Archive for the ‘Family Resources’ Category

Gardening to Support Migrating Insects

The Monarch butterfly is famous for its cross-continental journey from the northern U.S. to Mexico. People have planted milkweed and other flowering plants to support them on their journey. Yet Monarchs aren’t the only insects to make such long trips. Several kinds of butterflies, moths, and dragonflies undertake seasonal migrations, some traveling hundreds of miles.

Just like migrating birds, insects need rest stops where they can find food and shelter before continuing on. What we choose to plant in our own backyards can have a huge impact on butterfly and dragonfly populations.

This article by the Cornell University YardMap program highlights some of our long-distance travelers and the plants that can help them. The original article has some additional tips not listed here.

Gardening to Support Seasonal Migrations of Insects

 

Dara Satterfield, April 25, 2017

Monarch butterflies are famous for traveling long distances each year, but they’re not the only insects that migrate. Many butterflies, moths, and dragonflies take to the air for seasonal migrations, and–although they’re pretty quiet about it–some travel hundreds or thousands of miles.(open_in_new)The success of their journey largely depends on the habitat they encounter along the way. Here, we look at some of these six-legged critters and discuss how even the smallest garden can add fuel to their journey.

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People were once skeptical that insects could migrate long distances. Historically, scientists assumed an organism so small and short-lived couldn’t move more than a few miles. As we now know, they can. Bogong moths (Agrotis infusa) in Australia can migrate over 1000 km every spring.(open_in_new) Danaid butterflies (cousins of monarchs) in Taiwan migrate over 300 km in the fall.(open_in_new) Wandering glider dragonflies (Pantala flavescens) cross the Indian Ocean (the image above depicts a beach in India where migrating dragonflies are coming ashore).(open_in_new) The brown planthopper (Nilaparvata lugens), a tiny insect only 4 millimeters long, migrates over 200 km in China.(open_in_new) These are just a few of the hundreds of insect species around the world that make incredible journeys.

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By the mid-1900’s scientists finally recognized that insects could move long distances; but still, they assumed insects were being haphazardly blown by the winds, unable to control their direction. In recent years migrating insects like the Silver Y moth (Autographa gamma) (open_in_new) provided evidence to contradict that theory, showing, instead, that insects selectively choose directional winds to maximize their speed, allowing some to fly up to 650 km a night. (open_in_new)

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Photo © pingked

Many insect populations have adapted to make round-trip migrations over the course of a year, with the help of multiple generations. Painted lady butterflies, for instance, fly north out of Mexico in the spring to travel to the northern U.S. and Canada; later, their grandchildren or great-grandchildren return south in the fall. Monarchs behave similarly. A handful of insect species engage in single-generation migrations, where the same individual moves during one season and returns a few months later.

 

 

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In eastern North America there are over 30 insect species that migrate north in the spring and south in the fall. Below we describe a few of these migrating dragonflies and butterflies and we also note the butterfly’s’ host plants (i.e. caterpillar food) to inspire your garden selections.

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Left: Nearly full grown caterpillar of the Buckeye Butterfly, Junonia coenia, on plantain in southern Greenville County, SC, USA Right: Common buckeye butterfly nectaring on a species of aster

Common buckeyes (Junonia coenia)
Large eyespots on all four wings make these butterflies easy to identify. In the spring, buckeyes migrate north from Mexico and the southern U.S. They reach the midwest and northeast by May and breed throughout the summer. Male buckeyes will defend territories with host plants to await the opportunity to mate with females. To keep their patch of land, males chase off anything that moves–even birds that enter their territory. In the fall, the next generation of buckeyes makes a massive migration south to avoid a harsh winter of low temperatures and lack of food. Common buckeye caterpillars survive on the leaves from snapdragons (Antirrhinum), false foxglove (Agalinis), American bluehearts (Buchnera americana), plantains (Plantago) and–my personal favorite–turkey tangle frog-fruit (Nodiflora), among other plants.

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Right: American Lady caterpillar – Vanessa virginiensis, Jones Preserve, Washington, Virginia, Left: An American Lady butterfly photographed at the Bob Jones Nature Center in Southlake, Texas in May ’09

American lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
These butterflies have an intricate cobweb-like pattern on the underside of their wings. American ladies live year-round in the southern U.S. and Mexico and migrate into the northern U.S. and Canada for the spring and summer each year. Larvae munch on leaves of pearly everlasting (Anaphalis), ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata), and asters (Asteraceae). American ladies are closely related to, and often confused with, painted ladies (Vanessa cardui), which migrate along a similar route in the U.S.

