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.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep are incredible animals.  We saw the sheep in this photo when we visited Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  Bighorn sheep have special, split hooves.  These hooves allow them to walk easily along steep, rocky cliffs.  It is amazing to watch them walk narrow paths on the sides of a rocky mountain!  

The most amazing thing about a bighorn sheep is its horns.  Both male and female bighorn sheep have horns.  Grown males have a special curl to their horns.  These horns can weigh up to 50 pounds.  The horns grow as the sheep grow and become part of their massive skulls.

When the males fight for the attention of a female, they ram their heads together.  One ram will raise up on his back legs and charge full speed at the his competitor.  You can hear their head butts echoing across the mountains.  If humans butted their heads together like bighorn sheep, they would die in an instant!     

Male bighorn sheep are called rams.  The females are called ewes.  They eat grasses.  In the spring and summer, they live in small herds of ten or more.  In the winter the herds may number up to 100.

You can see bighorn sheep on steep mountain sides from Canada through the United States and into Mexico.

To learn more about Bighorn Sheep, check out these sites:

Here's a great coloring page for Bighorn Sheep:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What in the world is a Prairie Dog Town?

Black-tailed Prairie Dogs
When we visited the Great Plains, we saw some amazing little critters.  They are called Black-tailed prairie dogs.  They live underground in burrows.  They dig tunnels to connect their burrows to other prairie dog homes.  All the tunnels and homes make a prairie dog town.    

Prairie dogs live in community.  Most of their towns cover around an acre of land.  Some towns can be really big.  The largest prairie dog town ever was discovered by pioneers in West Texas.  The town covered an area 100 miles wide by 25 miles long.  It was home to around 400 million prairie dogs!

When prairie dogs see something strange near their homes, they bark.  When the coast is clear, prairie dogs raise their arms and yip.  Soon other prairie dogs join in and raise their arms and yip.  It is fun to watch them.  Here's a short video to show you their funny "high five" yip:

Pioneers thought that these barking animals were little dogs.  Prairie dogs are not dogs.  They are actually members of the rodent family.  They are herbivores, which means that they eat only vegetable materials like grasses, roots, and seeds.

Like wolves, many people don't like prairie dogs.  Some people see them as pests.  They think that prairie dogs ruin the earth because they dig so many tunnels.  They think that grass won't grow in prairie dog towns.  They fear that if grass won't grow then there won't be enough food for cattle and sheep.  

Scientists have discovered that the opposite is true.  They have learned that prairie dogs are very special to the environment.  Prairie dogs are called a keystone species.  A keystone species means that prairie dogs are so important to an environment that if they do not survive, it could ruin an entire ecosystem. 

Without prairie dogs, the earth suffers.  Prairie dogs help the soil when they dig their burrows.  They plant seeds.  They help grass and special plants to grow.  Their tunnels help more rain to soak into the earth.  

Without prairie dogs, animals suffer.  Prairie dogs are a food source for many animals like coyotes, rattlesnakes, eagles, and hawks.  Their burrows are homes to other creatures, like owls and ferrets.

Ferrets are a good example of what can happen when there are no prairie dogs.  Ferrets live in prairie dog burrows.  Their main diet is eating prairie dogs.  People killed so many prairie dogs that both prairie dogs and ferrets almost became extinct. In 1986, only 18 black-footed ferrets were alive.  In order to save these ferrets, scientists learned that they needed to save prairie dogs.  To learn more about prairie dogs and ferrets, just click here:  http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_bk_w7000_0023_ferret_prairiedog.pdf  

When people learned how good prairie dogs can be to the environment, they began to let the prairie dogs live and build their prairie dog towns.  National parks saved their prairie dog towns.  They began reintroducing ferrets to these areas.  Today, ferrets are beginning to make a comeback, too.  

If you would like to learn more about Black-tailed prairie dogs, just click on one of these sites:

Here's a great activity book on prairie dogs:  http://prairiedogcoalition.org/docs/coloringBbook.pdf

If you have prairie dogs in your area, click on this site to learn how you can help scientists learn more about them:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Big, Wonderful Wolf!

