Critters and Creatures


Trip #46
Trip Date: 2016-09-17 Saturday 3:30
Attendees: 7 adults + 8 kids
Message: Be Kind to Animals
Wildlife Rescue Center

raccoon

A trip to the Wildlife Rescue Center, located near Castlewood Park, is fantastic, and Green Spiral Tours ventured forth on a Saturday afternoon in September.  The best time to visit the Wildlife Rescue Center is in June, when lots of “May Babies” are in residence.

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The Wildlife Rescue Center cares for over 2,500 injured, sick or orphaned animals per year, and releases them with permission on private property.

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Green Spiral has hosted a lot of scouting missions and field trips over the past seven years, and we don’t think we’ve ever seen a better nature program for kids.  Director Casey Philips, who led the tour, is especially skillful with kids.  We had warm-up exercises in the conference room, followed by a tour of the facility, some veterinary practice on stuffed animals, and a quick hike around the lake.

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The WildLife Rescue Center is volunteer run, and volunteer funded; the place is surprisingly big, and it’s all very clean and orderly.  There’s an x-ray machine and a small operating room for treating fractures and emergencies.

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If turtles get run over by cars, or whacked by a lawn mower; the Wildlife Rescue Center zip-ties their shells back together and nurtures them back to health.

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If squirrels get orphaned or injured, they are put into hammocks, and hand-fed by volunteers.

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We got to see a baby opossum who tried to scare us away with his tiny sharp teeth, and we also got to see a baby fox.

opossum

We took a nature walk around the small lake, (actually a bog), full of mallards, frogs, fish and duckweed.

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There’s always a lot of magic, and some bit of mischief on each Green Spiral field trip. The magic was seeing the animals. The mischief showed up in the form of poison ivy, which we narrowly averted when we popped down to explore the creek.

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Poison ivy is tricky, because it can look like a bush or a vine.  Look for jagged edges,  leaves of three (leave it be), and especially, look for an extra long stem on that middle leaf.

poison-ivy

We took about 15 people, which was the perfect sized group, although the facility can handle up to 30 people.  The fee is about $50 fee for 10 participants; each additional participant is $5 per person. Because this is an animal hospital, folks need to be calm, and the age range is limited to Kindergarten and up. To get maximum benefit, definitely organize this as a small group tour; if you have a scout group or classroom, divide the group in half.

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What you can do:

Visit the Wildlife Rescue Center with kids; you will be delighted and learn all sorts of things. Here’s the link to begin organizing a tour: Wildlife Rescue Center

Keep cats indoors. Cats kill and injure a great number of wild animals, notably songbirds.

Sign petitions to protect habitat and clean water.

Give generously to the Wildlife Rescue Center, as they are completely volunteer run, and they are doing such great work: http://www.iGive.com/WildlifeRescueCenter/?p=19992&jltest=1 #iGiveDoYou

Urban Wild Adventures – Trip Date: May 31 & June 2 2016

To know your city is to love your city, and Green Spiral has long known Saint Louis to be home to some of the most amazing parks and playgrounds in the country. As the world becomes a more hectic place, nature places and quiet oasis will play an increasing role in the identity of this Great City.

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We have many treasured parks in Saint Louis, but the crown jewel of parks is certainly Forest Park, recently named the #1 Best City Park in America: https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/the-15-best-city-parks-in-america.

2012-09-15 art museum

World class destinations like the Zoo, Art Museum, History Museum and Muny are easy to find in Forest Park, but for those of you looking to get off the beaten track, here’s a short loop we’re calling the “Crawdaddy Walk”.  It’s a two hour excursion at a very leisurely pace, suitable for all ages, including the stroller set.

2016-06 Forest Park Map

Park and meet your playgroup at the Inclusion Playground next to the Visitor Center, and be sure to pack your own water, unless you like paying $2 for bottled water.  Know that the playground is the first inclusion playground built in the city and there is a secret pollinator’s garden nearby.

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Call up Jean Turney, education coordinator at Forest Park Forever, and have her meet you at the blueberries growing right next to the building. Jean’s job is to help folks learn how to use the park for fun and educational purposes, and she organizes Teacher Academies in the Summer.  561-3287

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Begin your walk between the parking lot and the tennis courts and head for the Mary Orr MacCarthy Bridge, or the “Love Lock Bridge”. On your way, you can have kids pick clover; tie them together to make some clover crowns!  Know that there is a famous bridge in Paris, the Pont des Arts, which has grill-work laden with locks.  Lovers carve their initials into padlocks, affix the locks to the bridge, and throw the key into the river, thereby sealing their love forever.  Looks like we now have a “Love Lock Bridge” in Forest Park, so if you’re a lover, go ahead and affix your lock, it’s the “good kind of trouble” to get into.

