All water sources offer a ton of observation opportunities as well as a chance to get wet, and what kid doesn't want to get wet with temperatures soaring into the 90's these days? So whether it's a bird bath, a puddle, a pond, stream, ocean or a lake, pack a picnic lunch, the suntan lotion, bug spray and something comfy to sit on ('cause you know those little ones are going to want to curl up in the sun and take a nap sooner or later) and get ready for some watery fun. Adults may want to carry along a book too. Hey there's no crime in getting in a little relaxation while the kids search!
Some additional items that may come in handy depending on your kids' ages: aAhand lens and binoculars to better observe the wildlife. Bandana or hat to keep the sweat out of your eyes as well as a good pair of sunglasses. A notebook, pencil or crayons to record your observations. Older kids may want to have a camera and a good field guide too. I reccommend Peterson's field guides personally. They are some of the best and not too expensive, usually available from Amazon or your local bookstore. If it's damselflies or dragonflies though there is no better guide however than Gif Beaton's guide available on Amazon.com.
So back to the wildlife. You are apt to see a menagerie of creatures, big and small...to very very tiny. Birds will come to take a drink, as will some bees, and butterflies. If there are freshly washed cars nearby you can watch them too. Sometimes the reflection of the sun on the hoods will confuse insects, causing them to land there expecting a refreshing drink and instead getting a toasty burn on their tiny feet!
If you don't see wildlife right away you can also go hunting for them near a creek or river. Walk along the bank and look for footprints or evidence of beavers such as chewed up logs. Also listen. What do you hear? Frogs croaking or chirping, birds singing? You may even hear bugs as they buzz past your ear, checking you out as you check them out!
Look closer into small pools of water. Are they deep or only temporary from recent rains? Are there fish, frog eggs, tadpoles? Why might frogs lay eggs in a temporary pond? are there leaves hanging overhead? Might these add protection or shade? Maybe there are no fish that would eat the eggs? All good questions that you can look up online or in your field guide.
Keep a count of the animals and insects you see during your day. Smaller kids can draw pictures of what they see, and older kids can practice labeling them and maybe even writing out what family they belong too. All organisms belong to a family, as well as phylum. Try to remember it this way Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species or King Phillip Came Over From Great Spain. Sounds silly, but all organisms can be placed this way so it doesn't hurt to come up with funny rhymes, and won't your friends be impressed!
So it is the end of the day and you have seen a lot of animals and even identified some of them. Here are a few questions to think about as you head back home:
1. What about animals that must survive a long time without water? What modifications do they make to survive?
2. What about marine mammals that live in water all the time even though they breathe air. Are they born knowing how to swim?
Water is an incredible resource and one we can't make more of. In fact the same water that falls on us today is the very same water that fell on the heads of the dinosaurs millions of years ago.So be sure to conserve it. Turn it off while washing your face and hands or brushing your teeth. Respect watering bans and use rain barrels to capture rain water to water gardens or your lawn.
Until next time!