Yesterday afternoon, our Nature Study Club met at a local Audubon sanctuary to explore pond life and the splendor of the spring woods. I hope you'll enjoy these (many, many) pictures I came home with. :) As usual, it was an incredible experience ~ the day was beautiful - mostly cloudy and a tad cool, but with breaks of warm spring sunshine now and then. Perfect for a day at the pond!
My friend Mary led the group today (remember, each parent takes a turn leading the meetings throughout the year), and she did a fabulous job. She began by gathering the children in one of the sanctuary's barns for a talk about ponds and vernal pools. Below you see Crackerjack looking over his hand out. Mary chatted with the children about spring ponds - the wildlife, the food chain, and the effects of the environment on these amazing (and fragile) habitats.
Then it was off into the woods, a short walk to the first pond ...
The woods were quiet and mysterious. Crackerjack really liked this tree, and I had to agree:
Once we reached the pond (buckets, nets and field guides in hand) the children set about scooping up and inspecting the water. The spot was so lovely and secluded, nestled in the quiet woods. I had never been on this particular trail before so it was all new and exciting to me ~ while the kids fished around, I did too, looking closely at the surrounding nature.
I found an empty duck (goose?) egg by the water's edge:
I was so tempted to bring this home to our nature table, but the Audubon society asks that we always leave things just as we found them. And rightly so; I wouldn't want to disturb the balance of life here one bit.
Crackerjack and I spent some time marveling over the beaver lodge in the center of the pond:
And where was Bookworm? Well, he barely left the water's edge, so intent was he on his hands-on pond study! In the picture below he had called the group over to look at some eggs he spotted floating beneath the boardwalk.
Crackerjack did his own looking, too ...
The boys asked that next time we visit the pond we bring more than what I had packed for today (a glass jar, two spoons and magnifying glasses). A net or sieve would be good, and something better with which to scoop out the water. Duly noted.
Some of the kids found a damsel fly:
In general, you can tell a damselfly from a dragonfly by the way it holds its wings when at rest. A damselfly holds its wings straight and backward, whereas a dragonfly holds its wings out to its sides horizontally.
The lily pads were neat, and not actually green, but more reddish in shade:
We thought this flowering tree had interesting blossoms, like little white bells:
Here is a bug Bookworm found - check out its armored plates:
And another, a mayfly nymph, we think?
The aquatic creatures were truly interesting, though I found myself more drawn to the plant life that filled out the area. Like this moss, which Crackerjack thought looked like a tiny fairy forest:
And how about this tightly curled fiddlehead fern?
As we prepared to move from this pond to the vernal pool deeper in the woods, we had a brief visit from a gorgeous cardinal, his red all the more striking against the subtle spring landscape:
According to my boys, the highlight of the day was spotting a water snake resting near the pond's edge. It was hard to get a good photo, but if you look closely you can pick out his dark body beneath (and just sticking out of) the dark water:
Along the trail, we found an oriole feather. The colors are unmistakable:
And this fungus-ridden tree really caught our attention!
As we walked along, I was explaining to my friend Debbie that I have always wanted to see a jack-in-the-pulpit, when literally, not 10 seconds later, I spied one!
At the vernal pool - a shadier, and quieter spot, deep in the "forest primeval" - the kids were quite taken with this "monster frog," as they called him, peeking up at them from the murky depths below:
On our walk out of the woods, I snapped a picture of this leafy thing that seemingly grew everywhere. I don't know what it is, but I love the colors and patterns of the leaves:
And this one's for my friend Kim; the flowering trees are really spectacular right now:
Right before we ended our meeting, one of the boys netted a tiny ring-neck snake!
Once again, our Nature Club meeting was a memorable and meaningful experience. I am so, so enjoying this group - and not just for the nature study, but for the friendships as well. :)
This was our eighth meeting this (academic) year, and we have two more meetings in June. The first will bring us to the beach for some tidepooling and the second will have us back in the woods, hunting down all kinds of bugs.
It appears my friends would like to do Nature Study Club again next year, and I could not be more thrilled! I am going to host a planning meeting at my home one day this summer so we can sketch out the ideas for next year. When I think how long I waited to get this group going ... but everything has its time, right? This, apparently, is just the right time for our Nature Club. :)
And ah, yes, there was one more life form to observe - a stowaway discovered on the car ride home:
A dog tick: the bane of the spring woods.
Well, I must be off now ~ thank you, as always for stopping by and sharing in our day. Before I go, an "administrative" note: I have not forgotten about Mitten Strings! I just have not had time to write out a post for the latest chapter. Look for it later this weekend. :)
Happy Friday, my friends!