Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Get Outside

Last week I had a young friend at the university who didn’t feel well and was a little homesick and lonely. I invited her over and we went for a 3-mile hike. It was nice weather and it felt so good to get outside. Then we went downtown and walked some more. Getting outside and moving around was a great antidote for the blues.

Then on Wednesday, we joined our hiking group on a 4.4-mile hike to see a waterfalls. There were 25 of us and it was great catching up with friends we haven’t seen in a while. Plus, the benefit of exercising was wonderful. It has been so cold, and the weather has been so miserable that it felt great to be outdoors.

I know in school we encourage students to study and work hard but I think we also need to encourage them to get outside. I think they need to connect with nature, not just in the summer but other seasons also.

It would be great for students to study the same area during different seasons. See the changes that take place each season. Draw pictures and compare them each season.

It would be interesting for students to watch an area and look for new growth and new beginnings. This could lead to great discussions how people have a chance for the same new growth and new beginnings.

Maybe there is a walking track or a trail at the school. Look for a walking path where different things can be observed. Have students talk about what they think they will see. Then later have them make a list of the things they saw and compare the two.

Now is the time to start planning a flower or vegetable garden. Sometimes the planning is almost as much fun as the growing! Looking up different plants, pricing, and thinking about where to plant them is fun. Maybe thinking about growing things from seeds and gathering supplies as well as deciding when the best time to plant them is very educational.

Whenever the weather is not bitter cold, we all need to get outside. We need to breathe fresh air and soak up some Vitamin D from the sun!

Do you get outside? What things do you do? Please share.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Common Loon

Last week we had an Upstate Master Naturalist Meeting at Devil’s Fork State Park. Brooks and Kay Wade talked about the Common Loon. I love the topic because my maiden name is Loon! Here are the notes that I took.

1.     Scientific name: (Gavia immer)
2.     Most studied bird in North America
3.     Breed commonly in the north
4.     Sentinel species/bio-indicator
5.     Magic of their presence
6.     Most primitive birds on earth
7.     Long lived species up to at least 35 years
8.     3 years to reach breeding maturity
9.     1to 2 chicks
10.  Dive at least 200 ft. Deep
11.  Stay down 5+ minutes
12.  Least wing surface in proportion to their body weight of any flying Water bird
13.  Research project on Lake Jocassee -First ever study of loons in winter in a freshwater environment
14.  A paucity of information about their life history in winter
15.  5 months in breeding ground
16.  4 months in winter
17.  3 months migration
18.  Why here at Lake Jocassee
a.     Clean clear water
b.    Good food supply
c.     Remote- few humans
d.    Looks like home
e.     For study - a relatively small reservoir
19.  Arrive late November
20.  Molt twice a year
21.  Prenuptial molt in January at Jocassee
22.  Grow new flight feathers once a year to prepare to return to their breeding ground
23.  Departure begins early March   Most left by mid-April
24.  Lake Jocassee is a resting point for migrating loons in April and May.
25.  Baseline data collection
a.     When do they arrive?
b.    When does spring molt beg?when does departure begin and end?
c.     When do migrating loons from the south arrive
d.    Are loons currently molting?
e.     Are there indications of flight feathers molting?
f.      How many on the lake?
g.     Where are they?
h.     Do the loons remain site loyal, or move around the lake?
i.      Percentage of juveniles vs. percentage of matures?
j.      How much time do loons spend feeding? Preening? Resting? Locomoting?
k.     How many feeding as a group?
26.  Conclusions thus far:
a.     Lake life is easy
b.    Low winter mortality
c.     Good weight/ no emaciation
d.    Reduced time foraging
e.     Increased time socializing
f.      Increased time flock foraging
g.     Winter site fidelity, confirmed
27.  Unknown
a.     Do some loons display pairing before departure?
b.    Do first year birds have a sense of where they are going?
c.     Do loons from the same brood migrate together?
28.  Misconceptions:
a.     mate for life
b.    Only winter on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts
c.     Eyes turn brown
d.    Use their wings while swimming underwater
e.     Eat their weight in fish every day
29.  Other birds on Jocassee:
a.     Ring billed gulls
b.    Horned grebes
c.     Bald eagle

It was a great meeting and I learned a lot about The Common Loon that I didn’t know about!