One of my favorite creatures is a wolf.  Two kinds of wolves live in North America.  Gray wolves mostly live in the northern areas.  Red wolves live in a few southern states.  Wolves are the largest wild member of the canine or dog family.  Gray wolves can weigh over 150 pounds.  Red wolves weigh can weigh up to 80 pounds.  Sadly, wolves are endangered animals.

Wolves live in packs or groups.  Most packs have 5 to 15 members.  The packs are led by an alpha or lead male and female.  

Wolf packs live together and hunt together.  When wolves hunt together, it is easier for them to bring down big game such as deer and elk.  Each pack has a large territory and defends their territory from other wolf packs.

Wolves howl when they talk with other wolves.  When I watch movies about them on the television, I howl too!

When we were in Denali National Park, we watched wolves playing together.  Two pups were playing with two adult wolves.  They might have been their parents.  They also could have been other members of the wolf pack.  Sometimes younger members of the wolf pack babysit the pups so the older, more experienced hunters can find food.  

It was so exciting to watch the wolves playing together!  The wolves were very far away, but it was so fun to watch them!

Many times, adult male wolves leave their pack when they want to start a new pack of their own.  While they are by themselves, they are called lone wolves.  When we were camping on the Dempster Highway in Canada's Yukon Territory, we saw a lone wolf walk behind our camp site.  He was beautiful!  Mom took this photo of him through the screen of our camper.  It is my favorite wolf picture!

Some people do not like wolves.  In fact, wolves were so hated by some people that they began killing wolves by the thousands.  Wolves almost became extinct.  They are now considered an endangered animal.

Why do some people hate wolves?  Wolves are carnivorous and only eat meat.  Wolves are also predators.  A predator is an animal that kills other animals to survive.  In nature, animals want to survive.  They especially want their babies to survive.  They are not being cruel when they kill another animal.  For a very good explanation of a predator, please click here:  http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/nonpwdpubs/young_naturalist/animals/predator_prey_relationship/

Wolves are considered apex predators.  Apex means the highest.  An apex predator is an animal that is at the top of the food chain.  Humans, mountain lions, bears, alligators, and wolves are a few apex predators in North America.  

Apex predators are important to any ecosystem.  They keep other animal populations in check.   For example, if too many deer live in an area, there will not be enough food for them.  The deer may become sick or starve.  Apex predators help to keep the deer population in check.  Sometimes, however, wolves have attacked domestic animals like cattle and sheep.  This has led some people to dislike wolves.

Today, more and more people are beginning to understand how important wolves are to the environment.  Scientists learned that apex predators are important to a healthy ecosystem.  As a result, gray wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park.   Red wolves were reintroduced in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.  Now wolves are beginning to make a comeback across America.  They are making the ecosystems healthier.  But some people still do not like wolves.  

What do I think about wolves?  I think they are wonderful!!!  Of course, I'm a canine... just like wolves!

To learn more about wolves, check out one or more of these sites:

Friday, August 3, 2012

Nature detectives: Know Your Tracks, Scat, & Facts!

Have you ever been a nature detective?  When we go hiking, we like to look for animal signs.  We look for animal tracks, animal scat, and try to remember our animal facts.

As an example, I remember walking in the woods with Mom and Dad when I was very young.  We saw animal tracks that were small and pointed, almost like deer tracks.  We saw lots of acorns on the ground.  We saw places where animals had dug and wallowed in the dirt.  

Mom was thinking hard.  She was trying to put all the clues together.  Suddenly, she turned to Dad and said, "We've got to get out of here!"

She was a good detective.  She saw the animal tracks and knew that they were too small to be a deer.  She saw the acorns and thought about the animals that liked to eat them.  Then she tried to remember what animals dig and wallow in the dirt.  

It was a javelina!  Javelinas can be very dangerous.  They have long tusks that can rip a dog into pieces.  

Then we heard a javelina snorting at us from a distance.  We all stopped to listen.  We heard other noises.  It was a mother javelina, and she had babies!  Any mother is extra dangerous when she has babies!

Thankfully, they had me on my leash.  Mom and Dad quickly led me far away from the javelinas.  We were safe but it took a good nature detective to know that we were in danger in the first place!

Do you know your animal tracks?  It can be fun to look for animal when you go hiking.  Some people can identify animals by their tracks.  Some people can even identify an animal's scat (their poop).  I just smell them and know!  :)

It is not only fun to know your animal tracks.  It is smart to know your animal tracts!

If you would like more information on learning about animal tracks and their scat, just click on one of these websites:  
For information on wildlife viewing, check out these sites:  http://wildlife.state.co.us/SiteCollectionDocuments/DOW/Education/pdf/Viewing/WildlifeViewingTips.pdf

Here's a fun activity that shows you how to make plaster casts of your animal prints:  http://education.usgs.gov/kids/assets/tracks.pdf 

If you want to read a great book about animal tracks, check this book out of your local library:  Big Tracks, Little Tracks:  Following Animal Prints by Millicent Ellis Selsam

Friday, July 27, 2012

What do you do when you camp?

What do you do when you go camping?

When we camp with our friends, we want to do fun things together.  We go for hikes, swim, play games, and eat good food.

We especially want to enjoy the outdoors.  Sometimes we bring our canoe and paddle around the lake.  We also like to hike the nature trails.  We like to watch animals.  We like to be detectives to see what we can learn.

Because Mom likes to take photographs, one of our favorite things to do is to play "scavenger hunt."  First, we learn about the kinds of plants and animals living in the park we visit.  Then Mom makes a list of treasures to find.

The list normally has three or four different things on it.  Then we split into teams and try to take photos of everything on the list.  Sometimes the list has birds on it.  Sometimes the list has plants on it.  Sometimes the list has special kinds of rocks.  Sometimes we have lots of different kinds of things on our list.  Have you ever had a scavenger hunt like ours?

Here's a sample of what we do... when we were in Olympic National Park last year, we had a scavenger hunt.  Our list included taking a photo of a big tree, a pretty flower, and something in the water.  Here's what Mom found:
Dad and me in front of a big tree.
Pretty flowers
Me... in the water!!!
We found some great ideas for camping activities and nature hikes for you to try.  Just click on one of thes sites to start having fun:  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Let's Go Camping!

We're going camping!  We're meeting one of our favorite families.  It will be their first camping trip!  

Eric, Morgan, and Bailey
We will bring our camping gear.  They will bring their camping gear.  We will meet at a campground and set up our camps next to each other.  We haven't seen these friends in almost two years, so this will be a VERY special time!

We will sleep in tents.  We will hike and swim.  We will play games.  It will be so much fun!!!

Nighttime fun with glow sticks
Rock hopping
Rox on the rocks... me taking a nap after a swim
We will bring a special dinner that is great for kids.  We found the recipe on the "Camping with Gus" website.  It is called "Tacos in a Bag."  Here's the recipe and the ingredients that you will need:
  • One small bag of Dorito chips (2.5-3.5 oz), one per camper
  • 1/2 cup cooked and Taco-seasoned hamburger meat per camper
  • chopped lettuce
  • shredded cheese
  • diced onions
  • diced tomatoes
  • salsa or taco sauce
Here's the fun part... open the Dorito bag.  Add the ingredients that you like.  Crunch everything together.  Eat!!! 

Would you like to go camping?  When you and your family are ready, we found some nifty sites for to help you get ready:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Let's Go Fishing!!!

Have you ever gone fishing?  We visited some friends the other day who were fishing for catfish.  They even caught some!

Fishing for catfish.
My friend used a cane pole.  He put a worm on his hook and cast it into the water.  He had a bobber on the line that floated on top of the water.

