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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Can woolly bear caterpillars really predict winter weather?

Woolly Bear-1

This week we went on a hike along the rails-trail here in Nova Scotia and came across a woolly bear caterpillar. Talk of it’s large orange band led to discussions about the tales of woolly bears and winter weather predictions.  Dylan, age 8, was particularly interested in the validity of these claims because according to this fellow, with that wide band, our winter should be mild and that did not sit well with the snow loving boy. We did some research to find out exactly how accurate woolly bears can be in their meteorological forecasts. It turns out, they are not very accurate at all!

Woolly bear banding has more to do with the age and species of the caterpillar, and possibly the previous spring weather, than what is in store.

Read on here and here to find out more about the famous woolly bear.

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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Butterfly-1 Feather-1

As many of you may have gathered from the hints dropped here and there, there is a lot of activity behind the scenes here in Mud Puddles land. After months of writing, photographing, and revising, we recently submitted the manuscript for our upcoming book to our lovely editor at Roost Books. Having accomplished something that seemed like such a huge undertaking when we first began feels pretty fantastic, actually, and we are really looking forward to the day when we can hold the hard copy book in our hot little hands. And, we are in the beginning stages of putting together a seasonal digital magazine of sorts that we plan to launch sometime this fall. It will be filled with all sorts of ideas for nature exploration, hands-on science activities, and bringing appreciation of the natural world into the fold of daily life at your house. More on that to come!

There has also been a lot of growth in the Mud Puddles Facebook group, with new folks joining pretty much every day lately, sometimes by the handful. The discussions about who is finding what sorts of interesting and exciting evidence of the way the natural world works where they live have been fun to follow, and if you haven’t yet, we would definitely encourage you to get on board. You can find the group here.

So, this brings us to the point of this little post. In growing the Mud Puddles community through new projects and platforms, we want to make sure that we keep our overarching goal of connecting families to nature through everyday life in mind. One way that we hope to do this in the coming months is by beginning the practice of sending out a monthly newsletter to our readers with interesting information about seasonal opportunities for nature exploration and appreciation. We will also use the newsletter to announce news related to the Mud Puddles magazine, and of course, our book. We’d love to add each and every one of you to our mailing list, so if you could take just a few seconds to enter your email in the “subscribe” box to the right of this post, that would be fantastic. You can also email us at kidsandnature@gmail.com to have your email added manually.

Additionally, we would love to know more about what our little site can do for you and share with you to inspire you and and yours to get outside and explore. Do you wish that we did more of a certain kind of post? Are there particular topics you’d like to see covered? We began this site with the hope that a community would grow here, and that families visiting would find it a valuable resource for raising their kids to be nature enthusiasts. So tell us how we can help! Please leave a comment on this post telling us what you like about Mud Puddles, what you hope to see in the future, what kinds of things you and your kids would like to have available for reading, research, and resources.

Help us make this a home on the Interwebs for nature loving families everywhere!

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Jewelweed Text

It has been a bit since we featured a plant here on a Wednesday, and given the fact that fall is in full swing across North America (with winter soon to follow!) this seems like as good a time as any. Enjoy the green while you still can, folks! Jewelweed, despite being named after plants that are less favored (oh, the poor maligned weed!), jewelweed is actually a useful and beautiful plant.

Read on to find out a bit more about jewelweed as well as to download printable sheets of useful photos and information about it. 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.

Touch me not 4-1Touch me not 3-1Touch me not 6-1Touch me not 5-1

Things to Know About Jewelweed:

- Jewelweed is an annual plant that grows in eastern North America.

- It prefers moist habitats and can often be found growing next to creeks or small channels of flowing water, usually in the shade.

- The flowers hang down like jewels, giving the plant it’s common name.

- Jewelweed is also known as “touch-me-not” because of the way the seed pods explode when touched, spreading seeds as they shoot out of the pod. But they are actually great fun to play with and every opportunity should be taken to touch or pinch a pod to enjoy the experience!

- Spotted Touch-Me-Nots (those pictured here) are used to treat poison ivy and can often (but not always) be seen growing near poison ivy.

Information about using jewelweed as a medicinal herb can be found here.

 Click here to download the jewelweed nature journal resource pages to print out and use at your house!

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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). 

………

This week we welcome 13 year-old Milo who lives in Maine. While exploring at the Kettle Bog Boardwalk at the Hidden Valley Nature Center in Jefferson, Maine he took some wonderful photos and made some keen observations of purple pitcher plants.

From Milo:

IMG_2336 IMG_2339 IMG_2340

“The pitcher plant is a curious beast. Unlike most plants, this little bugger gets its energy from insects that get trapped in its leaves and are digested by mosquito larvae. A wasp was tempting fate by venturing into the deeper recesses of the plant, but got out safely. This is because the pitcher plant’s method for capturing prey is extremely terrible.”

 

Thank you for sharing your amazing photos and sharp observations Milo!

Milo’s mom, Andrea, has a lovely blog where she shares their nature adventures and so much more!

 

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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Nature Around the Net

September 13, 2014

Wild Beach Rose-1

While there are  fall leaves peeking out here and there,

we were happy to spy a few wild beach roses blooming on by the seashore,

nestled among the bright red hips they will soon become.

 

We found some fun things around the net this week, from learning outside to bringing the outside in for craft and play, this season holds many activities for nature lovers.

- We really like this new take on art with fall leaves.

- A Classroom with No Walls: The Power of Outdoor Learning. Yes!

- Have you been on the lookout for Monarch butterflies? This chart shows peak Monarch migration dates by latitude to help you out. (This handy map can help figure out if you are along a migration route.)

- This idea has inspired us to try the same with nature materials woven through the yarn.

- If you have thought about a hammock check out this great review.

