I thought I'd round up here a month of wintertime nature study here in not-all-that-wintery California. The kids get outside daily, but we plan a "nature outing" once a week, usually with friends. In the past month, that meant two trips to our usual spot with our nature group (one for our tree study and one for free exploring), one week of nature study solo in our backyard (thanks to illness), and then one group trip to a pond up in the hills that border our valley town.
Week 1 :: Our tree study outing with friends
Our focus for this lesson was two-fold: branches and branching. For the latter, my friend brought positive-negative space grids for the kids to experiment with. She also brought viewfinders for the kids to make their own grid drawings using the trees themselves, focusing on the shape of the branches coming right out of the trunk.
Then we did an object lesson with a fallen branch we found by the pond. Our goal was to consider: what is left behind in or on the tree after the leaves fall?
|three kinds of lichen plus moss!|
|looks like termite droppings clustered in that bottom crevice|
But despite our focus on the bare tree, only the sycamore was missing its leaves. Our horse chestnuts are quickly re-leafing, and the laurel tree already has blossoms!
Week 2 :: Exploration outing at the same spot
This ended up being a week for mushroom hunting and lots and lots of questions with very few answers:
What kind of fungus is that, and who made those holes?
|sorry this is so blurry, but this mushroom's curly edges looked like a flower!|
|black cap, white stem!|
|these were still half covered with damp earth|
|examining the remains of their fort, likely razed by the park rangers -- and planning a rebuild!|
|looks like a boar, which are very common here -- maybe hunting for mushrooms like us?|
...miner's lettuce has leaves up but no blooms,
...and the buttercup sorrel/oxalis is everywhere!
Week 3 :: In Our Backyard
Everyone in the family was down with a cold (including me!), so we stayed home and the kids spent an hour out back. Certainly not as exciting as the prior two weeks, but thankfully our yard is just now bursting into spring bloom so we made some entries in our Calendar of Firsts...
|first daffodils of the year|
|pluot tree in bloom!|
Week 4 :: At the vernal pond
This is a vernal pond--it completely dries up in late summer, which makes its a wonderful home for insects and amphibians since there are no fish predators. And that seems true--we see far more frogs, newts, and water bugs here than we do at the year-round pond we frequent.
Right now it's at its peak: full, with boggy shores. It seems like such a calm, quiet place, but there is so much going on!
|the ground is covered with geranium (two kinds!), clover, and sorrel|
|the drought-marked grasses make an eerie white line against the green hills|
We found a few of these nests in the grasses along the pond's edge. I think they're mallard nests?
|can you see it nestled there at the center bottom of the photo?|
And this California newt was the star of the day. Look at that leg stretch!
And to link up with Keeping Company, here's a bit of my kids' nature journaling from these outings:
In the next few weeks, we're planning at least one trip to the beach and a wildflower walk. This time of year feels like a gift.