Our Nature Study Club
CD of the Month: Play Ball!

On the Autumn Trail ...


Oh my goodness, what a day! So lovely and mild for mid-October. It began misty and cool, but by lunchtime, the fog had burned off and the warm autumn sunshine broke through. Just in time for our Nature Club Meeting!

Now prepare yourselves - I took SO many pictures! Really ~ even for me, this is a lot. But I just had to share the story of our day, and it is one best told through pictures. If you must skim over the lot of them, do be sure to see the seventh one down - it was the highlight of the day for me. :)

So what is Nature Club you may wonder? Well, check this post for more information, but suffice it to say it is a monthly gathering of homeschooling friends who also happen to be nature enthusiasts. Yesterday afternoon, 15 of us (families, that is) met at a local Audubon wildlife sanctuary for a few hours of birding together. We first gathered in the Nature Center buidling where we checked in, received handouts and a few tips regarding birds we might spot. Our attention was quickly drawn to a large bank of windows that looked out on a secluded bird garden ...


There were mourning doves, white throated sparrows, downy woodpeckers and an adorable chipmunk cleaning himsef (just there on that front rock). I could have spent a long while just absorbed by the view, but I knew there were even larger landscapes to explore ...

... such as this field of milkweed (and possibly withered goldenrod, I'm not sure). It was swarming with ladybugs and bees, and one brilliant Monarch butterfly that floated overhead (too fast for my camera, I'm afraid).


The large group of us broke up into smaller groups and set off along the myriad trails. Ours took us deep inside the autumn woods ...


... and past wetlands buzzing with life, and ripe with vivid fall color:


As we trekked along, we suddenly came upon two families absorbed in a very interesting activity. They were keeping very quiet and still, and their hands were stretched out in front of them ...

We tried the same thing ...


The most important thing to mention is that we all had pockets full of birdseed just for this moment ...

And here was my big moment:


That's MY hand, and that is a real live little chickadee, eating right out of it! I could have fainted away, I tell you.

Everybody tried. Crackerjack didn't have much patience, at first:


But Bookworm's persistance paid off!


This was his face immediately after the bird left his hand:


We carried on, crossing a bridge ...


And before too long we had entered "The Rockery." It was so shady and cool; it felt rather primeval. It was really neat (if a bit strenous) to climb all around.


Very hard to see here but take my word for it, there is a red squirrel in that tree pictured below. He was making such a racket for such a little guy! He wasn't quite as bold as the chipmunks and chickadees.


A lovely scene below ... we were headed across that pond!


I walked right by this beaver lodge till a friend of mine called my attention to it:


A bunch of the kids acquiesced to pose for a quick picture. There were 16 kids in all (ranging in age from infant to 13), but by this point they were spread out all over the Sanctuary. (I'm hoping to photograph each meeting and assemble a yearbook of sorts at the end of our Nature Club year.)


While the rest of the kids tried their hands once again at hand-feeding (many if not all of them succeeding), Crackerjack took a bit of a break. I think he was a little disgruntled that a bird had yet to eat from his hand.


It was drawing near time to head back to the Nature Center and meet up with our fellow Nature Club members. We hiked up and out of the woods ...


When along the trail we came upon a small gathering of chickadees, and Crackerjack gave it one more shot ...



The butterflies at the Sanctuary were so beautiful, and at last I "caught" a monarch, sipping from this lovely zinnia (cosmos?) ...


Oops, that's a Viceroy, a clever Monarch mimic ... Thanks Marcie!

I'm not sure what this type of butterfly this is - it's much smaller than the monarch but still very pretty in her yellow garb:


Update: Thanks to new reader Kim, we know it's a Clouded Sulfur!

If you look very closely there is a flash of brown fur in the middle of that low wall, below. That would be the chipmunk I chased all over trying to get just one photo. The little imp.


Plenty of bees to be seen. Bookworm said this photo reminded him of the opening scenes of the Beatrix Potter movies. High praise indeed! :)


Once our walk was concluded, the kids played a game called Pop-up Tag for nearly an hour. We mums stood nearby, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and wishing we had brought thermoses of tea. Next month we will - November will surely be colder than this!

Here's one last photo I took as we left the Sanctuary. Such a perfect day. I'm so grateful we had it to share with our friends, and in turn, I'm grateful you all let me share it with you.