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Left: Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar, Phoebis sennae – eating a partridge pea plant, Right: Cloudless Sulfur butterfly on Zinnea

Cloudless sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
Each spring, these yellow butterflies with pink-edged silver spots migrate from Central America and the southern U.S. into the northern U.S. and Canada. Cloudless sulphurs reach the Great Plains by April and the Midwest by May and June. They can be seen gathering at mud puddles to sip water and salt. Cloudless sulphur caterpillars eat plants in the pea family (Fabaceae). Males relentlessly pursue potential mating partners, but uninterested females may reject males by raising their abdomens in the air, much like turning up your nose. In the fall, a later generation of butterflies returns south, sometimes traveling in enormous numbers.(open_in_new) Sadly, cloudless sulphurs have dropped in numbers since the 1980s in the eastern U.S. Reasons for population declines are not well understood, but habitat loss is a likely cause.

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Left: Question Mark larvae Polygonia interrogationis, Right: Question Mark – Polygonia interrogationis, Natchez Trace, Natchez, Mississippi

Question mark (Polygonia interrogationis)
Question mark butterflies, named for a quirky little “?” shape on the underside of their wings and known for their hooked forewing (a.k.a anglewing butterfly), migrate south in massive numbers in the fall along the east coast. Some of the same individuals are thought to return northward into the northeast in the spring where they reproduce, lay eggs, and start the next generation. Plants that support these caterpillars include elms (Ulmus), hackberries (Celtis), nettle (Urtica dioica), and false nettle (Boehmeria Jacq.), but interestingly the females often lay their eggs on non-host plants and when the larvae hatch, they are tasked with finding host plant species to eat. The question mark is commonly confused with the eastern comma butterfly (Polygonia comma), which also have hooked forewings (a.k.a., anglewings) but are currently not known to migrate.

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Left: Mourning Cloak, Inner Canyon, Bright Angel Trail, GRCA, AZ, Middle: Mourning cloak butterfly, Right: Mourning cloak butterfly – wings closed

Mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)
The mourning cloak could just as well be from the wizarding world of Harry Potter as from anywhere. These butterflies look like Potter’s invisibility cloak – and when they close their wings, they “disappear” into a landscape of dried leaves. Mourning cloaks are globally distributed and thought to be the longest-lived of butterflies, frequently surviving 10-11 months. In the U.S., some of these butterflies will migrate into the southeast in the fall while others remain in the north, but little is known about what controls this behavior. The caterpillars consume willow (Salix), cottonwood (Populus), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), elm (Ulmus), and common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis L.).

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Left: Red admiral caterpillar, eating a stinging nettle, Right: Red admiral feeding on fallen plums

Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Red admirals are recognizable from the orange-red bands on both forewings. They live all over the world. In North America, they undertake northward migrations in the spring, colonizing the northeast by April. In October, they appear in massive migratory groups of hundreds to thousands of individuals headed south to Texas and beyond to escape the cold. Males are aggressively territorial over important resources (nettle and false nettle) and will chase off potential competitors. Adult red admirals prefer to consume sap flows on trees, fermenting fruit, and can be found collecting salts and minerals from bird droppings. In a pinch, they can also nectar on flowers.

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Photo © Anne Reeves

Common green darner (Anax junius)
Green darners are one of at least nine species of dragonflies now thought to migrate each year in North America. Highly recognizable, the green darner has a pale-green face with a darker green thorax, blue abdomen, and clear wings. During August-October these large dragonflies migrate up to 2800 km from eastern North America to southern Texas, and beyond. During this migration, swarms can reach over 1 million individuals. Using small radio transmitters, scientists have tracked these movements and discovered that common green darners can cover up to 140 km per day.(open_in_new) Not all common green darners migrate; some, in northern locations, will delay pupation and overwinter in the water as nymphs, emerging as adults the following spring.

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Photo ©

Wandering glider (Pantala flavescens)
These dragonflies are regular annual migrants in North America, moving from Mexico and the southern U.S. in the summer and arriving into the northern U.S. later than common green darners. They cannot survive the winter in the chilly north, so they return southward in the fall, often traveling at night (presumably to avoid predators). Their pale-yellow face with darker yellow abdomen, dorsal brown stripe, and clear wings make this species of dragonfly easy to identify.

