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Entries in Nature Thursdays (8)


Nature Thursdays—aquatic wildlife

Nature Thursdays are back! Last year we spent every Thursday with one of the two fantastic wildlife interpreters from our County Parks & Rec commission, and yesterday marked the beginning of the same for this summer. The weekly programs are aimed at children, each with a theme bugs, or snakes, or flowers, etc. This week's session was about water-loving wildlife. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) Calvin and I were the only people who came, but we had a great time seeing our favorite Michigan wildlife specialist again, and Calvin got to touch green frogs, a crayfish, a snapping turtle, and even got to hold a painted turtle. We also went for a short hike to try netting smaller wildlife in the pond. Being just us of course meant that the program went at Calvin's pace, and because he was so obviously interested we were treated to extra discussion and netting time, which made it just that much more fun.

The program was at Independence Lake this time around, so we packed a picnic lunch and stayed to spend the afternoon, partly in learning to identify a few common Michigan plant and animal species (with only ourselves and a book as guides), and partly to play in the sand and water. Calvin is becoming a fish. He can now push off, arc into the water, and swim a ways with good kicks and a pretty good early crawl. And he loves to float around on his back. Back home in the late afternoon he spent another forty minutes in the bath. It's possible that he should have been included on the list of Michigan aquatic wildlife.

Playing the memory game, then sorting by salt vs. fresh water

Painted turtle

Painted turtle

Green frog

Trying to feed the turtles

Swans on the pond

Looking for and discussing critters in the net

Bigfoot print or tree stump?

Splashing around after lunch



Getting as sandy as humanly possible!


Nature Thursdays—hiking Dolph Park

The county parks Nature Thursdays program is over, but we did nature today, and it's Thursday, so...

Beautiful weather called us outside. We did the usual first, like vacuuming, laundry, straightening, some math, lots of reading, and a little piano, but the afternoon was meant to be spent outside, and that's where we went.

There are several parks in the area that we intended to explore this summer, but heat and other activities got in our way, so we are exploring them this fall instead. We stuck relatively close to home today, stopping by after running errands and only an hour or so before time to get dinner going, and spent an hour exploring trails right in the city. The last time I hiked this location was when Calvin was only a year or so old; he was riding in the backpack, and we found a fawn hidden by his mother in the dappled sunlight under the trees. Magical. Today we saw swans, dragonflies, and plenty of mosquitoes that made me glad for the long clothing and bug spray. Calvin's nature eyes are getting more practiced and he found two snakes and several patches of fungus all by himself. Our only disappointment was a lack of frogs, but two snakes just about make up for it.


Nature Thursdays—I dig dirt at the County Farm Park

The last of the county's summer kids programs was this morning. Since they have been like a compass around which we have organized our weeks I'm saddened to see them end, and it reminds me that, for one, I need to get Calvin signed up for fall story times at the library, and two, it's time to start searching for the area homeschool groups. But for one last time today we gathered with a county parks guide and other moms and kids, several of whom we've been seeing weekly there all summer, for an hour of nature exploration.

I know I wrote about the mom at one of the earlier outtings in the forest who was deathly afraid of bugs. That was annoying for sure, but not surprising like the park guide leading the dig in the dirt class today who was afraid to touch a worm. Calvin and a couple of other kids helped her with that, while many others were encouraged in their own squeamishness.

The display of squeamishness was possibly the most interesting thing that happened in this event, which turned out to be a disappointing finale for the summer program. We made mud, we made wet sand, we went out to dig up worms for observation, and very quickly the class devolved into a building of canals in the sandy area around the park and filling them with water gushing from the hose. It was fun, it just didn't have the same depth that the other Thursday classes had.

But after the class event Calvin threw our lunches in the camera pack and went for our own exploration of dirt on a hike through the woods. It's been much cooler lately—a welcome break—and also quite moist. The upside was an influx in really fun fungus, the downside was an influx in really not fun mosquitoes.

The majority of the fungi we found I think would belong to the genus Amanita. They go by the common name of blushers, which seems apt; many of those we saw were in the stance of young lovers caught in a passionate embrace. Pretty little mushrooms. I think that was my favorite part of the hike.

Calvin definitely enjoyed the mushrooms, but his favorite part might have been conquering the climbing wall at the playground. A real personal triumph, that. And between moments of cringing and fighting to keep my hands from shooting up grab him, I was excited for him.


Nature Thursdays—wading the lakeshore at Independence Lake

We missed the last two Nature Thrusday activities, one because we were out of town, the other because it was raining and I didn't think we'd see much on a butterfly and bee hike. Having missed so much, even though it was dark and chilly and dismal outside we made it to the Wading the Lakeshore event this morning. It was worth the trip. We joined park camp kids in catching fish with a seine net, watched them a bit, then let them go (the fish, not the camp kids). Then we put on our water shoes and waded into the lesser traversed parts of the lake, braving weeds, muck, and fallen logs and trees to look for crayfish, turtles, and snakes. We found very little, a plight for which I'm afraid we can thank the zebra muscles, but we did have a great time scooping water and discovering shells, rocks, side swimmers, a handful of water striders, and, right at the end, one beautiful, and very large, Northern Water Snake.

Calvin loved handling the fish, but he loved watching them scoot away quickly, back into the depths of the lake, even more.

He also loved being in the water. I should have just had him wear his swimsuit, but I hadn't connected "wading" with being in water above one's waist. I guess I should have known, but clothes dry so it wasn't a big deal. I think the snake was my favorite part.

Northern Water Snake

The program ended with charting our findings and a good lake story.

And when we were done we put on our swimming suits, in order to get dry again, ate our lunch by the lake, then took advantage of the splash zone being empty thanks to the weather. Really I think clouds aren't a problem, and upper seventies for weather, after a month of mid nineties, is an enjoyable break.

It was a great time.


Nature Thursdays—wildflowers at County Farm Park

There is something to be said for schedule. If nothing else I like knowing that my Thursday journaling topic is covered, and that makes the brainstorming part of blogging much easier. Today's nature program for kids was all about wildflowers. I knew when I looked at the schedule for the summer that most of the activities and information would not be new to Calvin, and since we have a garden full of carefully cultivated "wild" flowers at our house today's program was anything but. I don't mind, and it's clear that Calvin doesn't either, because the point is to enjoy the time outside with other nature interested people. But a new situation presented itself today that I've never delt with before: the kid who knows everything. When the guide asks questions Calvin knows the answers almost every single time. He knows this stuff, we've enjoyed it together at home for years, if that can be said of a five-year-old, but we're going to have to discuss the importance of letting other kids answer first, or at least think about the answers. Calvin knows these things because he was exposed to them, and now it's time for the other kids to gain their own exposure. With a relatively shy and introverted little boy that was a new one on me.

As usual today's program was enjoyable. We learned about native Michigan wildflowers and the wildlife that love them. The bug-fearing mom was back with us, but apparently butterflies and bees are less scary, and everyone was interested in the plants. And I know we usually hike afterwards, but schedules are meant to be broken, and since we are in the final stages of readying for a summer trip—packing, meeting with the dog/house sitter, and doing some last minute cleaning up, laundry, and squaring away at the library—our usual post-program hike went right out the window. Not before we retraced our steps to the car, however, a short hike which afforded us more prairie-like views and many bird sightings (though none as cool as a woodcock).

A little early

Bumble on Bergamot (bee balm)