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Continue walking along between the creek  and the Boathouse, an area we call “Cottonwood Corridor”.  If you travel through in June, the cotton puffs will be floating through the air like snow; see if kids can catch some cottonpuffs.

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Stop and sample the service berries growing on bushes to your right.  Service berries are important bird food, and edible for humans too.  The service berries ripen in early summer, and get their name from the “olden days” when the ground was too frozen to bury the dead.  When the service berries came ripe in late May, the ground was warm enough to excavate a deep hole, and a service could finally be performed. Thus the name” service-berry.  Thank you Bellefontaine Cemetery for the story!

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Continue following the path until you find the water-play area on your right.  This is a great area to play in the water.  Our creeks and waterways are in bad shape, and questionable for young children for a multiplicity of reasons including sewage and radioactive contamination. But because the River des Peres was long ago used as an open sewer and buried under the park in advance of the World’s Fair in 1904, the surface water in Forest Park today is pretty close to tap water, and the cleanest natural water-play area we can find for kids.  It’s kind of sad that we’ve contaminated so many waterways as a society; therefore, it’s important to educate yourself and thus join the fight to clean up and protect our waterways, if nothing but our own enjoyment. Technically, there is “no swimming” in Forest Park, but Green Spiral happens to know that the park rangers will turn a blind eye towards kids frolicking in the water.  If you do get in trouble, put big tears in your eyes, and say “…but I want my kids to touch a creek at least one time in their lives before they grow up,” and put on your best and most sad pouting face…  Back to the self-guided tour:

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“Crawdaddy Cove” is a great place to fish for crayfish.  Bring a paperclip on a string, and fix some cheese to the open “hook” of the paperclip.  Drop the paperclip in the water, and when a crawfish clamps on to it, hoist the little feller out of the water. We forgot our paper clips, but did find a dead crayfish. By the way, Missouri is a hot-spot for crayfish biodiversity, due to our plethora of magnificent spring-fed rivers.

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“Crawdaddy Cove” is a great area for a family picnic, and you can almost always find frogs, turtles, minnows, green herons and egrets. This is the best place for spying wildlife with kids that we’ve found in Forest Park so far. Remember to bring your hand sanitizer and sun protection. This is a wonderful destination for a picnic dinner in the evening, thus avoiding the “witching hour” at home. On the official map, this place is really called the “Post Dispatch Lake Riffles”, but we think “Crawdaddy Cove” is more romantic.

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When you are ready to depart, walk towards the main road, and over the “Bridge of Swallows”, which has lots of swallow nesting under it.  Continue walking past the Dwight Davis Tennis Center, and ultimately back to your car.  This is about a two hour adventure, conducted at a leisurely pace. Many thanks to talented nature guide Angela Wildermuth for scouting and leading this adventure with her Spring series of adventures called “Urban Wild Adventures”, which takes families on nature hunts at parks and playgrounds all over the Saint Louis area.

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Now here’s your homework:

  1. Count how many creatures you can find on your walk and have the kids make a note in a journal you keep in the car.
  2. See if you can name any plants, or make a crown made of clover.  Simply tie them together as you would make a “daisy chain.”
  3. Come back to the Visitor Center someday and ask for the free ipod walking tour that teaches you about the history of Forest Park, and walks you past the Art Museum and Picnic Island. It’s very well done; many thanks to the Trio Foundation.
  4. Comment below with your observations and improvements on the map and adventure for the benefit of others.
  5. Love your City. Get out and get to know it. To know it, is to love it.
Take a walk on the wild side..

Take a walk on the wild side…

The  Butterfly House in Chesterfield

has basically two kinds of butterflies:

Tropical

and

Wild.

At Green Spiral, we tend to be most interested in the wild kind.

The Sense of Wonder

The Sense of Wonder

The best time to visit the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House

(at Faust Park in Chesterfield)

is in the winter, when it’s cold outside.

OR during the Morpho Madness Festival in March

or the Owls & Orchid Festival in October.

Wandering through the butterfly conservatory really does impart a sense of magic

that is difficult to duplicate in the virtual world.

