Friday, March 15, 2013

Circle of Life in County Farm Park

As we walked over to the park to meet Faye, the children asked if this was our winter or spring walk. Technically, it is our winter walk but with the sun on our face and bulbs starting to push through the dirt, it did feel more like spring.  

Our first stop was a big sugar maple tree that had a strange contraption attached to it.  Faye showed us how the tree was being tapped to collect the sap.  Each of us got to drink some of the maple sap.   The sap was clear and had a slightly sweet taste.  This sap can be "boiled and boiled and boiled" to turn it into maple syrup.  Faye had made maple syrup from this tree's sap which we got to taste too.  Faye explained to us how the sap starts "running" in the late winter, early spring to feed the buds.  This is part of the tree's annual cycle.

Next, Faye gave us dried plants with strange bulbous bumps on them.  We learned that these bumps are called galls.  When the plants were alive, wasps and flies lay their eggs in the stem.  In the gall, the insects metamorphosis into a larvae.  Faye showed us a small white larvae from inside one of the galls.  Faye explained if  there is a small hole in the gall, the insect had already burrowed out.  If there is a large hole a woodpecker probably ate the larvae.  

The next stop was in a field.  Faye showed us some small balls that looked kind of like M&M's, but you wouldn't want to eat them.  They were rabbit scat.  It turns out that the first time a rabbit poops it does not get all the nutrition from the food and so it eats the poop.  The second time it comes out it is hard and dry.  The other evidence that a rabbit had been in this spot was the gnawing marks on the shrub branches.  Eat the branch, scat, eat the scat, and so it goes... another circle in nature.

 Before heading back to school, we got to see evidence of one more of life's circles.  Faye showed us some rabbit fur and a rabbits foot on the ground.  She explained that a fox or a bird of prey had eaten the rabbit.  She gently told us that sometimes people can get very sad when they see a something like this, but it can be helpful to remember that this animal died so another animal could live, which is one of the circles of life in nature.

As always Faye made our trip into nature an incredible learning experience.  

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