Providing habitat in gardens can go a long way towards protecting these insects and their migrations. Here’s how to make your yard a stopover or breeding site for insect migrants:(1) Plant host plants for the caterpillars and nectar plants for the adult butterflies.
Visit our Explore tab, type in your zip code under “Local Resources”, and a Pollinator Planting Guide for your region can be downloaded. Use this guide for choosing plants for pollinators. A quick summary of those species highlighted above are summarized below.Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 2.02.18 PM

(2) Plant native rather than exotic host plants.
Recent scientific studies suggest native plants provide the best support for butterflies. For monarchs, for instance, the natural seasonality of native milkweeds helps to maintain butterfly migration and health. In contrast, tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), an exotic plant not native to the U.S., can grow year-round in some places and has been linked to high infectious disease risk for monarchs. We suggest planting native milkweed like swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) or butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) whose blooms are more seasonally aligned with monarch lifecycles.

(3) Avoid insecticides.
Synthetic pesticides, including neonicotinoids, can kill butterfly caterpillars. Alternatives to synthetic pesticides include insecticidal soaps (such as those from potassium salts of fatty acids), which can be sprayed on plants when no caterpillars are present and rinsed off with water.

(4) Contribute to citizen science.
Much of what we know about butterfly migration is thanks to the help of citizen scientists. Want to help and contribute to these citizen-science projects? Check out Monarch Joint Venture’s Monarch project list.

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Photo ©

Scientists have a lot more to learn about insects (including ~5.5 million estimated species(open_in_new)) and their migrations. In some cases, insect migrations provide ecological services, like nutrient cycling and pollination, which we are only beginning to understand. As we learn more,we can support these insect migrants through gardening in the spring and fall. If you want to pledge to support pollinators and dragonflies, check out our Planning Tool and let us know about your best intentions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Warriors

Winter is tough. Freezing temperatures, windy days, lots of snow, and little to eat can make anyone’s day miserable. We have the advantage of having nice warm houses to take shelter in. Animals aren’t so lucky. So how do they deal with it?

The National Wildlife Federation’s blog has highlighted 10 animals they have deemed “winter warriors.” These animals have a variety of adaptations to beat winter’s deep freeze. Check out the article below to learn more about them.

 

Top 10 Winter Warriors

Adapted to Harsh Winter Conditions

Winter is a challenging time for those of us who aren’t so fond of the cold. Every year we break out the heavy coats and scarves to keep warm, but what do animals do?

Let’s take a look a ten “winter warriors” of the animal kingdom with incredible adaptations to help them withstand the unforgiving winter elements.

Polar Bear

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Polar bear cub. Photo by tableatny via Flickr.

Polar bears live in the frigid north where winter temperatures average around -40 °F, but can sometimes drop as low as -92 °F (-69 °C). Thankfully, they have a few unique tricks up their sleeves to combat the cold. To start, those pretty white bears we love so much are not actually white! Polar bear skin is black, which helps them to retain heat by absorbing more of the sun’s rays. Their two layers of fur, on the other hand, are transparent and the longer outer layer is hollow and reflects light, giving them a white appearance. Under their skin is a layer of insulating fat up to 4.5 inches thick!

Wood Frog

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Wood frog. Photo by Ontley via Wikimedia Commons.

Wood frogs literally freeze during the winter months. They stop breathing and their hearts stop beating, but they produce a special glycerol-based substance that acts as antifreeze and prevents ice from forming within their cells. If the water within a cell were to freeze, it would expand and the ice crystals would tear the cell apart, killing the frog. Through this process, nearly 70 percent of the frog’s total body water is converted to ice. This adaptation allows the wood frog to surive even in the Arctic.

Wolverine

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Wolverine. Photo by Per Harald Olsen/NTNU.

Many of the species on this list are increasingly at risk from a changing climate, and the wolverine is no exception. These rare and elusive mammals have dense fur and snowshoe-like paws for walking on deep snow. They live within a “refrigeration zone” in high-altitude, snow-covered peaks. Wolverines also use the snow as a natural refrigerator to store food to get through the late winter and early spring. When temperatures rise and snow melts, they lose the ability to store food and may risk starvation.

