Monday, December 31, 2007

Coyotes and Crows at Yosemite

(This photo is from a few years ago, taken by a friend on a trip that we took to Yosemite together.) Click on any of the images to make them larger.

We took our annual trip to Yosemite to go ice skating last week and on the trip into the valley we saw a coyote....just standing by the side of the road.

Here is some information on coyotes in Yosemite.

The Handbook of Nature Study does not have any listing for coyotes in their mammal section but it did have this to say in the general mammal introduction on page 214:
"Some of the so-called game animals have suffered wanton destruction at the hands of 'civilized man,' but in more recent years many laws and regulations have been passed to give these animals more chances to live. Even more stringent laws are needed and rigid enforcement must be exacted if wild animals in general are to be expected to increase in number."
(interesting to note is that she wrote this in 1911)

I found an interesting brochure on how to help keep coyotes wild and we will be covering it with our boys. Where we live there are wild coyotes and it is always good to be aware of how we can help keep them out of trouble. We live near the edge of town so we have frequent encounters with wildlife and it is a challenge to balance our needs with those of the animals around us.
We saw lots of crows on this trip. There is lots of information in the Handbook of Nature Study about crows. See pages 124-127.
Edit: I have since discovered that these are ravens and not crows.

Crows flying with Half Dome in the background.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Fascinating Millipedes (not a mammal)

(click to make the photos larger)

I know we are focusing on mammals this term but we had a visitor yesterday that is worth a post. We were cleaning up our snowy, wet things and found a millipede on the towel that we had under our gloves drying on a rack.

It was fascinating to watch him crawl around and his many legs were really interesting.

Here's some information from the Handbook of Nature Study, page 448 in the invertebrates section:
"Millipede, Spirobolus. These animals live in damp places and feed chiefly on decaying matter."

I have no idea how he got into the house but it was fun to learn about him. Here is a little video of him moving around.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Monday, December 24, 2007

Handbook of Nature Study: The Basic Ideas

(a radish from our winter garden)
  • "Anna Botsford Comstock very appropriately took the view that we should know first and best the things closest to us. Only then, when we have an intimate knowledge of our neighbors, should we journey farther afield to learn about more distant things."
  • From the 1986 foreward to the book Handbook of Nature Study
  • "But it should not be thought that nature-study is not science. The promising science of ecology is merely formalized nature-study; indeed it might be said that nature-study is natural science from an ecological rather than an anatomical point of view. The truth is that nature-study is a science, and is more than a science; it is not merely a study of life, but an experience of life. One realizes as he reads these pages, that with Mrs. Comstock it even contributed to a philosophy of life."
  • From the 1939 Publisher's forward to the book Handbook of Nature Study
Nature study is real science. It encompasses so many important skills that are needed in upper level science. The skills of observation, documentation, research, and experimentation. It feeds the mind and the heart with a love of all that is around us. It enhances your life with simple pleasures and does become a way of life.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom
Check out my page on taking a winter hike

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Nature is Full of Genius"

"I should hardly admire more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat. Nature is full of genius, full of divinity. Nothing is cheap and coarse, neither dewdrops nor snowflakes."

Thoreau's Journal-as quoted on page 814 of the Handbook of Nature Study

Handbook of Nature Study: Ice and Snow

Winter has hit most of the United States. I hear of the snowstorms, the ice, and the freezing rain and I am glad to be snug in my house. We have had lots of cold frosty weather and this week has brought in the rains but nothing like the rest of the country.

I wanted to bring to your attention the section near the back of the Handbook of Nature Study on climate and weather. Particularly interesting to some might be the section on water forms found starting on page 808.

From the Handbook of Nature Study on page 808:
"Water in its various changing forms, liquid, gas, and solid, is an example of another overlooked miracle- so common that we fail to see the miraculous in it. We cultivate the imagination of our children by tales of the prince who became invisible when he put on his cap of darkness, and who made far journeys through the air on his magic carpet. And yet no cap of darkness ever wrought more astonishing disappearances than occur when this most common of our earth's elements disappears from under our very eyes, dissolving into thin air."

Anna Comstock spends the next few pages discussing the miracle of the water cycle and the many faces of water. There are so many things described here on these pages and you could easily spend weeks going through each little paragraph.

