Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cute critters in my outdoor class!

I finally got to teach my Habitat Hunters class outside at the old Freels Cabin today! I love doing programs out there! I had 2 4th grade classes from the local Catholic school. After showing them a slide presentation about signs of animals, we headed out to the field. The first thing we saw was a ~3'-long Brown-banded Watersnake; that sure got the kids excited!

While we were in the field near a wet area I heard one of the boys exclaim, "It's a frog!" We were amazed to see several tiny Spring Peepers hopping about. I had to keep reminding them that even though they are tiny ("pinky fingernail-sized), they are not "baby" frogs (that would be a tadpole). One of the moms held a Peeper on her hand so I could get a close-up photo. They are so cute!

Before the group left, they wanted to see the field mice I had seen earlier when I opened the storage cabinets. One pair had made a nest out of insulation material. I got a photo of the male when he jumped up on a roll of duct tape! These mice are cute, but they sure can make a mess! I'm looking forward to having Science Camp at the cabin in a few weeks. This will be my 20th year to do the camp, every year we've had lots of excitement sharing nature with the rising 5th, 6th, and 7th graders!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ladybug larvae and Flying Fungus maggots!

I haven't had anything weird or gross on my blog lately, so today I'm posting stories about both!
Kenny and I went to Kingsport, TN this weekend to see his brothers, the oldest was home from Madagascar for the week. His middle brother has some rose bushes that I went to look at. I like domestic flowers too! I noticed some green aphids, a little spider and some ladybug larvae. These little critters are voracious eaters of aphids, so I was happy to see them on the leaves of the rose bushes.

Just when I think I've seen everything bizarre that Mother Nature has to offer, I come across something like this! As we were driving by one of Kenny's former schools I spotted a "fairy ring" of mushrooms in the mulch of a nearby home. We parked the car and I got my camera ready to take some photos. Just as I was walking over to the mushrooms, the homeowner came out of his house. I have to explain myself out of some pretty strange situations sometimes! I explained that he had a fairy ring (mushrooms growing in a circle) and that I'd like to get a photo. As he and my husband talked, I looked a bit more closely at some large mushrooms that had been eaten by something. Suddenly a small (~1/2" long) white maggot with a brown head came crawling out of the mushroom that was riddled with holes. (Click on the photos to enlarge them) Then I saw another and another. Soon there were several of these maggots crawling around on top of the mushrooms. I guess they were getting warmed by the sun. As I was focusing my camera on one it suddenly curled up then launched itself several inches! The more I watched, the more I noticed others doing that too! What a bizarre method of quick locomotion! I tried to get a picture, but they were just too fast! The one in the photo on the right is getting ready to jump. I'm going to send a photo in to and see if someone there can identify it for me. Those folks are great about helping ID strange critters like this! :)