Twice this school year we’ve had the opportunity for some spontaneous nature study. Last Fall I found a large feather in the front yard of the Old Haus and knew it wasn’t from any of the little feathered friends we usually see around. I brought it in to show Rascal, and together we tried to identify the bird. Our wildlife book didn’t have a good feather identification page, so we found a site that helped us identify the passing bird. It turned out to be a Broad-winged Hawk. Rascal drew a picture of the picture of the hawk (if that makes sense) and we taped it, the real picture, the printed page of feather identification, and the feather into his school binder.
Yesterday on our back deck I found a sort of hairy caterpillar (not a Wooly Bear but very interesting nonetheless). I called Rascal over to see it and he immediately adopted it. It reminded me of myself at 8 years old, bringing a wooly worm home from the school yard by having it ride back and forth on my paperback book as I took the bus home. However, my foray into having a close up view on metamorphosis was cut short the night I decided “Fuzzball” was thirsty and gave him a liberal drink of water. Oops! Determined not to allow my exuberant son to make the same mistake, we created a small habitat in a large mason jar and I put mesh cheesecloth over the top so there would be plenty of air. We identified it through this website, and discovered our new friend is an Eastern Tent Caterpillar. However, we do not seem to have had any luck feeding our caterpillar. It doesn’t seem to want the leaves we gave it, and eschewed the slice of banana that other sites suggested as an alternative. Rascal is confident that his caterpillar will eventually become a moth. I am dubiously wondering if, twenty-two years later, I have the same ill luck keeping caterpillars. I guess we’ll see!
In any event, these spontaneous science classes are very fun and intriguing, and not any further away than our own yard.