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Our Winter Wednesday Snow Experiments

With the latest round of snow that we had we were able to conduct our two snow experiments from the Winter Wednesday – Snow activities from chapter two of Discover Nature in Winter.

The first experiment was to gather snow and then let it melt to see how much water was actually present in the snow.

Here are two cups of packed snow.

Just under a cup of melted water resulted from the two cups of packed snow.

The next activity was to put out a clean jar in a snowstorm to gather snow. You then bring the snow in and let it melt. You pour the resulting water through a coffee filter and funnel to collect any particles that are within the snow.

We looked at our coffee filter and we could see a few black particles with the naked eye. We then put some of the water on a slide and looked at it under the microscope. I tried to get a photo of what we saw but you will have to use your imagination.

The arrow is pointing at a green splotch and then there was another green thread-like object at the bottom of the lighted area. This was a brand new slide with a brand new slide cover…..we were surprised and amazed.

I left the melted snow and microscope out all morning and just about everyone in the family tried their hand at viewing the snow up close.

Here are some dog and cat tracks in the snow on our back deck this morning. I love the way they look like they were dancing together. 🙂

I am loving our winter nature study this year. With the Winter Wednesday activities and the Discover Nature in Winter book, we have so many fresh ideas to learn from.

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Winter Wednesday: Winter Weeds

Winter Wednesday
Week 6 Winter Weeds

1. Read chapter six in Discover Nature in Winter. For wildflower lovers, this is a fantastic and interesting chapter. As your read through the pages, highlight or mark in the margins the plants that you are already aware of that have grown in your area. Queen Anne’s Lace, goldenrod, yarrow, mustard, mullein, and many more are illustrated in this chapter. It might be fun to use the illustrations as the basis for some nature journal entries as well. There is also a whole glossary of botanical terms that are explained and illustrated on pages 106-108.

2. Our family is going to use the chapter illustrations as well as the section, “Clues to Identification”, to find some winter weeds in our area. We have already gathered a few winter weeds to display in a vase on our nature table.

“ From October to April, the dried flower stalks, withered leaves, and seedpods give some clues as to the plants’ identity. “

For families wanting to participate that do not have the Discover Winter in Nature book, I will list a few simple nature study ideas that you can try with your family.
1. Collect a variety of seeds from weeds in your local area and sketch them in your nature journal.
2. Gather a few varieties of weeds and display them in a vase.

Have a great Winter Wednesday….or Thursday or Friday or whatever day.

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Cones and More Cones and a Woodpecker

Cones and a new woodpecker!

This White-headed Woodpecker was busy, busy, busy. We had a great time watching him climb down and around this pine. It turns out he eats pine cones as well….learned something new.

This week’s Winter Wednesday study was about trees, evergreens, and cones. We live in a mixed forest area with oaks and pines so we have quite a few opportunities to study cones as a part of our everyday activities.

We were on the lookout for different cones as we took our walk in a different habitat that I posted more about here in this entry, Another Glorious Winter Walk. I commented in that entry about the way we have come to appreciate that the cones fall and are available in great numbers during this snowy, cold part of the year. There are birds and mammals that are still active during this season and they use these cones as the staple of their diet. What a great design by a loving Creator.

Here are two new to us cones that we gathered on this particular walk.

We are familiar with larger cones but these were ones we haven’t noticed before. We think the bigger one is from a White Fir but we have no idea what the other one is at all.

The cone below comes from our regular hiking spot and we see them in great numbers. We think the cone is from a Douglas Fir.

We are going to keep track of our collection in our nature journals and write about each one as we find it.

The top right cone is from our Giant Sequoia in our backyard.

We all have a better appreciation for the role that cones play not only in the life cycle of the tree but also as a vital part of the food web in our forests.

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Morning Tree Silhouettes: Our Ongoing Tree Study

We have been watching and observing all the different shapes of tree silhouettes we have in our neighborhood. We are all pointing out different shapes and patterns and I can honestly say we are loving our winter trees.

This morning we were looking out and noticed that our trees were filled with American Robins. I counted sixteen of them at one time in the trees along the side of our house.

The sunrise was just so pink and pretty and then the birds with their dark silhouettes….I couldn’t resist trying to get a photo or two or three. If you click to enlarge and look closely, you will see several bird sitting on branches.

All of the photos above were taken within minutes of each other and you can see the sky and the light changed so fast.

Here is my son’s tree silhouette of the walnut tree in our backyard.

I always think of his sketching as sort of gesture drawing. He has such a unique style all to himself.

Great study this week.

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Winter Wednesday-Tree Silhouettes

Winter Wednesday Week 4
Trees Part 1

1. Read chapter four in Discover Nature in Winter. Even though the title of this chapter tells us that it is about birch trees, after you read the actual material you realize that it covers so much more in its pages. I do not live where birch trees are native but this chapter gave me lots of ways to observe any tree that I come across. Pay special attention to the sections on branch patterns, twig parts, seed containers, and tree silhouettes. This chapter alone could give you plenty of ideas for a complete season of winter nature study.

2. We are going to complete two of this chapter’s activities:
Tree silhouettes on page 77
Seed containers on page 81

For those families that do not have the book to work from, here are some ideas for you to try with your family.
1. Pick a tree in your yard or on your street and view its branch patterns and silhouette.
2. Find a tree that has lost its leaves and sketch its shape in your nature journal. This activity can be done from a window if your weather is too cold or snowy.
3. Collect some seeds from trees that may still be left over from last season. Look for sweet gum, locust, yellow poplar, ash, mimosa, or sycamore.
4. Collect twigs from different trees and compare them.
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Star Gazing….Moon Gazing Too

We took advantage of a few clear nights last week to view the moon and stars. It is a good thing too because this week we have had cloudy skies every night along with a really good soaking rain which we desperately needed. It was time to complete our Winter Wednesday – Winter Sky Challenge.

