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!