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!