Welcome to the 2016 Nature Camp Blog! We will be posting information and photos of our daily activities on this page. We encourage campers and their families to visit here daily to learn about our experiences and see what the Friends of the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Summer Camp is all about.

Session #2 Camp Blog 2016 

  • July 29, 2016 2:56 PM | Anonymous

    Today was the last day of this Session. It was also the last Session for 2016. It's always bittersweet to close a camp. The Staff and Campers became close, and had a lot of fun together.

    Today began with the campers doing a bit of last-day tweaks to their journals, and some campers adding some new items. When everyone was present, we all convened for the all-camp photograph, which Tom Shreve took. The campers then went down the Service Road to the large Garry Oak Tree, the oldest tree on the Refuge, about 350 years old.

    Our Naturalist Gary Fawver told the campers the story that this old tree asked our Gary to share with the kids. The story describes all of the things that the Garry Oak encountered through his long life at this spot. The campers were very attentive.

    The Beavers, Chickadees, and Owls each went out on the trails for their last walk and sit-spot. When they returned, each camper selected their favorite journal page for a picture to be included in a book to be assembled of this year's camp. Here's one camper's favorite...

    Charlie and Sandy showed the campers how to bind the covers to the journal pages. With the help of the Team Leads and Camp Assistants, they were ready to take over to the Visitors Center to join up with the other project deliverables for the week. Our veteran camper Clair did the honors of taking the completed journals for display.

    Our Photographer Tom Shreve helped the campers mount the 4 x 6 print of one of their favorite pictures in a frame to take home. Tom had printed and framed 8 x 10 prints of another favorite picture from each camper and mounted those on the wall in the Riparian Room.

    The campers then turned in their art supplies and loupes for us to use in our next camp.

    With everything set up for when the families arrived, the campers assembled in the EE Shelter for some music, courtesy of Ginny, Sandy, and Gloria, our string trio,...


    and some dancing, choreographed by Ginny, with Sandy and Gloria providing the music.

    The families arrived on time and the entire congregation was led over to the Visitors Center by Sandy, on her viola.

    The Staff will take a bit of time off to recharge our batteries. Soon, while the memories of the 2016 Camp are still fresh, we'll get together to debrief what went well this year, what we should look to improve, and discuss if some of the activities should be replaced.

    We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent with the campers and are grateful for the opportunity. We appreciate your joining the celebration today, and look forward to seeing you the Refuge and perhaps at next year's Camp.

  • July 28, 2016 3:04 PM | Anonymous

    We arrived today to a sunny, clear day with temperatures a little higher than the previous days of camp. With all the sun, it got much warmer throughout the morning.

    Those campers who arrived early spent some time drawing in their journals.

    Day 4 of Nature Camp is Signs of Animals Day. Naturalists develop keen eyes for signs of animals, which are often much easier to find than the animals themselves. Naturalists also maintain their skills in collecting data so they can research what they saw when they return to their lab, office, or home, and possibly identify the creatures that left the signs.

    The first activity of the day was CSI (Critter Scene Investigation). On all of the overlooks on the Refuge and at the EE Shelter there are animal tracks that have been pressed into the concrete. The tracks were laid down by biologists using real animal prints collected in the wild. The stride of the animal is accurate, as is the way each animal moves. The tracks were placed to tell stories about the animal interactions at these sites. Today, we asked the campers to sketch tracks at the site they visited in their journal and collect whatever data they can while in the field. Ask your camper where they went to collect data.


    When the campers finished gathering data, they returned to the EE Shelter to look through cards describing animals that have been seen on the Refuge. Included in the set of cards was data for the specific animals at the site they visited. We also had pelts of many of the animals spread out for the campers to see.

    What animals did your camper determine were at the site that they visited? Did the camper and their team propose a story of the possible interaction among the animals at the site?

    The second activity for the day deals with a different animal sign - Owl Pellets. Owls have a very special digestive system. Because they don't have teeth, they can't chew their food before swallowing it. The rodents, shrews, moles and birds that owls kill are swallowed whole. The parts that can't be digested: fur, bones, teeth, claws, etc. are left in the owl after the meat and digestible parts are gone. The owl regurgitates the indigestible parts as a pellet.

    We purchase owl pellets from a scientific materials company that collects them and sanitizes them. They're safe to handle.

    Here, Naturalist Robin Harrower explains to the campers how owls eat and how to dissect their owl pellet and sort the contents. The camper then can determine what the owl ate.

