About Canadian

Just me. Not much else to say really.

Looking for Tracks

We haven’t had a lot of snow this winter. Whenever we do get some, along comes a warm front and rain washes it all away. However, we did manage to get out on a couple days when there was snow to look for tracks.

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Nature Walk:

If you have snow, get out and practice your detective skills. Follow tracks and figure out what they are the tracks of. What’s been going on that you didn’t know about?

Draw some of the tracks you find in your nature journal, or take some photos and print them out and stick them in.

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Checking out the Art Gallery

When the weather isn’t so great for nature outings, the Art Gallery is a possibility. We paid a visit to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to see what we could find that was nature related.

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A selection of porcelain mushrooms.

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Fishing related artwork

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Artwork from the Canadian prairies

What makes this gallery pretty special though, is the little house of Maud and Everett Lewis which was restored and moved into the Art Gallery in 1998. As well as decorating her house, Maud painted lovely, cheerful folk art. You can read more about her here.

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Outing:

Visit a local art gallery. Look for pieces of nature art: landscapes, botanicals, animals, sculptures, etc. Choose a favourite piece and find out more about the artist. Perhaps try your hand at making a piece of art in the same style.

januarypoempageNature Journal:

Paint a background for a poem for January. What we did is used blue and white paint, adding a bit more white each time as we painted down the page. To add some snow, we watered down a bit of white paint and splattered it on top with an old toothbrush. Then print out the januarypoem and paste it on top.

Wildlife in winter

Our birdfeeder provides entertainment on days when it is not so pleasant to be outside. We have a small feeder that we keep stocked with black oil sunflower seeds, and a suet feeder for the little woodpeckers and nuthatches that come for a visit. Of course, it is also visited frequently by our resident red squirrel, who performs amazing acts in order to get a few sunflower seeds.


It is interesting to note the arrival of non-resident birds like the juncos, who summer in the Arctic, and then the ones that may or may not come by every year in the spring like the Evening Grosbeak or Red Crossbill.

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Purple Finch

Nature Journal:

Create a page for noticing the birds that come to your feeder. It is helpful to have a good field guide for birds in your area for identification. Keep a list of birds or keep a track by drawing small pictures of the ones you see.

Field Guides:

Visit a Tree Farm or a Forest

Although we had hoped to visit a Christmas Tree Farm sometime during December, we didn’t make it to one. Maybe we will manage it next year. We don’t have to go far, however, to walk through a forest of evergreens. Where we live, in Nova Scotia, the popular Balsam Fir grows abundantly.

So, instead of taking a walk through a tree farm, we will go for a little walk through the woods along a river. It was very cold during towards the end of December and anything hanging over the river and along the edges was coated with ice.

Nature Journal:

Take your nature journal along on your outing. Take a few minutes to sit quietly and draw something you see on the ground, something you see at eye level, something you see when you look up. If it is too cold to sit and draw, use your camera and draw later or print out the photos and paste them in. Put the date on your page and the location and include some words that describe what you feel in this setting.

A Winter Nature Table:

Now that it is winter, what do you have on your winter nature table? If you don’t have one, set aside a small space to collect nature specimens. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – just a little place to bring some of the outdoors in to enjoy it. Here are some ideas:

  • a coloured cloth (blues, whites, greys)
  • a big candle (blue/white)
  • a winter picture in a small frame (here is this month’s poem)
  • some cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise in a small basket or bowl
  • a vase of evergreen sprigs or holly
  • some winter animals made out of clay (mice, birds, deer)
  • force a paperwhite narcissus in a flowerpot
  • pinecones or catkins
  • anything interesting you find on your nature walks

Hibernation

When it gets cold out I feel like hibernating and not waking up until spring… Many animals do this because winter makes it very difficult to find enough food. When an animal hibernates its breathing and heart rate slow down. All of its energy to survive comes from fat it has stored in its body beforehand. Late summer and autumn are spent eating all the time to build up stores of fat.

True hibernators are usually small animals as their body temperature can drop low enough. Many other animals hibernate only during the coldest days, but wake up to snack or move around when it is warmer.

Research:

  1. Find out what animals are true hibernators and which animals only hibernate for short periods.
  2. What are some other ways animals keep warm and stay alive during the cold of winter?

Find the answers to these questions or other ones that you might have and write the answers in your nature journal.

Books:

Here are two books we found helpful.

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northwindFor the December poem page in your Nature Journal, paint the background in shades of blue, or make a collage of torn bits of blue shades from magazines or tissue paper. Then cut out some mini snowflakes (from a 4 inch square of paper). Glue them on top and then print out the poem and paste it on top.

You can download the poem to print out here: The North Wind Doth Blow

Local Animals

How often do you see animals or evidence of them where you live? If you live in the city, it may be less often than if you live in more wild places, but there are still probably a few that make it their home. We have little red squirrels who visit us quite regularly and do their best to empty the birdfeeder.

