Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Baby Birds

WE'VE been lucky enough to see an number of baby birds
this spring and summer. A slight movement caught our eye in the garden, which turned out to be a tiny fluffy bird cowering under a bush in our garden, freezing whenever we came close but bravely venturing a few hops if we sat quietly for long enough. Our gourd bird box has hosted not one but three sets of baby wrens. They tweet so loudly when mama arrives with food, you can hear them right across the garden. A robin nest high up in a tree is just close enough to see little beaks clamouring for food whenever a parent flies close.

But Emma wins the award for the best bird discovery. She was sitting on our front steps when she noticed a little bird clutching the side of the step. On closer examination there were two of them, baby Northern Flickers. These are a kind of woodpecker and we watched them over the next two days as they progressed from hopping on the ground and step to clinging to the house wall, then climbing up the wall and finally taking their first flights. Amazing to observe!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Midsummer Celebrations

MIDSUMMER snook up on us, but we found plenty of ways to celebrate without much preparation. We made a new summer nature table based on the story of Runya the Fire Fairy, one of Emma's alter egos. It featured an orange and yellow fairy house and a bonfire, to which all the woodland animals were invited to roast acorns. We learned a new summer song while preparing a special festival snack of sun tea, orange slices, apricots and butterfly biscuits then read The Sun Egg by Elsa Beskow together. Dinner was cooked over a real fire in the back garden, the bowl of chilled fruits a welcome addition in the 80 F temperature and higher humidity. No evening of magical happenings would be complete without a gift for the fairies, so the children assembled a miniature feast of fruits, herbs and tea along with a tiny campfire for the fairies to dance around. By morning, the food was gone and in its place, a little thank you gift of flowers and a pile of embers. There really must have been fairies in our garden!

Recipe for Sun Tea
Chamomile tea "brewed" in the sun, muddled with fresh mint and orange slices and sweetened with honey. Quite delicious!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reptile Watch

NOTHING is quite as startling as almost stepping on a large snake. This 4' black rat snake slithered out of its hole in the bank of the Chattahoochee River and moseyed along the water's edge for a while. But it wasn't the only slithery creature we've seen recently.

This smaller snake was about 18" long. We spotted it in the woods by a different stretch of the river.

Northern Water Snakes and Slider Turtles abounded at the school picnic, causing delight among the children and reactions ranging from mild interest to terror in parents.

But impressive though the larger creatures were, it was a tiny baby frog that really captured the children's attention.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fairy Trees

THE summer is just the time for nature study. We often walk the same same stretch, and it's fun to notice different things each time then draw it and maybe read up on it at home. Today we looked at trees, and Emma especially liked a tree that she said had fairies all over it. The leaves were feathery and "nervous" (they slowly closed up when touched). The "fairies" are the white and pink feathery blooms. It has a smooth bark, and in the autumn has long (30cm or so) brown seed pods. It was a Silk Tree, sometimes called Mimosa, but - curiously - dubbed "foamy" by the children. It grows all over the place here in the south US - beautiful, but invasive. Since then, spotting "foamies" while we walk or drive has become a favourite pastime.