Red flat bark beetle

Red flat bark beetle

Red flat bark beetle. Photo by Katja Schulz via Flickr.

Red flat bark beetles are extremely cold-tolerant. Similar to wood frogs, they produce high levels of glycerol in their blood which keeps the water in their bodies from forming ice crystals. In addition, red flat bark beetles also dehydrate their cells, allowing them to survive in temperatures in which the antifreeze chemicals alone wouldn’t be enough to keep them from freezing. Red flat bark beetle larvae have been recorded surviving in temperatures of -238 °F (-150 °C). That’s one impressive insect!

Reindeer

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Reindeer. Photo by Alexandre Buisse via Wikimedia Commons.

Reindeer are masters of the tundra. Their hooves are like multi-purpose tools that act as snowshoes for walking, paddles for swimming, and shovels to help them dig for grasses. But even more impressive is the adaptation developed in their eyes, which turn from gold in the summer to blue in the winter to help them see at lower light levels. Imagine changing your eye color with the changing seasons!

Arctic woolly bear moth

Arctic woolly bear moth caterpillar

Arctic woolly bear moth caterpillar. Photo by Mike Beauregard via Wikimedia Commons

The Arctic woolly bear moth lives a unique lifestyle. As caterpillars, they will lie dormant when temperatures are below 59°F (15 °C). It only gets warmer than that in the Arctic for a short time each year, which means these caterpillars have a limited time to become active and to feed and build up the resources necessary to pupate. This means it takes approximately seven years for a caterpillar to successfully pupate into a moth. The Arctic woolly bear moth caterpillar also expels water from its body to prevent cell death in freezing temperatures.

Black-capped chickadee

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Black capped chickadee. Photo by Minette Layne via Flickr.

Black-capped chickadees are about 5 inches long and weigh barely more than a Sharpie marker. So, how, you might ask, does an animal so small make it through winter in the northern U.S.? Aside from storing food and roosting in small, protective tree cavities, black-capped chickadees have two important biological adaptations: nocturnal hypothermia and metabolic regulation. During winter nights the chickadees will enter a state of hypothermia, effectively allowing them to lower their body temperature in order to store energy. This adaptation is complemented by the ability to increase their metabolic rate, which increases their heat production in order to accommodate winter temperatures. Together, these behavioral and biological adaptations make black-capped chickadees tiny but formidable winter warriors.

Lynx

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Lynx. Photo by Keith Williams via Wikimedia Commons.

Lynx live in remote northern forests in North America. They have long, thick fur that acts as an insulating winter coat. Their large paws let them to walk on the snow with ease and allow them to silently stalk their prey. Lynx populations are dependent upon prey populations — particularly the nimble snowshoe hare — so adaptations like their impressive noses help them thrive. Not only do they have a powerful sense of smell, but their noses also help them determine the temperature so they can seek refuge before a storm hits.

Arctic fox

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Arctic fox

Don’t let their cute pointy ears and fluffy tails fool you; arctic foxes are tough! They have incredibly thick fur and a bushy tail that can wrap around them like a scarf, keeping their noses warm. Their short legs, ears, and snout help retain body heat, and the dense fur on the bottom of their paws prevents heat loss through their feet and helps them gain traction on the ice. Arctic foxes use their acute sense of hearing to locate prey deep beneath the snow, and refrain from drinking water in the winter as not to lower their core temperature. Instead, they get water through their food. Their metabolic rate only starts to increase at -58 °F (-50 °C) and they don’t start to shiver until temperatures reach -94 °F (-70 °C). Burrr!

Tardigrade

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Tardigrade. Photo by Bob Goldstein and Vicky Madden, UNC Chapel Hill.

There are a number of impressive species on this list, but perhaps none more so than the tardigrade. This extremophile, affectionately called the “water bear” or “moss piglet,” is a microorganism no more than 1.5 mm long that is found in many ecosystems around the world, from mountain tops to rain forests to the deep sea. It can withstand temperatures ranging from -328 °F to 304 °F (-200 °C to 151 °C). It can even survive the vacuum of space! Tardigrades do this by undergoing a process called cryptobiosis, in which all metabolic activities halt. This would mean certain death for most animals, but not the tardigrade! It has the ability to reverse the cryptobiosis when conditions become more favorable, which is pretty darn cool.

