As I’m sitting here trying to figure out what to blog about next, my eye keeps wandering over to my dog who seems to be panting profusely with this new wave of warm weather. The two of us lived in Texas, so I’m well aware of how much heat she can handle before we need to take it easy, but it’s still good to know about the different ways I can keep her safe as the temperature rises as well as amenities I can provide to keep her happy and comfortable.
It’s no surprise that with a large number of people being forced to stay at home, sometimes all alone, that the number of dogs in shelters has gone down dramatically. This is a great relationship, but it also means that many people are spending their first Summer with their furry friends and may not be fully aware of some of the dangers that come with increased daily temperatures. Just like us, dogs get tired, dehydrated and over-heated. Some dogs are even susceptible to sunburns! Here are a few tips and tricks to keep your four-legged (or less) companion happy and healthy all Summer long.
Never leave you dog in the car! This may seems like it gets repeated over and over and over again, but the dangers of a hot car cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to both human and dog safety. Even on days that don’t seem that warm, our cars create a greenhouse effect. This means that the sunlight coming into our cars gets absorbed by our seats, dashboards, etc. and then they radiate heat back into the car that becomes trapped inside. A lot of heat comes into our cars, but not much actually leaves the vehicle. This is why even on cool days, if the sun is out, it can sometimes be a pleasant surprise to get into a car that has been sitting somewhere without shade. The heat isn’t leaving! Even having the windows a crack is not enough for all of this heat to escape safely.
Constant Water Supply
Available water is also important to consider when you are traveling and hiking. If you are driving somewhere, it may not be practical to have an open container of water, but make sure that you are frequently offering water to your pet. The same goes for hiking. When packing supplies for the day, account for the water that you will need as well as the water that your dog will need. We can’t always rely on natural water sources to be suitable for drinking, so it’s important to be prepared.
Here is a list of water bottles just for your dog that will make it almost impawsible to leave the house without proper hydration: https://petlifetoday.com/best-dog-travel-water-bottles/
Another great idea for keeping your dog calm and cool in the summertime is to fill a kiddie pool with water. Of course, not everyone is going to have the space or means to do this, but if it’s something that is an option for you and your furry friend it’s a great way to provide a little oasis right at home!
Making sure your pet has a place outside to cool off is very important. A spot to lay down under a tree or even an umbrella will give them somewhere to relax and bring down their temperature. It’s also very important that you don’t over exercise your dog on hot days. Dogs don’t often know when they’ve had enough of the heat, especially if they are high energy dogs. It’s up to you to know when they need a break.
You can also consider giving your dog a haircut in the Summer months. You’ll want to consult your veterinarian about this. Some dogs have thick coats that actually act as insulators and can keep the cool air in, so you’ll want to see if your breed of dog will benefit from a haircut or if it is better to leave them unshaved.
If you are looking for additional resources on how to keep your dog safe and healthy during the Summer months, check out these great websites. Not only will they talk about temperature considerations, but also things like fleas, ticks, and anything else you may have questions about:
Welcome nature journalers! It’s hard to believe that the month of May is coming to an end, but the recent weather is certainly a reminder that Summer is right around the corner!
Observing parent birds gathering food and visiting their nests is a great nature journaling activity. It can help us to learn to sketch birds at various stages of their lives, to identify different nest structures, and to notice new behaviors and patterns. Not only do birds have unique calls and colorations, but nest structure is often different for different types of birds as well!
Here are some local birds and what to look for when searching for their nests (taken from Clare Walker Leslie’s The Nature Connection).
Chickadees and Woodpeckers: Both birds will nest in holes in trees. Chickadees will occupy old holes, whereas woodpeckers will excavate a new nest hole.
Phoebes and Swallows: These nest are easy to identify because of how unique and gravity-defying they seem to be at times! Made of mud, these semicircular nests are caked onto the sides of buildings underneath eaves that provide additional shelter!
Hawks, Ravens, Crows and Eagles: These raptors and the like will make large nests out of pretty substantial sticks. Often found toward the tops of trees.
You can help some of your local bird species by providing nesting materials for them to use! Lay out supplies such as wool yarn, dryer lint or even hair from your hairbrush and see if anyone stops by to pick them up! We have a felt dog ball in the backyard that has recently been torn to shreds by some Tufted Titmice who used it for nesting material!
In your nature journal this week, see if you can identify some of the birds that might be nesting near your home, or in your favorite green spaces. You can record what behaviors they are displaying that indicate they may be nesting. If you are able to get your hands on a pair of binoculars you can track their movements to try to figure out where their nest is! You can even take note of what kind of food the parent birds are taking to their young (caterpillars, grubs, dragonflies, etc.). Make a list of what materials are used for the bird’s nest as well as any additional observations you make. Be sure to be making sketches while you watch!
Bonus Challenge: We all know that parent birds have to bring food to their nests, but can you figure out what they need to remove from nests as the nestlings grow? You can either find a nest to observe, or do some research online to learn this surprising fact about birds!
I hope you are all able to observe some new bird activity and as always, if you find anything interesting and would like to share your recordings/observations, be sure to email them to us at email@example.com. Happy journaling!