I do.

I do.

However, for a summer tip, wander out the back doors,

where hardly anyone goes.

There’s a beautiful garden and a

wedding pavilion waiting for you there!

Off the beaten path...

Off the beaten path…

And behind the wedding pavilion,

lies a secret nature path,

designed especially for children.

King Bee?

King Bee?

There are honey-comb climbers to conquer,

Touchy, smelly things to feel

And insect noises to hear and make.

Call of the Wild

Call of the Wild

In all honesty,

the Butterfly House invited Green Spiral

to partner for grant funding purposes,

which we are happy to do.

It’s nice to see institutions moving along with the research,

(and what mothers instinctively know),

that children really do learn through their senses.

However, it’s difficult for institutions to pull off really memorable experiences,

like catching frogs, swimming under the moonlight,

or mud pie fights with friends,

but the Butterfly House does a pretty good job.

Invite us to help design your next project;

 we’ll bring real families,

who will tell you what we really think.

Homework time!

Homework time!

And now it’s time for “Homework that Matters”:

  • Test Yourself – Can you identify at least three native Missouri butterflies? Can the kids?
  • Plant food – Are you planting food in your backyard not only for yourself, but for the birds and the bees and the butterflies as well? If not, do you know how to get started?
  • Baby Monarchs – What do monarch caterpillars eat? Have you planted ten of those plants in your backyard yet? Are you aware that the monarch butterfly is teetering towards the brink of extinction faster than we can add it to the endangered species act?

 

Milkweed = Baby Food for Monarch Butterflies

Milkweed = Baby Food for Monarch Butterflies

RSVP – if you’ve done your homework, and have ideas for others, please post in the comment section below, to help encourage people along…

Compliments Artemis Beta

Compliments Artemis Beta

PicsArt_1439263377112

Seed Bombs are clay balls embedded with seeds,

in this case, milkweed for monarchs!

Milkweed = Baby Food for Monarch Butterflies

Milkweed = Baby Food for Monarch Butterflies

Artists, Activists and Kids love seed bombs,

and here’s how to make your own:

Step One:

Step One

Step One

Step Two:

Naughty or Nice?

Naughty or Nice?

Step Three:

Harvest milkweed seeds from a real

milkweed plant, OR, buy locally,

from,  Seed Geeks, who you can find

at the Tower Grove Market.

Go Local

Seed Geeks

Mix the clay with water, and a few seeds,

until you get the consistency of cookie dough.

Play with mud

Play with mud

Step Four:

Mix into mud, adding more clay, water or seeds

as needed.  You can also add some compost from your garden.

Mix Well

Mix Well

Step Five:

Roll into balls, allow to dry, and harden (which may take a few days).

Bombs Away!

Bombs Away!

Then go bomb a vacant lot.

Next spring,

Milkweed and Monarchs show up!

And that’s how to make a Seed Bomb.

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After one of the coldest winters on record, Green Spiral families ventured forth on a warm day in April to visit the famous “Chicken Ranch” in Kirkwood.
Fresh Eggs!

Ranch Fresh Eggs!

The Chicken Ranch is simply the fun name that Bill and Joan Ruppert have given their backyard hobby and chicken house — the complex is big enough to hold 50 chickens, and includes a second story look-out post! It’s quite famous in chicken circles, and if you ask to be on Bill’s email list, you’ll get an informative email about chicken happenings about town from time to time.
Let's go see the chickens!

Let’s go see the chickens!

It was super fun for the kids to feed the chickens, mingle with the chickens and even collect some eggs. After a mink came through a few years ago (yes a mink) and wantonly killed many of the chickens, the Rupperts are in the process of rebuilding the flock, now numbering about 23. They have all sorts of chickens including Americanas, Speckled Sussexes, Barred Rock Plymouths and Rhode Islands.  They also have a rooster, called Ike, who came with a hen called Tina. See if you can spy Ike, the fancy white rooster below:
So many chickens so little time

So many chickens so little time

Fond childhood memories of rural chickens was a theme and the link between generations; who will keep backyard chickens in the future without fond childhood memories to draw upon?  Would a factory farm allow Green Spiral Families to tour their chickens?  How exactly to you check a chicken to see if it’s about to lay an egg in time for dinner?  These are the kinds of questions that rise up when you join an adventure learning group together.
checking the chickens

checking the chickens

Many Green Spiral field trips involve something unexpected. Sadly, or not, there was no misadventure associated with this trip; only a pleasant outing on a warm spring day. The only surprise was that we got to buy fresh eggs at the end of our field trip!

Each a different color.

Each a different color.

 

Of course, the real prize was getting to talk to Bill Ruppert in person.  As a purveyor of wholesale plants, he’s an expert in horticulture and a major player in the movement towards native landscaping; he’s recently worked on the Citygarden, Novus International, and the MICDS projects.  If you get a chance to hear him speak, I would recommend it. Here’s Bill, plus a few links:

Here's Bill

Here’s Bill

About the Ruppert Chicken Ranch: http://www.nnpstl.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/home.showpage/pageID/7/index.htm

Best Plant Ideas: http://www.nnpstl.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/plants.main/index.htm

Bill’s Speaking Calendar: http://www.nnpstl.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/calendar.main/index.htm

More chickens!

want more chickens!?

In the future, you can tour the “Chicken Ranch” by watching for it to be featured on the annual Sustainable Backyard Tour:

http://www.sustainablebackyardtour.com/grassrootsgreenstl.com/Tour.html

Chain of Rocks Bridge

Chain of Rocks Bridge

Okay, this was more of a scouting mission than a field trip, but here’s the scoop on eagle watching at the Chain of Rocks Bridge during the annual Eagle Days celebration:  basically, if you want to see eagles, wait until it’s really cold outside, cold enough to make the rivers freeze, so that the eagles are forced to small pockets of open water, in this case the chain of rocks in the water that parallels the bridge for easy viewing.  Bundle up, pack some hot chocolate in a thermos, bring your own high powered binoculars or spotting scope, come early in the morning and watch the eagles fish.

Where eagles dare to fish

Where eagles dare to fish

If you want to enjoy Eagle Days, on the other hand, pick a nice warm January afternoon, consider it a pleasant walk in the sunshine, and enjoy the festivities.  You will see one or two eagles in the far distance, but the fun will be had at the re-enactment camp, at the live eagle tent, and with all the happy people enjoying a cheerful walk along the bridge.  Even if it is a relatively warm day, take care to bundle up, as the bridge is exposed, and the wind chill will get to your bones.  Remember, children have smaller body masses and get into thermal trouble very quickly.

Take a walk on the wild side

Take a walk on the wild side

Eagle Days is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation, and happens around MLK weekend each year. It’s growing in popularity, so you can’t count on prime $5 parking.

Plan to be funneled into one of the free satellite parking lots, and instead of waiting for the shuttle bus, just start walking along the bike path because you will beat the shuttle bus which sometimes has a 40 minute wait.  It’s about a 20 minute walk, which is nothing for a stroller, but probably too far for a toddler or small child.

Walk, don't ride

Walk, don’t ride

To get to the parking areas from Saint Louis, approach from 270 heading east to Illinois and get off at the last exit (Riverview Drive) before you go over the bridge into Illinois.  Turn right after you exit the highway, and the parking lot will quickly appear on your left, very visible and well marked.

Bring your own snacks, as the food offerings run along the lines of what I would call “carnival food”.  Restroom facilities are porta-potty style.

Funnel cakes for everyone!

Funnel cakes for everyone!

The walk will be your major activity, punctuated by chances to peer into the spotting scopes set up by the rangers along the bridge.  One lone defunct firetruck served as a popular jungle gym, for obvious reasons.  Kids like to climb things.

Climbable Sculpture?

Climbable Sculpture?

The Lewis and Clark re-enactment camps are always fun and interesting, but there is not much for kids to actually do, really, except look and learn. The giant eagle nest photo opportunity is nice, but even better, encourage kids to construct their own giant “eagle nests” in your own backyard upon return.  Obviously, for liability reasons, the MDC can’t have a bunch of kids running around with giant sticks, trying to build eagle nests.

Lewis? or Clark?

Lewis? or Clark?

Scoping out the scoop

Scoping out the scoop

Missouri is one of the best spots in the country to view bald eagles, and the story of the returning bald eagle is a positive message that should be purposefully transmitted to future generations.

Recall that Rachel Carson, the “grandmother” of the environmental movement, first sent up the alarm about the dangers of DDT in her landmark book “Silent Spring” in 1962.

Along with hunting, DDT was responsible for decimating the eagle population, which put eagles on the endangered species list with only 3,000 nesting pairs left in the wild during the 1960/1970s.

