Buck Moths, and Black Bugs, and Deer Tracks Oh My!

Well, we were wrong about winter being here. It was 68 degrees today.

The kids decided they wanted to hike to Sugarloaf. So, most of our day was spent with the boys "hiding" in the forest and me saying "Oh my, where did they go?". Then they would jump out, scare me, and then run ahead on the trail where the antics would start again! 

It was so much fun!

They also had fun leading the way to Sugarloaf. They knew that Sugarloaf starts with an "S"so they would stop at each sign, look for the word that started with an "S", then go in the direction of the arrow closest to the letter "S". We ate our peanut butter and honey sandwiches and oranges by one of the signs.

Of course we also stopped whenever someone found something AMAZING to look at!

The first thing we found were Buck Moths. Some were curled up and resting on the branches of Live Oak and Turkey Oak trees. There were just a few of them flying around when we started on the trail, but by the end of the day there were hundreds of them!

Why are there so many moths flying during the day? 

We also found two moths that had recently emerged from their cocoons. Their wings were little and their bodies were fat, but they sure could move! It was fun to watch them drag their bodies up the boys arms.

Another fun discovery along the way was a big black bug, which we do not know the name of. This bug loved to crawl all over the boys then all of a sudden it would fly off! The boys had to watch closely and use their tracking skills to know where it landed. They enjoyed observing the bug for quite some time. Then we were off to Sugarloaf!

Farther down the trail we found deer prints. The boys did their very best to follow that deer, but when they lost its trail, they decided to draw in the sand and make sand angels. Brett didn't want to get dirty today, so he chose to make sand angels on his belly rather than on his back.

At some point we made it to Sugarloaf where the boys ran up and down the hill over and over, then they settled in at the edge of the water where they used team work to get some big "stick boats" into the water. 

When it was time to go back to the truck, I made piles of pine straw which the boys would run and jump over like little Olympic hurdlers! 

They both fell asleep on the way home!

I think Winter is here!

It was cold today, about 40 degrees. Good thing we have awesome gear that keeps kids warm no matter how the kids choose to play on cold days!

The rain from earlier this week created the big puddle in the parking lot and it filled in the little puddle all the way to the top! Throwing rocks is always fun and such a great workout for little shoulder and back muscles!

After throwing rocks, we went right down to the river. There was so much sea foam to play in and jump over! I told the boys that their muscles will probably be bigger tomorrow after all the jumping and throwing they have done today! They also played in the Marsh Muck today. They'd get their boots really dirty then wash them off in the river.

Along with the Marsh Muck, they had fun playing in the sand. There were lots of really beautiful "sand trees" etched into the sand from the little rivulets of water running down the beach. Brett and Aksel made their own sand art. They used a large black rock to top it off.

Today's lunch was bagels with strawberry cream cheese and strawberries which the boys had fun turning into finger puppets! Then the boys jumped, crawled, ran, and laughed all the way back to the truck.

It is always a great day when you live by a beautiful river!

We're following the leader, the leader, the leader . . .

Brett was the leader today and he led us down some animal trails. In some spots, we had to duck low to make it through, but the fun was worth the effort! We found 4 piles of poop that appeared to be from the same type of animal and it had berries in it. Whoa!! The boys thought that was cool! But the poop was very different. The first pile was moldy with mold that looked a lot like hair! The second pile was very dry and the next two piles looked wet! An animal must have just left these piles behind!! Are we going to find an animal on this trail? 

We stopped in a warm, peaceful place for lunch today. There were lots of trees and it was fun to see the sun stream through the branches while their leaves would float to the ground. On occasion, the wind would pick up a lot of leaves would fall all at once. We collected some leaves for a nature art project we are working on to give to our families for Christmas. No pictures until after Christmas!

After lunch we found a cold little Carolina Anole on a leaf. We gently picked him up. He had no problem with us holding him. We think he may have liked our warm hands. Then the boys climbed some trees and balanced on the rocking log.

Brett, you're a great leader! Thanks for a fun day!


Swamp Day

A warm (63 degree) day started out in the swamp. That's where Brett wanted to play! How deep is the water? We used a stick to measure water depth in different areas. Aksel went in a little too deep before we measured the water and water poured in over the top of his boots. That's ok!

The boys found a fallen tree with roots sticking up that were still covered in dirt. One of the boys would stand on the top of the roots and stomp so the other boy could watch the dirt fall down from in between the roots and "plip plop" drop into the water below.