Hidden Signs, the Fun of Tracking

Winter can be miserable for many. You may not like the cold, the snow, the endless cloudy days, or the shortness of day length. Yet there are lots of fun things to do outside in winter and tracking is a great one.

Tracking is an easy activity that anyone can do, requires only a little skill and a bit of patience. And a sense of curiosity, let’s not forget that one. And winter is a great season to start exploring. Snow makes a great surface for animal tracks. You can even make a game out of it. Where do you think this animal was going? Where did it come from? How many do you think there were? You can make guesses about its life and daily travels.

Not to mention that you can learn more about your animal neighbors from their tracks. You may see evidence of an animal you had no idea was even around, especially when it comes to our furry friends who come out at night.

This blog post from the National Wildlife Federation gives you a few tips on how to tackle this activity. If you want to get even better at your identification, a field guide is a great place to start and the Waterford Press’ Pocket Naturalist line creates some great ones at a reasonable price. These are folding field guides that highlight the more common animals or plants in a region. Plus, it’s laminated so no worry about it getting wet! Here’s the one on Animal Tracks.

So next time you’re out on a walk, take a look around. You never know what (or who) you might find.

 

Searching for Signs of Winter

To many New Englanders, winter is defined in inches – inches of snow that is. By that account, you wouldn’t be surprised that winter has so far come as a disappointment to many, but especially to winter sport enthusiasts. Yes, New Englanders looked on with envy as mid-Atlantic states were recently hit heavy with multiple feet of snow; that illustrious powder.

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Signs of bobcat near a site in Pittsford, VT. Photo by Northern Stewards

Although skiers and riders would most certainly disagree, I might argue that the current snow conditions here in Vermont have been absolutely perfect… for tracking wildlife that is! Wildlife enthusiasts are delighted by the light dusting we continue to receive atop a thick crust of snow, the perfect combination to observe wildlife impressions left behind.With these ideal snow conditions, the National Wildlife Federation’s Northeast Regional Office has headed out with Northern Stewards to conduct tracking surveys at 24 sites throughout Vermont where the Climate Adaptation and Resilience Team is using wildlife cameras to document the movement of wildlife in proximity roadways. We are observing a fisher continually use a culvert in Glover, a bobcat that is ever-present in the Pomainville Wildlife Management Area in Pittsford, VT, coyotes, snowshoe hare, and much more.

Tracking surveys are often incorporated with wildlife camera monitoring to help reinforce the interpretation of wildlife movement and to mitigate against a camera’s potential to produce false negatives. For example, a camera may fail to detect a bobcat moving through the area, but while surveying the area we might find evidence of a bobcat via a track or sign.

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Several fisher tracks leading in and out of a culvert in Glover, VT. Photo by VTFWD

Canine or Feline Tracks

A distinguishing feature of any canine, from coyote to fox to Yorkshire terrier, is that you can always draw an “X” through the features. The front two toes are evenly aligned and the entire print is nearly symmetrical. Unlike canines, feline tracks are asymmetrical. The front two toes are not aligned and one will be further forward than the other – similar to how we have one finger that is longer than the others.

On the other hand, a bobcat, leopard, or domestic cat – any species of the felidae family – will also always leave a track surrounded by a “hair halo.” On a perfect impression, you can also draw an “M” on the leading edge of the heel pad. Just remember, “M” for “Meow”!

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POP QUIZ: Can you identify what family of species belongs to these? Photos by Northern Stewards (right) and Steve Gifford (left)

Join the Action!

If you are interested in the chance to observe wildlife, I’m happy to inform you that you don’t need fancy equipment. You don’t even have to travel far! Wildlife tracking is a fun, interactive activity for all ages and can offer a whole new perspective on how you see and value the land around you. Best of all, you don’t need to be an expert – all you need is a little bit of curiosity and the right approach.

