Nature Bits for December


Iím sure you are all as busy as I am this month...perhaps some of you are much busier!  Rather than post an entire issue of Wild Monthly for December, Iím throwing together a few topics that are amusing me right now...


My mother, God bless her, has a problem.  There are slugs invading her home (during sluggish weather).  They come in, she claims, through a small hole at ground level, and slither and slime around her carpet, leaving unsightly stains.  Personally, Iím skeptical; I have never seen this happen, and, while I do not doubt that slugs can and will come into a house, I cannot imagine that they are doing the damage my dear mother claims they do.  It has, nevertheless, become a bit of a joke in our family.  The kids often ask my mother how her slugs are doing, and we spend time with her trying to devise ways to keep the slugs out of her house (all successful, we figure, as we have never actually seen them).


And now, with Christmas coming on, the kids have the annual quest for the ultimate gift for grandma.  This year, they have chosen a picture book called One Smug Slug .  In an effort to pair something silly with something practical, my son decided to add a tube of caulk to the gift.  We looked and looked, and though most caulks come with a long-lasting guarantee, none was labeled slug-resistant.


In Springfield Massachusetts, there is a floating island, and it is owned by the Diocese of Springfield.  Really.  You can read a bit about it here.  It seems to me that this should be a great learning opportunity for the students at Cathedral High School, where the pond and island are located, for science classes, but also for literature and theology.  Imagine being able to show your students a floating island while reading C. S. Lewisí Perelandra!


Those of you in the northern climes have probably already put out bird feeders (see a build-your-own kit for kids) and suet cakes (we buy them by the case), but have you thought about taming birds to sit in your hand?  Itís easy to do with chickadees and titmice, and sometimes other birds will land just to see what all the excitement is about.  Get started with Hand-feeding Wild Birds.  I have been doing this for 17 years (gasp) and it still thrills me every time a tiny bird trusts me enough to take a sunflower seed from my hand.


And as the fly-by season winds down, take a last migratory bird hike.  A few weeks ago, things were looking very busy in the sky, when we saw white pelicans, night herons, widgeons, and many warblers passing through.  Black birds, which tend to fly in mixed flocks of grackles, red-wings, and cowbirds, flew into our neighborhood with enough noise to make us cover our ears!  If you have not done so, you might want to check out project feederwatch at Cornell University.


The weather is still fairly warm here, and we have been hiking a bit.  It has been warm enough for camping, but many campgrounds are closed for the season.  Instead of camping, we have been looking at equipment.  Fall and early winter are great seasons for learning orienteering, since one has the clearest view through the woods.  General hiking rules apply this season, as in all seasons.  Donít forget water and a flashlight, even if you think you wonít be gone long.  Circumstances change very quickly in the woods, and the light does not last long as the days get shorter.  Those of you in southern climes (or northerners who think ahead) might want to pick up some camping supplies off-season.  This year, I found a bargain on two-man tents, which can fit a bunch of little ones or a mom and a few kids.  Or, it could be a great tent for backyard tenters. 


Donít forget to look up!  Marvelous Mars is looking great!  Get some books and a telescope on a clear night and find it in the southeastern sky.  Need more info on great books for astronomy for kids (including one written by a Vatican astronomer)?  Check out my newly-updated Astronomy page. 


And finally, for those of you who might be stuck in the woods without a match, flint, or bow-and-drill, you might want to check out an alternative method...Science Kit has a nice boxed kit called ďoxidation of glycerinĒ that starts a fire with potassium permanganate and glycerin (with parental supervision...or maybe with parent doing the demonstration).  Just add the two ingredients, and you have a fire!  A bit of kindling, and youíll be cooking in no time.  The kit has enough of the ingredients for quite a few demonstrations.

Have a blessed Advent and a Merry Christmas!!


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