Friday, November 21, 2008

What's In A Name? Education!

We recently made a small change to the name of Lake Erie Nature & Science Center’s rehab program. It is now officially called the “Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Program.” This is to emphasize to everyone that wildlife rehabilitation is much more than just trying to heal injured animals. A greater good can also be accomplished by investing time and effort into educating people about wildlife, natural history and nature in general.

One example of that education occurs when a caring, concerned individual finds a healthy baby animal and brings it to us to provide care and feeding. We almost always instruct these people to return the baby back where it was found so the mother can continue caring for it. Convincing people to do this is a win-win situation. It’s best for the animal to be raised by its own mother and it’s also best for the person to better understand and respect nature.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

After School Adventures Beach Sweep

“I was surprised by all the trash we found!” “Why would someone just leave it(aluminum can)?” “This(cigarette butt) is gross!” “People swim here!” “Why is this(battery) here?” "Where does all of this(beach litter) come from?" Those were just some of the heart-felt questions and comments made by my students during a non-typical "day-at-the-beach." Non-typical in that we were there not to play or relax but to investigate and “take action.” On October 7th, nine of my students from Lake Erie Nature & Science Center’s After School Adventures Club (Grades 3 & 4) enthusiastically spent part of their class cleaning-up(as part of their Beach Sweep Inquiry Action Project) a section of our beautiful, neighboring Huntington Beach.
During our classes prior to the Beach Sweep, we discussed the importance of keeping Lake Erie and its beaches litter-free, how litter negatively effects not only the environment and wildlife but also humans, communities, and the economy, and what we both as a class and as individuals can do to reduce beach litter and stop our trash from becoming litter in the first place. We referred to Miami University’s Project Dragonfly’s Dragonfly Quest program for guidance during our investigation.
Question and observe
Uncover comparative questions
Explore predictions
Start action plan and gather data
Think hard about finding and share discoveries
After we swept the beach, we then counted, tallied, and recorded the items with the aid of The Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Adopt-a-Beach Litter Monitoring Form. In only 30 minutes, and along only 235 yards of Huntington Beach, we collected over 600 pieces of trash that weighed-in at almost 4 pounds!
Some of the items we picked up:
270 Cigarettes
118 Plastic Cigarette Filters
60 Plastic Caps
20 Straws
20 Food Wrappers
9 Firework Debris
8 Balloons on Strings
4 Aluminum Cans
3 Plastic Spoons
2 Batteries
1 Pill Bottle

These and the other items we collected from Huntington Beach are now part of our class’s Beach Sweep Project Display, which is located in Lake Erie Nature & Science Center's Teacher Resource Center for the remainder of the year.
During your next visit to the Center, please stop by our Display to see and learn more about what we did and discovered, in addition to, what we would like for YOU to do to help us keep our Great Lake GREAT!

For additional information on:
our After School Adventures Club program, please visit
future Adopt-a-Beach events at Huntington Beach, visit:
or contact Carla Roth at or (440) 871-2900 Ext. 221.
The Alliance For The Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach program

Flying Squirrel Now On Exhibit

One of our newest exhibit animals at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center is our Southern Flying Squirrel. This creature came into our Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Program on July 21 with symptoms of head trauma. Although symptoms improved through the rehab process, permanent neurological damage means this squirrel would not be able to survive in the wild. Fortunately, he adapted well to captivity and can now serve an educational role at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.

Most people are not aware that the Southern Flying Squirrel is the most common squirrel in Ohio and lives here year round. They often go undetected due to their small size and nocturnal habits. Their large eyes serve as a clue to their nocturnal nature. Flying Squirrels live in old woodpecker cavities, other tree crevices and even birdhouses. They have also adapted to urban environments, living in crevices of homes and garages.

Flying Squirrels cannot truly fly. They earn their name through their ability to glide long distances of up to 50 feet. (If traveling downhill, with the wind behind them, they can go up to 300 feet!) Flying squirrels have two adaptations that make them great gliders. First they have a flap of furred skin between each of their front and back legs called a patagium that acts as a parachute. Second, they have a long flat tail that helps with balance in the air.

Although he usually will be sleeping, you can see our flying squirrel in a tree cavity in the exhibit hall at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Larry Richardson's blog is for the birds

I am the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center birder disguised as the Center's Executive Director. This allows my blog to be somewhat mysterious and cloaked in secrecy, so to speak. So if you tell someone about Larry's "birding" blog you are perpetuating the mystery and the confusion.

What is not a mystery is that birding is a whole lot of fun and the Lake Erie south shore is a fantastic place to see an exceptional number of North America's many bird species. It is also no secret that I am driven to see every one of those species and that pretty much describes in a great deal of detail a summary of my personal life or lack there of.

Sunday November 9, 2008 was just another in a series of weekend birding trips around northern Ohio when Jan Auburn and I stumbled upon 7 Cave Swallows at Bradstreet Landing in Rocky River, not far from The Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.

Out of the corner of my eye (there are actually no corners in the human eye) I saw a couple of small songbird size birds over the beach that struck me as starlings, thinking at the same time that those birds aren't starlings. This is a common instinctive contradictory reaction to birds seen out of the corner of one's eye. And in a flash the reality that the birds were swallows came crashing into my consciousness.