A Few Tips to Get Started:

  • Get outside! The best time to observe wildlife is during the morning and evening hours.
  • Shhhhhh, be quiet. It’s often easier to hear wildlife before you see it so try to remain as quite as possible.
  • Stay downwind. Take notice of the way the wind is blowing and always try to face into the wind. Many animals have a keen sense of smell and standing upwind can quickly alter them of your presence. Try to also avoid wearing perfumes or other strong scents.
  • Patience is virtue. Slow down and take the time to stop, listen, look, and wait. Make your self comfortable and settle in.
  • Pick a good spot. Are you looking for a species in particular? Know what you are looking for and the best habitats to find it. Always remember to get permission if venturing onto private property.
  • Don’t forget to look up! From moose bark scrapes to tracks in the snow, there are a number of clues that can be found all around you – from the forest floor to the canopy.
  • Be prepared. Pack an appropriate field guide to help identify what you see and always dress appropriate for the weather. It’s important to wear a lot of layers during the winter. Bring a notebook, camera, and binoculars if you have them. If you are venturing alone, always be sure to let someone know where you are going and long you anticipate to be.
  • Respect Wildlife. If you encounter wildlife, always keep your distance. Do not approach, follow, or feed wild animals. If you want a closer look, bring a pair of binoculars with you.

Keep in Mind

From backyard bird feeders to the underside of a log, wildlife is all around you. So while your snowshoes, skis, and board collect more dust than snow this year, I encourage you to venture outdoors and look for signs of wildlife. Whether you’re hitting the trails or investigating your own backyard, happy hunting!

Winter Fun at Home

It may be cold outside, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun.

In fact, winter can be a great season to get outside. Snow makes a great surface for finding animal tracks, the lack of leaves makes spotting birds and squirrels easier, and the quiet you find in the woods in winter can be very peaceful and inspiring. Then there are all the winter recreation possibilities – skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, making snowmen and snow angels, snowball fights, etc. All you need to do is be prepared for the cold to have a good time.

But you don’t have to venture out to the forest for winter fun, you can make your own at home!

What is the best part of winter? Snow of course, and you can find that anywhere in Michigan this time of year. This post by Science Friday gives you activities on how to collect, preserve, and even make your own snowflakes. Intrigued? We were.

Check out the Science Friday post here. The article is an excerpt from “Mamma Gone Geek” by Lynn Brunelle.

Snowflake, by Steve Begin/flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Going Beyond Pine Cones and Peanut Butter

If you think that the only way your kids can feed your backyard birds is with the traditional pine cones and peanut butter you’re in for a surprise. We have found a seemingly never-ending list of homemade bird feeders to make with kids of all ages. There are some fantastic ideas in here. We are particularly fond of the birdseed ornaments. Decorating your trees and providing food all in one!

Shout out to them mom behind Happy Hooligans for putting together this impressive lineup. So let’s get creative and have some fun this winter. And if you decide to do any of these we’re sure you’ll have some happy birds.

 

32 Homemade Bird Feeders To Make With Kids This Winter

By: Happy Hooligans: crafts and activities for toddlers and preschoolers

Making homemade bird feeders for your backyard is a fun way for you and your kids to get to know which birds are native to your area, and a great way to help out your feathered friends when their food sources are scarce in winter-time.

Every winter, here in my daycare, we make homemade bird feeders to scatter among our trees and gardens.  We like to keep things on the simple side here, so we always use common household materials to make our feeders.  The hooligans always love the process, and they get so excited when they discover birds and squirrels nibbling away at the feeders they made with their very own hands.

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Here are 32 easy and beautiful bird feeder crafts to inspire you and your kids.  Some of these bird feeders are our own, and others, I’ve gathered from around the internet.

If you’re looking to make a bird feeder for your backyard, I hope you’ll find an idea or two that you like here!

32 Homemade Bird Feeders To Make For Your Backyard:

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Pine cone bird feeders are so easy to make. Bonus: collecting the pine cones is an activity in itself! – Red Ted Art

Look no further than your pantry cupboard to make this edible cone bird feeder. – Dereila Nature Inn

Bread bird feeders are great for using up stale end of a loaf or crusts that no-one eats. – CBC Parents

I love the natural look of these hanging gourd feeders by Kitchen Counter Chronicles.

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You can turn a paper plate into a bird feeder in a jiffy!  This one is great for fine motor skills, and doesn’t require any special tools to make it!

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Tea party for the birds!  This thrift shop cup and saucer feeder looks so whimsical on a stake in the garden. – Dear Lizzy

Second-hand bowls and vases work too!  A glass bird feeder would look beautiful sparkling in the sun. – Day 2 Day Super Mom

Angle it just right, and you can hang this teacup bird feeder from a branch in your yard. – Budget Savvy Diva

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Use mesh produce bags to make simple suet feeders for your neighbourhood birds. – Good Housekeeping

Our Cheerio bird feeders are so easy to make and help little ones develop their fine-motor skills too. – Happy Hooligans

Bagel bird feeders are simple enough for even the youngest tots to make. – Mama Papa Bubba

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Lego-maniacs and bird-lovers unite! Check out this amazing Lego feeder over at Fun Crafts Kids.