- This is a sweet, creative and very fun looking leaf craft!

 

Have you found any great nature inspired links this week? Please share in the comments!

 

P.S. The Mud Puddles to Meteors Facebook Group is really starting to grow and it has become a wonderfully active group of nature lovers from all around. If you are on FB pop in and join up!

 

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Salamander Hold Text

Salamanders! It is a rare creature around our house that inspires the kind of enthusiasm and an excitement that these fellows do. Salamanders are intriguing little creatures that are often found when we are rummaging around the forest floor, turning leaves, rocks or logs. They never seem to loose their appeal, and each time one is found it is like reliving the first encounter all over again.

Read on to find out a bit more about Salamanders 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.

Salamander Exam

Yellow-spotted Salamander

z sal baby

Some Things to Know About Salamanders: 

- Salamanders are amphibians, like toads and frogs.
- Some people confuse salamanders with lizards, which are reptiles.
- Adult salamanders are typically found on land.
- Most salamanders lay eggs in water and have aquatic larvae (baby salamanders that live in water), but not all.
- The Eastern Red-back Salamander and the Four-toed Salamander, are examples of salamanders that lay eggs on land and develop without the aquatic larvae stage.
- Salamander aquatic larvae look a lot like frog tadpoles but they have external feathery gills on the sides of their head.
- They can be found in moist habitats, such as under leaf-litter or rotting logs, because their skin must stay moist in order for them to breathe.
- Salamanders find their food by sight and smell.
- They eat things like earthworms, insects, slugs, spiders and other invertebrates.
- They are prey of small mammals, birds and snakes.
- Salamanders can drop their tails and regrow them. They can also regenerate limbs that have been injured.

Resources: 

- This is a great graphic of the salamander life cycle with an aquatic larvae.

- Here is a neat look at salamander eggs that have been laid on land.

Click here to download the salamander nature journal pages for use at your house!

 

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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). 

………

Wendy regularly contributes photos of her encounters with wildlife in Texas to our Flickr group and recently she shared a photo taken by her 11 year-old son, Michael. He is an aspiring photographer and we think he is well on his way.

Today Michael is sharing a close encounter he observed between a praying mantis and a hummingbird!

From Michael:

Attacks Hummingbirds taken by Michael in Texas

“I got out of the pool and was watching this small Praying Mantis on the Hummingbird feeder. A Hummingbird came up to feed and the Praying Mantis attacked it. Feathers flew but the Hummingbird was okay. I was shocked that the Praying Mantis would attack a Hummingbird.”

Thank you to Michael and Wendy for sharing!

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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Project: Story Sticks

September 4, 2014

Story sticks TEXT

We have a lot of fun making up stories around here and are always looking for fun ways to add story builders to our supply kit. When we saw garden markers made from sticks we thought that it would be great fun to make up a set of story words with some fallen sticks we had gathered in the yard. (It was also a great chance for a little someone to work on his whittling skills with his new pocket knife!)

The supplies are super simple: 

Sticks

Fine sharpie or other fine black pen

Pocket knife

Story Sticks 3-1

What you do: 

Simply cut the sticks to the desired length and cut the bark off of one end to create a flat surface for writing. (If you want to get double duty out of your sticks you can cut a writing spot at both ends for even more words to play with!)

Decide if you want to use totally random words or stay with a theme.

Write a word on each stick and place them in a jar.

That’s it! Now you are ready to play and build some stories!

Story Sticks 1-1

Some Ideas:

Pick 5 sticks at random and use all five words in one short story.

Choose sticks one at a time and follow that order using one stick word for each sentence in the story.

Have each person pick a few sticks and go around a circle building a story together, each person adding a sentence using one of their words.

 

Do you have any other ideas for using story sticks? Please share in the comments!

 

P.S. This would be an awesome activity to do while camping!

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summits disease text

This is admittedly strange, gross and totally fascinating all at the same time. The phenomena known as Summits Disease is actually the process by which a fungi enters the body of a fly and takes over in the most bizarre of fashions to control the fly and motivate it to climb to a “summit” nearby! We first noticed these flies on the tall grass around our garden years ago but had no idea what could have caused them to simply die on the end of a head of grass.

Read on to find out a bit more about Summits Disease as well as to download printable sheets of useful photos and information about it. 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.

dead fly 2-1Dead fly 1-1dead fly 6-1

 

Some Interesting Things to Know About Summits Disease:

- The particular fungi that causes summits disease, Entomophthora muscae is almost exclusive to flies, and therefore cannot infect humans.

- There are many different types of fungi that impact different species of insects. (See BBC resource below)

- Flies come in contact with the fungi when the spores become airborne.

- Once on the fly the fungi works into the body.

- It eventually controls the flies movements, causing it to climb a nearby plant and extend it’s wings.

- At this point the flies dies and the fungi releases it’s spores.

- The spores are then spread on the wind to other flies or the ground nearby and the cycle begins again.

More Resources: 

This blog was particularly helpful in first learning about the fungi.

There is a more detailed explanation of the fungi and how it works here.

This phenomena lead to lots of questions about “zombie bugs” at our house, naturally. This clip from the BBC Planet Earth is amazing.

Photos of other flies impacted by the fungi can be found here.

 

A PDF for this post will be forthcoming. It has been a very busy few weeks for both of us but now that our book manuscript has been sent in (yay!), school has started and Annie is adjusting to life back in the classroom and I, Dawn, am hitting a new stride with the homeschooling year kicking off, hopefully everything will find a place in our schedules soon and we will get back to regular posting and things like making super neat and helpful PDF’s! Thanks for hanging in there with us!

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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). 

………

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:

Photo 30-08-2014 11 08 31

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!

Photo 30-08-2014 09 18 31

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.

Photo 30-08-2014 09 18 20

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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