A Note To Parents: We make every effort for Roxanne's blog to be a SAFE site for children. Whenever possible, activities are in pdf format or link to safe sites for children. Please feel free to use the information in these posts for homeschool studies! All rights reserved by author and nature photographer, Virginia Parker Staat.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Beautiful Caribou

We have seen many caribou at Denali National Park. Caribou are members of the deer family. They are very large. Some caribou weigh 700 pounds!

Baby caribou are born in the spring. They must learn to run very quickly so that wolves and bears cannot catch them. Caribou live in large groups in the winter and spring. After their babies are strong enough to run with their mothers, the caribou scatter into smaller groups for the summer.

Both male and female caribou grow antlers. The bulls lose their antlers in early winter. The younger males and females lose their antlers in early spring. Pregnant females lose their antlers after their babies are born. If you would like to learn more about antlers, see my October 29, 2009, post "Amazing Antlers.")

Caribous move or migrate in large herds in the winter and spring. Some herds number over 200,000 caribou! When the weather begins to get cold, the caribou begin to gather. When winter arrives, all of the caribou come together to migrate to their winter feeding grounds. They can travel up to 50 miles a day. They travel thousands of miles to their winter home. In the spring, the caribou return to their summer home in the high northern tundra.

There are about 900,000 caribou in Alaska. There are nearly 3 million caribou in Canada.

If you would like to learn more about caribou, check out these sites:


Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Spied a Red Fox!

We have been visiting Denali National Park in Alaska. It is a great place to see lots of animals!

This afternoon, I saw an animal in our camp. At first I thought it was a dog. It was a red fox! I had never seen a fox before!

Foxes are members of the dog family. Foxes weigh about 15 pounds. They have very long tails.

Foxes eat just about anything. Sometimes they store their food by burying it. Foxes live in dens, or holes in the ground.

A fox baby is called a kit. Most often, four babies are born each spring. The mom and dad fox teach the babies how to hunt and live on their own.

Foxes are very smart. There are many stories about the fox being sly or crazy. I think those stories might be true! A man in the camp next to us said that our fox stole his GPS!

For more information about foxes, go to http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/kids/animal-facts/pdf/red_fox.pdf

You can also check out these books from your library:
Red Fox Running by Eve Bunting
Reynard the Fox by Rachel Anderson

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bald Eagles

I think that bald eagles are one of my favorite kinds of birds. They are America's national bird. Bald eagles are only found in North America. Alaska has more bald eagles than any other state.

Eagles are birds of prey. That means that they catch fish and other animals to eat. They have sharp claws called talons on their toes. Eagles swoop down from the air to pick up their meal. In Alaska, bald eagles love to eat salmon.

The bald eagle is Alaska's biggest bird of prey. Their wing span can be over 8 feet wide. That's as wide as a door is tall!

Eagles mate for life. They build very large nests high in treetops or on cliffs. They often use the same nest every year. The mother eagle lays one or two eggs. When the babies hatch, they live in the nest for about 75 days.

You can tell if an eagle is young. His feathers are spotted like the one in this photo. When he is grown, his head will turn white and his body black.

We have seen lots of eagles in Alaska. Aren't they beautiful?

If you would like to learn more about eagles, go to http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/kids/animal-facts/pdf/bald_eagle.pdf

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sea Otters

The sea otter is one of my most favorite animals. They love the water and they always look so happy!

Sea otters are fantastic swimmers. Most of the time, they live their entire lives in the ocean. They can dive very deep for their favorite foods like clams and sea urchins. When they reach the surface, they float on their backs and use their bellies as a table to eat their meal.

Sea otters have the thickest fur of any mammal. Their thick fur keeps them warm, even in the very cold waters off Alaska and Canada. In fact, sea otters almost became extinct because trappers killed so many for their fur. Today otters are protected from being hunted.

When a baby sea otter is born, his mother takes very good care of him. He spends most of his time traveling on top of her belly.

Mom took these photos of otters when we went on the ferry to Seldovia.

For more information about sea otters, just click on one of these links: http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/kids/animal-facts/pdf/sea_otter.pdf

You can also check out these great books from your library:

Lootas, Little Wave Eater: An Orphaned Sea Otter’s Story, by Clare Hodgson Meeker
Sea Otter Inlet , by Celia Godkin
Sea Otter Rescue: The Aftermath of an Oil Spill, by Roland Smith

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My First Ferry Ride

We have been having fun in Homer, Alaska. Across Kachemak Bay, there is a little town called Seldovia. It only has 286 people living in the town. We wanted to see what it was like.

You can only get to Seldovia by boat or plane. So Mom, Dad, and I took a boat ride on the Kachemak Voyager passenger ferry.

The ferry ride was so much fun. We went by Gull Island. It has over 20,000 birds nesting on it. There were birds in the air. There were birds in the water. Mostly, there were birds nesting on the island. They sure made a lot of noise!

We also saw sea otters playing in the ocean. In my next post, I'll tell you more about them.

Seldovia is a pretty little town. We walked all around and met some very nice people.

