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, January 29, 2013

Sky-diving Gannets

Gannets soar near Cape Saint Mary in Newfoundland
We found another amazing seabird while we were in Newfoundland this summer.  They are called gannets.

Gannets are big, beautiful birds.  They are known for their diving.  They fly high over the ocean until they see a fish.  Then they fold their wings and dive straight into the water.  They dive so fast that they make a BIG splash when they land.  They dive into the water to fish for their next meal.  They can dive almost 100 feet deep and can travel over 50 miles per hour!

The colony that we saw at St. Mary's Cape in Newfoundland had over 50,000 birds in it!!!  The birds were nesting on the sides of a very rocky cliff called Bird Rock.  

Cape St. Mary in Newfoundland overlooking gannet colony of 50,000 
Because gannets come to this rock to nest, the colony is called a rookery.  The rookery covered a tall, flat-topped, craggy cliff.  The cliff was filled with nooks and crannies.  It was covered in mud, grass, birds, and an enormous amount of bird poop.  

Gannet colony on Cape Saint Mary in Newfoundland 
Approximately 50,000 birds nest in the rookery at Cape St. Mary.  Scientists believe that 15,000 breeding pairs, 7,500 chicks, 5,000 juveniles, and another 5,000 seniors live on this rock during breeding season.  
Adult gannet pair on Cape Saint Mary in Newfoundland
When baby gannets hatch, they have white fuzzy feathers.  Older babies turn grey and white and look just like the poop-covered cliffs around their nests.  
Baby gannet on left with its parents on Cape Saint Mary in Newfoundland.
The beautiful adults sure don't look like their babies!  Adult birds have white feathers, blue eyes, and black-tipped wings.  Their wings span over six-foot wing wide.  It can take nearly five years for a gannet's feathers to turn white.

These birds have an odd dance.  They shake and bow their heads.  Here's a video that we took of a mother gannet feeding her baby.  At the end of the feeding, they do a short dance.  You can also hear how noisy it was at the rookery!

Gannets have no external nostrils.  They breathe through their mouths.  Their skulls are built like crash helmets.  They also have special air sacks around their necks and chest to keep them safe when they dive.  Gannets are among the largest of all seabirds.

We were very lucky to see these gannets in Newfoundland.  In North America, they only nest in six different colonies, all in Canada.  

If you would like to learn more about gannets, click on these sites:


For more information about all kinds of seabirds, click here:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Atlantic Puffins

Atlantic Puffins in Elliston, Newfoundland
When we visited Newfoundland this summer, we found a wonderful bird called the Atlantic Puffin.  These funny birds are often called sea parrots. 

Puffins are sea birds.  They are very special in the bird family.  They are one of a few birds that have solid bones.  This makes them great divers.  It also makes it hard for them to fly. 

Because their bones are heavy, they fly close to the ground.  Puffins must flap their wings 300-400 times per minute to fly.  They don't land very well either.  Most of the time, they crash or tumble onto the grass or into the sea.

We saw many young puffins practicing flying when we visited Elliston's Puffin Viewing Site.  They flapped their wings until they were airborne for a few minutes.  Then they would hover back to land.  Here's a short video of some of the puffins that we saw:

Puffins may not be good fliers but they are very strong swimmers.  They dive deep into the water to catch fish.  They normally catch 10 fish per dive.  Sometimes they catch as many as 60 fish in one dive!  Puffin teeth point backwards and that helps them to catch lots of fish.

Puffin Colony near Elliston, Newfoundland
Puffins nest in colonies on rocky islands.  They dig burrows into the cliff side.  They lay one or two eggs in their burrow.

The mother and father puffin care for their baby for about six weeks, until the baby fledges (learns to fly).  After the young puffins fledge, the flock flies out to live at sea for the rest of the year.  They may live at sea for eight to nine months each year.

Puffin burrows in Elliston, Newfoundland
More than half of all Atlantic puffins breed on the eastern shores of Newfoundland.  A small colony also lives in the United States, off the coast of Maine.  

For more information about Atlantic puffins, just click on one of these two sites:
Here's a a puffin picture for you to color:  Color a Puffin

You can also check out these great books about puffins from your local library:
  • Atlantic Puffin:  Little Brother of the North, by Kristin Domm
  • Project Puffin:  How We Brought Puffins Back to Egg Rock, by Stephen W. Kress

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Doctor Is Called a Veterinarian (Vet)

I really like my doctor.  He is called a veterinarian (or vet).  A veterinarian is an animal doctor.  He has been my only doctor for my whole life!

I go to visit my vet at least once a year for a check up.  I also visit him when I am sick.  I visit him when I need a vaccination.

Are you afraid when you go to the doctor?  Sometimes I am!  Sometimes I am afraid that my doctor might hurt me.  I hide my head between Mom's knees so that he won't see me.  It doesn't seem to work very well.  He always finds me!

Have you ever taken your dog to visit a vet?  This site will help you to learn what will happen when you take your dog to an animal doctor:
Would you like to be an animal doctor when you grow up?  If you would like to become a veterinarian, here's a great activity book:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Feeling Better

Roxanne in her new no-skid booties.

Dear Friends,  Wow!  It has been a long time since I posted.  I want to tell you why.  I hurt myself while we were on our vacation this year.  I ran down some slippery stairs.  I made a fast turn and did the splits with my back legs.  Ouch!!!

Since we came back home, I have had trouble walking.  It hurts when I stand.  It hurts when I sit.  It hurts when I lay down.

I have been very sad because I can't do all the things that I want to do.  Mom and Dad have been very worried about me.

Mom took me to my veterinarian (or "vet").  A vet is a doctor for animals.  My vet said that I needed to do some special exercises.  He said that I needed to get strong again.

He also said that I needed to work.  I am a therapy dog and working makes me happy.

Because my back feet keep slipping out from under me, Mom found some new booties for me to wear.  They are red!  I wear them on my back feet.  They have special bottoms.  They keep my feet from slipping when I walk on tile and wood floors.

Last week Mom put my service jacket on me.  She took me to visit a group of twelve young people who were very sad.  They loved on me, and I loved on them!  When our time was up, we all felt much happier.  I will go to see them again today.  I know we will have fun together.

Mom is also helping me to do some special exercises.  She is taking me for short walks.  We walk once in the morning and once in the evening.  We use to go for one long walk every day, but I think that I'm beginning to like taking two short walks!

When we get home from our evening walk, Mom rubs my hips.  Then she gently stretches my legs.  I am beginning to feel much better and much stronger.

Mom is also helping me to keep mentally active.  Here is a video of me playing with two of my puzzles.  I find the hidden treats.  With one puzzle, I have to move the puzzle pieces to find the treats.  The other puzzle is a ball with treats inside.  When I roll it down the hallway, treats fall out of it.  Have you ever played "hide the treat" with your dog?  It's a great game!

Do you have a dog who needs to get healthy?  Maybe you want to keep your dog active.  Here are some great sites to help you.  Just click on the links below to learn more!

These websites give some great exercises to keep your dog fit:

This website will help if your dog is overweight:  

This website has great ideas to keep your dog active... even on a rainy day: