Fridays Outside October 1st
Today’s Fridays Outside program started out with a little snack time and then a recap of some of the insect information we had gone over before. This time however, we focused on an interesting subject, the Gall Wasps!
We had noticed these small orb-like growths on many of the oak leaves in our past hikes and this time we decided to learn more about them.
First order of business was an explanation of the Gall Wasp, how it differs from fly's and bees, it’s life cycle. It is a Terrestrial Insect and it lays its eggs on leaves instead of underwater like the Aquatic Insects we studied down at the pond. We talked about the mystery of why the trees the eggs are laid on form strange orb-like cases around the eggs. Inside these galls the wasp larvae mature, nourishing themselves with the nutritive tissue of the galls which protect them.
Scientists are still not sure if the cause is a mechanical part of the trees response to the eggs, a chemical response from something injected by the wasp itself, or a viral trigger!
There is still mystery out here in the woods, there is room for explorers and scientific discovery!
We went out for a hike on the Mace Trail to talk about the fall leaves which doubled as a Gall Wasp Scavenger Hunt. We found many Wasp Galls and talked about them and imagined the different kinds of wasps that would emerge from them.On this one we could see the hole where the Gall Wasp exited the gall after metamorphosing into an adult.
Many of the Oaks were in beautiful full color!
We noticed a small Pine which seemed to be quite Different than other young Pines in the area. I suspect that it is not a Ponderosa Pine nor a Pinon Pin but another variety. It had long needles like a Ponderosa Pine, but it's trunk did not have the vanilla scent of a Ponderosa.
Along the way, the Mountain Mahogany caught our eyes. These drought tolerant shrubs are found in the hot dry ecosystems of the Park and much of Colorado. An interesting thing about the Mountain Mahogany is its ecological adaptation. The seed is tipped with a feathery spiraled plume. Seeds are wind-dispersed, and the wind aids fallen seeds in corkscrewing into the sandy/rocky, nearly humus-less ground of the dry desert-like Mountain Shrubland ecosystems where they are prevalent.
We also got to discuss the parasitic nature of the golden Dwarf Mistletoe.
Part of the way up we reached a nice cool section of Douglas Fir ecosystem and stopped for a break. While the boys drank water and relaxed on the side of the trail I read them a book I had brought along, The Legend of Tunuri and the Blue Deer.
Just as we finished the story another group of hikers came down the trail and warned us that there was a Bear up the trail a bit further. We made a safe group decision to head back down the trail and headed back for an early lunch.
After lunch we wrote in our nature journals for awhile, drawing pictures and writing about our experiences. We even drew pictures of the many kinds of wasps we imagined might have emerged from the various galls we found.
Next, we made our way down to the pond where we washed and cleaned the deer print casts we had made the previous trip.
After the plaster casts were cleaned and set out to dry we switched gears but stayed at the pond to make Nature Boats! This was something we did on a previous Friday but the boys wanted to do it again.
So we went about finding natural materials to create our boats with.
There were many creative designs and we had to use our problem solving skills to get them to float or not flop over.
We discussed balance and weight distribution and put it to use in an experiential manner.
When we had made a boat we set it afloat. . .
. .. sometimes it worked.
Dragonflies dive-bombed our boats, even landing on them from time to time!
The wind came up periodically and moved our boats around the lake, some straight across, and some (to our amusement) round and round in tiny circles!
When we were done, we bombarded our boats with pebbles and sticks and pinecones. Boys will be boys!
After this we went down to the covered Picnic Shelter to snack and write more in our journals. We discussed writing nature poems about Fall and the boys came up with a few poems each:
The Fall is Falling
now it has been
200 days Fall
has been dazed!
Fun is Rhyming
huge rock climbing
big hat tying
bike race timing
fun is rhyming
It was another good Friday Outside, the end of Summer and the first day of October. You could say we were celebrating.