Fall is a time for change! The transition from hot, summer days to cold, winter nights is one that plants and animals prepare for all year round. One of the amazing parts of keeping consistent Nature Journals is being able to track change over time, also known as phenology, but seeing changes on a larger scale requires keeping journals for years, and, to be honest, sometimes that is just too long!
If you are in need of a nature journal change of pace, consider honing in your focus on something more specific than general observations. The landscape changes very quickly in the fall, but the pieces of the landscape: flowers, leaves, ground cover, etc., are changing even more rapidly! A satisfying nature journaling activity during the fall can be monitoring a single area in your yard, or even one branch or leaf over the span of a week or two.
Not only is this activity great for doing in the fall, but it's also one you can do right inside your house! Don't have a good place outside to make daily observations? Bring the outside in! Be it a flower, a leaf, or even a seed, bring it inside to monitor what changes start to occur with your nature journal change chart!
With a little bit of attention, pumpkin seeds provide a great opportunity to watch growth and change happen right in the comfort of our homes! All you need is one pumpkin seed, a damp paper towel, ziplock bag, tape, and a window that catches some sun. The first thing you need to do is cut the paper towel so that it will fit inside of your ziplock bag when folded in half. Then, moisten the paper towel and fold it over your pumpkin seed. You should be able to see your seed through the moistened paper towel. Place the paper towel surrounding the pumpkin seed inside of the ziplock bag and zip it shut. Find a window to hang your ziplock with masking tape so that it gets an ample amount of sunlight each day. Over the course of a couple of weeks, you should be able to see your seed start to change and eventually a sprout will appear! You can use a flashlight against the back of your seed to observe in anything is going on inside the seed that isn't visible from the outside.
Clouds are not the only indication of what kind of weather we can expect. There are all sorts of other clues scattered within our natural surroundings that help us to predict the forecast. One of which is something we can find all over the place here in New England. Pine cones!
Helping Predict Precipitation
Because the pine cone wants to ensure that the majority of the seeds will get an opportunity to grow into their own pine trees, it is very selective about when it opens and closes. If there is moisture in the air, the pine cone will close to prevent the seeds from falling out and being drowned by too much water, and if the air is dry, the pine cone will open, allowing the seeds to be picked up by gusts of wind and even light breezes.
If you see closed pine cones on a tree, you should expect precipitation in the future, but if you see that the pine cones on a tree are all open, you can anticipate dry weather in the forecast!
Fall is a great time to get outside and explore the strange weather that comes with the changing of the season. If you are anything like me, you've been completely flummoxed by the cold snaps and warm spells we've been having over the past few weeks. I know, nothing should surprise me when it comes to weather in New England, but part of me still expects that on the first official day of fall, the cold air will move in and we can all start layering up and drinking hot apple cider. Of course, this is never the case.
Explore the Clouds
Seeing cirrus clouds usually indicates that there will be change of weather within 24 hours. Because they are formed by strong winds, and sometimes wind that we can't feel on the surface of the Earth, it means that new weather patterns are moving in.
If you are seeing cumulus clouds in the sky, it means that it is sunny outside and you can expect the weather to stay the same until the clouds change.
Seeing Cumulonimbus Clouds indicates that there is snow, rain, hail, lightning and possible thunderstorms approaching.
If you are seeing Stratus Clouds, you can expect an occasional drizzle or dampness in the air along with light rain, but mostly it is a sign of a day without sun.
Next week, we will look into other aspects of our environments that can help us make even more predictions about how the weather may change, including: plant behavior, animal behavior, and wind movement!
Columbus day is right around the corner and for many of us this means packing up the car and taking a short trip somewhere to enjoy the long weekend. With this change of scenery brings an opportunity to make new observations in our nature journals. Sometimes, a new perspective is exactly what we need to revitalize how we look at our surroundings.
Not going anywhere this Columbus Day? Don't despair, use the below prompts as an excuse to find somewhere local that you haven't explored yet! This can be as simple as turning down a new street on a walk, or perusing google maps for a conveniently located green space. Regardless of where you end up, hopefully you'll take away some tips and tricks from this post that you can use in your next journal entry!
As always, the prompts below are inspired by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth's Keeping a Nature Journal or Clare Walker Leslie's The Nature Connection.
1. Prepare a Vacation Nature Kit!
With your collected objects, you can create a curio cabinet. A curio cabinet is a cabinet filled with curiosities! Before having public museums, individual collectors would invite guests over to their homes to tour their curio cabinets that were filled with interesting finds from all across the world. You, too, can create your own display for guests to look at when they visit your home.
2. Explore Different Forms of Expression
3. Replace Your Photos!
Challenge yourself to put away the camera and capture your vacation with your journal instead. You may find that using your journal to record your surrounding wildlife and even personal moments, will help you to remember specific details and note what's important about your experiences.
If you are traveling with friends or family members, ask them to contribute to your documentation as well! You can keep a group journal in which everyone can record their observations in their own unique styles. Children can also participate! Encourage younger travelers to keep journal pages of activities that they participate in or things they observe. At the end of the vacation, have journalers share their pages with the rest of the family/group.
Yes, you read that correctly, some animals have natural antifreeze in their bodies! It's not exactly like the antifreeze that we put in our windshield wiper fluid, but it certainly serves the same purpose. The antifreeze that is found throughout some insects is a variety of different compounds that are also known as cryoprotectants. Cryo- meaning involving or producing cold and -protectants meaning providing protection, so cold protection or protection from the cold.
Monarchs are not the only insects that participate in cyclical migrations, many flies and even lady beetles have similar habits. Because of their small size and ability to go unnoticed most of the time, it can be difficult to track insect migration. Even so, scientists have observed a couple of interesting anomalies in the past few years indicating that insect migration may be more common than we think.
... And more!
Bugs are by far the most diverse animals on the planet and can be found on every single continent including Antarctica! This means that they have to have some incredible adaptations to defeat the cold weather. We talked about some of them above, but there are many more ways these little critters escape and even thrive in the cold weather. Some of these other methods include huddling together for warmth, digging below the frost line, laying eggs that can survive the cold weather before dying, and finding shelter in man-made buildings and structures.
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