The next day, we took the ferry back to Homer. I loved having the sea breeze in my face. I loved seeing all the ocean birds and animals. We had such a great time!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Amazing Arctic Ground Squirrel

The arctic ground squirrel is called "tsik-tsik" by the First Nation peoples of Canada. It is the sound an arctic ground squirrel makes when it is alarmed.

They live in burrows under the ground. They line their nests with grasses to help them keep warm. After they enter their burrow for winter, they block the entrance with dirt.

During an arctic winter, it is very cold. The temperature in the squirrel's burrow can drop below 0° F. Most mammals would die in temperatures that cold. But the arctic ground squirrel is an amazing little animal!

In the summer, the arctic ground squirrel has the same body temperature as you and me. During hibernation, the squirrel's body temperature drops from 98.6° F to 26.4° F. Water freezes at 32° F but not the artcic ground squirrel! This little squirrel reaches the lowest known body temperature of any living mammal. Scientists don't know why the arctic ground squirrel doesn't freeze solid in such cold temperatures.

Every so often during the winter, the arctic ground squirrel wakes up. He shivers until his body temperature rises to 70° F. Then he goes back into hibernation.

When spring comes in late March or early April, the arctic ground squirrel comes out of his burrow. He must really be hungry!

To learn more about the arctic ground squirrel, go to http://www.gov.nu.ca/env/ags.pdf
This article is very special. The second page is written in the Inuit language. The Inuit are First Nation people in Canada.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alaska Cotton

While traveling through Alaska, we have seen lots of cotton on the road. It flies through the air and piles up on the ground. It looks a little like snow.

People who live in Alaska laugh when we ask what it is. They tell us that it is "Alaskan cotton."

Mom and I have done some research to try to figure out what all these fluff balls are. We found out that Alaska has two kinds of cotton.

Some of the cotton comes from black poplar trees. These trees are a member of the cottonwood tree family.

The other kind of cotton comes from a wildflower that grows in bogs and marshes. It is called cotton grass. When the pods burst open, it is filled with fluff and small seeds. The seeds are suppose to be good to eat.

Our new camper, Ozzie, has a little leak from all the rain that we have had. Dad is seam-sealing the camper today. The sealer is sticky until it dries. The Alaska cotton is sticking to the seam sealer. It looks like we'll be bringing some Alaska cotton home with us!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wonderful Salmon

Salmon are very special fish. They are born in fresh water, then swim to the ocean to grow into adults, then swim back to fresh water to reproduce.

The salmon eggs hatch in about two to eight months. The baby salmon are called fry. The fry live in the gravel for up to three months. Most fry stay in the fresh water streams for a year or more before they travel downstream to the ocean.

Adult salmon live in the ocean for up to seven years. Then they begin the journey back to their home stream to spawn. It is a very difficult trip. They must swim upstream, against strong currents to find their home.

The trip is also very dangerous. Many creatures try to catch the salmon for dinner. Bears gather at streams to catch them. Eagles swoop down to catch them. People like to catch them also.

We have seen many people fishing for salmon on our trip to Alaska. People use many ways to catch the salmon. Some fish for them with big nets from boats in the ocean. Some use fishing poles. Some people use fish wheels. Some people use dip nets.

The salmon try very hard to make it back to their home streams to spawn. They stop eating and use all their energy to swim. When the female salmon arrive at their home stream, they build nests in the gravel. The female salmon lay their eggs in the nest. Male salmon swim over the eggs and release milt to fertilize them.

Most salmon die soon after they spawn. When the eggs hatch, the cycle of the salmon begins again.

For some fun activities about salmon, visit the following sites:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Musk Ox

We have been traveling a very famous road. It is called the Haul Road. The Haul Road was built so that trucks could take oil rig equipment to Prudhoe Bay. The road is 416 miles long. In the winter, it is an ice road. We drove it during rain, so it was a mud road!

While we were on the Haul Road, we saw a beautiful sight. We saw a herd of musk ox.

Musk ox were either killed by predator or humans from the Arctic Circle. We learned from the University of Alaska Large Animal Research Center that these large, stocky mammals are more like goats than oxen. Their name comes from their build and size. They are not very tall. They stand less than four foot at the shoulders. Most of them weigh over 800 pounds.

Musk ox are made perfectly to fit the Arctic tundra. They like icy coastland rather than deep snow and forest. They are covered with long, shaggy fur and qiveut, a downy layer that insulates them from the harsh Arctic wind.

Baby musk ox are born with an entire coat of qiveut which keeps them warm in temperatures as low as -30 degrees. Babies are seldom seen because they often hide under their mother's bellies for further protection and warmth.

Musk ox are herd animals. They fiercely protect their young. If a predator approaches, the herd circles around the calves, standing shoulder to shoulder with their rumps toward the center. Females have sharp tips on their horns to gouge predators. The bulls have thick horn "bosses" or armour on their foreheads and can either ram or gore predators.

In 1935, Greenland provided a seed herd to reintroduce musk ox to Alaska. Thirty-four musk ox were brought to Nunivak Island. The herd grew to 700, and several groups were relocated to similar habitat.