Another day, another opportunity to get outside and get journaling! Over the past two weeks we’ve talked about different ways to track changes in the season and embrace the month of May! It is the perfect time of year to get outside and see what lives near and around our homes as animals and plants prepare for the summer months. Thank you to everyone who has been sharing your nature journaling journey with us, it is incredible to see all the wildlife you’ve been able to explore.
Below are some great examples of what community members have been observing during the exciting month of May. On the left, Janet Bednarz documents a cluster of Toad Trillium and Ostrich Fern Fiddleheads at the NRT! This is a wonderful example of how creating a contour drawing can help to capture the shape and essence of a subject before adding details such as texture and color. On the right is a popping depiction of the different stages of blossoms from one single branch on a local shrub. Thank you for sharing!
This week we are going to focus on something that isn’t always obvious when we step outside – the insects in our lives! It may be hard to believe, but insects are the most diverse group of animals on this planet and there are over 900,000 documented species of insects around the world. It is predicted that at any given moment, there are more than one quintillion six legged critters wandering this planet at once and for every pound of human weight that is on earth, there are 300 pounds of insect weight!
For anyone wondering, a quintillion looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000!
You’re probably thinking, if that were the case, wouldn’t we have to be constantly surrounded by insects? Well, we are! Because of their small size, ability to move quickly, and excellent camouflage skills, insects are tricky to spot but they really are everywhere! This week’s task is all about finding some six-legged invertebrates and getting to know them through journaling.
Not all of the small, scuttling macroinvertebrates wandering around are insects. There are some key characteristics that distinguish insects from other bug groups. Two of the major things you can look for when trying to identify an insect are:
Try to find some small, crawly critters near you and figure out if they are in fact insects, or possibly something else!
When it comes to journaling about insects, there are many different approaches you can take. One way to start finding insects near you is to open your ears. Many insects make distinct sounds by rubbing different parts of their bodies together. Think crickets, grasshoppers, and cicadas. You can follow these sounds to try and find exactly who is making what noise. It may be helpful to have an insect guide on hand, so that you know what to look for and where these insects are most likely to be found.
Once you are ready to draw your insect, you only really have to draw half of them! Insects are bilaterally symmetrical, which means that the right side of their body and the left side of their body is exactly the same. For drawing purposes this means that you only have to focus on half of the insect while it is in front of you and then you can recreate the other half as a mirror image at your leisure. Below is a great example of the steps you can take when drawing an insect from Clare Walker-Leslie and Charles E. Roth’s Keeping A Nature Journal.
This week, challenge yourself to go on a bug hunt (idea taken from Clare Walker Leslie’s The Nature Connection).
Head out to your backyard, or a local green space and see what you can find! Once you’ve caught your insects, you can sketch them, make note of how large they are, notice what their eyes look like, observe if they have wings or antennae, and take note of anything else you see! After you’ve gotten everything you can from them, be sure to put your insects right back where you found them.
This activity can be done without catching any insects and simply by observing them in their natural habitat – whatever works best for you!
Good luck finding some interesting insects and as always if you have any observations or journal entries you’d like to share with us, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy nature journaling!
May is known for the number of birds that travel north for the Summer to nest, but there is another great migration taking place that people may not be aware of. The butterfly migration! Most notably is perhaps the Monarch butterfly who makes a 3000 mile journey from Mexico all the way to the Northeast U.S. and even as far as Canada.
Although it takes many generations to make the trip north, in the Fall, it is one super generation that flies the entire 3000 mile journey south over a period of about 3 months. Unlike many insects, Monarchs are not able to overwinter in cold climates, which is one of the reasons they are thought to make this incredible journey twice throughout the year.
There is not much known about why there is one super generation that seems to dramatically outlive the other generations of Monarchs, or why the butterflies make this long journey. There are, however, many ongoing scientific research projects looking at the benefits of these migrations. Some theories are that the butterflies are following their food sources or that the migration could even be a way to weed out parasites within the population!
For more information on Monarch migration check out these great resources:
In Massachusetts, we can start to expect Monarchs to show up from now until mid-June, so keep your eyes open for those bright orange beauties! If you have Milkweed in your garden, be sure to monitor the leaves for the different stages of the Monarch's lifecycle!
It’s hard to believe that we are already halfway through May and we haven’t even gone on an official Nature Quest! This idea is taken from Clare Walker Leslie’s book, The Nature Connection, which perfectly lays out all the best ways to embrace nature in each month. There’s a lot going on in the month May, birds are arriving for the Summer, flowers are blooming, animals are going through metamorphosis and so much more! Here are some things you can do this May to help you embrace the changing world around you (all from The Nature Connection).
1. Take a walk outdoors and imagine you lived 2,500 years ago!
5. Learn about some of the leaves you should not pick
6. Relax with a good book
All of these activities can be recorded and documented in your nature journal!
Another great way to keep track of what’s going on around you through journaling is to go on a Nature Quest! This is a simple way to get you looking around and seeing what is happening in the natural world. Go for a walk and just take in your surroundings. Be sure to use all five of your senses. What do you hear? What can you see? Is there anything that jumps out at you? Think about how what you are observing holds clues to what season we are in right now!
