Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chickadees Found Our Bird Feeder!

(picture taken by my ten year old son)

My older son (he's ten), knowing I wanted a bird feeder, thoughtfully bought me a bird feeder and birdseed for my birthday earlier this year. After carefully considering the best place to put it, we hung the bird feeder on a tree behind our house. We tried to choose a place where the cats couldn't climb up or jump and hurt the birds, and I think we have it in a really good spot.

I was anxious that the birds might not be able to find it, but my son, who is becoming interested in bird-watching and learning about birds, had read in a book that it would take a week or so for birds to find it, and some chickadees found it. It's so exciting that we have chickadees who come and eat from it!

My older son, while enjoying sitting outside and watching for birds, caught a chickadee on video. He also took the picture at the top of this post. Isn't the chickadee cute?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Native Flower - Fringe Cups (Tellima grandiflora)

(Picture taken 5/25/09 at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge)


A couple months while on a walk with one of my children, I commented (as I had done before) about how nice it would be to have someone walk with us who could tell us all the names of the flowers and plants. Then it dawned upon me -- we could look up the names ourselves (why didn't I think of that before?)! And so we started doing that, and searching for new flowers, and we get excited when we see a new flower we haven't seen before. It's really fun!

So sometimes I will be blogging about new flowers we have seen and identified, and tonight I am writing about the flowers known as "fringe cups." We saw fringe cups at two places we visited this past month. We saw them both at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge and at South Hill Community Park on the Nathan Chapman Memorial Trail. They are a type of perennial flower that is native to western North America.

The Rainy Side Gardener's website describes their flowering attributes as "Racemes of fragrant, greenish-white fringe cups that fade to pink, sometimes red, as the flower ages." It describes it's leaf attributes as "Heart-shaped, scalloped, hairy, green leaves."

A fun little tidbit of information is that woodland elves are said to eat fringe cups to help improve their vision. I don't know the primary source of this information, though I wish I did. It doesn't work for humans, though, so don't try it out yourself. :)

Close-up of petals (Picture taken 5/25/09 at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge):


Close-up of Leaves (Picture taken 5/22/09 on the Nathan Chapman Memorial Trail at South Hill Community Park):


Here are some more pictures of fringe cups (tellima grandiflora):

(Picture taken 5/25/09 at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge)


(Picture taken 5/25/09 at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge)


(Picture taken 5/22/09 on the Nathan Chapman Memorial Trail at South Hill Community Park)


(Picture taken 5/22/09 on the Nathan Chapman Memorial Trail at South Hill Community Park)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Kobayashi Park in University Place, WA



Our family recently, where least expecting it (at the end of a quiet, dead-end residential road), came upon a sign that said "Kobayashi Park." Unable to take the time to visit then, we determined to return another day. Our family was able to visit last Saturday.

I haven't been very successful finding information about Kobayashi Park on the internet, but as far as I can tell, the approximate address is 6403 Chambers Creek Rd W, University Place, WA. Apparently, in the past a family owned it, but the land is now owned by University Place. And sometimes it is called Kobayashi Preserve.

The park is where Leach Creek and Chambers Creek meet, and it provides a beautiful and peaceful place for a leisurely stroll and the opportunity to enjoy a lovely slice of nature down by the rivers. You have to drive down a one lane driveway if you want to park down in the park, and there isn't very much parking space down there, but the day we went the weather was beautifully warm and sunny, and not many people were there. The sound of the river is musical and refreshing. We enjoyed our visit very much.

Here are some pictures. . .











Here is a video where you can hear the sound of the river (and a couple of my children and me -- oops!):

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tree Faces

After reading this sweet post at The Magic Onions about tree faces, I was inspired to share the idea with my kiddos to see if they would like to look for tree faces. They were interested, and we looked for faces on our walks this past weekend. Doing this helped to nurture creativity and to encourage us to look at the trees more closely and even, in a sense, to get to know them better and also to appreciate their differences and each tree's uniqueness more. We had fun, and my husband even saw one.

Here are a few pictures:

This sweet guy with a ferny-top of hair wanted to sing us a song (picture taken 5-25-09 at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge):


Here is a pleasant, agreeable one-eyed fellow. You can even see his two top front teeth as he smiles! (picture taken 5-25-09 at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge)


We are calling this the cyclops tree (this is the one my husband spotted!) Doesn't he really look like his eye is watching you? Pretty freaky, eh? No, really, I think he looks nice, but like he is a serious kind of tree (picture taken 5-23-09 at Kobayashi Park).


