Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Day at the Central Park Zoo

The Zoo had a special frog program for Leap Year today, with frog lectures and crafts.

Highlights of our visit: The penguins were amazingly interactive; Mikro playing with a six year old girl at the bats exhibit; Mikro conquering his fear of the big spiderweb climb net.

After the zoo, we enjoyed Central Park's carousel, the 59th Street pond, wandering the park, and the Dairy and Gift Shop, where Mikro got some books on NYC wildlife, and some bug and lizard related toys.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Feeder Watch

Today I discovered the squirrels have broken my angel bird feeder. Her wings are snapped off. Of course, this did not keep the squirrels from feasting...

They shared, reluctantly, with a cute little chipmunk, who kept running onto our stoop, and seemed to know it was warmer inside the house. Every time I poked the camera out the door, he approached as if seeking to join us inside.

The birds were far more skittish, and I only managed to get a photo of a dark eyed junco.

Signs of spring are starting to appear. My daffodils are coming up, and there are buds on the swamp maple in front of my house.

A Buggy Day at Nature Class and at Home

Today at Nature Class, we looked for signs of overwintering insects. Surprisingly, we saw a few active bugs in addition to frass, and holes in leaves and bark. There was a tiny spider, a mite, several springtails and a pillbug.

There was another bald eagle perched in a tree overlooking the Hudson. Too obscured by a tangle of branches to get a good photo, but still awe inspiring to stand 20 feet away from such a creature! I would never have imagined that seeing these majestic birds would become almost routine. It's amazing how far we've come since the 1970s, when DDT had depleted the population in New York down to one nesting pair, whose eggs inevitably cracked. There's a wonderful web page describing the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's very successful efforts to restore the eagle population at:

And speaking of the DEC, they have launched a kid's magazine, which is available free online at: The first issue is up, and has features on being a wildlife detective and animal tracks in winter, (and they have a grown-up's version, which looks very cool and is extremely reasonable to subscribe to (and currently on sale!) at: and then there's the free literature on New York State Wildlife, which is just perfect for a unit study, methinks...

After we got home, I was watching birds at the feeders when I noticed some promising lumps on the branches of a leafless bush silhouetted against the neighbor's white fence. I ran out to investigate when there was a lull in the bird activity, and confirmed my suspicions-- two additional praying mantis egg cases. One was near the tip of a branch, so I clipped it and dropped it into a mesh bug enclosure, then hung it up where neither elderly cat nor young entomologist can get to it without help. Can't wait to see if they hatch! Neither can Mikro, who is doing a bug watch version of "Are we there yet?"

Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet? Have they hatched yet?

Ad infinitum...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Food Allergies

We just got reminded the hard way about getting too complacent about rechecking labels of familiar foods for possible ingredient changes. O'Soy yogurt now has a warning that the active cultures are dairy based, which we discovered after Mikro broke out in hives and developed stomach pain. Sigh.

Feeder Watch

More Eagle Sightings, Animal Habitats Class, Etc.

At Nature Class on Thursday:

Saw another fly by yesterday while we were at the Nature Center for a program on animal habitats. Unfortunately, my camera was in my pocket at the time, as we were out feeding the birds and had our hands full.

We headed into the woods, where each family built a habitat for an animal, taking into account needs for water, food, shelter and space.

And we hiked around the park, following animal tracks and observing the odd behavior of our fellow human critters in the snow...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Snow Day With Dinosaurs

A stegosaurus and a microraptor, sculpted by Kev, with a little Mikro assistance, and painted by me.

And there was sledding, and snowball throwing, and a good time was had by all. Except for the couple times when Mikro literally got plowed over by other sledders and went head over heels. He didn't much enjoy that bit. But by the end of the day, he understood jumping up the second his sled stopped and bailing out of the sled run area quickly...

The snow dinos are colored with kiddie liquid watercolor paint, diluted and applied via spray bottle...