I got into Woodland around 10:00 am, so I went over to The Nugget and got some of their premade deli sandwiches and muffins to share with the students. Roxane had a similar idea and brought a box of cookies and some homemade Rice Krispies Squares. She makes hers with cinnamon, so they were extra yummy. She also brought 10X “loops” (small magnifying glasses) for all of the students so they could bring them out into the field with them tomorrow. That was soooo nice of her!
Our guest speaker was Robyn from the River Otter Ecology Project. He had done a lecture for the winter class earlier this year and we really enjoy having him come up. He works primarily in the Bay Area, but he does a lot of outreach outside San Francisco County. He’s a quiet, kind of retiring man, until he’s talking about the otters. Then his passion really shows through. One of the thing he pushes for is the citizen science projects his organization is doing all over California: Otter Spotters, https://riverotterecology.org/otter-spotter-community-based-science/. If you see otters, their scats or their slides, you take photos and then load them up on the otter-spotter site. That way, the organization can create maps of where the otters are in the state and how many people are seeing them.
This was the class when we did the final exam quiz, what we call our “Your Naturalist Knowledge EcoBlitz Game”. We split the students up into teams, and they answer questions based on what we taught them throughout the entire length of the course. Whichever teams ends up with the most correct answer wins prize bags worth over $400. This time around we had a relatively small class, so we broke them out into two teams: the Murderous Crows and the Eager Estivators. The Estivators were ahead through most of the game, but then the Crows pulled out in front with their final lightning round of questions.
This class brings out the
competitive spirit in otherwise low-key docile students, and also lets the quieter
students shine when it’s their turn to answer a question for their team. The energy in the room gets so high,
especially toward the end, that everyone is exhausted by the end of it. Hah!
Around 11 o’clock, my co-instructor Bill Grabert and I took all of our stuff over to the library to set up for the Certified California Naturalist class, and our guest speaker arrived around the same time: Jenny Papka of Native Bird Connections. She’d done a lecture for our winter class earlier this year so she kind of knew the drill. She set up her bird stuff while we finished setting up the classroom.
Jenny brought a Peregrine Falcon, a Swainson’s Hawk and her Eurasian Eagle Owl with her this time. Since she was ready to go when the students arrived, we just let her go first and did our announcements when she was finished. We also to a break when she was done, so the students could get photos of the owl and the props Jenny had brought with her.
About halfway through Jenny’s presentation, our volunteer Roxanne Moger arrived with a box of bird’s nests she’d gotten from a retired teacher, and a HUGE live sphinx moth caterpillar in a jar. She’d been cutting down some grape vines for her neighbor and found the caterpillar on them. Super cool.
It kind of looked like a tomato hornworm, but was gray instead of green and had a eye-spot on its rump. I’m not sure but I think it’s the caterpillar of an Achemon Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha achemon). They’re the kind of caterpillar that pupates underground, though, so Roxanne will have to put a couple of inches of dirt in the bottom of the jar, so the caterpillar can bury itself when it’s ready. It might overwinter under the dirt, so we may not be able to see it until next year…
After the break, Bill did the chapter on forest management, and I did a module on bird species identification.
Because it was a holiday weekend, only about half of the students in our Certified California Naturalist program showed up for this class, and we didn’t have a guest speaker. So, it was a more “intimate” group, and we got to do a lot of species identification stuff and showed the students how to use the various facets of Calflora.org and CalScape.org for plant species identification.
This particular class focused on plants, so our volunteer/fellow naturalist Roxanne Moger, brought in her display of a variety of different seeds. The students took time to go through them and tried to figure out the mechanism the plant might use to disperse its seeds.
Nate also helped to augment the class with a “spot the critters” exercise. He was showing the class images from the field cameras we have set up at the Silver Spur Ranch, and how he has to go through the photos carefully in order to see what’s actually being recorded. ((This is the project being funded in part by the grants I got from the Sacramento Zoo.))
After an early morning meeting, I was totally exhausted by the time the naturalist class started. But I didn’t want to miss Hillary Kasemen from West Coast Falconry and her talk on falcons.
She brought with her “Cubby”, a male Anatum Falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) a subspecies of Peregrine Falcon also called an American Peregrine, “Aerial”, a female American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) and “Islay”, a female Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus).
We learned, among other things, that because they fly so fast (up to 200 mph in a dive) falcons have an exaggerated tubule in the nose to help channel air so they can breathe better. Jet engines are made with the same kind of “baffle” (nose cone) in the center. “This example of biomimicry is very retrospective in that engines weren’t first designed this way.” Nature never ceases to amaze.
And we also learned that the hoods often used in falconry help to calm the birds. Falcons take a lot of information in through their eyes, and can get visually over-stimulated at times. Put a hood or other covering over the eyes helps to cancel out some of that stimuli.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and some video snippets. #CalNat
Some students asked why we have presentations like this during the naturalist classes, and the reason is two-fold: (1) we want to introduce students to live specimens of species they might not otherwise encounter, and (2) we want to provide students who capstone ideas and volunteer opportunities.