now for the really exciting bit- it’s time to erupt the volcano!

To get this portion of the program going, pour about 1/4 cup water into a bowl or glass measuring cup. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of baking soda, the 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap, and add any food coloring that you want to use. Place your volcano inside a baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet.

Now, pour the baking soda solution into the well in the center of your volcano.

Measure out 1/4 of vinegar to begin with, and pour it into the well of the volcano as well. The result should be immediate “lava” flow in all directions!

As the lava begins to slow down, you should be able to get it going again by simply pouring additional vinegar into the well.

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What’s at work: When the baking soda and the vinegar are mixed together, a chemical reaction takes place. This reaction produces carbon dioxide, which creates the bubbles that become the “lava” in the erupting volcano. The dish soap helps to provide extra foam and to strengthen the bubbles, making for an extra exciting volcano eruption experience!

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Spittlebug text

Although they are tiny, spittlebugs are easy to locate because of the trail of spittle they leave foaming up on plants in the garden and along meadow trails. Recently, we were out on a rainy day and found some of the spittle had washed away to reveal the tiny little nymphs hiding underneath. Quite a fun find!

Read on to find out a bit more about spittlebugs 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 Spittlebugs:

- Spittlebugs are immature froghoppers.

- There are approximately 850 species worldwide and 23 species known in North America.

- The meadow froghopper (Philaenus spumarius) is one of the most common.

- Adults lay eggs on a host plant. These eggs overwinter and hatch in the spring.

- Nymphs create a frothy “spittle” that looks like spit by secreting water and air to make bubbles.

- The spittle protects the nymphs from predators.

- More than one nymph may be found in a batch of spittle.

- They go though incomplete metamorphosis, molting approximately 5 times before reaching adulthood.

Other Resources: 

- This is a neat video showing a nymph creating spittle.

Click here to download the spittlebug 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!

……….

Rhossili Beach and South Gower Coast (Wales)

This week we are welcoming Lisa, who is sharing wonderful spot in Wales. Not only did Lisa and her family have the chance to take in some amazing views, but they also had some great close encounters with wonderful nature finds!

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Some interesting things to know:
Location: Rhossili Beach and South Gower Coast, Gower Peninsula, near Swansea, Wales
Habitat: Beach and lowland heath
Favorite Plant and Animal Life: We were delighted to find Six-Spot Burnet Moths and their pupal cases, crab moults, sea urchin tests and cuttle fish bones. Gulls and gannets circle overhead. The downs are home to the rare black bog ant, yellow whitlow grass and one of my favorite endangered birds, the chough.
Special Features: Although you might want to head straight for the unspoilt 3 mile beach, it’s work delaying the beach in favour of a hike. After a short but stiff climb, walk along the Rhossili Downs, the highest point on the Gower Peninsula rewards hikers with views of Welsh mountain ponies, the Devon coastline, Lundy Island and West Wales. Towards the end of the hike, experience a bit of World War II history by taking in the remains of a hill-side radar station. Once at the beach, at low tide you might see the remains of the Helvetia, shipwrecked in 1887. You can take a walk toward the tidal island of Worm’s Head and see if you can spot the local colony of grey seals and finish off with a locally-made scoop of ice cream in one of the small local shops.
Best time to visit: Rhossili can be very busy in the summer with busloads of tourists disembarking in the large car park. Escape the crowds by walking along the downs, visiting early in the morning or later in the evening or bringing your kite for a springtime or autumn adventure on the beach.

Thank you for sharing your amazing time along the shore, Lisa!

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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.

………

Another week of amazing photos that show summer in full swing! Enjoy!

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along the rails to trails by Siri

Montana

Planet Universe.

Planet Universe by Tom

Oregon

Polly's Cove

Polly’s Cove by Dawn

Nova Scotia, Canada

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resurrection pass by Joni

Alaska 

other colors from above

other colors from above by ktLaurel

Quebec, Canada

 

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down by Meryl

Kansas 

peaceful

peaceful by Leanne

Saskatchewan, Canada 

Monarch

Monarch by Kim

California

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe by Ship Rock

British Columbia, Canada

Walking Up To  Meall Garbh - Glen Lyon

Walking Up To Meall Garbh by Katie

Scotland

 Thank you to our generous contributors.

Please head over to the group to see more amazing photos from this week.

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Nature Around the Net

July 12, 2014

Morning Calm

From buzzing bees to fun fungi, here are some links to kick off the weekend!

- The first of three summer supermoons will rise tonight!

- This is a neat look at how honey is made, and harvested at the industrial level.

- Have a young botanist in the house? They might like the information found in Smithsonian Educations: Botany & Art and Their Roles in Conservation.

- Lisa’s “mushrooms are cool” board is a fantastic feast of fungi!

If you have come across something interesting that you would like to share please leave a link in the comments. Thank you!

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Nature Defined.

July 11, 2014

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