4.27.17 Fox Walkers | Spotting the Spotted Towhee

This past week in our Fox Walkers Forest Kindergarten, we had another super fun week! in the sunshine!

We try to reinforce our nature connection "core routines" at program whenever we can. Our most used core routines so far have been Owl Eyes, Deer Ears, and Sit Spot.  This week during story we heard about Moon Bird and Running Deer's dog, Coony, who sometimes transforms into a raccoon. Raccoon touch is one of our core routines: Raccoons have extremely sensitive fingers and gain a lot of information about the world around them through their sense of touch.  Raccoon touch can be as varied as running your hands over a smooth surface, testing the moisture content of wood on your top lip, or feeling the cool breeze on the back of your exposed neck.  

There are so many ways to explore Raccoon touch in the forest, but we focused on practicing playing a fun game called Meet-a-tree. Meet-a-tree helps strengthen your other senses as well, but a inquisitive sense of touch can certainly help you find your tree friend later! Some children are more comfortable being the leader, while other seem to thrive being blindfolded, but everyone young and old seems to love this game! If you haven't played and are curious, ask your child to show you how to play...

One magical moment came as we were practicing our fox walking while headed towards the river.  As we approached to forest edge we spotted a big gray squirrel and began quietly stalking towards it. The squirrel was hip to our game and quickly scurried in the bushes. The children kept moving quietly though and when they were at the edge of a snowberry thicket, a quiet trilling song was clearly audible. Everyone got to look up and see a beautiful black and white bird with orange on its sides and a bright red eye singing his heart out from the top of the snowberry.   

After it was finished and flew away, I pulled out a little Washington Wildlife fold out guide that has a bunch of birds on it.  With almost no hesitation, the kids all pointed to Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)!  They were able to describe why it was the towhee and were 100% correct! The Towhee is a common bird in our area that is often mistaken for the American Robin at first glance. The two are superficially very similar and are found in the same places, but when you the white belly and white tail flash of the towhee stand out and if you see that bright red eye, there is no mistaking it!  

It was great to organically ID a local bird friend who happens to be nesting right now! Towhees nest at 5' or lower and often times are right on the ground. In fact, Melissa spotted a Spotted Towhee nest in Fairhaven Park a few weeks ago when she noticed the dad alarming at her from above while the momma darted off of her ground nest. This is a great time to pay attention to the language of the birds - they reveal all kinds of secrets! 

One more moment to touch on was while we were exploring the river, Melissa and a few of the kids found an active bee nest in a tree.  They safely vacated the area and it gave us a good excuse to discuss safety if we happen to disturb a yellow jacket nest. We practice some scenarios that all included running as a group a safe distance away from the nest. This is a very common hazard in Western WA and I am grateful for a safe opportunity to go over this safely without scaring the kids.

After what felt like a full day, the whole group blew off some steam tree climbing (and riding our "horses" all over the world) and then playing a big barefoot game of "Fire in the Forest" in the moist green grass of the meadow!  If your children happen to be tired on Thursday afternoons I would not be surprised - these are some full spring days!