Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Earth Week Day 2: Animals Abound!

Earth Day Tuesday had some nice "eco" treats at Eagle Cove School for Earth Week--of the animal kind.  For my 3rd graders, it started out with Animal Rehabilitator Kathy Woods and "The Critter Dude" Walter Massey.  Both work as animal rescuers (or rehabilitators) for the Phoenix Wildlife Center, Inc in Phoenix, Maryland. They brought some of their rescue friends to share with our ECS friends.

In addition to seeing boxed turtles, a toad, and a Great Horned Owl (with some of the younger students seeing even a few more critters), Mr. Walt and Ms. Kathy taught us some interesting Earth Day animal facts. (I was furiously typing away in the Notes app on my phone to get them all!):

  • You can tell the difference between male and female box turtles in 2 ways--their eyes and their shell bottom.  Males have red eyes and a dented bottom shell, females have brown eyes & a flat shell bottom.  The song "Brown Eyed Girl" can help you remember that one!
  • Boxed turtles can live to 100--125 years old...yet another reason why they won't make good pets by bringing them in out of nature (one, it's not where they're meant to live, and secondly: they'll outlive you!)
  • Turtles can indeed flip themselves over if they get stuck on their back.  (They literally "use their head!")
  • Toads can be distinguished from frogs because they live on land (not near water), are bumpy (not smooth), and hop (versus jump longer distances).  
  • When you listen to toads, you can hear the gender in that the females are quiet and the boys make noise.  Additionally, the males have black (not white chins)
  • Toads push food down their throat with their eyeballs (so you can actually "see" them swallow).
  • Great Horned Owls don't build a next but time share with hawk.  The one they brought had to be rehabilitated because it had "metabolic bone disease" due to it's owner feeding it hamburger, which doesn't have near the nutrients the owl needed.  
  • The Great Horned Owl they brought with them weighed 4-5 pounds.
  • Owls make no sound when they fly due to having serrated feathers.
  • An owl can hear a mouse two feet under the snow (without even seeing it).
  • A person can turn their head 90 degrees, whereas an owl can turn their head 270 degrees (not quite full circle!)
  • Owl eyes can't move like ours, but they can dilate their eyes separately.
  • Due to its 70% binocular vision, an owl can't always see what's next to him.  Therefore, when a person throws an apple core out the window (thinking it is biodegradable, so why not), it's still dangerous because a mouse might go for that, and then an owl will zoom in on the mouse--without seeing the oncoming vehicle.  Many owls that wind up in rehabilitation centers do so because of this very situation and getting hit by a car.
  • Owls are "nocturnal" since they are nighttime hunters.  Day time hunters are called "diurnal."

The second half of our morning was with an annual ECS Earth Week friend:  children's book author Jennifer Keats Curtis.  As a Maryland-native, Jennifer loves writing about the animals and environment of her home state.  As she was sharing some of her latest projects and books (see the photo below for 12 of her picture books she's written), and some of her experiences, we learned some goodies:
  • The Baltimore Checkerspot, a butterfly, is our state insect, in part because it resembles our state flag.  Unfortunately it is endangered due to the decreasing numbers of what it eats (turtle head).
  • Salamanders lay eggs in vernal pools (which are temporary ponds left behind from heavy rains).  Looking like a jelly-like glob in hand, pictures showed us that under the microscope you could see the baby salamanders hatching out one at a time out of each little egg when the timing was right.
  • Since fishing line is so dangerous to marine life, Berkley Fishing line has a strong conservation division where you can order recycle kits to safely get rid of your own fishing line.
  • Kathy Woods (mentioned above) is her hero, and the inspiration behind her "Animal Helpers" series.
  • In Jennifer's eyes, an animal rehabilitator is part-animal helper, part detective.  Not surprising when they need 6 years of schooling and numerous licenses to do the job they do.  You need to know a lot about a lot of critters--especially since they come to animal rescuers at all ages and stages of their life!!

All our visitors were amazing, and obviously eager to come to visit schools.  If you are in the Maryland area and want to learn more about having any of these 3 individuals come to your school, check out the following links:

Photos from our day, with the exception of the books & the oval circle picture of Jennifer Keats Curtis, which were from her website (see above link).  (Collage made using the InstaFrame Pro app)

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