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 27, 2013

Pollen Alert!

The pollen is so thick that you can write your name in it!
Spring is here in Texas!  We are surrounded by beautiful flowers.  The trees are sporting new leaves.  It is beautiful!

As much as we love springtime, there is one problem.  Dad is coughing.  Mom is sneezing.  My eyes are watering.  What causes these symptoms?  Pollen!!!

Pollen looks like a powder.  Pollen is very important in the plant world.  It helps plants make more plants.  Pollen must move from one plant to another.  Sometimes the wind helps.  Most of the time special plant helpers move the pollen around.  These helpers are called pollinators.  Pollinators can be insects like bees or mammals like bats.  For some great information on pollinators, click here:  ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/MT/www/about/PollinatorActivityBook.pdf  

Pollen may be great for the plant world.  Unfortunately, it is not so good for some people.  Some people are allergic to pollen.  When your body doesn't like something, it has a reaction.  This reaction is called an allergy.  A person who is allergic to pollen begins to sneeze.  Then their eyes itch.  Then they begin to cough and sniffle.  Pollen allergies can make people feel pretty miserable.  

Almost everything that is blooming right now has pollen.  The flowers have pollen.  The trees have pollen.  Weeds and grasses have pollen.  When the wind blows, the pollen flies in the air and looks like dust.  Some people are allergic to pine pollen, others to oak pollen, others to weed or grass pollen.

Because we live in the Piney Woods of Texas, we are surrounded by pine trees.  Every spring the pine trees dust our world yellow with their pollen.  

When the wind blows, the pine pollen begins to fly.  Our cars turn yellow from the pine dust.  Our decks and porches turn yellow.  Our sidewalks and driveways turn yellow.  It only lasts for a few weeks, but, during that time, EVERYTHING turns yellow!  (To show you how much pollen we have, the picture at the top of this post is from our front porch!) 

Today we are on a high pollen alert.  That means that anyone with pollen allergies should be careful.  They should not go outside.  They should keep their windows closed.  If they do go outside, they should change their clothes when they come inside.  They should take a bath and wash their hair.

I hope that you don't have pollen allergies!  

If you would like to know more about pollen and allergies, here are two great activity books that you will enjoy:  
Some people have REALLY bad allergies called asthma.  Here is a great activity book about asthma:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Problem with Cats

My cat friend, Red.
We heard a big THUMP against the kitchen window today.  We rushed to see what had happened.  A little American goldfinch had crashed into the window.  He was on lying on his back.  His body quivered, and then it went still.  We thought that he was dead.

His little mate hopped near him.  It was such a sad scene!

Then, we saw the culprit.  A black and white cat was in our yard!  He had frightened the poor little birds.  They had both flown into the window.  Now the cat was stalking the birds.  He was ready to pounce!

Mom flung the door open and snatched the little bird up into her hand.  Dad and I chased the cat.  He hopped over the fence and into our neighbor's yard.

THAT'S THE PROBLEM WITH CATS!  They are hunters.  Researchers believe that cats kill at least 4.4 MILLION songbirds in the U.S. EVERY YEAR!  They also kill lizards and other reptiles and rabbits, squirrels, other small mammals.

I am happy to tell you that our little bird lived.  Mom put him high in a roosting box so that the cat couldn't reach him.  We watched and waited.  His little mate sat in a nearby tree.  She watched and waited, too.

It took several minutes for him to wake up.  It took nearly 30 minutes before he was able to fly again.  We felt lucky that we were home to help save his life!

Now we are working hard to keep the black and white cat out of our yard.  Dad put out our electric fence.  If the cat touches it, he will be zapped by electricity.  (Don't worry, it won't kill the cat, it will just shock him.)

Mom also ordered a new product that is suppose to keep cats away.  It has fox and coyote urine in it!  Cats hate fox and coyote.  Once the cat smells this stuff, he should run away.  We hope that it will keep the cat from coming back into our yard.

It's not that we don't like cats... we do.  In fact, I have a good cat friend named Red.  Red and I are almost the same color.  He has been my friend for many, many years.
Me and my friend Red (and no, Red doesn't hunt my yard!)
Red and Roxanne taking a stroll together.
The problem is that we have a VERY bird friendly yard.  We have six bird nest boxes in our yard and five bird feeders.  We have LOTS of birds visiting our yard every day.  We also have many squirrels and lizards.  We don't want the cat to kill our friends!

Many believe that cats have become a real problem.  Researchers say that there are over 77 million pet cats in the US.  They also believe that 55 million of these pet cats live outside and hunt songbirds and small mammals.  A single cat can kill over 1,000 birds and small animals in one year!  We need your help to keep our wildlife safe!

What can you do to help save our songbirds, lizards, and small mammals?  The best and easiest way is to keep your cat indoors!  Just click here to read about some fun ways to keep your cat happy inside:

If you would like to learn more about the danger of domestic cats to songbirds and small mammals, please click one of these sites: