Connecting with the Night Sky: Activities for Spring

Of the many ways Earth is polluted, light pollution may be the least talked about. Defined as excessive or obtrusive artificial light, light pollution has consequences. It can wash out starlight in the night sky, interfere with astronomical research, disrupt ecosystems, have adverse health effects, and waste energy.

Take a moment to watch this short film that shows how the view of the cosmos gets better in less light-polluted areas.

I would also argue that light pollution causes many students to develop misconceptions. These misconceptions arise because we often fail to provide children with the time and opportunity to simply observe the night sky. After all, if you live in a metropolitan area, it does take some planning and a little driving to get out of the city.

How many young children today realize that during the course of a year, our view of the night sky changes from month to month? Some constellations are always in the sky, while others appear and disappear over different regions. How many children – or adults for that matter – can explain the rotation and revolution of our nearest celestial neighbor, our moon?

If you would like to learn more about common misconceptions in science, read my my five-part series.

image of a book laying open to show the constellations visible in March

The Night Sky Each Month

Early in our homeschool journey I read the works of Charlotte Mason. Her words, particularly in regards to the natural world resonated with me,  “We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.” 

With her words in mind, I have always tried to provide my children with ample time in the outdoors and to develop their observational skills. I also love living books that guide them on their discoveries. One of my favorite for astronomy is The Night Sky Month by Month.  This book, written by Will Gater and Giles Sparrow, shows the sky as it is seen around the world in both the northern and southern hemispheres. It is the perfect guide for amateur astronomers – the illustrated pictures and monthly sky guides will help you recognize patterns and track changes in the each hemisphere.

Another great story that will delight younger readers is The Moon Over Star which puts the historic moon landing into historical perspective through the eyes of a child.

Astronomical Events for Spring 2019

Charlotte Mason and I would encourage you to get outside and observe the night sky year round. Encourage your child to begin documenting his or her observations by keeping a moon journal. Sketch the appearance of the moon each night and note the location it is visible in they sky. To get you started, here are a few key events this spring.

March Equinox ~ The March equinox occurs on March 20th whereupon the Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.

Worm Moon ~ This full moon phase occurs on March 21st and was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Worm Moon because this was the time of year when the ground would begin to soften and the earthworms would reappear. This is also the last of three super moons for 2019. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation ~ The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 27.7 degrees from the Sun on April 11th. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

Fish Moon ~ The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated.  Early Native American tribes called this full moon the Full Pink Moon because it marked the appearance of wild ground phlox, which is one of the first spring flowers. Many coastal tribes called it the Full Fish Moon because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

Lyrids Meteor Shower ~ The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

You might also be interested in my earlier post, Autumn Astronomy Activities for Middle School

Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower ~ The Eta Aquarids is capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak in the Southern Hemisphere and about 30 meteors per hour in the Northern Hemisphere. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Blue Moon ~ This full moon will appear on May 18th and was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Flower Moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared in abundance. There are normally only three full moons in each season; a fourth full moon occurs only happens once every 2.7 years, giving rise to the term, “once in a blue moon.”

Nature Book Club

Welcome to the Nature Book Club Monthly Link Up. Devoted to connecting children to nature, the monthly link up will begin on the 20th day of each month. We welcome your nature book and activity related links. Read on for more details.

The Nature Book Club is brought to you by these nature loving bloggers which are your co-hosts. Are you following them? If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to follow each one.

Here are the co-hosts, their choices of books, and activities for February 2019:

Stargazing with Children by Thaleia at Something 2 Offer

The Rocket That Flew To Mars Online Book Club by Dachelle at Hide The Chocolate

Along Came Galileo Telescope Craft by Emily at TableLifeBlog

If You Decide to Go to the Moon Phases Activity by Karyn at Teach Beside Me

The Night Sky Events for Spring 2019 by Eva Varga at EvaVarga

Follow the Drinking Gourd Free Unit Study Resources by Jenny at Faith & Good Works

Party Rules

Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until 11:59 p.m. EST on the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. These posts are removed.
By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature your posts. That’s it.


Winter Trees and Poetry

Winter is Coming. At least in our part of the world. As a child, rain was the constant companion of winter on the Oregon Coast. Though it is still yet a constant, we do now see more sunshine and snow is as infrequent as ever.

a trail through along the river in late winter, coniferous trees border the trail and the trail has been cut through a fallen logWhat I love about this time of year is the opportunity to really see the trees. In winter, the bare branches stand like skeletons against the sky. While I have grown accustomed to identifying trees by their cones and leaves, I am now challenged to identify them solely by their branches and buds.

