Monday, February 9, 2009

Our First Winter Wednesday

We are coming into this a little late, but we can still have a lot of fun with this. My grandson and I are going to do the last two Weds. studies at the same time. We do not have the Discover Nature Winter book, but I downloaded the Handbook of Nature Study so I would at least have a copy of it here. I bought a copy, but gave it to my daughter. She wanted a copy to use with both of her boys.
I have a several trees on the property that are my favourites. The fig tree has a certain grace to it, the way the branches point their fingers upwards to the heavens, the oak with all its gnarly branches full of character and the various fruit trees which create lacework patterns against the sky.
Brennan took the pictures on this Nature Walk. He was so excited about taking the shots we were actually outside longer than I had planned. When the weather gets a little warmer we will need to get some good insect shots.
We only have one pine tree on the property. I remember when it was only a foot high, now it is taller than the house. The pine cones look like they might be Monterrey or Ponderosa. I did find one other cone, but I have no idea what kind it is.
When it came to comparing the bark of the trees we observed, I was amazed at the diversity of textures. The biggest difference would probably be between the pinon and the eucalyptus. Rough textured and varied in colour, the pine is quite a contrast to the eucalyptus’ smooth texture and almost mono-chromatic colour.
We stopped and discussed the differences in the different species of trees. It was interesting to see the look on his face at each new discovery. Even though he comes here frequently and has done so since his birth he saw things he had never noticed before. My Pluot has large clumps of tree resin dripping from it's branches. He spent a lot of time looking at each one and that lead into a discussion of how Amber is created.
When we started exploring the Oaks he noticed the Galls. He touched them and took pictures of them. I waited until he was through touching them before explaining how they came to be. He was holding my camera and I did not want him jumping backwards when I told him about the little wasps. Even though they are gone he still may have jumped. We found that most of the trees had shed their leaves but the oaks still had a few.
When it comes to choosing a tree to watch, the eucalyptuses are a logical choice. I have a grove of them growing right outside the kitchen window and I am always entertained by the variety of birds that I find in or around them. A little Black Phoebe has been the most consistent visitor. Whether I am doing the dishes or cleaning veggies he is there diligently watching for insects to fly by. He is so cute.
We have had an almost daily visitation of a Northern Flicker, (Red-shafted). With the amount of time he has been spending on one of the trees, my guess is that it infested with some kind of insect and will eventually die sooner than later.
The Quail come by daily, but the Pheasant are a little more shy and are hard to see. The Pheasant have been here before we were. It has been very gratifying to watch the covey of Quail grow from just 1 pair to around 40 at last count.
Of course we have the 3 wild ducks that will be here for mating season.
The European Starlings are a little confused. They have begun nest building already. These are my least favourite bird. They are relative new to the property and have quickly grown from a few to a lot. An ancillary building has been their choice of nesting sites and they create quite a mess pulling all the insulation out to make room for their nests. That area was originally claimed by our little sparrows, but they have all been usurped.
We have two kinds of Sparrows that I have identified so far, the House Sparrow and the White Crowned Sparrow.
While we were taking our nature walk I heard a bird I have never heard before. We located the source and tried to get as close as possible, but were unable to get close enough to identify it. From what I could see it resembled a Meadowlark, which are here on the property, but it did not sound like a Meadowlark.
We have a pair of Magpies that have joined the group. I find it unusual because it is the first time in 15 years. They are all over this area, but have never really spent time here on our property before.
There Crows that have been here for the past few years. They position themselves high at the very tops of the Eucs. When I am at my window I have to twist my head backwards to see them. It is usually just easier to walk outside, but if they are making a commotion about something I usually run to the window first.
I downloaded Barbara’s first 4 challenges and the 2 Winter Wednesday tree studies, printed them out and placed them in a folder for Alicia and myself. I also downloaded and printed out all the various nature study work pages. This is going to be so much fun! I am so glad that Barbara went to the meeting at the PACT school so that I was able to find out about her blog. Thank you Barbara for your time and efforts!

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