    Here is a pellet wrapped in foil, and the pellet unwrapped...

    The campers use tweezers, toothpicks, and wooden skewers to tease the bones from the pellet.

    Here Naturalist Tim Wood helps a few campers identify what's in their pellets.

    Ask your camper what they thought of the exercise and what animal(s) were in their pellet.

    At the end of the day, we asked the campers to report back to the group their thoughts of the day. Maddi reported for the Chickadees, Emily for the Beavers, and Amaris, Samara and Sophia for the Owls. All of the teams enjoyed both activities. Would you have predicted that your camper would dive right in and actually enjoy dissecting a clump of material that a bird upchucked? If you have a cat, you may want to let your kids know that hairballs probably don't have bones of little critters inside.

    After washing their hands, the campers and staff enjoyed a snack of sun baked cobbler. Thanks, Charlie and Ginny!

  • July 27, 2016 3:47 PM | Anonymous

    Eames, from the Beavers Team, agreed to be Photojournalist today. It's a particularly tough day to be Photojournalist. The campers seem to have an easier time when they're out in the field collecting pictures. Today's activities were mostly in more enclosed settings. Eames concentrated on getting shots of his teammates, which is a big part of the role of Photojournalist.

    He got a couple of well-taken pictures of his team making paper...

    Eames then loaned the camera to a friend to capture himself making his journal cover. Very resourceful, Eames!

    He got a few shots of his team with Gary Fawver during the Bird Identification activity. One is of the campers acquainting themselves with their binoculars. The other is of the campers trying to estimate the height of a bird way off in the distance.


    With the help of a friend, he was able to get a shot of his team and Marilyn Ellis at the Build a Bird activity.

    Nice job, Eames!

  • July 27, 2016 2:22 PM | Anonymous

    It was another cool, overcast morning, predicted to become much warmer this afternoon. Fortunately, our morning camp allows us to operate in the more comfortable part of the day.

    The campers arrived in time to see the unveiling of the Camp Banner. Each of the campers and staff had written their name on the banner in glue, the banner was washed to remove the glue, but render the signatures resistant to paint. Our camp artist, Jennifer Bennett, had sketched a scene and some animals on the banner and then painted over it. Pretty cool! Thanks, Jennifer.

    Charlie Graham got some help this morning from Blair, one of our team leaders, in preparing the batter for today's solar snack, banana Bread.

    Wednesday is "Birds Day" at the Nature Camp. The campers were exposed to lots of information about birds, with the main focus being that they are really fascinating and amazing animals. One of our bird specialists, Marilyn Ellis (a.k.a. The Bird Lady), began the day with an in-depth look at bird diversity, habitats, and adaptations.

    Marilyn has access to a collection of preserved birds, received from the Audubon Society, where she worked for many years. These birds were killed, mostly by automobiles or illness, and then stuffed for educational purposes. Marilyn exhibits a high level of respect for these creatures.

    Marilyn engaged the campers in a discussion of how birds adapted to their habitat and the diverse roles they play in their respective habitat.

    This owl has incredibly long and sharp talons, as do all raptors, for catching and quickly killing their prey.

    Mallards' beaks are designed to strain their food from the water with their serrated edges.

    The Great Blue Heron has a beak specially designed to spear its prey. They have very long legs to wade in wetlands' water, and large feet, suitable for walking on the muddy bottom of the ponds, streams, etc. where they hunt.

    The Red Tailed Hawk has a broad wing, shown here, and a tail that allow the bird to soar on air currents and land safely.

    After the discussion with Marilyn, the campers went off as teams to visit other stations. At one, Gary Fawver, a Naturalist and excellent bird photographer, gave the campers some tips on bird identification. He also taught the camper how to properly use binoculars. It was particularly fun to witness the campers who were unfamiliar with binoculars grin broadly when they "got it."


    Marilyn carried her theme of bird adaptations into another station where each camper designed their own bird. They chose body parts from several options to create a bird that probably doesn't exist. The campers were challenged to describe the habitat that their bird lives in, how it gets its food, and what color its feathers are. The campers also gave each bird its species name. Ask your camper to describe their bird.

    Yesterday, each camper took a lot of pictures. Today, they each sat with Tom Shreve, Photographer, and together they reviewed the camper's collection of pictures. The camper selected their favorite two pictures for printing. One will be framed for display in the Visitors Center, and the other framed for the camper to take home at the end of the Camp Session on Friday. Ask your camper how they chose their favorites.

