Monday, September 20, 2010

Autumn Series #2 Bird Study: The Goose

Outdoor Hour button
This week we were very excited to get out and begin our first study from the autumn series.   First let me say how thankful I am to live in the beautiful Adirondack foothills.  I was born and raised here, and I still cannot get over the natural beauty that abounds in every view and facet of this place.  Just a few short miles from my home is the Moreau State Park.  This is where we started our study on geese.  Sadly in all the preparation and excitement I forgot my D90, so these images were taken with an iphone.  They hardly capture the glorious morning we had. . .

We began our study this morning by reading through the three year old version of a field guide that I made last night.  Here is how I made it.  I collected images of the Canada goose on the web and matched them with watered down text from The Handbook of Nature Study  and the suggested  The boys loved this activity.  They are both familiar with this goose as we spend  much time on a lake where several make their home.  They really loved the pictures of the goslings and remembered seeing some last spring.

After the baby's nap we headed over to the park in search of the geese.  We often see the iconic "V" flying over our house from Moreau, so I was sure that we would find some geese there.   When we arrived at the lake I was a bit nervous as I could see no evidence of the birds.  There are three ponds located in the park, so I decided we would hike around one that is less traveled in hopes of finding our geese.  

The hike was a bit challenging for two three year olds.  Even though my mom was with us the complaining started to set in.  "Please carry me....this is too hard... that is too high..."   It got a bit worse after they fell on a few roots and the reeds were too high to see over.  I found myself praying that these boys would not have a poor experience their first time out on a formal nature study.  Of course I was blaming myself for being overly ambitious with three little ones.  At that moment there was a break in the reeds.  I peered through to the pond and saw a beautiful sight.  Five Canada geese swimming. The Lord is so faithful!   

I whispered to the crew to come and take a look.  We scurried across the dead logs and broken down reeds to get a closer look.  Of course with all the noise the geese started to head toward the center of the pond, but we were able to get a good look.  We also spotted several female mallards and a Blue Heron.  I was thrilled.   We discussed a bit comparing ducks and geese.  We talked about how a male goose is called a gander.   As we walked back to the trail we could hear the geese honking in the distance.

We were able to again observe the geese swimming around a beaver lodge.  (I was a bit disappointed I didn't have my zoom.)   You can barely make them out if you look.  The lodge is obvious and a fantastic place to study beaver as well.   We will be back for that.

We also discovered some snails or mollusk of some sort.  We need to look them up in our guide.  The boys enjoyed handling them after I plucked them up out of the warm water.
They were knocking on the door of the shell to have the animal come out.  After there was no response we placed them back in their natural habitat.  I am sure we will be back visiting them next time.

When we returned home we did several follow up activities.  The first was a simple construction paper puzzle I made of the anatomy of the Canada goose.  The boys worked with my mom to identify and place the parts correctly.

Then they were able to color their journal of the Canada goose with the correct colors.....

or so I thought!  We ended up with a very colorful goose or two.  Oh well.  We really learned a ton and had a fantastic time.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Autumn Series #1 - Beware of Caterpillars

Outdoor Hour button
The boys spend a lot of time outside exploring and investigating.  It is not unusual for them to approach me as I am working in the garden a half dozen times with all kinds of insects, flowers, and rocks to identify.  Even though they are only three, I have taken their enthusiasm as a cue to begin a more formalized study.  I had discovered The Outdoor Hour last year, and have decided that now is the time for us to give it a whirl.

The first lesson in the series is really a getting your feet wet, sharpening observation skills, and discussing and recording findings.  I decided that it would be a good idea to let the boys investigate "as usual" and do next week's lesson more formalized.  They decided to use their sense of touch to discover the Hickory Tussock Moth.

hickory tussock moth, Lophocampa caryae  (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae)

This fuzzy white and black caterpillar loves to feed on hardwoods such as Hickory, Pecan, and Walnut Trees.  They also feed on  Ash, Elm, Oak ,and Willow.  The fuzz on this caterpillar is irresistible to a three year old.  Unfortunately the "fuzz" is actually hairlike setae that causes an itchy rash in some people.  "Some people" would include both of my boys.  Within minutes of their investigation they were both crying and covered with hives.  "I" actually ended up with swollen hands that look like the Michelin man's.  The swelling has lasted about three days.  Needless to say they have learned an important lesson in nature study.  Beware of caterpillars with all the extra fuzz, be sure not to touch unless you know it is safe, and when in doubt ask mom.

By the next day the boys were back at their investigating.  They have not been slowed down at all, but are definitely more mindful of what they touch.  We are really looking forward to the bird study next week.