Monday, April 30, 2007

The Secret of the Pharoah's Treasure

Thanks to Lapaz Farm for posting about Let's Play Math's new mathematical adventure. It looks like a lot of fun and hopefully it'll have a new episode about once a week. This edition has a game about a pyramid. It looks like fun!!!

Karate: First Weapon

Alexandra is now taking karate 3 days per week, and really enjoying it. Last week, she got to use her first weapon: a bow (I guess I'm spelling it correctly.) I thought it was so neat! And, I wanted to get out there and give it a try! She said she didn't care for it, but I think she'll like it more as she learns to use it better.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What's in your backyard tonight? (Challenge)

I went on a little photo shoot tonight while trying to learn how to do some close up photography. I'd love to challenge some of you other bloggers to photograph some of what's in your backyard for one evening. Please let me know if you take my challenge and I'll be sure to take a peek! (All of these photos look so much better as I see them on my full computer screen. I think you can click on them to enlarge them.)

An assassin bug nymph on hydrangea that is getting ready to bloom.

An assassin bug nymph on a leaf.

One of our Sego Palms

My beautiful, precious daughter. I love her eyes in this photo! She chose this pose all by herself.
I think I'm going to change it into black and white.

Unidentified mushrooms.

A pinecone. I love this shot! And, it wasn't exactly what I was going for...

Just an ordinary house fly on the side of our house, but I like the way it turned out. I'm really practicing my close-up shots and got much better after the almost 100 shots I took today. (So glad I'm digital!)

My dog chewing on a pinecone. (I'm sure that's not healthy. She also likes to chew on wood.)

A gecko that turned out great, especially as it was pretty dark outside.

On the Cover: Large Milkweed Bug

I found this so funny. I had posted the photo of this bug and decided to look for a book to help me identify it and other insects we find. So, we were at a bookstore today and were looking at the insect guides. I picked one up and was looking through it. Alexandra said, "Mom..." and she closed the book and pointed to the cover. This bug was on the cover!!! Ha! Ha! Anyway, he is a Large Milkweed Bug!!! He must have come off of our milkweed, but he was on some Jasmine when we found him.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More Backyard Finds

On our backyard walk tonight, we found 2 great critters. The first was this beautiful bug above. I actually took almost 40 photos of him and only got one that wasn't blurry! A lot of the time he was moving, but sometimes he was sitting still. I have to figure out what I'm doing wrong. Alexandra got a photo that was just as good, though not as close up, with my old camera. Way to go!
(I haven't identified this yet - if anyone has an idea, please let me know! I thought it might be a box elder bug, but it looks somewhat different than the photos I saw.)

We also found a Spiny-Backed Orb Weaver Spider. These guys are little bitty (maybe 1/2 inch or smaller) and I couldn't get a good photo, so I got this photo off of this site. Tonight's Spiny Orb was white, but we'd found a red one back in October. What is neat about learning to identify the "critters" we find is that we can usually remember their names when we find them again! I think this little spider is just an incredible example of God's beautiful creation.

Lastly, Alexandra found a live worm on our walkway today. What was neat is that she actually picked it up! This is a first for her. Then, she proceded to make it a habitat (though we let it go a few hours later). This is just a great reinforcement to me that our experiences with nature are making an impact. Alexandra used to be afraid of worms and now she is finding them and wanting to name them and take care of them. It's wonderful!

Froglets: 7 1/2 weeks

The photo above is from Sunday. The photo below is of the same froglet on Tuesday. What a difference 2 days made!!!

On Tuesday, we went ahead and made the froglets a terrarium. We added gravel with one side deeper and then added water in the whole tank. We also gave them their first "grown up" food - crickets. The largest froglet (above on left) has been trying to catch one, but I don't think he's gotten one yet. We will also try mealworms soon.

These are Leopard Frogs (rana pipiens). I think our largest one is about 1.5 inches. They normally grow to about 3 inches long. I read that they can live to be 5 years old, but you are "doing good" if they survive a year. So far, we've made it almost 2 months!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Another Backyard Visitor

We have lots of vines growing on our back fence that come from our back side neighbors. I rarely spot any "critters" in the vines, but thought I'd check again tonight. I was excited to spot this green anole! They're actually pretty common around house, but usually I only see them on the run. I think he thought he was well camoflauged.

Birds: Part 1

We've been studying birds for the past 2 weeks and I haven't posted much about them except for us birding. I'll try to post some of our resources soon, but thought I'd post a little about today.

We started the day by setting up an outdoor experiment. We set the picnic table with 2 bowls of bird seed: a cheaper version (on the left) and a more expensive version. We didn't have a lot of visitors today (I think we counted 7), but all but one of the birds we saw were at the cheaper food! But, they were all sparrows except one male cardinal (who was also at the cheaper food), and we're more interested in feeding some of the other species. Tomorrow, we're expecting lots of rain, so we'll continue our experiment the next day.
Indoors, we studied bird beaks or bills. We talked about how they come in different shapes and sizes. We used different "bills" to see which ones were best at eating each of 8 different kinds of "food." I found this lesson at this site.