    Each day throughout the camp, the campers have been keeping a journal. They've drawn pictures, scenes, recorded observations, etc. Today, the campers made the paper and designed the cover for their journal. Sandy Reid, Naturalist, Helped the campers through the process.


    Sandy also gave the campers a history of paper-making.

    At the end of each day, the Camp Staff gathers to discuss the day: what worked, what can we do to improve an activity for the next time we do it. We also preview and plan for the next day.

    Tomorrow will be another busy day, with more field activities. Today, the staff focused on the logistics to make it all come together smoothly for the campers.

  • July 26, 2016 4:16 PM | Anonymous

    For every Nature Camp Session, we try to get some additional feedback from the campers to put on the blog. Each team in the camp is asked to assign one team member to serve as the Photojournalist for a day. The role is to capture some shots of their teammates in action, along with some pictures that reflect what the journalist thought looked pretty cool. Today, Sophia, from the Owls was selected as the Photojournalist.

    Sophia did as we asked. She got some great pictures of her teammates in action...

    Here are the Owls on the prowl for interesting pictures on Photography day.

    She got a couple of shots of her teammates taking pictures as well....

    Here's a picture of the Owls' Naturalist pointing out something of interest to her team...

    ...and a few views of what she thought looked interesting. Sophia shows her very good sense of "interesting" with - -

    a clever view of a very tall tree. Doesn't the view angle accentuate the height of the tree?

    This shot hints at the diversity of life on an oak tree: the tree itself, the galls which provide nourishment to a special wasp, and the moss in the shaded nooks of the oak.

    Here are a few dainty blooms rising above a lot of ground cover.

    This is a picture of a very complex web. Sophia caught a good shot of it and the vegetation around it.

    As the Refuge dries up at this time of year to allow the flowers to go to seed for nourishment for the next migration of birds, there's lots of drama in and around the remaining water. It's scenes like this one that depict that transition.

    Very nice job, Sophia! Thanks for sharing your talents.

  • July 26, 2016 2:53 PM | Anonymous

    Everyone arrived this morning to cool, overcast conditions. The forecast called for things to clear up and get warmer. Overcast skies are often very favorable for photography, and today was Photo Day! Conditions were excellent for a morning of picture-taking.

    Campers busied themselves until all arrived. Some chose to weave bracelets using UV-sensitive beads. These beads develop color when exposed to sunlight.

    Other campers were fascinated by the snake skin that Naturalist Tim Wood brought in from his yard.

    Everyone was anxious to get out into the field and capture images, so Tom Sheve passed out cameras to the campers and gave a quick tutorial on how to take pictures that tell a story or catch a viewer's eye.

    Ask your camper about using the "Rule of Thirds" to compose a picture.

    After learning some of Tom's hints, the campers learned to use the camera's user interface.

    Here, Team Leader Haley and the Beavers learn how to use the buttons and knobs to take a picture.

    Armed with all this new knowledge, everyone headed out on the trails. One team stopped on a bridge to see what may be under it. They saw some very clear footprints in the mud on the bank of the creek.

    Ask your camper what animal may have left those tracks.

    A very rewarding benefit of Photo Day is that the activity not only slows the campers down and allows them to really focus on their surroundings, but it also provides a great opportunity for the campers and staff to share ideas with each other and to develop closer friendships.

    There happened to be a very large Great Blue Heron in the canal near the service road close by the Trail to the Photo Blind.

    The bird seemed totally focused on his hunting. Fortunately, the Beaver Team was approaching the canal, so I walked toward them.

    How can you have a camera day if nobody posed? The Beavers must have spotted me.

    We walked quietly to the canal, where were pleased to find that the heron moved even closer to the service road and was still very much intent on hunting.

    Soon, the Chickadee Team approached and joined the Beavers for a photo frenzy.....

    This was a very photogenic heron.

    All too soon, it was time to head back to the EE Shelter to recap the day. The morning had gotten warm and sunny, ideal for a frog in the pond to bask in the sun on a log.

    When everyone was together, the teams shared their observations. Hannah, reporting for the Owls, noted that they saw a towhee, a great blue heron, a turkey vulture, butterflies and over 30 bullfrogs with lots of tadpoles. They also noted rose hips, Oregon ash, and Oregon grapes. Ava reported for the Chickadees. They also saw several species of birds: a great blue heron along with a heron nest, a hummingbird, a woodpecker, and a mourning dove. They observed a white spider with a yellow stripe on a white flower, nicely camouflaged! Let's hope that someone got a picture of the spider. According to Lindsay, the Beavers saw five great blue herons, a bushtit nest, dabbling ducks, a nutria, and a snake. They also learned to identify poison oak.