Since then, due mostly to public pressure and awareness, eagle numbers have grown to over 10,000 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states, and our national symbol is no longer on the endangered species list.  It’s important to keep building awareness, and keep bringing kids out to see the eagles.

Success stories lend courage to the environmental movement, so share the eagle story freely, (along with closing the ozone hole), because painting a positive vision of the future is our primary responsibility as parents and teachers actively cultivating future stewards of the earth.

Teaching children to love and honor our wild creatures is a cultural value that must be directly taught by adults, (usually parents); the kids won’t get it by osmosis, or necessarily from school or friends.  Books, field trips and videos can help, but nothing beats a field trip or the chance to see a real live eagle up-close and personal.  Send me your photo of the live eagle in the interpretive tent and I’ll upload it here: _______

As a note, I’ve also had good luck watching eagles at Riverlands, or simply by driving along the Great River Road near Grafton, where you can see the spectacular free-fall dance of courtship that eagles do in the air.

In vain search of the courting dance, I found this cool video called “aerial ballet” that shows multitudes of eagles along the Mississippi River in Illinois if you don’t want to burn the carbon to get out near the river this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-n8myR1uXf4

2013-10-06 Stinger fishpond with kids

Here’s a magical field trip anyone can put together:  a visit to see Joy Stinger’s urban micro-farm in the shadows of the highrise buildings near downtown Clayton.

Joy is somewhat famous, and widely known among urban chicken circles in Saint Louis.  In her backyard she has 20-30 chickens, nine beehives, a gazebo of songbirds, an upstairs greenhouse, a koi pond as big as a swimming pool, and two rambunctious Portuguese Waterdogs.  Downstairs, she has a workshop for processing honey and making specialty beeswax candles which she sells at farmer’s markets and local shops around town like Schnaars Hardware and Winslows Home.  You can find Joy at the Clayton Farmer’s Market every other Saturday.

2012-06-01 Stinger Farmer Market

You can see by the photo above that much is written about Joy by major publications; here is a particularly nice posting by local blogger “Recycled Goodness” that includes some very beautiful photos of the downstairs workshop:

http://goodnessrecycled.blogspot.com/2011/02/joy-stinger-beeswax.html

Something interesting always happens on every Green Spiral field trip, and the weather always plays tricks on us; it’s part of the Green Spiral formula about teaching children the power of resiliency by enduring hardship, boredom, and the weather.  In this case, the temperature dropped 30 degrees overnight, and tons of people turned out unexpectedly, making people have to wait their turn to see the chickens, the songbirds, or whatever.

Those who hung around in the workshop got a treat in the end; Joy took us on a tour of her house to see the indoor fishpond, the cookie molds in the kitchen, the exotic kites hanging in the living room, the handmade quilts in the bedroom and the art studio on the third floor.  Joy has had multiple careers of creativity, including that as graphic designer, furniture maker, painter and quilter.  Here are some of her many beautiful quilts, hanging on the stair railing, just above her indoor aquarium:

2013-10-06 Stinger quilts

Joy is happy to host tours, in exchange for selling honey.  When you go, take about 12 – 16 people, (not over 40 as we did), and ask for a honey tasting lesson in the basement; you’ll get to taste three kinds of honey.  Spring honey is the lightest color, as the bees are limited to mostly clover in the spring.  Summer honey is darker in color, as the bees have more food choices, and fall honey is the darkest honey, as the bees diet changes once again and sugars become more concentrated as the days become shorter.  In the workshop, Joy will also show how honey comb is harvested, how honey is processed and how to make candles from beeswax.

 

You can find Joy Stinger and chat with her at Farmer’s Markets and other festivals about town, or buy her honey and look at the label which includes her address and phone number.  Call her up, but don’t bother looking for her email, as Joy doesn’t do email.  When you see her backyard and workshop, you might wonder: who has time for email anyway?

 

2013-10-06 label

Speaking of email: the Green Spiral Field Trips are announced by email, and debriefs are posted on this WordPress blog.  If you sign up for this blog, it doesn’t mean you are on the field trip list, and vice-a-versa.  Send me (Jessie) an email if you want to be on the field trip list, and sign up through WordPress if you want to follow the Green Spiral debriefs, which are posted about once a month, after every field trip.  The debriefs are nice if you are looking for your own ideas for field trips.  The email to get on the field trip announcement list is: GreenSpiralTours@gmail.com

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