Brett discovered some worms sticking out of a tree. With a closer investigation we discovered that the "worms" were actually little strands of tightly packed saw dust. Why is there so much saw dust here? We noticed some holes in the tree trunk and concluded that something must have burrowed into the wood . . . but what was it?

When the boys were done playing in the swamp, we walked just a few yards down the trail, where the boys first explored some plants with their magnifying glasses. They looked at cactus, a really hairy plant (is it a carnivorous plant?) and then they laid down on the trail and watched the Cane Break leaves dance in the wind. The Cane Break leaves really had them laughing! Then they spent the rest of the day playing with stick cars, sick planes, and stick helicopters. During Sit Spot time, we observed and listened to lots of birds sing and fly.

Maybe we should bring some bird feed the next time we come to the swamp. . .

A Cool Relaxing Day

Of course the first thing we did today was check on the amount of water in the puddles and we found that not only was the big puddle dried up, but the little puddle was as well!! Where did all that water go!?! This was very mysterious to the boys and they talked about it for a long time. Did the water go into the ground? Did a lot of animals come and drink it all at night? Did the sun drink the water up? So many possibilities!!

After we talked out all of the water possibilities, we went right into breaking "ladder branches" off the trees with our stick swords. What could we do with all of these broken branches? Make stick boats of course! Miss Jenny spent the rest of her time helping the boys rope together some boats, which we tested to see how much weight they could hold before they would sink. They were strong enough to hold Miss Jenny's hiking boots, but that was about their weight limit! What a fun experiment on day when it was too cold to get wet . . . at least not too wet.

Rain . . . but no puddle?

It was raining lightly today and the first thing the boys asked was "Where is the big puddle? Why is there no puddle today even though it is raining? How much does it have to rain to create a big puddle? Let's check on the little puddle."

The little puddle was low, but there was enough water to play in!

After checking on our puddles we went for a little walk in the woods where we had fun finding logs to balance on and we ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches and pears for lunch. After lunch, we made our way to the beach where we made angels in the wet sand and we examined different shells. We found lots of Marsh Perriwinkles on the Black Needlerush grass that grows in the river marshes. There is so much to see and do in the forest and along the river beach. The day went by so fast! What a great way to spend a cool, sunny November day!

Foggy & Cool, Clear & Hot

It was chilly, foggy and damp when we started out on the trail today (65 & 90% humidity), but no one needed a jacket. The first thing we did? Check out our potatoes! There were more armadillidiidae in both potatoes! Awesome!! Why do they like these potatoes so much? Are those really eggs in the potatoes? It is all starting to pile up a lot. Maybe they're not eggs. Maybe it's poop. Time will tell. We learned that armadillidiidae do poop, but they do not pee. They have a high tolerance for ammonia, which they can pass directly through their exoskeleton, hence, no need to urinate. 

After checking the potatoes and pill bugs, we found 2 beetles. One was dead, the other was near death. Why are 2 of the same beetles dead or dying? The boys found some boat sticks and drove them through the sand until they heard a really loud noise coming from the river! What is that noise!?!

They ran to the river, which was very foggy, to look for the sound. Along the way we found 8 MORE dead beetles! What is happening to these beetles? Then off to the river again. Just barely, through the thick fog, we could see a fishing boat spraying a dense stream of water. Hmm, I wonder why? The tide was very high today. Higher than we have ever seen it before. Our jumping log was almost halfway underwater! Our boat stick was a favorite toy today. Which way will the boat stick go when we throw it hard into the water?

We had a great discussion during lunch about bees and pollination. We pretended that we were bees, scooping up sand on our feet and carrying it away to pollinate other "flowers". We rolled in the sand, like bees roll in pollen. Without bees, we would have no apples!

We also learned that some trees that are still standing, are all the way dead! And if you lean on one too hard, you will knock it down.

Lots of discoveries made; lots of questions asked. All while enjoying the beauty of our river.

Mud-liscious and Puddle-wonderful!

It was chilly this morning, about 52 degrees, but we didn't let the weather keep us from splashing in the giant puddles left by the last 2 nights of rain! The boys decided early on to hike to Sugarloaf today. It took us exactly 4 hours to hike 2 miles due to the many wonderful stops along the way. 

First, we checked out our potato traps which had, collectively, 6 pill bugs and 2 little bunches of eggs! What is going to hatch out of those eggs!?! We can hardly wait to find out!

Next, we stopped at the bridge to play in the mud. Brett found some dried up cat tails and had a great time watching the seeds float on the breeze. All the while, Aksel focused on his climbing and balancing skills as he navigated the bridge from many different angles. 

The boys found a spooky hand in the forest which they used to transform themselves into Frankenstein! They delighted in sneaking up on each other and chasing each other through the trees. They would stop periodically to investigate berries & flowers, watch a flock of noisy crows, and jump in more puddles. When we made it to Sugarloaf, they took turns swinging on the rope swing and laughed as they rolled down the sand hill. And of course, they played in the foam on the water! 

The spooky hand made getting back to pick up just as much fun as getting to Sugarloaf had been. We took lots of water breaks, and everyone had a great time!

Snakes, Slugs and Armadillidiidae

The clouds were very high in the sky today, and it was completely overcast; about 78 degrees and 65% humidity. The first thing the boys noticed were little fluffy seeds floating all around! Where did all these fluffy seeds come from? They also noticed lots of butterflies. We wandered down the trail until the boys found some tree stumps and logs to pull apart. What they discovered was clay packed under the bark and in between all the rings of the dead wood. How did all that clay get inside the log? Did all of these ants, centipedes and bugs bring the clay into the log? What is the clay used for? We played with all the rolly polly pill bugs we found (armadillidiidae; terrestrial crustaceans) and we found two fat, slimy slugs!! (gastropods) They were so much fun to hold!! We also found this baby Copperhead. The kids did great! We talked about it and the kids never tried to pick it up. Keeping a safe distance from snakes is an important protocol at Sycamore Song Nature School. 

After we were done exploring the woods, the kids decided to go to the river. There were many changes from the last time we were there. The goldenrod flowers had turned to seed, the sea urchin on the log was gone, the hole in the log was dry, there were very few crabs around the log where we usually find them and the big dead fish was gone, but we found its bones and scales. We found more barnacles (oceanic crustaceans) on logs and shells and we watched a pod of dolphins swim up river. So much learning on one short adventure.

The last thing we did was plant some potato pill bug traps. Next week we'll see how many armadillidiidae we can catch in them!

Changing Tides

Brett wanted to go to the River today. So we walked to the River. And we stayed at the River, in almost the same place, for 4 hours. It was very warm today and the tide was on the rise, so the boys played in the water the whole time! It was great to stay in the same place for that amount of time because it gave us the opportunity to observe the changing tides. 

When we first got to our spot, we could walk on the sand and go under a big tree that had fallen down. By the end of the day, we were not able to go under the tree because the water was too high. The boys took advantage of the changes by having fun jumping off the log over and over again! It was a delightful day! 

The other observation we made today was the difference between a dead tree branch and a live tree branch. We talked about how breaking off dead branches can help the forest by eliminating "ladder branches" which are dead branches that help wild fires climb higher.

First Day of Nature School: Success!

Today was sunny and warm with just a few fluffy cumulus clouds in the sky. Aksel found the world's smallest inchworm and delighted in observing a living creature that was so small. Next, we observed a funnel spider web in the hole of a parking barrier. While looking at it, a small moth landed at the top of the web and became stuck. All of a sudden, a spider came up, bit the moth, then dragged it down its funnel. I was amazed at the process, but Aksel expressed sadness that the moth did not get away.

On the trail, the boys enjoyed exploring a tree stump and climbing a tree. Brett could not climb the tree the same way Aksel could. At first he was disappointed. But then he started trying to climb the tree from different angles. He had a great time finding "a new way to climb the tree." and was delighted when he figured out a different approach. I told him that I hope he is proud of all his hard work. I am sure his muscles are now stronger (and so is his brain) due to the time he invested in tree climbing! It was also great to hear Aksel encourage Brett to continue trying! 

We eventually made our way to the water and the boys had a great time playing in it! The tide was low, so the boys enjoyed jumping off the giant log. They observed a sea anemone on the log and we wondered how it got there. Did the water get high enough to wash creatures up onto the log? We also found a hole in the log that was full of water and we observed tiny living creatures swimming around. We had a great time catching crabs we found scuttling around a small log and we found about 30 shrimp exoskeletons and a big dead fish with flies all over and inside of it. Where did these shrimp come from? Why are there so many on the beach? How did that fish die? Why are there flies inside it and all around it?