Category Archives: children’s activities (recycled materials)

Observing Nature: Black Vultures Haunt Local Library

Black Vultures Coragyps atratus in Maryland December 2010.

If you live in Southern Maryland, you should definitely check out the wake behind the St. Mary’s County Public Library in Lexington Park. A wake is the name of a group of vultures. They are also collectively called a committee. You will find an impressive number of Black Vultures there. Don’t be spooked by their large size, black bodies or their eating habits: they feed mostly on the carcasses of dead animals. They won’t be that interested in you. Therefore, getting relatively close shouldn’t be a problem if you approach slowly. Bring a camera.

I love the way they walk: what funny characters they are. You have to admit that they are interesting at the very least.

More about vultures:

According to Wikipedia: Vulture stomach acid is exceptionally corrosive, allowing them to safely digest putrid carcasses infected with Botulinum toxin, hog cholera, and anthrax bacteria that would be lethal to other scavengers.[5] This also enables them to use their reeking, corrosive vomit as a defensive projectile when threatened. Vultures urinate straight down their legs; the uric acid kills bacteria accumulated from walking through carcasses, and also acts as evaporative cooling.

O.K. that was gross and cool at the same time. Vultures are amazing. They are needed too. Scavengers like vultures along with decomposers keep the earth clean of stinking dead things and break them down into components used to make new living things.

Bird Feeder Bird Watching: A Great Place To Start

Introduce your kids to bird watching by setting up a birdfeeder within easy view of a window. Children will have an easier time learning to use binoculars by starting with a fixed focus point. Children will focus on the birdfeeder (with the help of an adult if needed) and wait for the birds to come. They will see the birds like never before. Using a bird feeder will bring around many varieties of birds for their enjoyment.

Try buying different seeds to attract different varieties of birds. Provide a notebook where kids can record birds that they see. Show them how they can start their own life list. Buy a bird field guide or research sightings on-line.

Chipping Sparrows

Local Halloween Themed Sewing/ Crafting Workshop

Sign Up Now For A Halloween Themed Sewing/ Crafting Workshop

Design and Sew Your Own Monster Softie!

This class involves some machine sewing and some hand sewing but not an overwhelming amount of either.

Bring: fuzzy sweaters and other items to be repurposed. Your charming softie might have claws, fangs or even a barbed tail. Not to worry, monster softies are always nice to their makers.

Design and Craft Your Own Rogue Robot.

This project doesn’t require any sewing; just imagination. Make them as scary as you like.

Bring: bits and pieces; a broken phone, worn out windshield wipers, broken flashlight, an old computer keyboard…. Also, be sure to raid the recycle bin for inspiring parts. Have extra? Bring some to share. In addition, an assortment of “junk” will be provided.

Workshop (9am-2pm) or class (9am-11am or 12pm-2pm)

Possible dates: Oct. 16th, Oct. 17th, and Oct. 24th

For more info.

Raise your own caterpillars For The Fun Of It: Fritillary Butterflies

Try this at home! Find and raise your own caterpillars. I found these lovely Variegated Fritillary caterpillars in my yard (southern MD) and didn’t know what kind they were. The best part of raising caterpillars is the thrill of discovery!

I found these caterpillars on our violet plants.

Here it is munching down on a violet leaf.

Find your own:

If you want to find fritillary caterpillars, you will want to look on the plants which they love to eat. In this case: violets, pansies, passion flowers, flax, stonecrop, moonseed, and plantain. I found these on violet plants.

Make a home:

metamorphosis observatory

See my post on making a metamorphosis observatory.


Bring in some of the plant you found your caterpillar on. Give it new food as it eats up the old. The vase should have water in it to keep the plant yummy for the caterpillar but you don’t want the caterpillar to drown in the water, so use a vase with a narrow neck.

I allow plenty of violets to grow around my house. The larvae (the caterpillars) of the variegated fritillary as well as other fritillaries feed on violet plants.

You might not even think about it but when you landscape your yard and get rid of all the native plants, you are also getting rid of food for native insects. If there are no bugs (including caterpillars), then birds etc. don’t have anything to eat. Native insects need native plants!

This is the chrysalis of the variegated fritillary. It has beautiful gold spots.

Here is a variegated Fritillary butterfly that we raised.

Raising Tree Frog Tadpoles (MD, USA)

If you have kids, raising tadpoles into frogs is a must. With not much effort you can witness the fascinating metamorphosis of a tadpole into a frog. Here is a tree frog we raised in the summer of 2004.

Gray tree frog found on my house (which is green) in southern Maryland 2008.

Green tree frog found outside my house. (Southern Maryland 2008)

Green tree frog outside my kitchen window 2009. It is not uncommon for tree frogs to hang out there eating the moths that are attracted to the light.

Mini Pond -2004

We have a galvanized container that I got at an antique store that doubles as a mini deck pond. When it rains we often hear one or more male tree frogs calling for a mate. They usually get together at night but we’ve seen them on really rainy days. In the morning we see eggs in our pond: lots of them. It doesn’t take long before you have all those little tadpoles swimming around. At this point, we get a few of the tadpoles to raise inside. I find that if the weather is really hot, the tadpoles all die. Hence, for better results, we bring some inside for raising. The tadpoles in our mini deck pond, if conditions are good, will eat mosquito larvae growing in the “pond”. Therefore, I don’t have to worry about creating a mosquito problem. The tadpoles will also eat algae- the green stuff growing on the sides of your pond. Your pond will stay cleaner looking. They will also resort to eating smaller tadpoles. This sounds pretty harsh but in doing so, at least some of the tadpoles will make it to adulthood.

Home for tadpoles

We kept our tadpoles in various large glass containers over the years. I like to limit the number of tadpoles because you don’t want to overcrowd them. The number you raise will depend on the size of the jar or tank you use

Change the water:

Freshen the water by dumping about half out and replacing it with fresh water. I have well water but if you have city water, you probably have chlorine to worry about. The chlorine will kill your tadpoles so set out a pitcher of water for a day or two in preparation to adding it to your jar of tadpoles.

Feed your tadpoles:

Your jar pond should have sunlight so the algae can grow. They love to eat the algae that grow naturally but there will not be enough in your little “pond” so you will need to feed them.

Don’t add so much food that the water gets all dirty looking. Feed as needed. I’ve successfully raised tadpoles on lettuce. I chopped it up then boiled it for a short time. (I’ve since read that boiling it first isn’t necessary.) After that I’d either pour off the water and freeze it or make portions in ice cube trays: the lettuce is frozen in the ice. Either break off bits of your frozen lettuce or drop in an ice cube when necessary. I’ve also feed them leftover fish food that I didn’t need any more. They loved that too.

I recently found the following link. It provides additional information about keeping tadpoles and is definitely worth checking out (no pictures though).

When they start to grow front legs, you will need to cover your jar with cheese cloth or mesh of some kind so they don’t escape into your house. There needs to be something for the frog to climb onto- out of the water because you don’t want your new frog to drown. Release your tree frog back into the wild after metamorphosis takes place.

The whole process will take a little over two months if you are starting with eggs.

Check out the mouth on this guy!

This tadpole is clearly trying to go unnoticed.

Back legs at last!

Almost done!

How cute is that!

Tree frog we raised in the summer of 2008.