Journal Categories
Journal Tags

Entries in insects (5)


Hunting the creepy crawlies

Our county park system has one of the best naturalists in the says me. True, that's not a title that has actually been conferred on her, but we have always loved her and enjoyed her programs. This summer the park system offered a Junior Naturalist program—a series of workshops for kids Calvin's age who are interested in learning more about ecology and the rigors of being a good naturalist. At the end of the program, kids who successfully completed enough of the workshops will earn their own titles—as Junior Naturalists, of course. Today's foray into bug hunting (which is really bug, insect, arachnid, and other such creepy crawlies hunting) was the penultimate workshop. As always, it was a hit.




The pet on our porch

When Jon and I let the dogs out before bedtime last night (that being our bedtime, hours after Calvin's), we found a new inhabitant on our front porch. It was cold last night, and I think most people would have gotten a laugh out of the two of us standing on the front porch in our pajamas, moving this way and that in order to see the mantis move his head to follow us. Hopefully at one o-clock in the morning most of our neighbors were in bed.

This morning the same guy was in the same place. Strange, because mantids are supposed to be masters of disguise, and this one was certainly not hard to spot. He spent most of the day with us, too, disappearing for an hour in the afternoon and returning before dinner (our dinner, that is). I haven't checked on him since but my guess is that he won't stay. There's only so much door opening and staring that one bug can take, after all.

What was cool about him being there morning, noon and night (aside from Calvin getting to see him since we obviously didn't wake him in those chilly wee hours) was getting to see the change in his eyes. Woah! That's a night and day difference! We did a little digging and found very little information, but we did learn that some insects with low light adaptations have a light-absorbing, protective pigment covering for their eyes that they engage in bright light situations. If that's the case, then the pigment takes time to engage, because he didn't respond to the porch light at all in the ten minutes we spent antagonizing him, but during the day he clearly changed something! We also learned that he is mostly a diurnal hunter and was likely just spending the night at our hotel. I wonder if he made reservations for tonight, too.


Saturday football to the nth degree

I got to carry my son, half asleep, up to his bed last night. I haven't enjoyed the feel of his cheek molded to my shoulder in a long time, and likely won't get to much longer. His feet dangled past my knees as I lumbered up the stairs to undress him and deposit him in bed.

We were all exhausted after a day that started with a county parks program on insects and ended with the exciting conclusion to Michigan's first night game ever in the Big House. 

We have found that even if games start later in the day the tailgaters don't. They just party longer. We parked at eleven and ate lunch then dinner with friends and family, ducking under tents for short bouts of rain, walking to the park for afternoon entertainment, and mingling as the sun rose and then descended. It was edging toward the horizon as Jon, Calvin, and I headed for home to catch the game on TV.

Calvin's day ended at half time, which because of the night game was still hours after his usual bedtime, but he was hoping for a glimpse of the Airborne Paratroopers we'd met while tailgating. He got to take his picture with them and they were very nice about answering questions, and gave him a football, so we'd hoped their drop into the stadium at half time would be shown on TV. Alas, it wasn't.


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.