Of Ticks and Trees :: Spring Nature Study

Last week we drove down to Northern California to visit with DH’s brother and family.  While there, we had a little time to explore the area, including Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and the Redding Sundial Bridge.  As we had obligations with family, we didn’t have the time to explore as much as we would have liked … but hope to return some day soon.

Our first area of exploration was the grassy hillside and open area behind our motel.  The spring wildflowers were in full bloom and it was a delight to explore and discover many wildflowers we were not familiar … including this little orange beauty (which Buddy illustrated below) … anyone know what it is ??

One of the other discoveries was this vibrant red clover … I have never seen a red clover … it really stood out in the field of green.  We also observed mature black walnut trees … and marveled at the walnut shells that littered the ground.  The munchkins discovered that many young critters like to use the shells for shelter … including slugs and earwig nymphs!!   [Admin Note: I have a picture if you’d like to see – but I didn’t post it, knowing it would give some the willys.] 
We walked about leisurely … allowing nature’s delights to pull us in whatever direction caught our attention.  We observed many different adaptations (climbing vines, spiny leaves, fragrant-colorful flowers) and briefly discussed the advantages of each. We also observed what appeared to be very young galls on the Oak trees.  We are quite familiar with these galls … but we have never seen them so colorful and relatively soft and smooth to the touch.  They felt like apples! 
We returned to our room about an hour later … carrying with us a few clippings of flowers and leaves the munchkins wanted to press in their journals.  I encouraged the kiddos to choose something of interest to illustrate in their nature journals and I laid down to do the same.  As we were quiet at work, I felt a tickling, itchy sensation on my neck.  I reached up to soothe said irritation to discover the cause was a tick!  As I jumped up to dispose of it, and proclaiming my displeasure (I don’t recall my exact words but I can assure you, it wasn’t not worth repeating here), MeiLi says, “Mom!  There’s another one!”  Sure enough … a second one had apparently fallen off me onto the white comforter.  

I absolutely detest ticks!  I had one take up residence in the back of my right leg several years ago.  I had been out in the field setting up for a field trip and upon my return home, I kept feeling a funny itch on my leg.  I was wearing jeans and wasn’t able to ascertain the cause until I got home.  Thankfully, we lived with my in-laws at the time and my father-in-law was familiar with the proper removal technique.

My illustration is on the left and Buddy’s is on the right.  
This was the first time we’d used a microscope.
I wanted to model how to draw what we were seeing through the eyepiece.
Somehow or another, MeiLi started her illustration too close to the edge of her paper 
so she wasn’t able to sketch the entire tick.

We opted NOT to take the time to illustrate our hitch-hikers.  Instead, we flushed them quite quickly and then immediately took a shower so I could assure that others hadn’t thought to join their cousins.  Apparently, however, after removing the tick, one should place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it. Ticks are NOT killed by flushing them down the toilet.  Ah well.  You learn something new everyday.

Anyway … we had illustrated a tick in January of last year.  Coincidentally, I saved the one that had been digging into my thigh as I was teaching science at the time and it made a cool story … still does. I’ve thereby scanned the kiddos’ journal entries for your pleasure.