This old lady was yelling to get our attention (picture taken 5-23-09 at Kobayashi Park):


Meet Mr. Bear (well, he looks like some type of animal, but we aren't all agreed on which one) (picture taken 5-25-09 at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge):


We sometimes saw different faces in the trees. Here is one of my children pointing and explaining what face he saw. He explained that this tree has a beard (picture taken 5-25-09 at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge):


This tree has a very big mouth, but she is very kind! :) (picture taken 5-25-09 at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Raccoons

My ten year old son took this picture of a raccoon peaking around a post on our front porch:


We think raccoons are adorable. Not that I want a whole bunch of them around; I don't. But look at that face! How can you not think that face is cute?!

We used to wonder why our outdoor cats had dirt in their water when we would check their water the next day after setting out clean water the day before. My mother-in-law solved the puzzle for us. She explained that the raccoons like to put their hands, er, I mean paws, in the water!

Talking about paws. . . have you seen theirs? They use them like hands. It's so cute to see a raccoon picking up cat food from a bowl with their hands and bringing the food to their mouth to eat it.

We hadn't seen a raccoon for quite a while, but my son saw this raccoon on the 22nd of May, and he saw a raccoon again tonight. We'll be watchful to see if we can see anymore! :)

Wikipedia's page on raccoons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racoon says that, "The raccoon (Procyon lotor), sometimes spelled as racoon,[2] and also known as the common raccoon,[3] North American raccoon,[4] northern raccoon[5] and colloquially as coon,[6] is a medium-sized mammal native to North America. As a result of escapes and deliberate introductions in the mid-20th century, raccoons are now also distributed across the European mainland, the Caucasus region and Japan. Their original habitats are deciduous and mixed forests, but due to their adaptability they have extended their range to mountainous areas, coastal marshes, and even urban areas, where some homeowners consider them pests."

Enchanted Learning has a raccoon printout you might like:
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/mammals/raccoon/Raccoonprintout.shtml

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Salmonberries

Picture with bee taken by my 13 year old daughter at Point Defiance Park on May 15, 2009:
Back on May 15th during our nature walk at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, WA, we saw some pretty pinkish purple flowers on a bush. It was a bush that produced a type of berry, but the berry we saw was still green at the time, and we didn't know what kind of berry it was. The flowers sure were pretty, though!

Then we saw the same type of bushes again on May 23rd while we were walking along a trail at Kobahashi Park in University Place, WA, and this time some of the berries were ripening into a pretty yellow color tinged with pink. I looked it up in Plants Of The Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska and found out they are salmonberries.

Here is some information from Wikipedia's page on salmonberries:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salmonberry

The flowers are 2–3 cm diameter, with five purple petals; they are produced from early spring to early summer. The fruit matures in late summer to early autumn, and resembles a large yellow to orange-red raspberry 1.5-2 cm long with many drupelets.[1][2]

In Washington State the berries can ripen from mid-June to late-July.

Salmonberries are found in moist forests and stream margins, especially in the coastal forests. They often form large thickets, and thrive in the open spaces under stands of Red Alder (Alnus rubra).


Salmonberry shares the fruit structure of the raspberry, with the fruit pulling away from its receptacle. Books often call the fruit "insipid"[3] but depending on ripeness and site, they are good eaten raw and when processed into jams, candies, jellies and wines.

They are important food for Native Americans. It is one of the numerous berries gathered to incorporate into pemmican. It is said that the name came about because of the First Nations' fondness for eating the berries with half-dried salmon roe.


We haven't tasted one yet, but I am hoping to taste one after they ripen a little more.

Picture taken May 15, 2009, at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, WA:


Picture taken May 15, 2009, at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, WA:


Picture taken May 23, 2009, at Kobayashi Park in University Place, WA:


Picture taken May 23, 2009, at Kobayashi Park in University Place, WA:


Edited to add: Up above I quoted Wiki's page that said that in "Washington State the berries can ripen from mid-June to late-July." Well, it appears that they can also ripen in late May. It must really depend on where they are. Perhaps how much sun they get? Here are some pictures taken at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge on May 25, 2009.

