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The Critter Camera – All Scavengers Invited

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The Critter Cam was setup by a group of middle-school age students during a Swamp Exploration-Wild About Wildlife program. The trail camera was positioned over the remains of a recently harvested and butchered white-tailed deer to catch the mix of scavengers that might take advantage of an easy winter treat and forest feast.

Within the first few days and nights the camera captured coyote, fox, red tail hawk, vulture, crow, red bellied woodpecker, blue jay and deer.

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Orienteering to Vernal Pools in Allamuchy State Park – NJ

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As part of Iz Turley’s Hardwoodsman challenge, I went out to practice my map & compass navigation skills. My destination was a few wetland habitats within Allamuchy State Park. The wetlands on the map appeared to be perfect locations  for vernal pools and the diversity of species that call them home.

Along the way I found Spring Peepers, Wood Frogs, Spotted Salamanders, Eastern Newts, Fairy Shrimp, Pileated Woodpecker, Wood ducks and much much more including a BEAR SKULL!!!

 

David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula.  He specializes in making nature accessible to people and wildlife.  You can follow him at www.natureintoaction.com

Best Wishes from Nature Into Action

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Happy Holidays!

Wigwam in Winter (11)

Warmest thoughts and best wishes

for a wonderful holiday and new year filled with outdoor fun!

Fall Family Festival at the Environmental Center

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Special events are wonderful opportunities to bring crowds of new visitors to the environmental center. With help from over 40 partners and vendors as well as many volunteers and event sponsors we hosted our 11th annual Fall Family Festival.  Below are just a few photographs that I managed to capture during a wonderfully busy event.

 

Dead Deer Decomposition – Bone Collection

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I often find deer skeletons while walking in the forest, most likely a result of car collisions. I collect the bones occasionally for simulated archaeological digs with students when studying Native Americans and dinosaur dig birthday parties with 4 year old kids who swear they found dinosaur bones. Some of you may collect skulls/bones for display, educational purposes or for primitive tool projects so out of curiosity for the decomposition process, this past spring I dragged a recently dead deer into a spot where some of my environmental science students/campers and I could make observations. Below are a few pictures of that process.

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Making Charcoal Art Pencils on the Campfire & Drawing the Sky Tree

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Winter Nature Campers collected sticks within the forest to turn into charcoal pencils.  We added them to an empty container that once held Pepperidge Farm Pirouette Chocolate Hazelnut Rolled Wafers but you could use any empty cookie tin type container.  Be sure to poke a hole in the container for smoke to escape or the lid will pop-off when roasting. Fill the container with the sticks and place on the fire to cook. The sticks char without completely combusting due to the lack of oxygen and make an excellent artists charcoal.  Take the tin off the fire after it has been smoking for some time and let the container cool completely before removing the lid or the sticks could ignite into flames.   Campers had great fun exploring the textures of the charcoal and making their own free choice art. They observed that the sticks with bark removed made more consistent lines and held their shape better than those with bark still on them as the bark crumbled rather quickly when pressed on paper. Also, campers observed that the charcoal smeared easily when rubbed with a finger.

As an extension campers could use realism and create a winter tree like shown in the story “The Sky Tree, Seeing Science Through Art” by Thomas Locker.   They could listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for inspiration and focus.

Autumn Lantern Craft

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Families were invited to walk in search of autumn leaves before creating lanterns using glue and balloons.  As they crafted, the story of the Lantern Price was shared. The story that I shared was found at the Sparkle Stories Blog and was written in honor of St. Martin in the spirit of service. In the theme of the story, next time I run the program I’ll ask participants to bring a can of food for donation to those less fortunate.

To make the lantern, tissue paper is applied to a balloon with a brush and watery glue. Small pieces prevent too many wrinkles.  The balloon should not be filled to maximum or it will pop. Heavier duty balloons are recommended to avoid popping. Once a few layers of tissue paper are applied the leaves can be added and then covered with a single layer of tissue paper to seal them onto the balloon. It may take a few days to dry before the balloon can be popped. After punching holes in the side I was able to tie strings to the balloon and hang it from a stick. Battery tea lights help safely light the lantern for a night walk.

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