I have one son that has taken an intense desire to know more about the subject of astronomy since we started these night time session.

Several trips to the library and then a really good deal on a clearance book at Borders has feed his need to know more about the universe we live in.

We are working on learning some of the constellations visible during the winter months and in addition to the Discover Nature in Winter book, we have found the Handbook of Nature Study to be very helpful. There is a section starting on page 823 on the Winter Stars. I have heard talk around nature blogs lately that many view the Handbook of Nature Study as “old fashioned” and they prefer to use more “modern” books for reference. I do not find it to be outdated in the least. The clear explanations of the constellations in the Handbook of Nature Study make it an excellent first resource for families. For example: the lessons on page 820 explaining the North Star and the Big Dipper are clearly put down for anyone to follow and are timeless. The language used in the Handbook of Nature Study makes it enjoyable to read.

“After the polar constellations are learned, we are then ready for further study in the still earlier evenings of winter, when the clear atmostphere makes the stars seem more alive, more sparkling, and more beautiful than at any other period of the year.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 823

“Orion is one of the most beautiful constellations in the heavens. It is especially marked by the three stars which form Orion’s belt, and the line of stars below the belt which form the sword.”
Handbook of Nature Study page 825

Doesn’t that capture your interest? We are looking forward to a few more nights of stargazing this winter.

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Wednesday Walk in the Snow: Beavers and Jays

Winter Wednesday-Week 2 Snow

We haven’t had much snowfall in our area since last week so our plans to complete the snow melting measurement activity are on hold for the moment. We did observe something that the book talks about on page 28 and 29, Snow Melt and Trees.

“During the day, the tree absorbs heat from the sun. The tree radiates heat and melts the snow.”

You can see in these photos how this looks out in the woods.

Here is another photo that shows the melted snow very clearly. Right after we took this photo we saw a coyote over beyond the trees. He was hurrying past on his way to somewhere else….we did not see him again all day.

On my the right sidebar of my blog I have a photo of my summer hiking boots….now here are my winter hiking boots. These are so very comfortable and warm. Don’t they look like brand new? They are two years old! I just love LL Bean. ( I just looked up on the LL Bean website and I can’t find these particular boots there anymore….just in case you were going to ask.)

The snow was just right for snow boots. I was really glad we did not need the snowshoes today because they are a lot of work and I wanted to just relax. Next time I am going to bring them along because there is an area that I wanted to explore but the snow was just too deep. I stepped of the trail and sunk down to about mid-calf.

We stayed on the trail….isn’t this a welcoming little entrance to this part of the wilderness? (Don’t tell Brittney…this is where we saw the bear last fall.)

Several people emailed me about the beaver dam in the header of the blog. Yes, it is a real beaver dam that is along one of our regular hiking trails. I promised a few more photos to go along with the beaver story. The photo above is a good example of what a tree looks like that a beaver has worked on. This particular tree is pretty far from the creek so I’m not sure why they chose it but it is still sitting in the woods. You can tell how big a beaver is by how far up the tree he was working.

You can see if you look closely or click the photo to enlarge it that the rangers have come through and protected some of the tree trunks with wire to prevent the beavers from falling the trees. There are quite a few trees that look as if the beaver got started and then the rangers wrapped up the trunks to keep the tree intact.

The turn around spot on this hike was this beach. This is the beach we spend hours and hours at during the summer and fall. This is a favorite with locals so there are lots of tracks and paw prints in the snow. There were a few mallard ducks hanging around today as well as a very chattery squirrel. More on the squirrels in another post soon.

One more friend from our walk this time.

Mr. Steller’s jay is a glorious blue and even more striking against the winter’s gray. They have to be some of the most loud and squawky birds you can ever imagine but they are so pretty when they hold still for a photo. Click the link above and scroll down to where you can listen to the call of the Steller’s jay….squawk indeed.

That was our Winter Wednesday this week. We are going to make sure to remember to actually do the activities we planned from chapter two when it snows here next….maybe soon.

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Our Winter Color Walk

The weather has been glorious the last few days so it was easy to get out and explore. I even saw a hummingbird in my feeder yesterday if you can believe it. I can hardly believe it. I am so glad that I procrastinated and didn’t take the feeder down because he was drinking deeply. My husband and I were sitting on the deck enjoying the sunshine together as he recovers from his hand surgery and we both heard the little clicking sound of the hummer as he sipped at the feeder. I am so glad that there were the two of us so I had a witness to this event. No explanation for his appearance….just admiration for his beauty.

We are finally posting our color walk from last week’s Winter Wednesday. Our world is surprisingly colorful once you start looking carefully. Here are a few colors from our own yard.
Beautiful crimson pyracantha berries in our front yard. These berries are a favorite of the local birds in the winter although they do get a little “drunk” from them and fly into our picture window. Last week we had a bird fatality at this spot and it made me very sad.

Bright yellow-orange lichen on our tree….never noticed this before in our yard but my eyes spotted it as we were color searching.

The first of the violets are blooming….mmmmmmm…..can you smell the delicate fragrance? Lovely.

Something my son pointed out….red strawberry leaves in the garden. Wow!

Orange rosehips are covering the rose bushes in the front and backyards. Did you know that apples and roses are in the same family? I am tempted to try to make rosehip tea.

This was a great activity and now we have a simple journal entry to remember the afternoon by.