When we make fresh-squeezed juice, we use our leftovers to make orange cup bird feeders to stake in the garden.

With a little paint and ribbon, you can transform your recyclables into a colourful set of tin-can bird feeders. – Plum Adorable

A  fruit and grain bird feeder is a great way to use up fruit that’s past its prime.  The birds devoured this one quickly! – CBC Parents

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These easy rainbow ice bird feeders are stunning!   Check out all the colours that Twig and Toadstool made!

Use up the last of your pantry scraps to make a gorgeous ice wreath bird feeder. – Hands On: As We Grow

The hooligans loved threading these simple cheerio and blueberry feeders!

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Put your recyclables to good use!  This juice carton “owl” bird feeder is too darn cute! – Red Ted Art

This simple plastic jug bird feeder kept our birds and squirrels happy all through the winter last year.

Make this adorable upcycled bird feeder with a couple of containers and some fabric scraps. – Embracing Life’s Journey

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Here’s another super way to use up your orange rinds! Hang citrus bird feeders around the yard. – Mama Papa Bubba

These little paint tin feeders look so pretty and inviting hanging all together. – Mom Endeavours

Feed a whole flock of birds with this twig and toilet roll bird feeder. It’s like a birdy buffet! – Summer Project Ideas

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For the well-traveled bird:  these road map bird houses are more for decorative purposes, but they’re so cute, I couldn’t resist sharing. – Crafts by Amanda

We used snow as a base for our corn kernel and chestnut feeder.  The blue jays and squirrels LOVED it!

Here’s another simple cardboard roll bird feeder.  I love the splash of colour that the ribbon lends to the project. – Momtastic

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“Messy Fingers Science” says it took less than two minutes for the cardinals to find her spoons and soda bottle bird feeder!

Cookie cutters!!  What a fun way for the family to make a bunch of shaped bird feeders for the yard. – Juggling with Kids

I’m in love with this bundt pan bird seed wreath by Infarrantly Creative.  The rustic bow is rustic and classy at the same time.

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Make a bird or butterfly feeder out of a glass jar.  These would look lovely suspended at different heights around the garden or patio. – Melissa Camera Wilkins

Here’s a simple way to turn an inexpensive grapevine ornament into a bird feeder. Judging by the photos, this suet recipe is a big hit with woodpeckers and other small birds. – The Garden Roof Coop

And last but definitely not least:  Get a close-up view of your neighbourhood birds with a simple and inexpensive suction cup bird feeder! – Love Live and Garden

Happy building and happy birding!

 

Kids Science: Time for Me to Leaf

chromatography

You don’t have to have a fancy lab setup to do this science experiment. On top of that, this is a great one to get kids excited about science!

Chromatography is a technique scientists use to break down a substance into its individual parts so that they can be studied. While this sounds super complicated, it doesn’t have to be.

Leaves are perfect to demonstrate this process. Leaves contain several different pigments that make up their color. Just because you see green, red or yellow that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to see. Fall is a great time to experiment with this since leaves are turning such vibrant colors.

This simple experiment lets you play detective and uncover the hidden pigments in leaves. Let these amusing MIT students show you how.

And the best part? All you need are common household items you probably already have. Now go find some leaves and start experimenting! 🙂

Must Reads for the Nature-Loving Parent

Being an avid reader, I’m always on the lookout for good books. However, I am also passionate about the outdoors (as should be obvious from reading this blog by now). So how to combine these two loves? How about reading great books about getting outside?

Spending more time outdoors has been a hot topic in recent years, especially when it comes to children. The term Richard Louv coined, “nature-deficit disorder,” has become common language in the outdoor education community. Research has backed him up. The increased amount our youth are spending indoors in front of screens is negatively impacting their physical and emotional health and well-being.

The solution, getting outside more, seems simple enough. Yet this can still seem like a daunting task to many parents and teachers looking to carve free time out of a packed schedule. So maybe we need a little help?

Fortunately for us, there are a ton of clever authors out there that have taken it upon themselves to tackle this issue. And one blogging mama has compiled 10 great books to start with.

You can even read them outside if you like. 🙂

Read her blog here.

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