Monday, June 30, 2014

What The Heck Are We Doing?

We’ve been extremely busy volunteering these last two months. 

During the last two weeks in May we gave interpretive programs to 402 school kids.  Just when we thought we were through with the large groups of kids, we got word that a Girl Scout troop (55 girls) would be in the park and wanted us to to give them a program.

Starting the last full week of May, our “real” volunteer jobs started. We give interpretive programs three evenings a week (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).  These can take an enormous amount of time to “create”.  It takes Mark a full week to set up a new presentation.  He takes lots of photos and spends many hours putting together a Powerpoint program. 

Some of our programs consists of showing a movie, such as a documentary about bears.  But, there’s more than just showing the movie!  For the bear movie, we bring out the bear furs and skull, various books and Mark starts the program with a 10-15 minute talk about bears. 
A program created by Mark.
These programs start at 8:30 p.m. as it stays light very late.  Luckily we have a very bright projector and are able to start the programs when it is still light outside.  They usually last about 45 minutes.

Two mornings (Saturday and Sunday) we also have interpretive programs.  One is always a Jr. Ranger program that is geared toward kids.  These have been scavenger hunts, owl pellet dissection, and hauling out all the furs and skulls.   
Furs, Skulls, and Deer Antlers
Usually on Sunday mornings we offer a 1 mile hike along one of the “kid friendly” trails here in the park.  There is a lot to see and talk about on this trail and this hike usually takes about 1 1/2 hours.
It is very green here in the park!
We have a lot of fun programs set up for the coming weeks.  A disc golf clinic is on the list.  Have I mentioned that there are 4 disc golf courses in the park?  Three 18-hole courses that are progressively difficult and a 9-hole course that is great for kids and beginners.  The park has a box full of disc for use during the clinic.  If we can catch a full moon at the right time, we plan on having a night hike.  We also want to have programs on staying safe in the woods and a nature scavenger hunt.  It seems like each week we think of other programs we can offer.

We had friends from Texas visit for a week.  Even though it rained the first 3 days, we were able to get out and play tourist.  We went through a couple of museums, something we probably would not have done if it hadn’t been raining.  They turned out to be quite enjoyable.
Bonner’s Ferry Museum
We’re still monitoring our Bluebird houses.  So far we have had about 80 Bluebirds fledge and many Chickadees and Tree Swallows.  Many of our birds have started 2nd nests.
Feed Me!!!
We are already at the half way point in our time here.  We’ve been here 10 weeks and have 10 weeks to go. Time flies when you're having fun!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Our Babies are Growing Up!!

We are still checking our 50+ nest boxes once a week, and we've seen some nests go from eggs to empty.

This week we found many of the boxes with older chicks. We won't see these chicks next week.  They'll be out and about!

Bluebirds close to fledging
What are you looking at?
We also have Mountain Chickadees ready to go. Notice Mom in the corner of the box.
Mountain Chickadees
The Tree Swallows were the last to nest, and so far we have only eggs. Tree Swallows always have a few feathers in their nests.
Tree Swallow eggs
We have nests with all ages of chicks in them, including a few that hope for an easy meal when the box opens up!!
Feed Me!!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Not For Old Eyes (or Bifocals)

We are finally finished with the school groups and are settling into our jobs as Interpretive Hosts. 

We will present a program (usually some type of nature movie or a power point presentation that Mark has created) every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night.  In addition, we will have some type of Jr. Ranger activity on Saturday morning and offer a hike on Sunday morning.

So far our most popular Jr. Ranger activity has been dissecting owl pellets.  From what we can tell, these pellets are from captive owls and have been sterilized. They come wrapped in aluminum foil.

We thought we should open one up first to see what we were getting ourselves into!  They are packed tight and are amazingly hard to pull apart.  We used toothpicks to carefully pick apart the pellet.
Owls use their beaks to rip their prey apart and then eat large chunks whole.  They digest their meal by separating the softer material (such as meat) from the harder material (such as bone) along with indigestible material such as feathers and fur.

Material that is not digestible is formed into a pellet.  Before the owl can eat another meal it must regurgitate the pellet.

We found a handy bone sorting chart to use in identifying some of the tiny little bones.
This one pellet had three skulls, several thigh bones, ribs and other assorted bones.  It also contained a lot of fur.
We broke our pellet in half and each picked our half apart.  This is a picture of the fur separated from the bones from half of the pellet:
This was a super fun activity that was well attended. We had the kids set up in groups of 3-4 with a pellet to share. We’ll be dissecting owl pellets several more times this summer.