Sunday, August 26, 2012

Back to School For All

We recently finished the final week of summer camps and programs at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, and that’s always a little bit sad for us. While we have little ones and preschoolers in class here throughout the school year, summer affords us unique opportunities to experience more time outdoors, just as we did when we were in grades K-12.

For the last couple of months we’ve enjoyed watching our school-age campers, high-school Naturalist Assistants, college-level staff, parents and adult volunteers camp out, comb the beaches of Lake Erie, launch rockets, gaze at the stars, hang out with live wildlife and so much more.

We now know that one little fellow isn’t afraid of our bees because he’ll use his Tai-Kwan-Do skills to subdue them if they escape (they won’t). Another class seemed not at all bothered when a water rocket launch went awry, proudly proclaiming, “It hit the man!” (The man was fine, but slightly wet.)

And just as summer is beginning to fade, kids are getting back on the school bus, parents are finding themselves with more free time than they’ve had in the past few months and we’re gearing up to start a new season of learning and discovery for kids of every age.

But we aren’t the only ones keeping busy as autumn settles in, there is a lot going on out there in the natural world. So, in the interest of keeping those natural connections we all made this summer alive, we’ve created a mini-tutorial of sorts for the Fall. Here are some things you might want to ask us about in the next few weeks:

In mid-to-late August through early September, mammal nesting season is coming to a close, so Lake Erie Nature & Science Center receives many calls about baby animals. The year’s second batch of baby squirrels is nesting and, inevitably, many of the calls we receive are about these babies. “Although it seems cruel to humans, the best thing to do when you find a baby animal is to leave it alone,” said Director of Wildlife Dave Wolf. “Squirrels often have several nests because one nest becomes unstable or attracts a predator. Mothers could be in the middle of moving their babies to a safer location when a baby is ‘found.’ ”

Is there some unexpected chattering coming from your chimney? You may have become a landlord to a family of Chimney Swifts! Because the native habitat of Chimney Swifts, large hollow trees in the forests of North America, have largely been removed, Swifts have adapted and learned to nest and roost in chimneys. We humans just haven’t adapted to the sound of baby birds being fed or sight of Chimney Swifts flying in and out of our chimneys. If you can hold off for just a few weeks, the babies will have learned to feed themselves and the entire family will exit your home sweet home. In the meantime, the Swifts will earn their keep by eating most of the mosquitoes, gnats, termites and biting flies they encounter during their stay.

You can even ensure that some birds are well-prepared as they head out of town. The tiny Hummingbird has an incredibly high metabolism and needs to consume vast amounts of nectar and insects in order to fuel its long trip. Filling a hummingbird feeder with sugar water and tossing out banana peels or pieces of overripe fruit to attract flies is a good idea, and can make for some good bird-watching.

And don’t forget to look up! There’s lots going on in our solar system right now and we have a front row seat – it’s only once in a blue moon that we get to see a “blue moon,” and the next one is right around the corner on Friday, August 31. But don’t go moongazing that night expecting to see the light of the silvery moon to turn bright blue. A “blue moon” is simply a rare occurrence that happens every few years, when we end up having 2 full moons in one month, instead of the typical 1! It’s kind of like February 29, in space!

At Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, we believe learning is lifelong and we're here to help your whole family to appreciate the natural world all around us.

Visit our website at, where you’ll find:

• answers to commonly-asked wildlife questions and advice on what to do about injured wildlife
• the scoop on the new fall session of popular preschool programs like Nature Nuts and Log Cabin Explorers and a fun assortment of animal encounters and star shows that will delight the whole family

• details of the new season of adult activities like our Second Nature series, Birding Walks, Fishing Seminars and Botany Hikes

• a brand new selection of nature-based offerings for Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts