DIY bug jar

July 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Art Projects, Critters

I try to look at everything that is garbage or recycling to see if I can reuse it for something. Usually I save things for art projects but this time I made a bug jar from a mayonnaise jar. I used a sharp hole puncher (that looks like an ice pick) to add a bunch of holes to the lid and then added 2 holes at the top of the jar to add the rope. The orange rope was actually the handle from a Gymboree shopping bag (nicer stores usually use nice rope or ribbon for handles and I always take it off before recycling the bags). I had intended to write “bug jar” on the finished product but I hate my handwriting! We have lots of bugs, toads and critters my kids like to look at and then release and with a friend over one day they really filled the jar!  I guess I should have called it a “toad jar” but that sounds weird! So this was a very simple thing to do but I think it came out nice, the green lid with the orange rope make a nice combo.

Eagle Spotting

March 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Critters, Family Activities, Pictures

Yesterday on our way home from Lego club we decided to drive to a nearby reservoir to see if the Eagles had come home for the summer.  I took the boys there 2 years ago and we had a fun little adventure, but didn’t see any eagles.  This trip we hit the jackpot.  We saw about a dozen bald eagles in total.  At one point we counted 9 in the air while others were hanging out on the ice.  We even saw 2 locking talons.  The eagles were too high for good pictures, but we got a few decent ones.

Turtles on the Trail

May 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Critters

This has been a great Spring for spotting wildlife in our area.  Within a 2 week span I had to stop on my to or from work for:

  • turkeys crossing the road (many times)
  • horny grouse putting on quite a display
  • young porcupine moving very slow
  • snapping turtle and the good samaritan who stopped to help it
  • deer, lots and lots of deer

I’ve also spotted lots of hawks in the trees and another bald eagle.  Unfortunately, I’ve never had a camera handy for any of these encounters … until today.

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Another summer with ROBINS!

May 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Critters

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  • Last year we had robins nesting in a bird feeder on our back porch and we are lucky enough that they came back again this year. Here is a picture of the first batch of the season on May 8th and then another from the 15th. I’m glad my kids don’t grow quite as fast! The 3 robins flew away Wednesday the 20th. We were lucky enough to see one of the babies take its first flight while we watched from the dining room window. One of the parents showed it a worm and then flew away with it to get the baby to follow. Now the robins are back sprucing up the same nest for new eggs. Oh one interesting thing is that we left last years nest in place and when they came back to it they just built a new nest right on top of the old one. Hopefully we will have 2 more nestfuls of birds to watch all summer.
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Mystery Caterpillar!

September 19, 2008 by  
Filed under Critters

We have the neatest caterpillar on a lilac leaf in our front yard. We noticed it about 2 weeks ago, the top picture is from Sept 4th and the other ones are from the 17th. Its crazy how its grown and it seems to be using the leaf like a chrysalis (there is a little white web like stuff) and doesn’t leave the leaf at all. The kids like to check on it when Ethan gets off the school bus everyday. It had 2 long antenna things sticking out the day I took the second pictures but they were gone when I came back with the camera. I am assuming the “eyes” are fake but I don’t know anything about this cute little guy.

*Okay I did a little looking on the web and think it might be a Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar (or some other Swallowtail). If it is then it will turn into the butterfly below! I think one year we’ll have to order a caterpillar kit to raise and release some butterflies at home (Ethan’s class has monarchs now and he is excited about them).

**Check out What’s That Bug?, its a really neat site! We linked to it last summer when we had our friend Sally Spider living with us and I used it to look up the caterpillar quick just now. This caterpiller is no Sally but its special too and I love the picture I took below of it!

***The DEC is another great resource for animal identification.  I found a couple of PDFs for caterpillars and butterflies on our area.  Page 1 Page 2

Slimy Friends

July 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Critters, Our Life

The boys have been finding little snails around the pool and apparently slime doesn’t bother them in the least! I think the snails are cute myself but I don’t really want to let them slide all over me!

