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Wild Onions, Cleavers, and Animal Signs

This morning begin with finding what looked like deer signs along the trail. We found some broken branches and nibbled leaves on the Sweetleaf plant. We read about deer in one of our books and learned that they do not have top, front teeth. This makes the chew marks look jagged and rough. We looked at the chew marks through the microscope. When we did that, we saw that the leaves of the plant look like they have little hairs or bristles on them that we couldn't see with our bare eye. That was really neat!

We walked over to what we think is a fox den to see if there were new tracks. It looks like the animal has visited the den since the last rain! We are pretty sure it is a fox den because it has an escape hole and seems to be about the right size. We have also observed that the tracks look like canine tracks.

Next we visited our stick shelter and worked on that for a little while. We found some more animal holes at the base of trees and signs that an animal had been digging in the leaf litter. We even found a track next to one of the holes. Was it a skunk? We weren't sure. Do skunks dig in the leaf litter?

We also practiced climbing on some of the grapevine. That was really fun! We decided that we would like to walk to the beach, but before that, Miss Brinkley brought out the compass. We talked about the four directions and practiced using a compass. We are preparing for a treasure hunt that we will do in a couple of weeks.

On the walk to the bay, we discovered cleavers. We played a game to see how many cleavers we could stick to each others' shirts by throwing the little plants at each other. We laughed a lot when we did this! When we were pulling up some of the cleaver, we started to smell onion, so we looked a little closer and realized that there might be wild onions growing along the path! We dug up a few of them and found a bulb! We want to do a little more research to see if this is indeed a wild onion, and then maybe we can eat one next time.

We talked about bird companion calls today. This is what the birds do to keep track of their mate. We read a story about two Cardinals and how one saved the other through their companion calls. Bird language is fascinating! We spent part of the day listening to see if we could find a pair of birds doing companion calls. We think we heard a couple of them by the creek!

When we got to the bay, we saw some Egret. We looked through the binoculars and realized that they had yellow feet. So, we looked them up in our field guide and identified them as snowy egret. We talked about distribution maps and how you can figure out if a bird lives in your area at a certain time of year.

We walked around in the creek bed for a little while and found some new tracks. Maybe a squirrel? Does a squirrel track have five toes and long claw marks? We also heard a little bird in the tree that sounded like a chickadee. It was! At first we thought it was a black-capped chickadee, but after referring to our field guide, we realized that black capped chickadees are actually not in our area of the country. It was a Carolina Chickadee! We played a game on the beach that involves studying tracks. One person would make a set of tracks and the other person would try to guess the movements they made in order to produce those tracks. That was fun, and Nikos got pretty silly with the game. On our walk out of the woods, we used our nature journals to write the new bird species that we saw this week. We also looked at some sticks chewed by beavers that Miss Brinkley brought to program today. She found them about a week ago and wanted to show them to Nikos. He found that to be really interesting, and we read about beavers in a couple of our books.

Each week, we've been writing down the questions and curiosities we have about our discoveries. Here is our current list of questions:

  • What local animals dig holes or dens under trees?

  • Do raccoons sleep in ground dens or only in trees?

  • What are the signs at a den for raccoon or fox?

  • Were do foxes go during the day?

  • Do foxes sleep on just the dirt or do they gather leaves for a pillow?

  • What are raccoons doing at sunrise?

  • How can you tell the difference between grey fox and red fox?

  • Do grey foxes and coyotes fight?

  • Do any other animals besides foxes have escape holes at their dens?

  • Do wild onions grow here? Are they edible? What do they look like?

  • Do skunks dig holes in leaf litter? What would they be digging for?

  • What does a squirrel track look like? Does it have 5 toes?

  • Do deer eat moss off of trees?

  • What do owls do at nighttime?

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