by Teacher Peter Manzelmann
Before we (first trimester ODL students – 1st 4th 6th grades) move on to identifying ten common trees on our Friends’ campus, students have been discovering, catching, and identifying red-legged grasshoppers and field crickets. We discovered that grasshoppers, when handled, spit up this brown liquid. Why? The students and I concluded that it was a defensive mechanism to avoid being eaten by a hungry predator. We have also found many praying mantis’ all around the campus. Teacher Mark, his daughter Madeline and I even found a headless male outside the main office (females bite off the male’s head after mating) that was still moving throughout the day!
SAVE THE DATE! – the last Saturday of October 2018! I was thinking of all of you this past Saturday as I had the most incredible experience. This past Saturday, my wife and I drove down to the Cape May Lighthouse to help out at the annual Critter Fest. Amazing! There were snakes, big insects, spiders (tarantula crawled up my arm!), giant snapping turtle, dog athletics, sea creatures, crafts and much more at this well attended event. Your kids would have loved it. But there is more. Just across the parking light is the Cape May Hawkwatch platform. If you have never experienced this fall extravaganza of migrating hawks and eagles, you have too. Drag your kids out of the house and blame me! Because of New Jersey’s geography, migrating birds funnel right down the eastern edge of the DE Bay and along the NJ coast to the tip of the peninsula at Cape May. On the hawkwatch platform are helpful, experienced “raptor counters” that call out the numerous bird species that are flying overhead and even sometimes just a few yards from you! Due to the passing weekend cold front, it was a great day to watch eagles, peregrine falcons (fastest bird in the world), loons, kingfishers, warblers, osprey and more all zipping right by. Your kids, again, would have found this interesting. And if that was not enough, naturalists and Monarch specialists held workshops demonstrating the butterfly tagging and teaching about Monarch ecology. Children, parents, and grandparents listened intently as the experts showed their knowledge and enthusiasm for this incredible nature event.
So remember, at the end of September you can join me at the Cape May Lighthouse for an unmatched and memorable time with critters, migrating birds, and our precious (yet endangered) Monarchs. It’s worth the drive and well worth the battle to get your kids in the car! Go for it!
Note: Hawk Mountain (west of Allentown) and the Cape May Hawkwatch are world famous for their Fall raptor migration. The next two months will still be exciting for the hawks and eagles keep coming! Wait for a cold front to pass through and the north winds will help push these miraculous flyers from the great north to their winter homes.