Right now you can see snowy egrets in just about every marsh on the Cape. Often they will be feeding or standing together and may be young egrets from the same nest. They will not stay together forever but seem to benefit from being in the family group for a few more weeks. They will continue to feed almost continually until they are ready to migrate south sometime later this fall.
Snowy’s have dark legs and yellow feet. Young ones may have legs that look somewhat greenish or goldish and not as dark as those of adult egrets. They also have a black bill and stand about 2 feet tall. If you are seeing white herons the size of great blue herons they are most likely great egrets but check a good bird book for details since other herons, both immature and mature can be easily confused at this time of year.
Little green herons, commonly just called green herons these days are probably one of the most common birds to see around ponds and marshes and yet they get overlooked and misidentified on a regular basis. At this time of year it is not uncommon to see 4 or 5 of them at a time as young birds have left their nests and are feeding near the areas they were brought up in. Soon they will become more solitary and many will migrate though some will stay quite late into the fall. These birds stand about a foot high and are most commonly mixed up with bitterns, which are much more secretive. The other bird in these pictures is a greater yellowlegs. More on them in the next few days.
Spider crabs are very common on the Cape. They are pretty docile compared to other crabs and are not predators so their claws aren’t very big. Don’t be fooled, they can still give a pinch if they are annoyed or threatened but mostly they mind their own business.
Also called decorator crabs these ground crawling crabs of
ten cover themselves with mud and seaweed to help them camouflage better. They are scavengers though they also eat bits and pieces of seaweed and probably small critters that get caught up in the mix.
Other than the harmless and fun hermit crabs kids lov
e to catch spider crabs are probably the easiest crabs for
children to handle.
Some of my favorite tools for working with kids exploring nature are these little magnifiers. They are very inexpensive, easy to handle and kids love them. I first discovered them working at a local nature center. They can be ordered at places like Acorn Naturalist and at some museum gift shops. I also like white dishpans, plastic trays and little plastic carrying cases with tops.
My very favorite thing is this little aquarium. They are very small and narrow and kids can see into them very easily and can handle them easily too.
They are great when you’re looking at small fish, crabs, etc. They are also great for fresh water exploration, looking at caterpillars, etc.
This squid kept everyone busy for awhile as they checked out its various parts. Did you know that a squid is a mollusk, not a fish?
Some of the fish we have been finding on our marine cruises
All fish were captured and released safely, by the way.
Drag a net through the water and you never know what you might find….This little clump is actually a clump of squid eggs. Female squid lay their eggs in long “candles” which are attached to something on the ocean floor such as a rock, shell or seaweed. Other female squid may add their own candles and each clump may actually have eggs from many different squid. When you find these on the beach or in tide pools they look sort of pinkish and feel squishy like jellyfish. They can be quite a bit larger than the one shown here.
(I know I have some marine and squid experts out there so please feel free to correct me or add whatever you’d like in the comment section!)
Have left me busy enough to not be blogging and I have a lot to catch up on. Here are some photos from some recent trips I’ve done with families to do some nature journaling and exploring.
Water lilies always make great subjects.This young lady is exploring all sorts of marine goodies we dragged up in a net.A frog had left the pond and was hanging out under the bushes in the shade so this artist got right down on the ground to draw it.Can you see the frog?