Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spring Peeping

When I told my husband about this opportunity his comment was that this is no longer "fieldlearning" but "Extreme Fieldlearning!" What do you think? I get a phone call from a friend who just heard that tonight is the night that the amphibians need help crossing the road so they can make it to their mating pool (a vernal pool). Is it extreme to drive half an hour in the rain, at night, bundled up, with flashlights in hand just to see some amphibians crossing the road? I should note that he also had several other funny comments like, "So you are going to toad road?" and "Don't get in a wrecko with a gecko" and "What are you going to call this post? Frog blog?"

The kids were very excited. After traveling up and down the forested roads near Hopewell Furnace we finally arrived at our destination. As soon as we opened the doors we knew we were in the right place - the noise of those peepers in the pool! For quite awhile that kept us all alert, and not too much later we got to see our first spotted salamander. They weren't coming in droves tonight, as we are told they often do, but later on there was a bucket with 5 spotted salamanders and we also saw a Jefferson salamander (more rare) and even a wee spring peeper. The girls wanted to take that one home - it was very cute. The adult volunteers who were helping the amphibians get across the road quickly allowed the children to take the buckets and release them into the pool. Everyone had a turn and so had their role to play.

Here's a very short clip or the peeper in the pool. (Remember it is at night, but the flashlight is shining right on him.)

Many nature centers give salamander walks around this time of year, give yours a call to learn more about species local to you. Or maybe you have a vernal pool near your house and your local amphibians are crossing roads without a guard. Read about vernal pools, amphibians and their spring migration and how to help with these links:

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Website of the week

Maybe I'll start doing this regularly, maybe not. This is what we (more particularly my 6.5 year old) have been enjoying on the web this week.

Jan - I've got to think everyone knows about this site already. But, it is wonderful and bears reminding. Plus, if you haven't been there for some time you might be interested in the videos that are now on the site. Most of the videos are mini-art lessons with Jan, some are of her reading her books. There are also read-a-long audio stories made just for the webstie. You'll also find coloring pages of all types and right now a contest that could win you a visit to your library!

My littlest has enjoyed the drawing lessons and St. Patrick's day coloring sheets the most.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

And one last post about the geese

A beautiful day at Middlecreek - a taste of summer! Many more geese than last week.
Take a peek - View slideshow:

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Another kind of ELF

There's been a little buzz about library elf. Sarah's post last week had a commenter who mentioned it in a response to her plea for ideas to keep track of library books. A couple days before that Tracy mentioned it in a homeschooling yahoo group. I signed up right away. If you could use a service that tracks as many library accounts as you want under one name,(ie all your kids in one account), and sends you an email and/or a text message when they are overdue, you'll love library elf!

You'll have to check through their list of libraries as I doubt it is available in all systems, however, in the Philly area you can use it with the following: Chester, Montco, Berks, Delaware, Philadelphia, Wissahickon Valley and Bucks in PA; New Castle Co. in DE and many libraries in NJ!

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Art Critics

Last Thursday we headed into the city for the day. The PA Ballet dress rehearsal had been shortened for the younger children to the (30 min) ballet, Serenade. Even for professional ballet I wouldn't drive that far for a half hour show, so we made a day of it and went to the Art Museum in the morning. I burned the audio tour for the arms and armor galleries onto a CD and we listened to that on the ride down. The boys enjoyed the weapons and armor, but I loved the shot I caught of the girls discussing the painting by Degas. Both are studying dance and they were discussing the positions of the dancers and other things about the painting for quite awhile. It was another evidence that learning is happening and maturing - rather than needing to be led into a discussion and investigation of the work, they have the tools to pursue it on their own!

I must also tell you that the ballet was about ballet, much of the choreography revolving around the things that go on in a ballet class. Degas of course capturing moments in ballet classes. I love it when it all seems to come together like that.

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180,000 Snow Geese

The numbers are up to 180,000 snow geese at Middlecreek as of Monday:
This is apparently the largest number of snow geese ever observed at Middle Creek. Conversely, Canada goose and tundra swan numbers remain relatively low. There are reports of geese and swans already to the north of us, we don't know how long these birds might linger here.
~Jim Binder
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area Manager

We have plans to go again, tomorrow, Wednesday, with some friends. My van will be full, but if anyone (Kim and Erin I'm specifically thinking of you, but anyone is welcome) would like to caravan out there, send me an email asap - we'll be leaving around 12 noon. It takes about an hour. Plans will change if it is pouring down raining or if the numbers drop dramatically.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Geese and Swans

It's the beginning of March, which means it is time for the Snow Geese migration through nearby Middlecreek Game Lands. It has become a tradition for our family to take a gander (oh, yes, that pun is intended) at the geese and swans that stopover on their journey to the arctic. We went yesterday and it was freezing cold, actually quite below freezing with the wind chill. There weren't as many geese as some years, but there were plenty and we got a good look at quite a few tundra swans. Middlecreek also has a small museum with some stuffed wildlife, a small learning station or two and a big window with good binoculars and field guides. We spent almost a half of an hour watching the birds at the feeders and watching the geese in the distance. At the feeders we spotted a red-bellied woodpecker - that was a real treat!

And in other bird news, the falcons are back on the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg. Check out the webcam, egg-laying should begin later this month.

My video of the snow geese looks far better on my computer than it does from youtube, but it'll still give you an idea of the spectacle. Below that is another video (with sound) from someone in Canada.

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