This morning, I thought we may be having our winter nature walk in 50 degree weather - more suitable for the spring walk we normally take in April or May. But mother nature cooperated nicely, and by this afternoon the temperatures were definitely more winter-like. We got chilly enough that the post-walk hot chocolate tasted very good.
As usual, Faye was well-prepared for our visit. She asked what our theme was several weeks ago, and seamlessly worked it into our walk. First the children told her what they have learned already about systems, and recounted the story of the old ladies who like cats. Faye told us that systems can be very big, or very small, in the natural world. We looked at three specific systems of varying sizes, a ball gall, an old stump, and a woodland pond.
The goldenrod gall fly lives its entire life centered around the goldenrod. The female fly lays her eggs into the stem, where the eggs develop into larvae. The larvae will immediately begin to eat and the saliva of the larvae has a chemical in it which causes the plant to grow abnormally, creating a ball-shaped "gall" that the larvae live in. If you find a gall with a hole in it, that means that a woodpecker has made a delicious snack of the larvae, before it gets a chance to hatch into an adult fly.
The stump is a wonderful example of a slightly larger ecosystem. From our classroom readings, we've already learned so much about the animals and plants that depend on fallen trees. Faye found us a particularly lovely looking example - it looked like a piece of sculpture!
The pond is the largest system we looked at today. The duck was fake (a decoy Faye found years ago) and the muskrat was real (Faye found it dead by the road, and taxidermied it herself - she's pretty cool that way). We talked about how all the plants and animals depend on each other, and affect each other. For instance, a duck can carry weeds from one pond to another, possibly laden with fish eggs. Then fish could hatch in water that never before had fish.
Many, many thanks to Faye for showing us another fascinating time at "our" woods, County Farm Park. We appreciate her so very much, and relish the time we spend with her. It will be very nice to see her again in the spring.