When the catfish took the bait, the bobber popped under water.  That's when my friend yanked the line.  He pulled in a big catfish!  They taste great!

Please remember to be very safe when you're around water.  You need to wear a life jacket when you fish from a boat.  You should always go fishing with a friend or family member.  You need to also be careful with your fishing gear.

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

Fishing ABC's:

Fishing is Fun:

Take me fishing:

When to fish:

Fishing safely:

Finding bait:

Artificial lures:

Kinds of tackle:

Cleaning your fish:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I'm Bored!!!

Do you ever get bored during summer vacation?  I have a young friend who does.  She says she is bored because there isn't anything to do.  

Mom and I decided to help my young friend.  We found all sorts of fun things for her to try.  

We want to share our list with you.  Hope that you have fun!

This is a great place to start... a list of 101 things to do!

Fun Crafts to Make:

Outdoor Fun:

Reading and Writing Fun:

http://www.learningforlife.org/exploring-resources/99-720/x08.pdf  http://www.wg.aegee.org/enwg/Environmental%20games%20and%20activities%20booklet.pdf

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Transit of Venus

One of our photos of the Transit of Venus taken with the NASA OWN MicroObservatory telescope.
Wow!  Did you see it?  The planet Venus orbited between Earth and the Sun yesterday.  When a planet crosses in front of the sun, it is called a transit.  Venus will not transit again for another 105 years!

We couldn't see the transit from our house, but we logged on to NASA OWN and set the telescope to take photos from the MicroObservatory.  (To learn more about how you can take free photos from NASA OWN, just check out my November 5, 2009 post, Beautiful Moon.)  

We also watched NASA's video of the transit.  It is amazing and so beautiful to watch!  If you would like to watch the video, just click below.

The video was taken from the NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.  It is the most advanced spacecraft ever designed by scientists.  It was built to study the sun.  The spacecraft was launched on February 11, 2010.  It was designed to have a five year mission.

During its mission, the spacecraft will discover information about the sun's atmosphere.  It will help us to understand the sun's magnetic field.  It will help us to understand how the sun and Earth work together.  If you would like to learn more about the Solar Dynamics Observatory, just click here:  http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/main/index.html

Video of Venus Transit courtesy of NASA.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How Do They Do That? This lizard is green... brown... green

Leaping Lizards!!!  We have a funny new friend in our flower pot.  He is a lizard.  He changes colors!  Some times he is bright green.  Some times he is brown.  Wow!  How does he do that?

Our Anole lizard is brown.
Mom and I decided to do some research.  We thought at first that he was a chameleon.  Chameleon's are lizards that change colors.  But this little guy isn't a true chameleon.  He is called an anole.  He is actually a member of the iguana family!

Our Anole lizard is green!
Anoles are about 5 to 8 inches long.  They like warm weather and moist, shady areas.  In captivity, they can live about 7 or 8 years.  In the wild, they live in South Texas and the southeastern states.

Anoles like to change color.  They change color because of the temperature.  They change color when they feel good or bad.  They change color when they are happy or afraid.

How do anoles change colors?  These lizards have a transparent outer skin.  The skin layers underneath have special cells that contain sacks of color pigment.  The secret to these lizards turning green or brown happens in these special layers of skin.

The anole's tail is another interesting part of this little critter.  When they feel threatened or caught, their tail falls off.  The neat part is that their tails grow back!

Male anoles are easy to tell from female anoles.  Males have a special pink half circle under their chin.  This pink half circle is called a dewlap.  The males flare the dewlap when they see a female anole.  The males also flare the dewlap when they feel their territory is threatened.  They bob their head up and down to scare away other males.

Female anoles lay eggs.  They bury the eggs in leafy compost.  The eggs hatch in 30 to 45 days.  When they hatch, the little lizards are able to take care of themselves.

If you have anoles in your yard, it is a very good sign.  It means that your yard is healthy!

