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.

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!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fields of Yellow

We have seen fields and fields of beautiful yellow flowers on our drive through Alberta, Canada. The people who live here have told us the yellow flowers are canola.

Once the flowers turn to seed, the farmers harvest the plants. They press the seeds to make canola oil. Canola oil is used for healthy cooking.

Scientists discovered canola oil in the 1970s. One bushel of canola seeds makes ten liters (or about 2-1/2 gallons) of canola oil.

Canada plants over 11 million acres of canola every year. For more information about canola oil, visit http://www.mcgacanola.org/documents/Canola_Glossy.pdf
and www.canolainfo.org/media/pdfs/captain-canola.pdf

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wild Rose of Alberta

We are traveling through Alberta, Canada. It is called Wild Rose Country. The wild rose is Alberta's state flower.

When we were at the park, we saw lots of wild roses. Mom took this picture of a wild rose. Isn't it pretty?

The wild rose begins to bloom in May. It keeps blooming until August. It can be found all over Alberta.

Bees love the wild rose nectar. When the flower dies, it turns into a hard seed called a rose hip. Lots of animals, including squirrels, rabbits, deer, and moose eat the rose hips.

Here's a great coloring page for the wild rose: http://www.kidzone.ws/imageschanged/canada/rose.gif

Monday, July 5, 2010


Tonight we are staying at a beautiful park near Whitecourt, Alberta. Our campsite has a view of Lake MacLeod. It is chilly and misting rain but we are still having fun.

We hiked some of the trails here. I saw my first loon today. Mom took this picture of him.

A loon is a diving bird. He spends most of his time in the water. He walks very funny when he is on the ground. That is how he got his name, because he walks "loony."

Loons are diving birds. They can dive very deep in the water. They can dive over 260 feet and stay down for over a minute.

Loons are best known for their beautiful call or yodel. If you would like to hear a loon's call, just click here: http://www.ns.ec.gc.ca/wildlife/loons/sounds/yodel.wav Tonight we will sleep to the lullabye of the loons.

To learn more about loons, visit http://www.northwestwildlife.com/articles/Loon.pdf

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bear Sighting

We had another long day of travel. Just before we entered Glacier National Park, we saw our first bear!

He ran across the road in front of us. Then he scurried up a steep mountain face.

Mom was able to get this picture of him just as he made the top of the mountain. He looked over his shoulder to see if anyone was chasing him. It was wonderful to see such a magnificent creature!

We will camp here for two nights before we start traveling again. I am ready for a rest and some exercise.

Before we set up camp, the park ranger came to talk to us. He said that a bear has visited our campground. He said that we must be extra careful. We must put all of our food in a special storage container.

The ranger said that we must be most careful when I eat. Bears really like dog food. If I drop even a little bit of food on the ground, Mom and Dad have to scoop up the food and any dirt around it and throw it in the special bear-proof trash cans.

It is very important not to feed the bears. The rangers say, "A fed bear is a dead bear."

If bears begin to eat human food, they may lose their fear of humans. If they become a danger, the bear may be killed. We must take care of the bears!

Would you like to learn more about bears and how to be safe around bears? Just go to this fun activity at http://www.wildlife.alaska.gov/education/kids/bearawarecoloring.pdf