Our newest nature study subjects

This time of year usually kicks off our science lessons which really consist of a whole lot of nature study each day, whenever opportunities present themselves.  Bird watching, hiking, mushroom hunting, and identifying new things we come across are always on our spring agenda.  This past couple of weeks alone we have found several new and interesting things to learn about.  The most unexpected surprise came with the hatching of all of those praying mantids!

We have watched this new visitor come to our bird feeder quite frequently.  A red-winged black bird has stopped by just about every day for a snack.  We have heard them nearby before but this year they are coming right up and eating!  We are seeing and hearing them more and more in the woods behind the house.  I don’t believe it’s common for them to eat at feeders as they tend to be ground feeders and are usually found near roadways, waterways, etc.  A little out of their usual place but a welcome change for us.

Last fall the kids found a couple of moth caterpillars that they wanted to try to keep over the winter.  Thankfully we were smart enough to put them in a jar with a mesh top!  One hatched a month or so ago and this one just did this past week.  I can’t remember the kind of the other one but this one is a grapeleaf skeletonizer moth.  Pretty cool looking but I doubt I’ll be saying that if I find them on my grapevines later!

If you look closely in the center of this picture(click on it to enlarge) you will see an old enemy of Mark’s.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you may remember Groundhog Day back in 2008.  It’s been a long standing rivalry between them.  Well, the kids and I have been entertained by one particular groundhog that makes an appearance once in a while right out the bird window.  He climbs a branch, waddles around and mainly just makes his presence known.  Poor Mark.

Finally, if any of you bird watchers out there can help us identify this little bird we would be so happy.  It has been visiting under the feeders a lot lately and we just can’t get an ID on it.   It’s a muddled mix of grey and white.  The head is mainly white which is really throwing me off.  I’m wondering if it’s a juvenile junco maybe?  Any other guesses?

~Maria

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