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These little guys are very territorial and will make a huge ruckus if anything comes into what they consider their domain. They eat all sorts of seeds and nuts, but their favourite seems to be the cones from conifers – and there is often a pile of dismantled cones at their favourite feeding spots. They will also eat fruit, buds, bark, fungi, birds eggs, and they have been seen biting maple twigs to get a sip of the sweet sap just under the bark.

I am always amazed by their sense of balance as they run across the hydro wires, leap to a tree branch a couple metres away, and then hurry down the trunk head first. How do they do that!? They are fun to watch.

While we sit inside, nice and warm, and watch them performing their antics out the window, it is a great time to listen to a story. This story is available on LibriVox which has plenty of free audio books for your listening enjoyment. It is a story about a squirrel named Happy Jack.

Happy Jack by Thorton W. Burgess.

Project:

Get to know some of the animals in your environment. See if you can pick 2 or 3 and then go to the library and find some books on them. After looking at photos, and noticing things like proportion (compare size of head to size of body, etc), shape (do you see rectangles, circles, squares…), colouring (is it all one colour, or are there darker and lighter patches), positioning (where do the legs comes from, the head, etc.). Draw a picture of the animal in your sketchbook. Write down some of the interesting facts you have discovered about this animal, and maybe record where you have seen it).

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Looking for Colours

With many people decorating their houses for the holiday season, we decided to go for a walk and look for colours and nature’s decorations. Although there have been a few flakes in the air, we do not have snow on the ground. In fact, it has been quite rainy and this morning is about 11 C.

Nature Walk:

Go for your own walk and see what you can find this time of year. While you are out, gather some materials for making a wreath or to add to your nature table: evergreen branches, pinecones, holly berries, or whatever appeals to you.

The Stars

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With daylight savings ending at the beginning of this month it gets darker earlier in the evenings which is great for stargazing. There have been a couple nights which were not too cold and we were able to get out for a little bit and have a look at the stars.

The formation that everyone seems to know is the “Big Dipper” which is one of the easiest star groupings to find in the night sky. It is part of the Ursa Major constellation – the Great Bear, and above it the little dipper or Ursa Minor which has the North Star at the tip of its handle. But there are many others to discover.

We found Orion with the bright stars red Betelgeuse and blue Rigel, and the hazy star beneath the belt which is the Orion Nebula, where new stars are born.

There are stories about all these constellations that people made up down through time. Sometimes it can be hard to see the stars if you live where there is a lot of light pollution, but in more remote areas, the sky becomes alive and one can imagine why people looking up at them would have created stories.

Here is a list of constellations to find and begin learning about:

Auriga, the Charioteer
Canis Major, the Big Dog
Canis Minor, the Little Dog
Cassiopeia, the Queen in Her Chair
Cygnus, the Swan
Leo, the Lion
Orion, the Hunter
Perseus, the Hero
Taurus, the Bull
Ursa Major, the Great Bear
Ursa Minor, the Little Bear

Here is a printable guide to finding the constellations in the sky: How to Make a Star Wheel.

And here is an interesting book all about stars if you want to learn more: The Friendly Stars.

Nature Journal: Choose a constellation to find in the sky and then draw in your nature journal. Find some books at your library about constellations, and read about the stories behind its name. Write a summary in your journal.

Land Art: For fun, make some stars out of sticks: Stick Stars

Textures

texturesSpend some time outside in your backyard looking for textures. How many of these can you find? You could bring a long a few small pieces of paper and crayons and do rubbings if you like (label them as you go so you do not forget what they were).

Take a few of the textures you found and draw them into your nature journal. Glue in the rubbings you did as well.

Have fun!

Looking for Lichen

We went on a walk today to a little church graveyard not far from us. It was a good place to find examples of lichen that grows on rocks.

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It is hard not to miss sunburst lichen (xanthoria parietina). It is quite common to see it on rocks and sometimes on trees in this area. It is a “foliose” lichen and can be used to make a yellow dye by boiling it in water. It can also be fermented in ammonia which makes a pink dye that turns blue in the sun.

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Many of the gravestones and boulders had a grey or light green lichen – probably some sort of rock shield lichen.

It was interesting that some of the gravestones, although very old, had no lichen on them at all. Perhaps it was the type of rock or the colour – I do not know. Sadly, there are a lot of gravestones for children in this cemetery, often multiple ones in the same family.

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We went looking for some lichen in the forest as well on the way home. We found Old Man’s Beard, which hangs from many of the trees in this area, and some Lungwort decorating the trunk of a tree. The lungwort gets dry-looking and brown when it is dry, but then seems to come back to life when it is damp.

Nature Walk:

What kind of lichen can you find when you go walking? What colours can you find for the month of November? What do the trees look like now that the leaves have fallen off?

novemberartNature Journal:

For our poem this month, we made the shapes of leafless trees. Get some runny paint (water it down a bit if you need to) and put a blob near the bottom of your page. Use a straw to blow it up to make a trunk with branches, adding more blobs of paint as necessary. When you are done and it has dried, print out the poem and cut it out and glue it on top.