Only 2,300 musk ox live in Alaska. The herd we saw outside of Deadhorse numbered around 16 members. How grateful we are to have seen them!

For more information about musk ox, visit http://www.arkive.org/muskox/ovibos-moschatus/info.html?displayMode=factsheet

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Arctic Circle

Today we crossed the Arctic Circle. While we are here, the sun will not set.

The Arctic Circle is a special place. It is very cold most of the time. The temperature rarely gets above 50 degrees in the summer. In fact, in some areas of the Arctic, the temperature never gets above freezing!

During the winter, the sun never rises in the Arctic. During the summer, the sun never sets. We are in Deadhorse, Alaska tonight. In Deadhorse, the sun will not set for 68 days in the summer!

The Arctic is very important. Very special animals live only in the Arctic. Some of those animals are musk ox, penguins, and polar bears.

Many birds also live in the arctic. Some of them live in the arctic in the summer and fly to Texas in the winter.

Our earth has two Arctic areas. One is the on the top of the earth. The other is on the bottom of the earth. It is called the Antarctic.

If you would like to learn more about the arctic circle, visit http://coastalscience.noaa.gov/education/aabook.pdf

Friday, July 16, 2010

Alaska Wildlife

While we're traveling in Alaska, I thought that I would tell you about the animals that we see. I will also tell you about things that interest me. So here goes!

Alaska is home to many special animals. These animals like to live in very cold climates. Over the next several posts, I will tell you about musk ox, caribou, and other wonderful creatures. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


We crossed into Alaska today.

We have traveled 5,107 miles. I wonder how many dogs have traveled from Texas to Alaska?

It is a wonderful day!

Moose on the Loose

We saw moose! We are still traveling in Canada. It is so beautiful here. We see more and more lakes and marshland. There are more and more creeks and rivers.

Moose love marshy areas and bogs. They like to eat the tender vegetation under the water. We are beginning to see lots of moose. Mom took photos of a baby moose. The next day, she took this photo of a moose cow.

Moose are wonderful creatures. They are the largest member of the deer family. Male moose can weigh as much as 1,600 pounds. They can live to be about 20 years old.

The male moose grow enormous antlers. Sometimes the antlers grow to be 4-1/2 to 5 feet across! In the spring, their antlers fall off.

If you would like to learn more about moose, go to these sites:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My First Swim!

We arrived at Muncho Lake at Mile Marker 436 on the Alaska Highway today.

We set up camp at a beautiful lakeside site. We are having so much fun. (Except for that mooching squirrel problem that I am having!)

Today I got to swim for the first time on our trip. The water was cold and wonderful.

Muncho Lake is a beautiful blue color. The color comes from the glacier. Silt from the glacier travels into Muncho Lake by rivers and streams. When the sun hits the silt, the water turns a beautiful turquoise color.

Wood Bison

While we were driving through Canada, we saw one of their wild wood bison herds. Bison are huge animals. They are the largest land animal in North America.

Many people call these animals buffalo. True buffalo only live in Africa.

North America has two kinds of bison. We have plains bison and wood bison. They are cousins and look very similar. Wood bison live in Canada and Alaska. Plains buffalo live in western Canada and the lower 48 states.

You can tell the two kinds of bison apart. The wood bison are bigger than plains bison. Wood bison have smaller beards and their humps are more square.

There are only a few wild wood bison herds left in the world. We feel so lucky to have seen these!

For more information on wood bison, go to http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/wbison.pdf

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Moocher

There is a moocher in our camp. I spied him this morning, snitching dog food out of my bowl.

I chased him up a tree.

But he came back again.

So I chased him up another tree.

He chattered at me. I think that he was saying, "nanny nanny boo boo" in squirrel talk.

I may have to spend my whole day watching out for this moocher!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stone Sheep

Today we saw lots of Stone sheep along the road. These sheep are at home in the mountains.
Stone sheep are a part of the thinhorn sheep family. Other kinds of thinhorn sheep include the white Dahl sheep.

We found many Stone sheep on the roads. At first it looked like they were eating rocks. We read that they are actually licking salt and minerals along the side of the road.

Because it snows a lot in Canada, many of the roads are salted to keep the roads safe. The Stone sheep like to lick the salt.

Thinhorn sheep like to live in groups. They have their babies in the spring so that their mothers have plenty of green vegetation to eat. These sheep can live to be nearly 20 years old.

To read about thinhorn sheep, go to http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/thinhorn.pdf

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Meet Ozzie!

Mom and Dad have been having trouble setting up the tent. It takes a long time. It is hard work. It is especially hard in a rain or wind storm.

Before we left for Alaska, they looked on the computer at this trailer. It is small and easy to set up. It has a nice bed and lots of storage room. It even has room for me! We decided to stop in the town of Wetaskiwin to look at it.

We liked it so much that we bought the trailer yesterday. We named him Ozzie. Here are some pictures of Ozzie and me. I know that we will have lots of fun together!