We see lots of neat bugs too, here is a tiny grasshoper that seemed to enjoy climbing all over them as well.

Robins Round 2

June 27, 2008 by  
Filed under Critters

We have been very lucky that our robins came back and our 2nd batch of chicks were born on Father’s Day. I haven’t even blogged about it until today and only took pictures once! We enjoy them every time we are in the dining room though and they are unfortunately starting to look close to being ready to leave the nest. I really hope we get them next year too.

How to build a snake house

June 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Critters, DIY Projects

A few years ago I decided to make our backyard be a little more nature friendly. We don’t use any chemicals, we’ve put up bird houses, and I created a branch pile in an out of the way spot for critters to call home. I have also kept a pile of scrapwood by our back porch that was more for my own laziness than for the critters, but Spikey and his friends love to hang out there. Unfortunately, this woodpile is pretty ugly and we’ve also been concerned about climbing kids causing a collapse that could injure one of our snake friends.

While working on our porch extension I decided to make a safer house for the snake. The end result is not very pretty, but it provides a safe habitat for the snakes. Next summer we plan on doing some landscaping and at that time I will revisit the snake house and make something more pleasing to the eyes.

For now this is what we have. The top pile is the snake house, the bottom is one of our unsafe wood piles (now removed). The design is simple. I simply stacked my scrapwood making sure to create openings for snakes to hang out and put a few screws into each piece. The top I covered completely to keep rain out, but there are multiple entrances from the sides and bottom.
Pencil was the first snake to come back and check things out. He slithered right over to Ethan and then went looking for an entrance into their mansion. He didn’t at first and left, but Ben and I saw him return later and find his way inside. I was surprised by how big the fork in his tongue is. He looks big in this picture, but Pencil is no fatter than my pinky
While taking apart the pile we also found a new snake, a beautiful baby eastern milk snake. These look like something dangerous at first, but that is by design. Their pattern is similar to a copperhead, but the coloring much different. We’ve seen these around the backyard a few times (and once in the garage), but this is the one was the smallest we’ve seen. Ethan named this snake Spotty and he was about 12 inches long and as skinny as a pencil.
Of course Spikey was hanging around too. He wanted nothing to do with all the commotion so he hung out pool side. Spikey is getting pretty fat. Not sure if he’s finding a lot to eat or if Spikey is really a she.
Here’s a bottom view of the snake house. I left lots of space on the bottom level to help the pile dry out after rain. You can see how the second story has a gap in the middle. Each level has gaps like this so snake can find places to hide.
Ethan also found a snake skin. We could also see that Spikey’s eyes were getting clouded. This is a sign that he is getting ready to shed. No matter how friendly your backyard snake friends are, give them their space when they are preparing to shed. The loosening skin acts like a cataract and they can’t see very well. This makes them shy and defensive.

Hot Frog Pond

June 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Critters, Family Activities

Today we went on a pond walk with a local nature center and the kids had fun but it would have been a lot nicer if it were 10 degrees cooler. Its been too hot and humid without enough warning for me! Everyone who went used a net to collect pond life and then we went inside to look at the critters close up. We learned about dragon fly larva, bull frog tadpoles, diving beetles, crayfish, catfish and more. Luckily we came home and got in the pool and cooled off after. We even found a diving beetle in our pool that the boys think hitched a ride home with us.

Robins are gone :(

May 22, 2008 by  
Filed under Critters

One by one the baby Robins left the nest yesterday. I guess I was right that they were getting big but I was hoping for a few more days with them. The kids aren’t sad though, they are talking about when the parents will come back and have another batch of babies. I think Robins have 2 sets of babies a year so maybe they will be back again this summer. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss looking at them while we sat at the table to eat. Once they were big it was a lot of fun seeing them stretch out their new wings and gobble down the worms the parents brought. Jamie kept pointing at the nest at breakfast this morning looking for them. I was going to put up a picture of the empty nest but here is one of the day the first 2 eggs were laid. If we are lucky we’ll see this again! Hopeful

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