This picture was taken near the visitor center:


This picture was also taken near the visitor center; there are salmonberries in the foreground:


This was taken while on the Twin Barns Loop Trail. We saw a lot of ripe ones there!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Bug called a Water Strider

While visiting Kobayashi Park in University Place, WA, my children spotted a bug with long legs skating quickly over the surface of the water in a calm, off-to-the-side area of Leach Creek. After looking it up on Google, I found out the insect is called a water strider.

Wikipedia says, "Water striders can stand effortlessly on water due to their non-wetting legs. . . [they] rely on surface tension to walk on top of water. They live on the surface of ponds, slow streams, marshes, and other quiet waters. There they hunt for insects and other small invertebrates on top of or directly below surface using their strong forelegs which end with claws. They can move very quickly, up to 1.5 m/s. They paddle forward with the middle pair of their legs, using fore- and hind legs as a rudder." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_strider

Enchanted Learning has a diagram of a water strider where you can see and learn the different parts of a water strider:
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/insects/bugs/waterstrider/Wsprintout.shtml

That page says that water striders do not bite people, which is good to know! :)

Here are a couple pictures. Can you see it in the pictures?

In this picture the water strider is down toward the bottom near a shadowy spot of the water. There are some neat bright reflections where it touches the water.



In this picture it's shadow can be clearly seen, but the water strider is almost the color of the sand beneath it, so it blends in and that makes it harder to see.

Garden Update - Planted

On Thursday I worked hard to finish digging up the ground of the garden. It was really good exercise! Here is a picture of it with most of the ground dug up:



The three younger kids and I planted it. Here is the first plant that was put in the garden -- a cucumber plant:



We got most of it planted, but we plan to add more to it. If everything grows, it will be really crowded in the garden. We've never been successful at growing a garden, so I can't help but feel skeptical that it will actually work. We've never worked so hard, though, before, on a garden. It's great to work together on it. Surely it will grow this time (please, God, we humbly pray!). :)

Here are a couple pictures of it with most things planted (please don't laugh. . . I'm afraid we might be doing it all wrong, but I sure hope we are doing enough things right!):





By the way

Thursday, May 21, 2009

White Rabbit



We saw the cutest, most beautiful wild rabbit. She reminds us of the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. The white rabbit we saw is albino. They aren't very common to find in the wild. She has a little baby, too. Her baby is brown.

You can find some helpful information about albino animals on this page:

http://www.dnr.mn.gov/young_naturalists/coloroncoloroff/index.html

Here is a great full-color file of that same page in pdf format:

http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/publications/volunteer/young_naturalists/albino_animals/albino_animals.pdf

Being white, she isn't camouflaged very well. That means that she doesn't blend into her surroundings very well. Also, since she is albino, she can't see as well as other rabbits. Because of these reasons, we have been concerned about her. It was encouraging to read the following (this quote is found on the pages which are linked-to above):

Scientists have explored how an albino's white coat or missing camouflage affects them as prey. Sometimes albinos are noticed and captured more easily than normal animals. But in other instances, predators didn't seem to recognize them as food. (Would you recognize white hamburgers as good to eat?) In studies where animals had many places to hide, predators captured albino and normally colored animals at the same rate. Coat color did not make a difference.


The sweet white rabbit we saw lives in an area with many places to hide, so we pray she is able to keep safe. She sure is enjoying life, though! She looked so happy, eating the plants and bounding around. She makes us smile! We hope she makes you smile, too! :)

Update on our Garden

I first posted about our garden here back on April 30th. I'm embarrassed to say that we still haven't planted any of our little plants outside yet. We are happy that things are growing inside as well as they are. We hope to get everything planted outside very soon!

Here are our pumpkins:



Our cucumbers:



Our cabbage:



Our sunflowers:



Our catnip:



Last week or so, my older son also started a few tomato plants and a couple zucchini plants inside, and they have sprouted up, too!

Here you can see a couple tomato plants that have sprouted up:



My goal is to get our garden planted outside by the end of this coming weekend. :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Do you like butter (according to the buttercup)?



There is a fun and simple folk tradition I like to do with my kiddos using a buttercup blossom. The tradition says that if you hold a buttercup close to your chin and yellow from the buttercup reflects on your skin and casts a yellow glow on your chin, it shows that you like butter. Never mind that, judging by the yellow reflection cast by the buttercup, it seems that just about everyone likes butter! ;) It's still a happy springtime tradition.

We tried it out once again this afternoon. Let's see if my little boy likes butter. . .



Yes! (or actually in his case it's a buttery spread called Earth Balance) :)