    Ask your camper what pictures they most hope come out clear and sharp. They'll get to review their efforts of today with a photographer tomorrow and choose their favorites for framing.

    There was enough sun in the mid-to-late morning for Charlie's cookers to hard "boil" eggs.

    Lots of time on the trails today! Everyone seemed to have a great time. We'll all sleep well tonight.

  • July 25, 2016 1:26 PM | Anonymous

    Today was Day 1 of Session 2 of the Summer Nature Camp. We were greeted with bright blue skies, cool temperatures, and calm winds. The first day of camp is always a bit hectic: signing-in, getting supplies, and meeting teammates and the camp staff. The campers were patient through it all and settled in very nicely. Ask your camper which team they're on: Beavers, Chickadees, or Owls.

    We were greeted by a flyover by a flock of our friends from the north...

    Charlie Graham, Camp Director,  kicked off the camp, explaining what we will be doing this week. It was obvious that the campers were excited to get going. Charlie introduced Seth, a Friends of the Refuge employee, who is the Environmental Education Specialist. Seth explained that the Refuge is "all about the animals" and gave the campers some important rules to follow. Ask your camper what we all should do if we find something really cool while out on the trails.

    Charlie then led the Teams out to the plaza in front of the Visitors Center and did an exercise to help the campers get to know each other.

    Charlie's holding some cute, furry animals in his arms here, ask your camper what he, and then everyone, did with these animals. (Hint: no one was injured during the exercise.)

    The campers were each given their "journal" in which they will capture their experiences, observations and thoughts during the week. Robin, the Naturalist with the Owls Team, gave some hints on how to keep an organized journal.

    During each camp session, when the weather cooperates, Charlie "fires up" his solar ovens. He cooks food for the campers for a snack at the end of the day. Here, Charlie explains how the solar ovens work. Ask you camper how the ovens get hot.

    Tom Shreve, a Camp Photographer, took a picture of each team as they left the EE Shelter to head out onto the trails.

    Tom's getting the Team Photo of the Beavers. Ginny Maffit is the Naturalist for the Beavers.

    Tim Wood, the Naturalist for the Chickadees, points out something of interest on the trail just before the team get to the ponds.

    Each team did a Sit/Spot and some journaling during their first walk.

    Robin Harrower, the Naturalist for the Owls, took her team to the Oak Woodlands. Ask your camper what a Sit/Spot is.

    Many of the campers were intrigued with the Oak Galls that they observed on both the branches and leaves of the many oak trees in the open area. Ask your camper how these galls get formed, and what lives inside them.

    Ginny gave an overview of how trees live. She led the campers in an exercise called "Build a Tree." Each camper became a part of a tree, demonstrating how the tree stands tall and strong, how if gets water and nutrients from the earth, how it pumps the nutrients up to the leaves, how the leaves create the nourishment for the tree and send it back down the trunk, and how the tree protects itself.


    Ask your camper what part of the tree they were, and how they signaled what that part does for the rest of the tree.

    Robin led a discussion of animals' "Pelts and Skulls," The campers were shown pelts from real animals that have been seen on the Refuge and how their pelt helps them survive in their particular environment.

    Here, Robin displays the pelt of a bobcat. What does the fur feel like? Why is it so beautifully spotted?

    Berk Moss, a Friends Naturalist and the Head of the Team Leaders and Camp Assistants, gave Robin some help in comparing a couple of skulls.

    Ask your campers how the eye placement in the skull of a predator differs from a prey animal and how that helps the animal.

    We ended the session with each team naming a spokesperson who reported their team's experiences during the day. Sam, speaking for the Owls, noted that the galls were very interesting. Her team saw a beautiful yellow and black spider on one of the benches along the trail. They also saw a black feral cat near the pond. Kristen, of the Beavers, and her team saw a "true Cedar" along the trail. They also crossed paths with a friendly group of photographers, who shared some amazing pictures of birds. Mackenzie, of the Chickadees, reported seeing four bullfrogs near the pond, with lots of minnows and tadpoles in the water.

    The sun cooperated nicely today, so the campers enjoyed some solar-cooked potatoes. Very tasty!

    This was a great day for all. The teams have come together nicely, and appear to be poised for a great week!

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