One way set up your nature quest is with a guide in your journal. Pick four or five things you are hoping to find and make a checklist. Next, go outside and try to find them! Keep track of those sights, smells, and sounds happening all around you as well as anything you can feel or even taste! Make a list of other things you find that you weren’t expecting!
Try to go on one nature quest this week to see what’s happening in the middle of May! If you find anything unique, or want to share your journal pages, please email email@example.com. We always look forward to seeing what the community finds!
What is it about snakes?
Why are there so many deflated snakes on the ground?!
Another intriguing thing about snakes, and all reptiles, is that they never actually stop growing! Each snake species has an average size that they reach at maturity, but they will never truly stop increasing in size. The rate at which they grow dramatically decreases once they reach maturity, but as long as they can continue to eat, they will continue to grow. We can see this happen when snakes shed, which is just another very cool and slightly mysterious thing that snakes do. Interestingly enough, all animals (even humans!) shed throughout their lives, we just don’t do it all at once like the snake. Unlike humans and other animals, a snake's skin will stretch, but cannot grow with the snake. When the snake skin is no longer able to stretch with the snake, it will become a shed and the snake will wriggle its way out. Many of us have come across snake skins in the wild and they can be a little bit unsettling if you aren’t sure what they are. The more a snake eats, the more it will shed, but on average, snakes shed about 2-3 times per years. Perhaps the ability to completely shed their skin and “transform” many times throughout their lives is just another reason that humans have been so fascinated by snakes throughout history.
There's so much more!
There are a lot of extremely unique adaptations that snakes have, from their coloration all the way to their individual behaviors. There just isn't enough blog space in the world to talk about all of it! Some great resources for looking up snake facts, both locally and worldwide are:
- Mass Audubon's Snakes of Massachusetts
- National Geographic Snake Facts
- Live Science Snake Facts
Snakes can be tricky to spot in the wild, and I often notice them after I've scared them away, but if you keep your eyes and ears open, you may just be able to spot one on your next walk. They love basking in the midday sun to get energy and they are great at camouflaging with their surroundings. Next time you go for a walk on a sunny day, take time to watch the ground near and around where your stepping for any movement!
Last entry was all about birds, and we received some awesome examples from community members who were able to capture the essence these fast, feathery creatures! Thank you! It feels like within the last two weeks the local bird activity has increased dramatically. It’s hard to know if this is because I was journaling about them so they seemed more abundant, or if there are more birds around, or a little bit of both. Either way, it has been such a joy to watch them and try to learn more about their unique behaviors and lifestyles.
As we talked about last week, one way to hone in our observation skills is to focus on something very specific. Last week it was birds, and the idea was to start with something like a photograph and then move on to trying to capture them in the natural world. Another way to focus our observational skills is to create journal entries around the various seasons. Seasonal changes can be a really helpful reference, especially when looking at the phenology of an area. Phenology is a branch of science that studies the relationship between climate and periodic animal and plant lifecycles such as budding, migrating, and blooming. Nature journals are an incredible tool for looking at when these major seasonal changes begin to happen over a long period of time.
There are a couple of different ways you can cater your journaling to fit a specific season, so I will go through a few of them. Everything I talk about will be taken from either The Nature Connection by Clare Walker Leslie or Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth, both are exceptional resources if you are looking to learn more about nature journaling!
Each year, especially in Massachusetts, we can count on a fairly dramatic changes in weather, landscape and wildlife activity with each new season. Lucky for us, this means we all have a pretty great base understanding of what to expect during the different times of the year. We are in the height of Spring at the moment, so I will be focusing on springtime phenomena, but a lot of these activities can be done during any time of the year! As a reminder, when you are in the field, be sure to record time, temperature, cloud coverage, weather, and any other details you think may help you when looking back through your data.
Springtime in New England is known for being a damp season filled with showers, as we have definitely been experiencing over the last couple of weeks. With an abundance of fresh hydration, comes some really incredible opportunities for nature! This is when our amphibian friends thrive in vernal pools, our decomposers do some of their best work, and our plants are finally energized enough to start sprouting out of the ground! Here is a list of things you can do in the Spring to try and capture some of these incredible changes:
Another great way to make observations in the Springtime is to focus on a specific branch, plant, or small area and draw it every other day. You’ll find that a lot changes in just a short period of time. You may start by sketching a budding branch and in just a couple of days have a limb completely covered in flowers! By revisiting the same vegetation, you can document when budding begins and how long it takes for a bud to turn into a flower, or for leaves to begin to unfurl. All of this is great information when looking at phenology.
For next week, I challenge you to document some of the change that is going on around you. You can do this by looking for signs of Spring that you know are happening, or by observing one specific piece of nature and revisiting every day or every other day to see how it evolves. I also challenge you to make some personal connections to what Springtime has to offer and check-in with yourself in the coming week. As always, if you would like to share some of your journaling efforts or have any suggestions for our community, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time!
NRT's dedicated staff are responsible for the content of the NatureTalk blog. Questions? For more information on any blog post, please contact us at any time.