Monday, February 14, 2011

Winter Challenge #6 Weed Walk/Animal Tracks

Over the River and Through the Wood by Lydia Marie Child: Book Cover

This morning we woke up to a house without power.  I had plans of doing our nature study down by the stream that is next to our house.  Instead we gathered our things and went "Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house..."  If you haven't see this book it is worth a gander.  We do quite literally go over the Hudson River and through the woods of the lower Adirondacks to get to my mother's house.  She lives right at the base of Lake George. It is located in a small hollow surrounded by mountains.  There is always a plethora of wildlife when we visit.


When I looked at the weed study I wasn't sure how we would do it.  We have a heavy blanket of snow cover.  I realized that I just wasn't looking close enough.  Along the gullies and wet areas the weeds are still there.  As we walked down my mother's road, we were able to see a few weeds.


We really didn't notice any changes in them since the late fall.

What was most captivating for us today were the tracks.  It is balmy weather for us.  In the 40s.   This allowed us to spend quite a bit of time outside investigating the tracks that we found in the snow.  First I will show you the pictures and have you guess what each one is.  Then I will share with you what we thought made the tracks.

1.
2.
3.
4.
 5.
6. 

Numbers 1 and 3  we believe are a fox.  Number 3 was taken at the end of the trail of number 1.  

Number 2 leads to a grove of apple trees.  At first we thought it might be a fox trail, but the trail sways more than it stays in a line.  So we think it might be from a deer that was walking.  We are not sure.  Number 5 is a deer that was bounding.  It is harder to make out due to the fact that the tracks were older.  Those we could even tell were from a doe.  My mother said that the doe track does not have the back point.  

Number 4 are rabbit tracks.  We found this near the tracks.  It is much easier when there is other "evidence."   

Number 6 is a mystery track.  Let us know if you can identify them.  

These cards were a nice help in identifying what we found.  http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/nature/trackcard.shtml

Monday, February 7, 2011

Winter Challenge #5 Pine Tree Study

Outdoor Hour button

Well the snow finally came off the roof.  We all breathed a sigh of relief.  Our news here in upstate New York has been littered with reports of barn, house, and even a sports dome roof collapsing.  The good news is that the weather has been a bit warmer, in the 30's, which is perfect weather for the outdoor hour.  This week we are focusing on pine trees.

Last fall we collected a number of pinecones for the compare and contrast study, so we knew right where we wanted to go.   We bundled up, packed the camera and sleds and headed to Crandall Park.  Crandall Park is an old park in the city of Glens Falls.  The park was originally created by Henry Crandall a local lumberman and entrepreneur.  I believe it was built in the late 1800s.

The trees on the property vary in age, but it has been what I call "clean-out" forest for a long time.  There is very little brush and it has the dim lighting of a mature forest.  I have very fond memories of playing there as a child, and hope that my children will build there own memories there.
Even in the cold of winter, the faint smell of pine needles permeate the air.  We were able to walk on the snow, due to the fact that we had some freezing rain.  It created that crust that make it much easier to navigate without snowshoes.


We all laid down in the snow beneath an Eastern White Pine.  We soaked in the silence, waited and watched for any animal activity.  We saw nothing by the beautiful  presence of these tall giants.  It was delightful.


Here is the view look up....how fun.  

When we got up the boys collected needles from the Eastern White Pine and a Norway Spruce.  Here is a picture of that tree.  All of the pinecones were buried under the snow.  
We grabbed the sleds from the car and took a few runs down the hill.  One of the shots will give you the perspective on how large these trees are.  That is a wrapped trunk in the background.  
On our way out of the park we spotted some woodpecker 
holes that the boys found interesting.  



When we returned home we did a bit of a compare and contrast between the Norway Spruce and the Eastern White Pine.   Here is what we found. 

Norway Spruce                                      White Pine
individual needles                                needles in clusters of 5
curved needles                                      straight needles
3/4 inch needle length                       2 inch needle length
strong pine smell                                  faint pine smell
light green color                                   light green color
The boys created rubbings of each of the needles on their notebook page.


I had made field guides in the fall for our pinecone study, so I dug those out of our portfolio boxes for today's work. We looked up the Norway Spruce and Eastern White Pine for our final reference of the day.




Thursday, February 3, 2011

Winter Challenge #4 Tree Silhouettes

Outdoor Hour button






I usually blog on Monday, but this week we went up to our cottage in the Adirondacks for a few days.  It is a bit of a media fast staying up there.  I love it.  There is nothing like being away from the usual distractions to bring family close to one another.  When we packed up I was sure to bring the copy of our "Handbook" to complete this week's nature study.

A lake is a great place for observing tree silhouettes.  It is so rare to be able to get far enough away from a tree to appreciate it true shape.  We have several favorite trees that we enjoy during the summer, so I knew that the winter view would allow us much opportunity to complete this week's challenge.

First we bundled up and hiked out onto the ice.  It was a special treat to have Dada with us this week.   The first tree we observed is right in front of our cottage.
This maple, dusted with snow, reaches it branches out and up to the sky.  I asked the boys to use their shadow on the ice to make the branch shape with their arms.

This really got them thinking about the shapes of what they were seeing.

The next tree we noticed is one of my favorites.  It is a pine that leans out over the lake.  The boys recognized that its branches are more out than up.  They also noted that the tree has needles.  We talked about the word "conifer."


On a hill we spotted some white birch trees.  

We also found these tracks.  "I" immediately said it had to be a cat or fox.  We recently read the book How to be a Nature Detective.  


How to Be a Nature Detective (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science)
This book does an excellent job of teaching how to identify tracks in the snow.  I was so pleased that we can apply our knowledge out in the field!  


The last tree we looked at was right in our yard.  It is a flowering crab apple, but has a very interesting shape.  It has been pruned to be almost bonsai-like.  

Back inside I had each of the boys select a tree to sketch.  Both chose to draw the pine tree.  



We also looked at some of the twigs that we collected from the walk.  
Here are out final drawings.