Ice on the surface of a pond (page 811)
Seeing one's breath (page 810)
Observing a boiling teakettle (page 810)
Geometry of a snowflake (page 809)

Then starting on page 812 she has listed 13 activities to complete your study of water forms.

If you own this book, I would encourage you to get it out and read these few pages for yourself and use them in your weekly nature study. These activities could easily be done during the cold winter days where you don't feel like venturing out of doors.

Leave me a comment if you have used these pages in your nature study. I would love to hear what you are doing at your house.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Mammals in Our Backyard

We have decided to work through our list of mammals that we have observed in our backyard and make journal entries for them in our nature journals. Often times we observe an animal and do not take the time to do the research or the entry into our journals. On these cold, rainy days of winter we will take the opportunity to read about each one in the Handbook of Nature Study if possible and then record our findings. Many of the animals we observe are not specifically covered in the HNS, so we will use the internet or our field guides to get the information.

Here is the list of animals we are going to study:
(also found as links on my sidebar)

Western grey squirrel
Striped skunk
Broad-footed mole
Long-tailed vole
House mouse
Norway rat
Mule deer
Common raccoon
Little brown bat

Covering one animal per week for the next term, I think that our goal is within reach. I will share our results as we go along.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cats: Up Close and Personal with Observations #1

The Handbook of Nature Study has lots of interesting things to do to observe your cat or kitten. Many of these activities I hadn't ever thought about before so I am grateful for the guidance of Anna Botsford Comstock.

On page 265 of
"This lesson may be used in primary grades by asking a few questions at a time and allowing the children to make their observations on their own kittens at home, or a kitten may be brought to school for this purpose. The upper grade work consists of reading and retelling or writing exciting stories of the great, wild, savage cats, like the tiger, lion, leopard, lynx, and panther."

Page 265 Observation #1:
"How much of Pussy's language do you understand? What does she say when she wishes you to open the door for her? How does she ask for something to eat? What does she say when she feels like conversing with you? How does she cry when hurt? When frightened? What noise does she make when fighting? When calling other cats? What are her feelings when she purrs? When she spits? How many things which you say does she understand?"

Our answers (given by my boys) Our cats give a soft meow when they want to go outside or they just sit by the door and wait. They sit in front of their empty dish and look at you when they wish for something to eat. They will rub up against you or jump up on our lap when they want a little "conversation". They hiss when they are hurt. The give a pitiful meow when they are frightened. When fighting, they hiss and put their ears down and chase each other through the house. They purr when they are enjoying a good pet and are relaxed. They will come when they are called "kitty". They come running when they hear the cupboard door open where their food is kept. They will jump down when you say sternly "down".

I think they did a good job answering the questions.

We will continue next week with our cat activities.

Harmony Art Mom

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Introduction to Mammals: Handbook of Nature Study

The weather is changing in our part of the world and so is our focus for nature study. We are going to be using the Handbook of Nature Study to learn more in depth about mammals. We have lots of regular visitors to our backyard that will lead us on our adventure into our study.

If you look on my sidebar, I have listed a fairly complete list of mammals we have observed already. We will be looking for information in the HNS and using online sources to help us learn more about their lives and habits.

Handbook of Nature Study
page 214:
"Mammals, in contrast to fishes, amphibians, and reptiles, are warm-blooded animals, as are birds. The skin of most mammals is more or less hairy, in contrast to the scale-covered fish and the feathered birds. The young of most mammals are born alive, whereas the young of birds, fish, amphibians, and some species of reptiles hatch from eggs. After birth young mammals breathe by lungs rather than by gills as do the fish; for a time they are nourished with milk produced by the mother."

We are going to start our study of mammals with one of our favorite subjects, our two pet cats, Cocoa and Espresso. There is a whole section in the HNS on cats starting on page 260. One section that particularly interests me is the subheading on page 264, "Cats Should Be Trained to Leave Birds Alone". (Don't tell Cocoa and Espresso that we are going to read that or they just may rip those pages out of the book.) There are many, many interesting points that Anna Botsford Comstock lists out to do in order to observe your cat.

Eager to get started, we will keep you updated with photos and observations.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom