Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sounds of Frogs and Toads

Okay, so I'm purely making this post so I have all the frog and toad calls from our area in one place. I want to learn the calls so I know what I'm listening when I'm out and about.

American Toad
Northern Cricket Frog (rare in northern quarter)
Fowler's Toad 
Northern Leopard Frog (of special concern)
Pickerel Frog
Western Chorus Frog
Spring Peeper
Wood Frog
Green Frog

I found all these at the Indiana DNR website. They have more information about the frogs and toads there, as well as information on the Indiana Amphibian Monitoring Program which might be of use.

Spring Peeper
Spring Peeper (public domain)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Break? Try a Nature Center!

Spring Break is upon us . . . a great activity if you're having a staycation might be to visit nature centers in the area! We did this over Christmas. I know if we visited now, our experience would be quite different as spring is quietly sneaking up on us. Here are previous reviews (except Bendix Woods) the boys and I did on area nature centers. Try one this week!
Bendix Woods

Bendix Woods Nature Center
Site entrance fee

Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve
From November through April, Fernwood is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday from noon to 5:00pm.

Kalamazoo Nature Center
Mon-Sat 9-5
Sunday 1-5

Maple Wood Nature Center
Wed 8:00 am - 4:00 pm, Sat  9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Sun 1:00 pm - 5:00pm(closed Sundays in July)

Pokagon State Park
Gate Entrance Fee, usually $5

Nature Center Hours: Weekdays 1pm to 5pm; Weekends 10am to 5pm

10:00am Saturday March 30 Hell’s Point Bound! Visit the highest point in the park along with other natural features on this 1 1⁄2 hour hike.
Meet the Interpreter at the Spring Shelter. (Parking is available above shelter if you’re driving from the Inn) FW 
2:00pm Promoting Native Plants in your Landscape. Special guest, Miranda Davies from the Merry Lea Environmental Center will share a PowerPoint comparing invasive and native plants and how we can secure the good ones and
improve our home landscapes. Following the indoor portion, we’ll head out into the field to see examples of each.
8:30am Sunday March 31 Easter Sunday Morning Stroll. See March 10 for program meeting details and then join us for an Easter Sunday
Morning appreciation of birds and other wonders of nature. FW
10:00am Saturday April 6 Vernal Pond Patrol. A nice walk down into the Nature Preserve and over much of Trail 6. We’ll search the
temporary spring ponds along the way for songs of frogs, salamanders, and other forms of life. We’ll be out for
about 1-1⁄2 hours. Meet at the Inn Main Entrance. Trails may be spongy. Come with proper footwear! FW 
2:00pm Spring Out for Spring Wooldands . Come to the Nature Center from where we’ll take off on a short 45
minute, or so, walk through nearby forests looking for early wildflowers and other new life for the new season! LL
8:30am Sunday April 7 Early Spring Bird Search. See March 10 Return of the Redwings for program details. FW

Potato Creek State Park
Gate Entrance Fee, usually $5
Tues-Fri 12-4 pm
Sat 9-5 pm
Sun 12-5 pm

SaturDAY, MARCH 30, 2013
10:30 a.m.
$$ EGG HUNT – The bunny will visit and leave treats for kids 12 and under. Come join in the search for these springtime treats. Hosted by the Friends of Potato Creek. $2 per child fee. MEET: BEACH
2:00 pm
UP IN SMOKE! PRESCRIBED BURNS – Hear a little about the planning of a prescribed prairie fire and then see some of the tools demonstrated (weather permitting).

APRIL 6, 2013 10:00 a.m. JEWELS OF BLUE – Learn a little about bluebirds from this video as we enjoy them
during early spring. 45 minutes. MEET: NATURE CENTER AUDITORIUM 
2:00 p.m. REPTILE REVIEW - Come learn a little about our local reptiles and then meet one up
close and personal. 45 minutes. MEET: NATURE CENTER AUDITORIUM 
2:00 p.m. FEEDING TIME - Stop by the Nature Center to watch the animals being fed. 30 minutes. MEET: NATURE CENTER

Rieth Interpretive Center
Tues-Thurs 10-3pm

Rum Village Nature Center
Mon-Fri 8:30-4:30, Sunday 1:00-5:00
Sunday Programs

Woodlawn Nature Center
Open Play Wednesday, April 3rd, 10-2--Angry Birds, $2/child or free for members
Saturday and Sunday, 10-5pm Free

Friday, March 29, 2013

An Easter Nature Walk at Wellfield

It is starting to feel like spring! We haven't even pulled out the boxes of Easter things yet; however, Easter is still on our minds. We went to Wellfield Botanic Gardens in Elkhart for an Easter Nature Walk. I created this a few weeks ago for my MOPS group. I've been waiting for a little more "color" before we explored it in more depth. Wellfield was a perfect backdrop for our walk.

The boys immediately found white on one of the Elk's guarding the trails. We love seeing the Elks out and about!

  Matthew 28:His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

Matthew 27: 28-30 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.

Mark 15:17 And they clothed him with purple, and plaited a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,

Something that smells good was kind of tricky with spring not in full force yet . . . they tried really hard, but it wasn't until we were leaving and saw an evergreen that I was very hopeful that we had found something with fragrance. We even asked one of the workers for leads. It will be a different story in a short time. 

Something that Smells Good
Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

Matthew 28:2,5 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

Matthew 27:31-32 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.


Matthew 21:8-9 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
Matthew 27:29 And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!


Matthew 21:12-13 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold dovesAnd said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Matthew 28:6-7 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

Signs of Decay/Death
Matthew 27:50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.


Isaiah 60:1-2 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall carise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

Broken Rocks
Matthew 27:50-51, 54 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;  . . . 

Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

Matthew 27: 24-26 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

We didn't really watch the sunrise (but maybe we still will!), but we did find this plant! It had the thorns on it!
Matthew 28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

The boys found this round stone, saying that if it was dug up that it would roll. Way to think beyond the top of the soil!
Rock that Rolls
Matthew 27:60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

I will say the kids weren't excited about coming here for our activity, but they got into as we went and did a great job thinking outside the box on our walk. I loved that we were reading from the scriptures, out in nature, exploring a new place, focused on details of our search, and celebrating Easter in an active way. Great memories!

A Moss Walk

One afternoon this month, the boys just needed some outside time while I was making dinner and working on other things inside. I sent the two older boys out with my iPhone to find moss! This is what they came up with . . .

The kids were just "exploring moss" today. We still have so much to learn! The Outdoor Hour Challenge from Handbook of Nature Study in March focused on mushrooms, mosses and lichen, so this walk was a perfect fit. The boys made these observations:

1. Moss is often on wet, fallen down logs. These are often slippery. 
2. Moss is often on dead trees or branches.
3. Moss looks kind of hairy. It's soft. 
4. Moss often grows on trees, but can also be on the ground, sticks, rocks, and old tires. 


I liked this approach of just looking for one thing while in the forest. It was easier to focus and they saw things they might not have noticed otherwise. It also gives them more opportunities to explore their own backyard in a unique way.

This guy is ALWAYS climbing on things on walks! I've watched him navigate this risk many times and seen how he negotiates the surroundings and compromises with nature to make it safe. He is learning life skills as he "plays" with nature!

We live just on an acre, but over half of it is loaded with tall pine trees. We let the trees fall and stay on the ground for the most part. There is ample opportunity for moss to help recycle the fallen wood. 

We decided to learn more about moss. We looked up a few websites and looked in books from the library.

Moss History for Kids -- Moss doesn't have seeds. They reproduce by spores. They also live near water or in wet areas, which confirmed my sons' observations.

Needs of Moss -- Moss needs shade, acidic soil, moisture. They get nutrients they need from the air.

Mosses and Liverworts Green World Series -- This book had good illustrations to help us understand more about moss and nice pictures, too.

Of course, they found other "interesting things" while out and about they needed to capture! Scat is fun on any walk! I also enjoyed them noticing moss and mushrooms on other explorations. They are noticing things I might not otherwise see. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rain Gardens!

Several members from the North Chapter of INPAWS (Indiana Native Plants and Wildflower Society) and Eric Kurtz from SWCD  (Elkhart County Soil and Water Conservation District) came to Woodlawn Nature Center for a site assessment for an upcoming rain garden! They looked at the soil, the building and how the water runs off, the shade of the trees, existing plants, etc. and came up with a preliminary plan to work with the Girls Scouts on installing a rain garden in front of Woodlawn Nature Center. While this is a girl led project, I helped connect them with good experts that could help them along the way!

Later, Eric gave an interactive presentation to the girls about water quality and how rain gardens help keep our water clean. He talked about how much water is in the world, breaking it down to how much water is really available to us for use. He started with 1000 mL to represent how much water is on the Earth. 

However, out of those 1000 mL, only 1 DROP is really available as clean water for our use and consumption!

Eric illustrated this by giving one drop to each of the girls to remind them of how little fresh water is available for our use.

Later, they set up a sample city with varying levels of topography. Eric guided the girls to set out various elements that might affect water quality, such as construction, transportation, farm animals, etc.

The girls made it "rain" (sprayed with water bottles). Then Eric guided them to discuss some of these pollutants. They used various items (like food coloring in a bottle, brown sprinkles for the poop!, green sugar for pesticides, glitter, etc.) to represent some of these pollutants.

 It "rained" more and the girls could see the effects of pollution. They talked about the watershed area.

As they wrapped up, they talked about some of the things they could do to make a positive difference on water quality, such as having rain gardens!

One of the Girl Scouts noticed my little guy didn't have a chance to make it rain, yet wanted to spray the bottle. She spoke up for him and made sure he could make it rain too. I loved watching this interaction and thoughtfulness.

It was kind of nice to have all the women leaders get a baby fix. Once he woke up, I didn't hold him until we left. He had plenty of love! :-) 

The girls had such interesting comments and questions. Most were right on target, yet some were distracted with dinosaurs being related to birds and lizards and sharks living in salt water. It's always so interesting to listen to what children connect. Another girl asked, "Is it true the water we use to shower is recycled? If so, it's kind of gross . . . " I guess it kind of is, but it drives home point of how precious water is. I think it's something I tend to take for granted. I always have clean, accessible water when I turn on the faucet. But I lived in the Dominican Republic for about 1 1/2 years as a missionary. I know what it's like to not have safe drinking water or running water in a house or even hot water.

During the evening, the Girl Scout also brought an arbor and barrel to donate to Woodlawn Nature Center! It's neat to see some plans for the outside of WNC coming together. Thanks Girl Scouts!

Have you thought about creating a rain garden in your yard or using more native plants? There are educational helps for rain barrels and rain gardens in Elkhart County, as well as a reimbursement plan for residents. Find more information here. St. Joseph County SWCD has some information here. Both counties have rain barrel auctions as well! 
Rain Barrel Auction in St. Joseph County 
Rain Barrel Auction in Elkhart County