Trees that once had leaves are bare.
They’re dressed instead in lacy white.
Snow dusts their trunks and coats their limbs
with flakes that outline them with light.

Winter Trees 

One of the books I most enjoyed sharing with my children when they were younger was Winter Trees by Carole Gerber. In this story, a boy and his dog use their senses of sight and touch to identify seven common trees in the snow covered forest.

Providing clues about how to identify trees in the winter, the text invites readers to explore the outdoors on a more intimate level. Intricate yet simple illustrations and lyrical text make distinguishing different types of trees easy, even in the middle of winter.

It’s a sweet little book. The verse is uncluttered and reverent. Leslie’s brightly-colored block prints, decorated with watercolor and collage (with some digital enhancement, as well), are striking. It is a beautiful blend of play, science, poetry, and art.

Do You Know That Tree?

Close your eyes and picture a tree. How big is it? What kind of geometric shape is it? How are the branches arranged? Does it have leaves or needles?  Does it have any kind of fruit. Now open your eyes and draw what you pictured in your mind.

Now grab your coat, your nature journal materials, and head outside. Walk around your neighborhood or along a favorite woodland trail. Find a tree of interest to you – perhaps one you have taken notice in the past. Note the trunks.  Is there one main trunk or does it split into multiple trunks? Are they straight or bent?

Look at the overall shape of the tree.  What geometric shape is its leaf/needle crown? Look at the bark.  What color is it? Is it smooth or rough.  Does it peel?  Feel it. Describe how it feels.

Tall yellow poplar’s furrowed bark
surrounds a trunk that’s straight and neat.

yellow poplar leaf on the trunk of a treeDoes it have many large branches, or branches that have lots of twigs? What colors are the leaves or needles? How are they shaped? Do they have any distinguishing characteristics? Are there any seeds, flowers, fruits, nuts, or cones on the tree? There may be some on the ground.

If the weather is conducive, sit down and draw a few sketches of your tree. If it’s raining, take a few photographs and do the journaling when you get back inside.

Record words, ideas, and impressions that enter your mind. Use your sense of touch, smell, sight, and sound to generate more words.

Poet-Tree

Now, compare and contrast your two drawings. Finally, challenge your children (or yourself) to convert their (your) thoughts into a poem. There are several forms to choose from: Haiku, Diamante, Fluxus, or a Shape Poem. Download the free Poet-Tree guide from Project Learning Tree.

simple graphic image of green grass on white background with text Nature Book Club

Welcome to the Nature Book Club Monthly Link Up. Devoted to connecting children to nature, the monthly link up will begin on the 20th day of each month. We welcome your nature book and activity related links. Read on for more details.

The Nature Book Club is brought to you by these nature loving bloggers which are your co-hosts. Are you following them? If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to follow each one.

Here are the co-hosts, their choices of books, and activities for this month:

Sky Tree Art Project by Emily at Table Life Blog

Winter Trees & Poetry by Eva at Eva Varga

The House at Pooh Corner Online Book Club by Dachelle at Hide The Chocolate

The Busy Tree Flap Book Activity Activity by Katrina at Rule This Roost

Plant a Tree, Nature Study Printable and Candle Holder by Sharla at Minnesota Country Girl

Party Rules
Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until 11:59 p.m. EST on the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. They will be removed.
By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature your posts.That’s it.

Let’s party!
Welcome to the Nature Book Club!
*November theme: Trees & Twigs*


Prairie Wildflowers of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks

Prairie Wildflowers of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks

My family and I have just returned from a road trip to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. It was a fabulous vacation – nearly two weeks away from the stressors of life (work and school) and distractions (social media). As WiFi is not available in most areas of the park, we were able to decompress and really connect with one another.photo collage of wildflowers and pollinators with text overlay

One of the things I had hoped to see were the wildflowers. By September however, most blooms have begun to decline. As each day passes, the wildflower meadows begin to disappear. Yet, I was pleased to see several species that were still attracting pollinators as autumns colors begin to change.

The Prairie Ecosystem

The prairie is an ecosystem located in the Great Plains of North America. It includes the lands between the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains and extends east as far as Nebraska and north into Saskatchewan. The region is flat and rolling with mesas and stream valleys.

Elk, bison, and pronghorn antelope forage in the open expanses of the prairie, while wolves hunt nearby. Backwaters and springs create wetlands that provide cranes, waterfowl, and other birds with nesting habitat. Nearby woodlands provide refuge for black bears and cougar.

image of a yellow daisy wildflowerPrairie Wildflowers 

Within the boundaries of Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks, the valleys are abundant with wildflowers. Cascade Lake Trail, in Yellowstone, is a meandering walk through meadows and along streams, offering a wide variety of wildflowers throughout the spring and summer.

The Yellowstone is a wild-flower garden. Wander where you will, you have the ever-new charm, the finishing touch, the ever-refreshing radiance of the wild flowers.” ~ Enos Mills, Your National Parks, 1917

The wildflowers of Grand Teton National Park usually bloom May through September. While valley flowers (Skyrocket gilia, larkspur, and indian paintbrush) blossom in the valley as temperatures rise, they begin to fade by late July.  Yet, wildflowers blooms are just opening at the higher elevations so we thereby hiked up Cascade Canyon Trail in hopes of finding wildflowers as well as the elusive Pika.

As we hiked, I carried along the pamphlet Wildflowers of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. It is a great reference tool that includes 3 major National Parks (Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier), plus a host of mountain ranges – from the Wasatch and Uintas of Northern Utah to the Canadian border. The twelve page guide features almost 100 species that are found from the valleys up to almost 14,000 feet. Color photographs are supplemented with text describing key features such as size, habitat, and blooming period.

Nature Journaling & Photography

As we explored many of the little niches of the parks, we each took to documenting our discoveries with the mediums we have come to enjoy most. My daughter and I use a traditional sketchbook with watercolors and colored pencils. The boys, on the other hand, prefer a camera with different lenses suited to shooting different subjects.

teen girl nature journaling in a prairie with text overly wildflowers of Yellowstone and Grand TetonsGet Involved

Prairie habitat is unfortunately declining in many areas. There are many agencies and organizations trying to protect and restore native prairies across the country. Attempts to conserve prairie communities before they are lost are underway and prairies are even being reconstructed on abandoned land.

Become an informed citizen. Learn all that you can about short and tall grass prairies. Plant native wildflowers and grasses to encourage prairie dependent wildlife to use the area. Even small gardens of native plants serve as a reminder of the lovely, lively prairie that once existed throughout America.

Here are a few resources to get you started:

simple graphic image of green grass on white background with text Nature Book ClubWelcome to the Nature Book Club Monthly Link Up. Devoted to connecting children to nature, the monthly link up will begin on the 20th day of each month. We welcome your nature book and activity related links. Read on for more details.

See all the great posts from The Nature Book Club’s co-hosts in September

The Nature Book Club is brought to you by these nature loving bloggers which are your co-hosts. Are you following them? If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to follow each one.

Here are the co-hosts, their choices of books, and activities for the month:

Prairie Habitat Clipart and Coloring Pages based on America’s Prairies and Grasslands from Barbara at Handbook of Nature Study

Notebooking Pages based on The Prairie That Nature Built from Jenny at Faith and Good Works

Nature Journaling based on Wildflowers of Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks: A Guide to Common & Notable Species from Eva at Eva Varga

Online Nature Book Course based on The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush from Dachelle at Hide The Chocolate

Flower Suncatchers for Toddlers and Preschoolers based on Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America from Erika at The Playful Scholar

Flower Printable Pack based on Prairie Flowers: Learning Activities and Lessons to Inspire Creativity! from Sharla of Minnesota Country Girl

Flower Paintbrushes based on The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush from Cassidy at Freshly Planted

Sunflower Decoupage Vase based on The Sunflower House from Katrina at Rule This Roost

Prairie Wildflower Identification Hike from Thaleia at Something 2 Offer

Party Rules

Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until 11:59 p.m. EST on the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. They will be removed.
By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature your posts.That’s it.

Let’s party!


A Guided Tide Pool Hike with a Master Naturalist

Having grown up on the Oregon coast, I have been fascinated by marine animals since I was a young girl. I spent many long summer days exploring the tide pool and estuarine habitats in my neighborhood.

A naturalist at heart, I have inundated myself in ecology and natural sciences ever since, completing the coursework to become an Oregon Coast Master Naturalist a few years ago. Today, I am delighted to take you on a guided tide pool “hike” to one of the hidden gems of the Oregon seashore.

Cape Arago State Park

The tide pools at Cape Arago are incomparable. Here, you’ll find easy access to both the North and South Coves of Cape Arago. Tucked away below the cliffs, a short walk along the steep trails will take you to a secluded cove where tide pools and fossils can be found.

The south trail leads to tide pools teaming with diverse sea life. The north trail lets visitors view offshore colonies of seals and sea lions (however, the trail is closed from March – June to protect the seal pups during birthing season). Visitors to the area can also enjoy whale watching, crabbing, fishing, and scuba diving.

Nearby, there are two additional state parks: Sunset Bay (a sandy beach protected by towering sea cliffs – perfect for sunbathing and swimming) and Shore Acres (a lushly planted garden perched on rugged sandstone cliffs high above the ocean – once the famed estate of Louis Simpson).

Let’s now begin our guided hike of the south cove at Cape Arago.

Guided Tide Pool Hike

Upon hiking down the south trail you will first come to a small sandy beach. There is often driftwood and marine debris along the high tide line, pushed up against the base of the cliff atop the rocks and small boulders.

Purple Olive Snails

image of purple olive snails buried in the sand. Text overlay reads A Guided Tide Pool Hike with a Master Naturalist @EvaVarga.netAs you walk nearer the shoreline to the waters edge, you may see tiny little bumps in the sand. Olivella biplicata, commonly known as purple dwarf olive snails, burrow themselves in sand, leaving a plowed trail behind it. The foot is wedge shaped to facilitate plowing.

While burrowing it raises its long siphon up through the sand as a snorkel. They can be found nearshore on fairly quiet, protected beaches and farther offshore on more exposed beaches. Their predators include the seastarsoctopus, moon snails, and gulls. Most active at night, often move up and down the beach with the tide. Omnivorous, they eat kelp blades and both live and dead animal material.

Take a closer look, however. Some of these snails are not like the other.

Hermit Crabs

The snail shell at the top is inhabited by a hermit crab. There are more than 1000 species of hermit crabs -decapod crustaceans that possess an asymmetrical abdomen that is concealed in a scavenged mollusc shell which it carries around. As the hermit crab grows, it will seek out a larger shell.

Young boy holding a purple shore crab with text A Guided Tide Pool Hike with a Master Naturalist @EvaVarga.netShore Crabs

Hermits are not the only crabs you’ll observe in the tide pools. Crawling about between rock crevices and amongst the blades of kelp and marine algae are a diverse number of small crabs, each with its own distinguishing characteristics.

  • Purple shore crabs – Hemigrapsis nudus (pictured above) reaches sizes of approximately 4.0–5.6 cm and is generally dark purple in color, although it may be olive green or red, with white or cream markings. The color of the legs matches the color of the carapace but the white-tipped claws are a lighter color with purple or red spots. These markings distinguish it from the similar…
  • Lined shore crabs – Pachygrapsus crassipes, whose chelipeds lack spots.
  • Oregon shore crab – Hemigrapsis oregonensis is a similar species with setae or small hairs on its legs, a distinguishing characteristic the other two lack
  • Porcelain crabs – a flat, round body (perfectly adapted to life between rocks) with two large front claws, these delicate crabs readily lose limbs when attacked, and use their large claws for maintaining territories.

Blood star - a red, five armed sea star common on the Oregon coastSea Stars

No matter the depth or the substrate, these spiny skinned invertebrates are among the most successful marine creatures inhabiting the coast. The abundance and number of stars found along the west coast of North America is without equal in the world. I highlight just one in my post today.

Henricia leviuscula, the Pacific blood star, feeds mainly on sponges. It is fairly stiff with only small papulae (skin gills) and tube feet. It seems to rely much more on seawater uptake through the madreporite (a series of seawater-filled ducts that function in locomotion, feeding, and respiration) than do other sea stars of comparable size.

Ventral view of a Gumboot Chiton Chitons

The gumboot chiton, Cryptochiton stelleri, can be found clinging to rocks, moving slowly in search of its diet of algae which it scrapes off of rocks with its rasp-like retractable radula, covered with rows of magnetite-tipped teeth.

Unlike some other chiton species, C. stelleri has well-developed ctenidia (gills) in the groove beside the foot (pictured above). A commensal polychaete worm can sometimes be found here, as can the pea crab, Opisthopus transversus.

green sea anemone with embedded image of an aggregating anemone Sea Anemones

There are many anemones in the tide pools of the Pacific Northwest. One of the most common is the green anemone, Anthopleura xanthogrammica. Anthopleura is not just one species, however. Hidden within its tissues is an algae.

In this symbiotic relationship, the algae gain protection from snails and other grazers and don’t have to compete for living space, while the anemones gain extra nourishment from the algae in their guts. Contrary to popular opinion, this anemone’s green color is produced by the animal itself, not the algae that it eats.

Another fascinating anemone is the aggregating anemone (pictured in the embedded photo above), Anthopleura elegantissima, the most abundant anemone species found on rocky shores along the Pacific coast.

Aggregating anemones can rapidly clone themselves. If buried by shifting sands, they can survive for more than three months.

Tide Pool Guidebook 

You may not have the opportunity to explore a tide pool with a naturalist when you visit the Pacific Northwest Coast. In this case, you will want to find a guidebook or two to help you identify the diverse wildlife you will encounter.

One of the books we have at the marine life center that our visitors enjoy perusing when they have questions is The Beachcomber’s Guide to Seashore Life in the Pacific Northwest by J. Duane Sept. It was revised in 2009, it is beautifully illustrated and is a great guide to identifying the most common intertidal animals and plants of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon.

The size is perfect to toss into your day pack if you wish to look up a specimen on your trek. It is written with the beachcomber in mind so while it does not feature every species, it is an excellent starting point for the more general specimens you may encounter.

While here, you may also be interested in Oregon Coast Quests – fun, educational, and clue directed hunts specific to the Oregon Coast.

simple graphic image of green grass on white background with text Nature Book ClubWelcome to the Nature Book Club Monthly Link Up. Devoted to connecting children to nature, the monthly link up will begin on the 20th day of each month. We welcome your nature book and activity related links. Read on for more details.

See all the great posts from The Nature Book Club’s co-hosts in June

The Nature Book Club is brought to you by these nature loving bloggers which are your co-hosts. Are you following them? If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to follow each one.

5 Senses at Sunset Walk from Barbara at Handbook of Nature Study
Discovering Nature in the Garden Scavenger Hunt from Jenny at Faith & Good Works
Nature Walk Alphabet Hunt from Emily at Table Life Blog
Guided Tide Pool Hike from Eva at Eva Varga
Foraging & Feasting Unit Study & Lapbook from Tina at Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus
Fairy Gardens and Online Book Club from Dachelle at Hide The Chocolate
Decoupage Art with Nature Walk Findings from Katrina at Rule This Roost
Summer Nature Hike from Thaleia from Something 2 Offer
Leaf Shape Hunt from Karyn at Teach Beside Me

image of a stack of books in the grass with text overlay listing monthly theme

Party Rules

Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until 11:59 p.m. EST on the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. They will be removed.
By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature your posts.That’s it.

Let’s party!


Oregon Nature Quiz #4: Wildflowers Edition

What could be more beguiling — or more intrinsically American — than trails lined with wildflowers … trillium, foxgloves stretching to touch the sun, and tiger lily carpeting the woodland floor in early spring? The season for wildflowers is gloriously long in Oregon, typically starting in late March at lower elevations, lasting through to late July and into August in the higher reaches of the Cascade Mountains.

Oregon Nature Quiz #4: Wildflowers Edition

Our Venturing Crew recently completed our first 3-day backpacking outing on the North Umpqua Trail. Along the hike, we observed a variety of native wildflowers – some we were familiar with and others had us stumped until we returned home and were able to pull out our wildflower identification books.

Pictured below are five Oregon wildflowers that we observed. Can you identify each?

wild purple orchid

wetland flower with large single yellow petal and large green leaves

Hiking in spring and early summer is a treasure hunt of color as wildflowers bloom in the meadows and mountains of Oregon. Look for blossoms on these trails and others around the state.

flower with three green leaves and three white petals

blue flowers with five petals and stamens in distinct ring at centerpink flowers with five clustered petals one with dark pink streaks

Answers:

1. Deer Orchid (Calypso bulbosa) Also known as Calypso Fairyslipper or Hider-of-the-North

One of the most elusive flowers we observed was the Deer Orchid. This beautiful little native orchid is my favorite. Though the orchid is widespread in the western temperate forests of Oregon, it is rather illusive and often hard to find.

It is highly susceptible to even slight disturbances in its environment. Trampling and picking are the primary reasons for its rapid decline in some locations. Picking the flower inevitably kills the plant, because the delicate roots break at even the lightest pull on the stem.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has listed it as a species vulnerable to extinction on a global scale. Transplanting or cultivating the plant is rarely successful because of its need for specific soil fungi that are not usually present on transplant sites or in controlled environments.

2. Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) – Sometimes referred to as Swamp Lantern

This distinctive plant is found in swamps and wetlands, along streams and in other wet areas of the Pacific Northwest, where it is one of the few native species in the arum family. It emits a “skunky” odor that when it blooms.

Surprisingly, the stench is quite beneficial to the plant’s survival. It discourages animals from nipping at its leaves and disturbing the soft, muddy wetland habitat it prefers. The smell (most often described as rotting flesh) also attracts bees and flies that act as its pollinators by moving pollen from males to the waiting stigmata of females.

3. Trillium (Trillium albidum) – Also called Giant Wake Robin or White Toad Shade

The three leaves and three-petal flowers of Trillium are so distinctive, even children can tell them from other plants. This is a blessing as well as a curse because it seems few can refrain from picking the flowers which retards their bloom because it prevents the corm (storage area within the stem) from receiving the nutrients they require for next year’s bloom.

Trillium flowers are stalkless, being borne directly on the ruff of leaves that extend under them. There is no pedicel between the base of the leaves and the base of the flower and it is hence a sessile species.

Test your skill with previous editions of the Oregon Nature Quiz here: Winter Wonderland Edition, Boy Scout Rank Wildlife Edition, and the First Summer Edition.

4. Forget Me Not (Myosotis sp.)

There are both native and non-native species in the Pacific Northwest. Those that are non-native most likely escaped from gardens and found suitable habitat. Unfortunately, I do not know the specific species of the one pictured here.

The genus name, Myosotis, means mouse ear, which eludes to the size and shape of the petal.  Perennial M. scorpiodes generally remains under a foot high but reaches 2 feet or more across, spreading by creeping roots. The blue springtime flowers typically have a yellow eye, though white-and pink-eyed forms exist.

5. Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum)

In springtime large clumps of pink and purple flowers begin showing off in yards and woodlands throughout the Pacific Northwest.With a native habitat ranging from 19,000′ alpine meadows in Nepal to tropical regions in Northern Australia and the wind-swept coast of Scotland, the rhododendron exhibits a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.

Rhododendron thrives in disturbed habitats such as roadside embankments and recently deforested wild lands. They can also live up in the mountains. Oregon’s mix of moisture, mild weather, and acidic soil, make it a Rhododendron paradise.

Wildflowers in the PNW

This is an excellent field guide featuring more than 1240 stunning color photographs. It describes and illustrates thousands of commonly encountered species, both native and nonnative, including perennials, annuals, and shrubs. Written by Mark Turner and Phyllis Gustafson, Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, is a must for your nature center.

Encompassing the Pacific Northwest from southern British Columbia to northern California, from the coast to the mountains and high desert, this handy book is perfect for hikers, naturalists, native plant enthusiasts, and anyone wishing to learn about the amazingly diverse wildflowers of the region. Organized by flower color and shape, and including a range map for each flower described, it is as user-friendly as it is informative.

Journaling Reflections

Years ago when we first started homeschooling, nature study was a major part of our science curriculum. Our weekly nature walks prompted a wealth of questions from the kids with which I incorporated short, mindful lessons that I sprinkled throughout the following week.

Often, we would use Barb’s Outdoor Hour Challenges as a focal point to get us started. Here’s a post I wrote following our wildflower hike in the summer of 2010. What a joy to reflect back on their early nature studies and journaling experiences.

simple graphic image of tree with text The Nature Book Club

Welcome to the The Nature Book Club Monthly Link Up. Devoted to connecting children to nature, the monthly link up will begin on the 20th day of each month.

We welcome your nature book and activity related links. Read on for more details and for a giveaway!

See all the great posts from The Nature Book Club’s co-hosts in May:

The Nature Book Club is brought to you by these nature loving bloggers which are your co-hosts. Are you following them? If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to follow each one.

Miss Rumphius Mixed Media Art from Emily at Table Life Blog

Wildflower Walk and Pressing Flowers from Barbara at Handbook of Nature Study

Wildflowers Nature Study from Jenny at Faith and Good Works

Oregon Nature Study Quiz: Wildflower Edition from Eva at Eva Varga

Wildflower Fairy Poetry & Art Activity from Melanie at Wind in a Letterbox

Flower Fairy Peg Dolls from Cassidy at Freshly Planted

Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms Online Book Club from Dachelle at Hide the Chocolate

Wildflowers Unit Study & Lapbook from Tina at Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus

Fingerprint Painting on Canvas Activity from Katrina at Rule This Roost

DIY Flower Press from Thaleia at Something 2 Offer

Dandelion Life Cycle Learning Activities from Karyn at Teach Beside Me

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Oregon Nature Quiz #3: Winter Wonderland Edition

Winter is finally upon us and snow is swirling everywhere. Over the past couple of weeks, my VIPKID students have been sharing photos of the snowmen they have built and I have lamented that we have nothing but rain here on the Oregon coast. On President’s Day, however, we woke up to a light dusting of snow and intermittent snowfall throughout the day. What fun!

Oregon Nature Quiz #3: Winter Wonderland Edition

It’s been a while since my last nature quiz — and the new snow has brought inspiration. Here are five of the photos showing evidence of wildlife action in the depth of winter (albeit not all in the snow). Can you identify the wildlife represented here?

image of a girl with her hands in the shape of a heart around the base of a tree covered with ladybugs with text: Nature Quiz #3 @EvaVarga.netimage of a pine cone eaten by a squirrel with text Nature Quiz #3 @EvaVarga.netimage of cougar track in mud with text nature quiz #3 @EvaVarga.netimage of bird track in snow with text nature quiz #3 @evavarga.netimage of rabbit tracks in snow with text: nature quiz #3 @EvaVarga.net

Answers:

1. When we lived in Redding, one of our most anticipated nature outings was our annual ladybug hike. It was always fascinating to see the ladybugs hibernating – hundreds of thousands of ladybugs all gathered in one place. Ladybirds hibernate through the winter as adult insects. Different species will usually hibernate in different places; some shelter under tree bark, others sleep under leaf litter, etc. Have you oberseved ladybugs hibernating in a similar fashion? Some will even gather around window crevices, buildling siding, and wooden structures.

image of ladybugs hibernating on bark of tree with text nature quiz #3 @evavarga.net

Close up image of the laybugs in the bark crevices of a Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa).

2. The cone of a Pinus ponderosa that has been broken apart by a squirrel for the nuts. Most recently, my daughter has given the art of taxidermy a try. A squirrel was her first specimen – results have not yet been reported.

3. Pictured here is a cougar (Puma concolor) track in the mud. Native to Oregon, cougars range throughout the state, the highest densities occur in the Blue Mountains in the northeastern part of the state and in the southwestern Cascade Mountains. This photo was taken in the coastal range while we were hanging buckets for sugaring time. Cougars are territorial animals and maintain home ranges of up to 100 miles. Most active at dawn and dusk, cougars are lone hunters. They are generally solitary animals, except for mothers who remain with kittens for about two years.

Learn more about The Science of Sugaring (tapping maple trees to collect the sap to make maple syrup).

4. There were no other nearby tracks so I am not certain, but I believe these bird tracks may be eagle simply due to their size. What do you think? When we lived in Redding, we loved to watch the resident eagles near the Sundial Bridge. The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), our national bird, is the only eagle unique to North America. It’s scientific name signifies a sea (halo) eagle (aeetos) with a white (leukos) head. At one time, the word “bald” meant “white,” not hairless. Bald eagles are found throughout most of North America, from Alaska and Canada to northern Mexico – with about half living in Alaska. The northwest coast is by far their greatest stronghold for bald eagles. They flourish here in part because of the salmon. Dead or dying fish are an important food source for all bald eagles.

Read my earlier post on Exploring Animal Tracks and learn how to use tracks to tell a story. Make animal track stencils and get out fabric paints to decorate t-shirts.

5. Did you guess rabbit? Six species of rabbit like mammals (these include, rabbits, pikas, and hares) can be found in various habitats throughout central Oregon where this photograph was taken. These small mammals feed primarily on grasses and forbs, have at least two litters per year, and are usually found where there are good amounts of concealing cover available. The shrubs under which they take cover are an important food source and conversely, they serve as the primary prey for many carnivores.