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Nature Thursdays—Wildlife detectives at Rolling Hills

Back on the trails again. Today's Thursday program with our county parks and recreation was a bigger hike than usual, and maybe it was the half hour drive that scared away the rest of the regulars, but Calvin and I were actually the only ones there. Funny, because turtles are cool, and logs are cool, but I really thought the "detective" part of today's program title would bring kids out of the woodwork.

A private class was okay with us, though, because when you're out scanning the ground for tracks and other signs of animals, and when you have to talk about things like scat and owl pellets, the smaller the crowd the better (and the larger the crowd, the more "ewwwwws" there are to be had). Calvin is comfortable with both scat and owl pellets, but we found only the former, and mostly from deer. Really the class was a bit like preaching to the choir. Calvin and I have been hiking our fields looking for exactly these same clues for years now. In fact, of the three of us, he was the one who found and identified the raccoon tracks and the deer scat. I also found mole trails, a couple of snake holes, and lots of duck tracks. We found nests, both bird and squirrel, and some gnawed crab apples and acorns. It was a thoroughly enjoyable private event.

Identifying a mole's trail and hole

Checking out pond scum

After our favorite guide left we ate lunch and took our now customary hike. Jon and I had hiked many of the trails at Rolling Hills about four years ago with Calvin in the Kelty pack, but I haven't been there since and I had forgotten how nice the foot trails are—lots of deep woods and wildflowers and some views of the little pond. We found lots of dragonflies and butterflies, identified a few trees and their lichens, counted fungus groups, and scared more than a few squirrels and birds.

Hitting the trails after lunch

Dragonfly and damselfly

Catbird mewing (they really do mew)

My favorite part of the day was right at the end: as we turned a corner there was a lot of rustling in the ground leaves near us and suddenly the strangest looking, most clumsy flying bird took off and flew right across the path in front of us. I was too dumbfounded to handle the camera properly before he was gone, but it was most assuredly a woodcock, something I have seen only in bird books. Calvin swears he looked just like an overgrown bumble bee, which I think was in reference to its strange, butt-heavy flying—and he laughed about it for the rest of the way back to the car. I was just ecstatic over seeing a new bird. Even a clumsy one.

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Reader Comments (2)

Great pics! I'd love it if you'd link up at my Field Trip Blog Hop!! :D Getting out and enjoying nature is always fun!
July 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Altman
Thanks for stopping by and linking up!! :D
July 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Altman

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