Sunday, January 15, 2012

"One day in February we were, with much enjoyment, wading through a drifted highway that skirted a forest, the least twig of which bore a burden of soft snow.  Over all hung that silence of winter which is the most 'silent silence' . . . No breeze swayed a creaking branch or shook from it the snow in soft thud to the white carpet below.  Even the song of the brook was smothered beneath coverlets of ice and pillows of drift.  We stood fast, awed by the stillness, when suddenly it was broken by the thrilling notes of the chickadees.  We could hardly credit our senses, for it seemed as if the woods was a hopeless place for any living creature that morning.  But there before our eyes was a flock of these courageous birds hunting for food on the leeward sides of boles and branches left bare and black in the recent storm.  Their ting weights sent the snow in showers from the terminal twigs . . . " 

--Liberty Hyde Bailey, December 1903, Cornell Nature-Study Leaflets, The Chickadee

Winter in our Backyard

Snow has finally arrived here in South Haven!  Our trail has a few inches of fresh snow and everything seems to sparkle.  Today I was out looking for signs of life and enjoying a beautiful sunny winter day.  I didn't see any animals, but I did hear several bird calls and I saw lots of animal tracks.   

On February 17th and 20th, my class, along with the Ann Long (Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum Board director, retired teacher, bird lover and friend) will be taking us out in small groups to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count!  This event is hosted by Audubon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Canadian partner Brid Studies Canada.  Anyone can participate.  The results will provide a snapshot of the whereabouts of more than 600 species of birds.  We will watch and count birds for at least 15 minutes and enter our results at  The four-day count typically records more than 10 million observations from across North America.  We are looking forward to observing and participating in this exciting event!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Class Pet

Meet Maude.  She's our latest addition to Fourth Grade.  Maude is a 24 year old iguana.  How cool is she?!  Our classroom theme is "In Our Backyard," and although Maude is not native to Michigan, she was formerly living in the nearby middle school (technically our backyard) for many years.  Her latest owner, a now retired science teacher, donated her to our classroom.  Sometimes backyards are full of surprises.  The average life expectancy for iguanas is about 15 years, so we have an old lady on our hands (actually two if you count me).   I am looking forward to sharing this new found friend with my students.  We will have to figure out how to keep Maude happy and comfortable in her new digs here at North Shore Elementary.  It will also be fun to find out what her natural backyard would be if we could take her on a trip to her native land.  One thing is for sure, she will be happy when they turn the heat back up at school.  She is staying close to her "hot rock" and moving pretty slow.   I can't blame her.  If I could type with my mittens on, I'd be doing that presently.  Happy New Year to you and if there is an iguana expert out there, you are welcome to advise us on our new backyard gift!