Monday, February 25, 2008

Dead Things

Thank goodness for dead things, or my kids would never learn any science!


One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the interesting natural learning experiences we can have.  The other day when we came home from somewhere, there, in the middle of the driveway, was a dead squirrel.  Now we have no shortage of squirrels around here, so it's not such a sad thing.  But what was interesting was that you could see the tracks in the snow where it had scampered for about three feet, then down the bank to the driveway, where it collapsed and died.  Do squirrels have heart attacks?


So today we watched a crow munch on it where Mr. GT had scooped it up and thrown it on a snowbank.


We also discovered, half-buried in the ice in the driveway, a squirrel tail. (different squirrel)  After examining it up close and pondering why it was just a tail, we left it.  Later, it occured to me that it is probably a part of the one that clogged Mr. GT's snowblower last weekend.  He was out blowing the heavy wet snow when it stopped blowing.  After a bit of puzzling investigation, he finally discovered he had snow blown a squirrel!   He does figure it was already dead, though, probably slipped from a tree branch covered with ice.


Other interesting things we've discovered in our yard:

A dead robin

A huge horned caterpillar marching across the driveway

Monarch caterpillars in our garden (milkweed is one weed we allow to grow!) which we bring in every summer and raise to butterflies

Swallowtail caterpillars--we successfully raised one of these

Caterpillar parasites--one year our poor monarch caterpillar developed gross-looking eggs on its back which ate away its insides once they hatched.  We let them hang out in a separate tank to see what they were.  They appeared to be regular flies.  That was gross!

A pumpkin which grew into the fence around the garden.  We watched it slowly decay over the winter into the spring.

A hawk (sharp-shinned!) which flew itself into our greenhouse window and died on the lawn.  Hawk talons and beak are cool!


Dead moles and mice are fun to look at.  Have you seen a mole's feet?!  And once we found a star-nosed mole, dead on the trail!

Bird-watching (live birds)

Feather finding--today the kids found the remains of a purple finch and last summer we had a flicker scattered all over our lawn.  Last month they found an owl feather.

Owl pellets--owls live or perch in our pine tree and cough up their stuff onto the lawn.  We've seen tiny little skeletons and skulls

Pinecones and wildflowers and lichen and moss and bark and buds and roots

And, last but not least, a deer which died in our woods.  It had been shot, ran off and made it as far as our back yard.  (We wondered why that dog kept hanging out in our woods all winter!  Blech!)  In the spring we discovered the bones, antlers and skeleton, all very interesting to examine.



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