The photo above was very funny. I actually scattered the smallest bird seed we had on a wash cloth. Alexandra was supposed to suck lightly to get the "bug" off of the "log." Well, I should have tried this first. She sucked down her "bug!" She thought it was hilarious and I told her she was now truly a bird.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Tadpoles: 7 1/2 weeks

Thanks to Robin at martinzoo for telling me I needed to go ahead and put something in the tank for the tadpoles to climb out on now that they have their legs. We bought a little log/platform from PetSmart on Saturday, and when we woke up Sunday morning our biggest froglet was sitting on the platform. It's also neat to see that his mouth has changed from a little circle like a fish, to a real "frog" mouth. What amazed me more, is that today this little froglets tail is about 1/3rd the length it was yesterday. At this rate, I think he'll be a "real frog" in a day or two!!! Am I really ready to feed him crickets... which I've always loved???
Someone asked me how expensive it is to raise the frogs. First of all, I'd highly recommend trying to find eggs in a pond rather than buying them. I bought these and now I'm unable to release them so I have 4 "pet" frogs, when I was only after a science experience (not experiment).
It cost about $20 for the eggs and tank. I did have to upgrade the tank to a bigger one, but I already had it. And, so far, all of the food they've needed was provided with the eggs. (It's just a little baggy of tadpole food.) I paid $12 for the platform/log, but you could find something instead. Now, the next cost will be the crickets, which I'm sure aren't very expensive.
So, this is a cheap pet, but like I said, I wasn't really after a pet. But, we are enjoying them tremendously. Now, Alexandra wants a hamster (or a bird) and I'd really like to get her one but told her I won't consider it until we see how much work these frogs are going to be.
Hope this helps! I'll try to post photos of our new frogs in a couple of days!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bald Eagle Cam

Thanks to Robin at martinzoo for this link to see a nest of Bald Eagles - live!!! We've seen them being fed, just sitting in their nest, stretching, and napping. It's very neat!

Happy Earth Day

(but, of course, I think he's beautiful!!!)

Today, we went to an Earth Day celebration at our local arboretum. Besides meeting this very large, friendly ladybug, Alexandra got to do several hands-on activities.

Here she is racing a solar powered car.

Here she's making her own paper, which is also a model of the earth, AND it contains wildflower seed. So, we were supposed to break it up and scatter it at home after it dried. Unfortunately, we set it out to dry... and forgot it.

Here's a gorgeous water snake. I wasn't the one who spotted him. Another couple had been sitting on a park bench and said they saw him swimming across the pond. We were on a boardwalk which wasn't very far off the ground. The snake went under it a couple of times and we lost him in the grasses a few times, but we watched him for about 10 minutes. This was really something as Alexandra isn't very fond of snakes.

Besides the snake, we saw a few other things on our nature walk/scavenger hunt: a pair of cardinals, a bluejay, a woodpecker, and a land tortoise (we usually just see the water kind). We also got a bag FULL of goodies from all the eco-friendly tables.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Newest Visitor

The newest visitor to our backyard... a red-bellied woodpecker!!! We put out a suet-type feeder (this is a no-melt type) 2 days ago and I spotted this woodpecker this morning. He visited at least 3 times today. The feeder has also attracted our first pair of starlings.

Tadpoles: 7 weeks

Our largest tadpole had one front leg yesterday morning! By the end of the day, he had both front legs. He's really starting to look like a frog now! His body (not including the tail) is about 2/3rds the size of a Pink Pearl eraser.
Our last tadpole got his 2nd hind foot today. His tail is very crooked and now he's having trouble swimming. He seems to be getting food OK, though. I'll keep a close eye on him.

Orange and Black Beetle

I found this beetle while on our birding trip. It was in a wooded park, probably about 30 miles from the salt marsh. I've spent about an hour online tonight trying to identify it and haven't been successful. Anyone know what it is? I think he's beautiful!

Bird Walk Photos

Birds are hard to photograph! I love my new camera, but it just doesn't have the zoom power needed for this type of photography. So, I'll have to post some of the photos that did work.

There was lots of wild honeysuckle every where we went. I showed the children how I used to lick the nectar when I was a childYummy! And it smells so good!
Two of the alligators we saw. I even got a video recording of one of them sliding into the water to swim towards us. You can also see quite a few birds on the salt marsh in the background. They were mainly egrets, herons, and various ducks. (You might need to click on it to enlarge it.)

The snake skin the girls found near the snake in a tree.

Roseate Spoonbills and Great Egrets nesting on an island. This was an incredible, noisy site. There were even a few baby Egrets in the nests!!! And, at least one alligator watching from the shore.

Alexandra feeding the sea gulls that followed the ferry. The gulls actually took the crackers from her hand! I tried it, too, and it was exciting... and a little scary.

And here's a photo of some pelicans we saw from the ferry. I LOVE pelicans and wish we would have had time to look for some more. Maybe next time!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bird Walk

We went on an amazing bird walk today with 2 other families. Besides seeing lots of birds, we saw a raccoon running across the road, quite a few alligators, some large turtles, and even a snake (which I won't post here so as to not scare anyone - hope the snake skin isn't so scary!)

On an incredible island, we saw Roseate Spoonbill and Great Egrets. The egrets were on their nests and we saw several chicks!

Some of the other birds we saw today: red-bellied woodpeckers, red-winged blackbirds (this is now one of my favorite birds!), scissor-tailed flycatcher, glossy ibis, barn swallows, king birds, shoveler, black-necked stilt, coots, common moorhens, egrets, tri-colored heron, cormorants, indigo buntings (cool!!!), a few warblers, and some turkey vultures.

We took the ferry on the way home. Alexandra hasn't done this since she was little bitty, and she didn't remember it. We all fed the sea gulls on the trip and we saw dolphins and pelicans!

I was so thankful for the homeschooling dad that went with us and taught me the names of so many birds. And, he taught me how to do a bird walk!

I think I'll just post some photos and a few more words tomorrow as blogger isn't letting me download photos tonight.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

FREE Respected American Women Lapbook

Thanks to Jamin' for pointing out this free ebook! Homeschool Estore is offering this great free ebook about respected American Women. Go on over and give it a try! We'll be doing this one soon!

Here are their notes about it:
This lapbook is a study of Respected American Women. These women were chosen, not because of a great "thing" that the accomplished, necessarity...but because they faced great persecution and/or hardship and came through that with honor, respect, and integrity. These are the kinds of women that you would want your daughters to imitate. There are 19 booklets, including Rosa Parks, Wilma Rudolph, Maya Angelou, Harriet Tubman, Nellie Bly, Sally Ride, Hellen Keller, Ann Judson, and so much more. Includes all instructions and also information about what to put in each booklet, including internet links for further research.

Season of the Love Bug

I didn't know what Love Bugs were until we moved to Texas. Well, it is now Love Bug season once again. Love Bugs fly around "paired up" this time of year. I happened upon this couple perched on a leaf and thought it was the perfect opportunity for a photo. In a few more weeks, they'll be everywhere! They get in your house, your car, etc, etc. Yes, love is in the air!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Every Kid Loves the Mud!

I was on the phone and Alexandra was watering some seeds we planted today. When I got off the phone and went to check on her, I found her wading in the mud she'd made! I thought it was so cute and I remembered being a child and loving to play in the mud and squish my toes in it. So, I told her to have fun and I went and grabbed my camera...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tadpoles: 6 weeks

The tadpoles are about 6 weeks old today. They are supposed to take a total of about 12 weeks to become frogs. My dh took care of the little guys while Alexandra & I were on vacation, and they're doing well. They all even "sprouted" hind legs while we were gone!
We're amazed at how big they are getting. In fact, we moved them to a larger aquarium today. Their eyes are amazingly beautiful. They're kind of gold with a black cross through them. Their hind legs are surprisingly small to us. We have one really large one - he's almost twice as big as the smallest, but all of them got their legs at about the same time. We're really enjoying this experience!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Texas City Prairie Preserve

Today, we took a field trip to the Texas City Prairie Preserve. Each group (we were in a homeschool group, but the rest were public school children) got to do 3 of 5 activities. We got to do: wildflower walk, water testing, and insect catching. Actually, my favorite things were the things that weren't planned.
Alexandra holding a flower while her friend sketched it. Next time, we'll have to bring a nature notebook! It was a cool morning, but a beutiful day. On the way home, my car thermostat showed 86!

Wild onion (or was it garlic?) - the little bulbs could be peeled like an onion and smelled like it, too!

We saw lots of little crabs in their holes and one little girl caught one. But, when we went for lunch, we found a "large" (relatively) fiddler crab. I held it for awhile, and even though it tried to pinch, its pinchers were so small it didn't hurt.
Crab coming out of his mud hole. The kids were very excited about these.

I thought this was incredible - a coyote track!!!

A fish skeleton! We think a coyote or bobcat left this behind after his meal.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wildflowers North of Houston

On the way home from Colorado, we stopped quite a few times to take photos of wildflowers. Then, when we got home, we tried to identify them. We're still working on a few unidentified photos, but I think we've got the rest. We're really enjoying this!

Bull Thistle (large flower with lots of thorns!)


Indian Blanket

Philadelphia Fleabane (isn't this beautiful???)
Crimson Clover

Birds in KS

Besides a huge flock of Starlings, we saw some grackles. I was happy to look this bird up and be able to identify it now! It has a dark body, bluish head, and yellow eyes.

I was also trying to get a shot of a fat robin in my in-law's yard. Well, Alexandra wanted to give it a try. It was cold out and I loved watching her patiently take photo after photo of this robin. She was even in a skirt, short sleeves, and I think I finally made her put some shoes on! She got this pretty good shot by the fence. I'm so happy she's enjoying "birding" like I am!

Snow in Kansas!!!

In Kansas, we had about 4 inches of snow! Alexandra's only played in snow a couple of times before, so this was wonderful. (Even though it melted by the end of the day.)

Unfortunately, it was a very dry snow and didn't make a snowman very well, but we tried! Here's a photo of our "snow ghost" being examined by our dog, Pandy.
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