For more information on green anoles, click here:

Here is a coloring page for anoles:

You can also check out this great book from your library:  Anoles, Those Florida Yard Lizards by Steven Isham

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Hummingbird's Tongue

Mom's sister gave us a beautiful new hummingbird feeder when she came to visit.  Mom made some food for the hummingbirds.  She heated one cup of water and mixed in one-fourth cup of sugar.  Then she waited for it to cool before she poured it into the feeder.

We hung the feeder outside and waited.  We didn't wait long!!!  Within just a few minutes, a pair of hummingbirds flew in for a drink!  They are called Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.   The male has a beautiful red band around his neck.  They are incredible flyers!

Mom has been taking photos of the hummingbirds.  In one photo, we saw the hummingbird's long tongue.  We did some research and learned that a hummingbird flicks his tongue into the nectar about 20 times per second.  That is FAST!!!

Hummingbirds are fascinating little birds.  They are the world's tiniest bird.  They are also the only bird known to fly backward.  Their wings beat 1200 times per second... PER SECOND!!!  Wow!

To learn more about hummingbirds, just click here:

Here's an article on how to attract hummingbirds to your yard:

If you would like to make a hummingbird feeder, here's a great link:

Here are two fun hummingbird activities:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Super Moon!

Super Moon 2012

We're going to have a SUPER MOON this weekend!  Saturday evening (May 5), the moon will be bigger and brighter than any other full moon this year!

Why is it a super moon?  Our moon looks big or small depending on where it is on it's path around earth.  One side of the moon's path is closer to earth than the other.  The closer path is called the "perigee" path.  

The best time to look at our super moon will be when it rises.  NASA scientists say that the moon will reach the closest path to earth at 11:34 pm Eastern Daylight Time.  I sure hope that I'm awake to see it!  It is suppose to look 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than other moons this year!  Do you think that you'll be able to sleep with all that extra light coming from the moon?

Did you know that you can take a photo of the moon with free online telescope?  Just go to http://mo-www.harvard.edu/OWN/. You will need to type in your email address and a little personal information, so please ask your mom, dad, or teacher to help you.  (For more information, check out our Thursday, November 5, 2009, post called "Beautiful Moon.")  The moon photo on this post was taken with the OWN telescope.  We'll post a photo of the super moon after we receive it!

If you click on this site, you can see the phases of the moon moving in its phases in super speed:

NOTE:  This video makes me sick when I watch it... the phases of the moon go by so fast that I feel like I'm on a roller coaster!!!!

For more information about our moon, check out this site:  http://lunar.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/outreach/62217main_Moon_Lithograph.pdf

Friday, April 27, 2012

Space Shuttle Enterprise Flies to New Home

Shuttle Enterprise flies over New York.  Photo courtesy NASA.

The space shuttles are flying to their new homes.  Today, Enterprise took one last flight.  It soared over New York City, piggybacked on top of a 747 jumbo jet.

It is Enterprise's last flight.  Now it will be a museum exhibit.  Enterprise will join other retired NASA space craft at The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.

Enterprise is the first orbiter NASA built.  It never actually flew in space.  It helped NASA scientists discover if the shuttles would really work.  Astronauts also used Enterprise to test shuttle operations.

What will happen to the other space shuttles?  Discovery will go to the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.  Shuttle Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.  Shuttle Atlantis will stay at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

I sure wish the shuttles were still flying into space!

If you would like to learn more about the space shuttles, here's a fun activity book for you to download:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Snow Day!

Roxanne's snow day
We have been visiting friends in Colorado.  Yesterday we went to Rocky Mountain National Park.  It is such a beautiful place!

While we were there, it began to snow.  Wow!  It was so much fun!

Dad threw me a snowball.  I tried to catch it, but it broke apart in my mouth.  

What happened to the snow ball?

After the long drive, I just wanted to run.  I love running in the snow!  

We don't have much snow in Texas.  Do you have snow where you live?  I hope that you have fun playing in it.

If you would like some great ideas on what to do during your snow days, just click below :