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Nighttime Critters – Our List from the July Newsletter

Summer evenings outdoors….with our chiminea.

We have been working on our July Newsletter Nighttime Critter Challenge all month. I wanted to post a little of what we are observing and learning to give you an idea of how you can pick a few things from your area to study in the evening hours.  I will update our list after the end of the month with any new finds.

Our most predominant nighttime critters of interest are the Brown bats that come every single night to fly in our backyard. I wrote about them back in May as part of mammal study.  For the July newsletter challenge for Nighttime Critters, I decided to share a few of our other nighttime visitors of interest. This study was sort of on-going because when the weather is hot, we tend to drag sleeping bags out to the back deck to sleep in the cool night air. We all lay awake and listen and watch as the nighttime settles in around us.

Shooting stars, satellites zipping across the sky, the moon, the swaying trees in the breeze, and the night sounds all entertain us as we wait for sleep to come.

Great Horned Owl Nature Journal
Fill In The Circle and Fill In With Color Example – Poor owl sketch…he has such a crooked beak.

One of the things that we have discovered sleeping outside on hot summer nights is that we have quite a few great horned owls in our neighborhood. We can hear them calling back and forth right after the sun goes down and then again at around 5 AM. Here is a link to and if you click the sound button, you will hear the two types of sounds we hear from our owls: Great Horned Owls. We have yet to actually see them but they are out there…no doubt about it.

We also are serenaded by crickets when the temperatures get just right. It is amazing how you don’t hear any crickets and then all of a sudden it is as if someone turned on a cricket soundtrack and they all chirp at the same time. The lesson in the Handbook of Nature Study gives a great illustration showing the parts of the cricket and an excellent explanation of how he “sings”. (Lesson 82)

 “The wing covers are much shorter than the abdomen and beneath them are vestiges of wings, which are never used. The male has larger wing covers than the female, and they are veined in a peculiar scroll pattern. This veining seems to be a framework for the purpose of making a sounding board of the wing membrane, by stretching it out as a drumhead is stretched.” Handbook of Nature Study.

Turn in your copy of the Handbook of Nature Study to read much more in the lesson explaining this interesting creature.There is such a simple explanation of the mechanics of the crickets chirping that it is perfect for sharing with younger children. The crickets and the frogs compete in our neighborhood for the winner of the “background” noise. It seems as if one or the other is singing their little hearts out.

We smell skunks quite a few nights a week. Sleeping outside we hear rustling in the garden and I think it is the skunk. I know they dig around the base of the birdfeeder outside our window but over the years I have decided that if he leaves me alone, I will leave him alone. Here is another entry where I talk about our nighttime visitors.

Nighttime Critter LIst - Outdoor Hour Challenge
List from the July Newsletter. I cut it out and taped it inside my nature journal.

One last nighttime critter we have had around the neighborhood is the raccoon. Our neighbor has been sharing how they keep forgetting to bring in the dog’s food dish at night and the raccoon has decided that it makes a easy snack taken just outside their patio door. We have had our share of raccoons in the yard over the years but we haven’t seen any lately. Here is an entry sharing one raccoon experience: Raccoon Visitor.

Well that gives you a taste of what we have around here in the evenings. I just thought of something else I need to put on my list….moths.

I look forward to reading about your nighttime critters. Don’t forget to post your entry and then submit it to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival before 7/30/11 for a chance in the July Newsletter giveaway!

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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Our Moth Study: Summer 2010

Summer Series 2010 Outdoor Hour Challenge for Fireflies and Moths

Since we do not have fireflies in our part of the world, this will be the second time we have studied moths using the Outdoor Hour Challenges. During the summer of 2008 we completed a moth study while on our camping trip. Moths seem to be one of those creatures that we don’t pay too much attention to as we go about our regular business.

The Discover Nature At Sundown book gave us some really good ways to tell moths and butterflies apart, along with wonderful illustrations of the parts of a moth. We are going to continue our study of moths as we have subjects come our way.

Here are a few moths we have seen in the past.

moth 2
Forget me not moth

Moth we saw on a trip to Oregon that I would love to know the name of if anyone out there has it. Hint, hint.

We have been watching for moths in our garden in the evenings but the best place to observe them is actually in the house. I many times come into the kitchen in the morning and find a few moths clinging to the bottom of the nightlight. I scoop them up and take them back outside.

We did find some signs of spiders in the garden during the day this week. There has been a return of the webs on our crepe myrtle. I was able to capture a few in photos and even one photo of the spider that I think must be making the webs. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Web on Crepe Myrtle (3)

Web on Crepe Myrtle (2)

Web on Crepe Myrtle (5)
See the spider inside the web? These are fantastic webs to look at and they are complex as well as beautiful.

So much for a firefly and moth study….we never feel defeated though. Our advance preparation seems to always pay off in one way or another. I am confident that we will someday be in a position to study fireflies up close and personal.


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OHC Summer Series #1: Mosquitoes and World of Smell


Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer Mosquito Nature Study

Outdoor Hour Challenges

Summer Series #1 Mosquitoes and World of Smell

Train Your Senses

  • Sight: Begin to learn how long it takes for your eyes to adjust as the evening gets darker. Use your sense of sight to observe mosquitoes or mosquito larvae. Can you observe any birds or bats eating mosquitoes?
  • Smell: Sit quietly in your yard, perhaps at different times of day, observing any smells of summer that you can recognize. Can you smell more at night when your other senses are not as useful? Can you smell more on a damp night or a dry night? Does a certain smell bring back a memory?
  • Hearing: Can you hear any mosquitoes or other insects buzzing?

Inside Preparation Work:
1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 411-415 on mosquitoes. Pay special attention to page 414 where there is a list of places that mosquito larvae can be found. Read through Lesson 105 to equip yourself for your mosquito study.
2. Read in Discover Nature at Sundown pages 14-26. This section will give you some general information about how humans and other living creatures use their sense of smell. We will study several of these living things as part of this series of challenge: moths, evening primroses, mosquitoes, frogs, and bats.

Outdoor Hour Time:
1. This week spend your 15 minutes outdoors at sundown. As you start your Summer Series of Challenges, try to establish a routine of going outdoors in the evening to spend some time observing your backyard or neighborhood as the light fades. Use the suggests above to use your senses during your outdoor time. After reading in Discover Nature At Sundown, you will have some ideas for night-blooming flowers to look for and to smell. Also the book suggests observing sounds on a damp night and a dry night and comparing your results.

2. Also, as part of this challenge, you can try to collect some live mosquito larvae. Here are some instructions:

  • Look in a pond, along a stream, in a rain barrel or any where else you can find some standing water.
  • Collect a jar full of water to bring home to observe. Scoop the water rapidly and hopefully you will get some larvae or pupae.
  • The Handbook of Nature Study suggests putting the jar on your desk to observe the “wigglers”. Use the suggestions from Lesson 105 to study your mosquitoes. Here is a link to a webpage that has more information about mosquitoes: How Stuff Works: Mosquitoes

Follow-Up Activity:
1. There is a notebook activity included with this challenge is to keep track of all the smells of summer that you find over the next few weeks. As a new smell comes to your attention, make sure to write it down in your journal. There is set of free mosquito notebook pages available over on

2. If you were successful in collecting and then observing mosquito larvae, record your thoughts in your nature journal or on the notebook page provided in the Summer Series ebook. If you did not find any mosquito larvae, you can record the things you learned about mosquitoes instead.

If you would like all the Summer Series Challenges in one place, I have an ebook gathered for you to purchase for your convenience. Here is a link to a complete description:
Summer Series of Outdoor Hour Challenges
Summer 2010 Nature Study Final

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy