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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Frog Watch

We have lots of amphibians around our place. We have tree frogs, bull frogs, and lots of toads.

What is an amphibian? Amphibians spend at least part of their life in water. Most are born in the water. They also breathe through their skin. Amphibians are important to our environment.

In 1995, a group of Minnesota children discovered a frog with one leg. They collected 22 frogs during their field trip. The children became alarmed. Half of the frogs they collected had missing legs or other problems. The children and their teacher asked for help.

Scientists began to look at the frogs. They learned that those frogs were being poisoned by chemicals. Since that time, scientists watch amphibians to see if they are healthy. If the frogs are healthy, the environment that they live in is healthy.

Texas scientists need your help to make sure Texas is healthy. They have a program called the Texas Amphibian Watch. You can become an amphibian spotter. It's a great project for your family or school!

For information about the Texas Amphibian Watch, go to http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_bk_w7000_0493.pdf

Many other states have amphibian watches, including Florida, California, and Tennessee. Please ask your parent or teacher to help you find a frog watch in your area.

You can also join the the North American Amphibian Watch. Just go to their website at http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/naamp

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Frog Call Quiz

Tree frogs are interesting little creatures. They are only about two inches long, but they sure have big voices! Some people say that they sound like a cow bell. I think they sound like a squeaky bicycle wheel.

Many people call them rain frogs. When it rains, they all start croaking together. Each frog can croak 75 times per minute. That's a lot of croaking!

We had some neighbors who moved here from the city. They said that the croaking frogs kept them awake at night. They moved back to the city to get away from the noise!

Can you identify frog calls? We found a great website at http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/frogquiz

This site has frog calls on it. You can take a quiz to see if you can guess what frog is croaking.

You can also click on FROG CALL LOOKUP to hear individual frog calls. Would you like to hear what a lot of green tree frogs sound like? Just select "green treefrog" under COMMON NAME and click SUBMIT.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Backyard Detective

While we were out in the yard this morning, I heard a tree frog croaking. I followed the sound to our storage shed.

Mom opened up the door to the shed. We found our frog friend on the sprinkler. Mom told me that I am a good detective.

Are you a good backyard detective? Now that spring is here, there are many things to see. New plants are sprouting. Insects are buzzing. Reptiles are sunning themselves. Birds are nesting.

What do you see around your place? You must look very carefully. Do you see animal tracks in your yard? Do you see spider webs? Do you see old bird nests or new bird nests?

Being a detective is fun. There's a nifty check list to keep track of the creatures and plants that you see. Just go to http://www.nwf.org/Get-Outside/Be-Out-There/Activities/Observe-and-Explore/~/media/PDFs/Be%20Out%20There/wildlife_hike_checklist.ashx

A checklist for younger children can be found at http://www.nwf.org/Kids/Your-Big-Backyard/Fun/Crafts-and-Activities/Weather/~/media/PDFs/Kids/Your%20Big%20Backyard/spring_detective_print.ashx

If you would like to learn more about being a backyard detective, check out this book from your local library: Backyard Detective: Critters Up Close by Nic Bishop.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Training Time

Soon we will take our trip to Alaska. We are all training to get stronger.

We take long walks almost every day, but it is not enough. We must work harder so that we can climb mountains.

This is a movie of me and my training. Jumping makes my legs strong.

I love to exercise. Do you?

Here's a fun activity from NASA to help you train like an astronaut! Go to http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/182810main_MH_Walkback_v2.pdf

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Babies

Spring is the season of babies in the animal world. We told you about our squirrel friend Bird having babies. Our human friend Evelyne saw a family of skunks in her back yard this week. Our bird friends are sitting on eggs in their nests. Have you seen any animal babies yet?

Why are so many animal babies born in the spring? Food is plentiful in the spring. Just look around and see all the new leaves and flowers coming out!

The days are warmer in the spring, so the babies do not get too cold.

Babies born now will have all spring, summer, and fall to grow big and strong before another winter comes.

Look around your place. Do you see any animal babies? Look in water areas for tadpoles. Look in trees for bird and squirrel nests. Look for butterflies and moths.

For more information about animal babies, go to http://www.tpwmagazine.com/ktw/media/mar-09-issue7.pdf

Monday, March 22, 2010

Baby Birds

Our squirrel friend named Bird has babies! We named her Bird because she lives in the bird house that we hung for woodpeckers. (Please see our February 8 post, "Don't Count This Bird!")

Five squirrels spent the winter in the woodpecker house. In January, Bird kicked four of them out. Now we know why! Bird had babies.

Normally squirrels have 2 to 6 babies at one time. Each year they have 2 sets of babies. The first set is born in February. The second set is born in June or July.

Baby squirrels are called kittens. They are born without fur or teeth. Their eyes and ears are closed. They are about 1 inch long. The mother squirrel nurses them for about 8 weeks.

We don't know how many babies Bird has yet. We know there are at least two. Look closely at the picture. You can see the eye of a second baby peeking behind the first one's head.

When the babies are 6 to 7 weeks old, they will come out of the nest. They will begin to run and play in the trees.

If we can, we will take a video of their play. They are amazing to watch. They will chase each other and have all kinds of fun.

Congratulations on your new family, Bird!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sun Bath

Spring time in Texas is wonderful. The weather has been perfect.

While Mom was busy in the flower bed this morning, I decided to take a nap. While I was sleeping, Mom took this picture of me taking a sun bath. It felt so good!

This is my joke for the day:

What do you call a dog who is lying in the sun?
A hot dog!!!!

Hope that you have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Welcome back!

We had a perfect day today. The weather has warmed into the 70s.

On our walk, we saw one of our favorite turtle friends. Our turtle friends have been buried in mud most of the winter. This is how turtles keep warm during cold weather.

Mom took this photo of our "Ninja" turtle friend. Her back is still covered in mud from hibernating.

We call her our "Ninja" turtle because she is a turtle that Mom saved last year. We had a lot of rain during turtle egg-laying season. Mom spied the turtle crossing a busy highway. She stopped and picked the turtle up to take her to the lake.

The turtle was not happy. She tried to crawl over the console of the truck. She was a very big turtle! Mom stopped the truck and put the turtle back on the floor board. The turtle tried to climb into Mom's lap again.

Mom knew that this turtle was scared. She also knew that turtles can bite. And she knew that driving with an unhappy turtle in the car might cause an accident.

Mom pulled over to the nearest water source. It was the creek that runs behind our neighborhood. She set the turtle free on the bank to our creek.

This was one feisty turtle! That's the reason we named her "Ninja" turtle!

If you would like to learn more about turtles, go to http://www.tpwmagazine.com/ktw/media/june-09-issue10.pdf

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Checking out Mars

NASA scientists are working hard to learn all about planet Mars. In 2001, they launched the spacecraft Odyssey. Odyssey is a science orbiter. It circles Mars and relays information back to scientists.

The orbiter also relays information from Spirit and Opportunity, the two rovers on Mars.

One day, humans will travel to Mars. First we must learn how to live on Mars.

NASA has some fun ways for you to learn about Mars. If you would like to play some online games, go to http://mars10.jpl.nasa.gov/funzone_flash.html

To build an easy model of Mars Odyssey, go to http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/kids/models/Odyssey_Color.pdf

If you would like to learn more about Odyssey, go to http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey/

Photo courtesy NASA.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rock Around the World

Right now, two rovers are on planet Mars. The robots are the size of golf carts. They landed on Mars six years ago.

The Mars Exploration Rovers are named Spirt and Opportunity. Scientists thought the robots would only work for 90 days. Both of them still roam the red planet. They explore Mars and relay information to scientists. To learn more about the robots, go to http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html

NASA wants to learn as much as they can about Mars before they send astronauts to visit the planet. You can help. And you don't even need to leave earth!

NASA needs for you to send them a rock. Scientists will use a special tool to learn about your rock. The tool they use is just like the one on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. They will be able to find out if your rock is like a rock on Mars.

To learn more about joining "Rock Around the World," go to http://ratw.asu.edu/program.html. You might want to ask a teacher or parent to help you.

If you have trouble choosing a rock, check out one of my favorite books. It is written by Byrd Baylor and is called Everybody Needs a Rock.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mars on the Move

Don't you just love looking at the night sky?

The red star is really the planet Mars. It can be seen early at night in the east. In late January, Mars came very close to earth. It will not get this close again until 2014.

Yesterday was a very special day for planet Mars. Since December of last year, Mars has been moving east to west. It is called a retrograde motion.

Today the planet starts to move west to east. It will get more and more dim over the next few months.

You can have fun learning more about Mars by building a puzzle. Just go to

Photo courtesy NASA.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nesting Time

It's nesting time! Mom took this photo of a pair of doves building a nest today. The nest sits on top of an outdoor lamp next to a house. The nest is made of sticks and twigs.

Different birds build different nests. Some birds build their nest on the ground. Some build their nest in holes in trees. Others build their nest on tree branches.

Some birds make their nests out of mud. A lot of birds make nests out of leaves and twigs. Some birds even use my fur in their nest!

Many birds make strong nests. Doves build loose nests. In fact, you have to be very careful not to scare a nesting dove. If the dove flies away too fast, the eggs may fall out of the bottom of the nest!

This mother dove will lay two white eggs in her nest. She will sit on the eggs for 14 or 15 days.

After the babies hatch, they will stay in the nest another 2 weeks. Then the baby birds will learn to fly. The doves will hatch 2 or 3 broods during the season.

Can you find bird nests around your place? We're scouting for more nests in our neighborhood!

If you would like to know more about bird nests, check out this book from your library: Birds, Nests & Eggs by Mel Boring and Whose Nest is This? by Heidi Roemer.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tanking Up

We're warming up in Texas! Spring is almost here. Our Mexican plum tree is blooming. Most of our lily bulbs have pushed up green centers. And the birds are tanking up. They are eating lots of food to fly to their summer homes.

Here's a picture of some of our favorite birds. Lots of American Goldfinch migrate to our yard each winter.

They are tanking up on sunflower seeds now. They will need lots of energy to fly all the way to their summer homes. We had so many birds in the yard this weekend that we had to fill this bird feeder two times!

Birds can tell when it is time to fly north. They feel the days getting longer. They feel the weather getting warmer. They feel really hungry and start to eat more.

If you would like to learn more about migrating birds, go to http://www.tpwmagazine.com/ktw/media/may-09-issue9.pdf

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sled Dogs

What kind of dogs can be sled dogs? Most people think that only Huskies and Malmutes can pull sleds. Many dogs can be sled dogs... even Golden Retrievers!

It takes three things to pull a sled. The dog must have good training. The dog must love to run. The dog must be able to handle cold weather.

To train any dog, the trainer must find a way to help a dog do what he or she loves to do.

Sled dogs love to run. The trainer must find a way to help the dog do what the dog does best.

Sled dogs have special fur. They have a two coats. The second coat adds warmth in cold weather. Two coats of fur help sled dogs handle cold weather. Golden Retrievers have two coats of fur!

Dogs need one more thing to truly love sledding. They need a musher who loves them. When a dog (or a person!) feels loved, they want to do their best.

To learn more about a sled dog's life, Scholastic has information at http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/iditarod/dogs_life/index.asp?article=dogs_life

Also, there's a coloring book about sled dogs. Go to http://leppro.com/portfolio/pdfs/source/MusherBook.pdf

Junior Iditarod Winner

Merissa Osmar led the pack to win the 2010 Junior Iditarod. She is the granddaughter of sledding champion Dean Osmar. He won the Iditarod in 1984.

Merissa led her 10 dog team from Willow to Yentna Station and back to Willow again. Anitra Winkler won second place. Rebecca Ruzicka won third place.

Thirteen mushers raced their teams in the Junior Iditarod. Each team had to rest for 10 hours at Yentna Station. During that time, veterinarians checked the dogs to make sure that they were healthy. Doctors checked out the mushers.

Each team was led by one musher and had 6 to 10 dogs. They traveled 140 miles during the race.

Seven girls and six boys led teams. All of them were from the United States except for one. Guillermo Anton came from Spain. He is studying in Alaska and learned how to mush this year.

If you would like to read more about each teen musher, go to http://www.jriditarod.com/musherbio.php.

Congratulations to Merissa and your dog team!

If you would like to read more about the Junior Iditarod, Scholastic Books has a great article from the 2008 race. Go to http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/iditarod/junior/index.asp?article=winner2008