So what's the big deal. Swallows are common birds. Not on November 9th in Northern Ohio. September 19th, maybe, but not not 3 weeks later. In fact, only one species of swallows is occurring here so late, and that , my friends, is what is so exciting.

Cave Swallows are a common nesting species in South Texas and along the Mexican border and into northern Mexico. They are a subtropical species that shouldn't like our northern transition from fall to winter. These warm weather swallows started showing up in the northeastern U.S. about 5 or 6 years ago and in Ohio about 3 years ago.

No one seems to know why they show up here so late. It isn't a lot of birds, just a few. Most of them seem quite content to stay where it is warm. It is odd that some migrate so far north when they should be thinking south.

The 2 birds that I hoped to see vanished. Not a good feeling.

Jan, with her infinite patience said lets just wait, walk the beach and they may re-appear. And Re-appear they did.....this time 7 instead of 2. The Swallows did what most rare birds don't do. They were cooperative.

The Cave Swallows verified their identification by flying and perching openly and closely. They were sheltering themselves from nasty west winds and provided many, many photo opportunities. We got the word of the event on the internet which allowed a multitude of birding whose who to get their best ever if not their first look at a true Ohio rarity.

Birding is always fun, interesting and often educational, but for those of us that live for birding it is this kind of experience that really make the endeavor worthwhile. I appreciate the fact that it was a great experience for a lot of birders but my thanks goes out to 7 beautiful Cave Swallows so very far from home.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Last Call for Ecuador!

In the midst of Cleveland's upcoming winter, can you picture yourself hiking a cloud forest in the Andean Highlands or boating an Amazon River tributary? You can do more than just imagine it! Make plans to join Lake Erie Nature & Science Center's next international adventure to Ecuador, where 1,550 species of birds have been recorded and the natural beauty is unparalleled! The December 15th registration deadline is coming up fast for this trip that takes off January 24 – February 5, 2009. Space is limited.
For the complete trip lowdown, just download a trip description, full 13-day trip itinerary and registration form.
You can also contact Center Executive Director Larry Richardson, your host from take off to touch down back home, for more information about this exciting South American adventure. Call 440-871-2900 ext 201.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nature Center Kickin' It With Kenny

Lake Erie Nature & Science Center got a nod from Fox 8's Kenny Crumpton this morning. In his Kickin' It with Kenny segment, the popular morning show reporter presented some great ideas for fun on a budget. In the hunt for different fun things a family of four can do for under $10 around Cleveland, Lake Erie Nature & Science Center was a highlight of Kenny's report.

Mars Lander Declared Dead

Schuele Planetarium Director and NASA Speaker's Bureau Representative Jay Reynolds reports that it's official! After 5 1/2 months of operation, Mars Phoenix Lander has stopped communicating with controllers on Earth.
Landing May 25th, on the edge of the Mars Northern Polar Ice Cap (the equivalent of Northern Alaska), this lander not only sent photos, but had a weather station and geology labs. Final results will be long coming, but safe to say, this area of Mars once was wetter, currently has water ice and the local soil has favorable chemistry for life to grab a foot hold. Here's the AP report.

Jay always shares the latest, cutting edge space science news and photos at all of our planetarium programs, so check out the schedule of public star shows and stop by.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Green Your Holidays

Get the whole family involved in making some recycled gifts and learn how to "green up" the season during our Make It A Green Holiday family workshop coming up this Saturday, November 15 at noon. You do have to sign up in advance for this event, but the cost is a mere $5 per family. You'll also need to supply your own 2 liter bottle and old Cd's to use in your take home projects.
For a whole list of Green Holiday ideas and more Center news, read the latest issue of Nature Notes, our bi-monthly newsletter for class and program participants.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mallard Back In Nature

We have another widlife rehab release to report, this time into water. A Mallard was brought to us near death after she was retrieved from the pounding waves at Edgewater Beach on October 16. She was unable to swim or even stand.

Her treatment consisted of being kept in an incubator and re-hydrated with fluids. She was then tube-fed a food formula which is easily digested. Once her strength returned, she was removed from the incubator and placed in our waterbird cage and fed regular duck food. She was released on Oct. 30th in Porter Creek in Bay Village to join a group of Mallards already there.

-Dave Wolf, Director of Wildlife Programs

Carousel Holiday Festival Wrap

Shopping, food and music combined to create a festive and fun day at Saturday's 40th Christmas Carousel Holiday Festival at Bay High School. The annual fundraiser is sponsored by the all-volunteer Women's Board at the non-profit Lake Erie Nature & Science Center. That's Susie Min and Serena Chang playing a piano duet for the appreciative crowd of shoppers, while Katie Grzelak and son Logan give a Snuggie Buddie blanket a "test hug."
The Women's Board, led by Deb Barnum and Kathleen Croissant, did a stellar job organizing and putting on another terrific Carousel, which was also supported by a variety of wonderful vendors and shoppers. Thanks to everyone involved! See you at the 41st annual in 2009!