Saturday, September 11, 2010

Back to School

Greta kicked off kindergarten with the time honored tradition of losing her first tooth.
I didn't believe that her tooth was really loose so it came as a surprise when my littlest's smile was changed forever.

We're starting our school year in earnest today.  As soon as I am done with this post the bags go in the car and we are off for 2 weeks traveling up the California coast to Oregon and then down to Lassen Volcanic Park.  We're hoping to see some mammals...I hear that the Roosevelt elk will be roaming our campground at Prairie Redwood State Park. 

The Sierra Red Fox, one of North America's rarest mammals, hides itself in Lassen.  In addition to charismatic megafauna we're hoping to see some charismatic microfauna.  Armed with A Field Guide to Bacteria we're hoping to see evidence of stromatolites in Oregon Caves and extremophilic bacteria at Lassen.

So far we are definitely amateur trappers.  We caught a fox squirrel just in time for our class with naturalist Susan Labiste.  Fox squirrels were introduced to California by civil war veterans.
They are now displacing native Western gray squirrels.
With Susan the kids molded tootsie rolls into various kinds of scat.  Blunt edges for cats, twisted end for dogs, tiny rounded hershey's kisses for deer.

Then we went out in our backyard and found more scat there than I ever would have believed.  Fox, raccoon, squirrel, deer.

Last weekend while camping we set up our camera traps and were on the lookout for mammals.  This decomposing deer tempted me to take it home and have a nearly complete skeleton.  But it stank.  Oh boy did it stink.

Our night camera captured a feral cat.

Our live trap caught nothing.  We saw a lot of quail, a cormorant, a kingfisher, woodpeckers, mergansers and lizards.  Mike mused that people like to say that in the time of the dinosaurs, dinosaurs ruled the day and mammals slunk around in the night.  But it is still true.  Aside from us people, you mostly see birds and lizards in the day.  And the mammals come out at night.

This black-tailed deer settled down in our yard for a good day's snooze.  Black-tailed deer were classified as a subspecies of mule deer until recent genetic analysis revealed that they are a separate species.

We'll be back here in two weeks or so, I hope with many photos of mammals.  And bacteria.


sarah in the woods said...

Now THAT'S what I call school! I'm coming over.

Kristin said...

Enjoy your camping trip!

Good luck spotting mammals. I hope the Elk are rutting; their behavior is so much more exciting when that's happening.

Don't forget to take a hike in Fern Canyon in Redwood National Park:

It's an absolutely stunning walk.

Greta looks adorable without her tooth.

Karen said...

Way to kick off the school year!
Can't wait to hear about the scat, and the mammals, and the bacteria :-)

patricia said...

Wow, when you take on a project, you really take on a project!

Now I need to make sure you have your fourth Fridays clear after the new year, because we need you for our Habitat project! Will you help us make tootsie roll scat? And take photos for nature journals? And find mammals?

Can't wait to hear about which mammals you'll stalk up north. Have a fantastic time!

barbara said...

wow, what a great way to start the school year!! congrats to greta on her loss ;)