Well, March this year certainly came in like a lion and went out like a lamb! On the first of March we still had ice in our birdbath and the days were cold enough that I was regularly bringing our hot potato edible hand warmers and a thermos of hot water to warm the kids’ water bottles. The cold weather this month meant that many of the plants we usually see during this season are still dormant.
The children were very physically active this month in equal parts because of the cold weather and because of the spring energy palpable just below the surface. With Orion as chief architect and engineer, we completely disassembled, repositioned and rebuilt our sturdy bridge across one side of our mud puddle. The children are having fun alternating between using it as a fishing dock with their stick, yarn and Doug fir fishing poles, and using it as a jumping off point in order to create a large splash in the mud puddle.
We are continuing our adventures in orienteering and have been creating new trails by following small animal paths. We have been practicing orienting ourselves by using landmarks and by triangulating. We have been challenging the children to figure out where the four directions are by using the sun as our guide.
As the weather warmed up throughout the month, the animal and insect world became much more active. We began to hear the lengthy bubbly song of the winter wren, the distinctive eerie call of the varied thrush, and the insistent begging sound of the towhee. Several birds have discovered where we eat snack and seemed to vie for a position so they can be the first ones to forage after we leave. One day, we watched a robin and a towhee searching for insects and worms by scratching at the dirt and leaves. We had an opportunity to observe the robin at close range pull a worm from the soil, eat it in one gulp, and fly to a nearby branch using the moss to wipe its peak like a napkin!
With the increasing bird activity we have had a lot of opportunities to talk about different types of birds that live in our environment. We have also discussed the three types of feathers that all birds have, why different birds have different types of feet, and why different birds have different types of beaks. The children are becoming experts on identifying our native forest birds by their songs.
The spiders, the bumblebees, and various other insects have emerged from hibernation. The bald faced hornet that we had discovered hibernating in one of our decomposing logs, which we left undisturbed except for carefully observing it every day, was gone one warm morning this month.
We have been learning how to identify trees by looking at their bark. We noticed that there are distinct differences in the tree bark of the Douglas fir, western hemlock, red alder and madrona. We have been talking a lot about roots of plants and their root hairs and how they help the plant or tree by stabilizing it and providing nutrients from the soil. One day we found a huckleberry branch that had re- rooted from where the top touched the ground.
This month was the season where we could observe the slightest new growth on many of our plants: tiny bracken ferns rising above the ground, sword fern fiddlehead babies arising from their “nest”, trailing blackberry vines creeping out over our trails, leaf buds on elderberry, and new sprouts of miners lettuce, sticky wicky, and sweet cicely.
By the end of this month there were several days that the children were stripped down to their T-shirts. Sun chasing, one of our favorite winter pastimes, has given way to sunbathing and sun lounging.
By Erin Kenny ©2011