Hi from Jamestown, NY! I am Rachel Stewart and currently an intern at the Audubon Society holding the position of the Nature Education Internship. I started my first day here at the Sanctuary on Monday June 2. I spent my first 2 days becoming oriented with the trails and how Discovery Walks were conducted by shadowing other field guides and talking with the volunteers.
Wednesday June 4:
I led my first Discovery Walk with a Fredonia and Dunkirk Pre-K class and their parents today (which we were unaware were coming and then doubled my group size on my first tour). We saw chipmunks, geese with their goslings, a water snake, a bullfrog, a minnow, snails, skunk cabbage, nesting boxes and Liberty (our resident Bald Eagle). Afterwards I shadowed and helped feed the live animals living in the sanctuary including: Milton, Ebenezer, Clockwise, and Lincoln (all turtles), a variety of fish, a spotted salamander, American toad, spring peeper, a garter snake, and a yellow rat snake.
Thursday June 5:
Today, Katie, Sarah, Crin and I went down to Panzarella Point in downtown Jamestown to meet 2 classes of Love Elementary 4th graders. There, one class came with Katie and I and the other was split into 2 groups to do a nature walk with Crin and Sarah along the Chadakoin River. They observed a Robin's nest with eggs, fish (bluegills), and invasive clams. Katie and I demonstrated the relationship of predator and prey through a game involving coyotes and rabbits. Five kids were assigned a resource (air, water, space, food, and shelter) and stood in a hoola -hoop with a colored pencil and piece of cardboard, spaced out around the play area. Two were assigned to be coyotes (including myself). The rest were rabbits. The rabbits had to visit each resource and get their paper checked off without getting eaten (tagged) by a coyote. Only one rabbit was allowed in the hoop at a time. Once a rabbit had all 5 resources checked they returned to the starting tree (rabbit graveyard as we liked to call it) and became a coyote. We played until there were no more rabbits. This was followed by a lesson on the relationship between the two animals using a graph and examples from the game. The next round we added a hunter to the game and then talked about the implications of that as well on population. Back at the Audubon I also discussed with Sarah my intern project. I will be updating, branding, and making their Arboretum Guide more interpretive while adding my own personal touch.
Friday June 6:
The morning started by bringing fire wood to the pit for tomorrow's Moth's and Moonlight event. Emma painted moth mash on the trees. This consists of fermented fruit and old beer to attract the moths to the specified trees. I was also oriented to the "Club House" where all the indoor and outdoor tools are kept by the maintenance volunteers as well as Liberty's care center. We thawed her food for tomorrow (a fish and chipmunk) and looked at how the caretakers record and store her food. Much of the food is donated, for example Randolph Fish Hatchery donates over 300 pounds of fish a year to the Audubon. Frozen foods lack B vitamins that Liberty needs so Jeff explained that a vial of yellow B supplement was kept with the food and injected into the animals (other than fish because it disintegrates) to keep her healthy. Next I continued my self guided walk around the Arboretum in order to start my project. I finished recording all the currently marked trees with number and the name of the tree as well as which side of the trail they were on. I also made sure to tag the ones that were planted as a memorial for a person in order to recognize that in the book. At 11 there was a "First Fridays" talk given by a couple returning from Argentina and Chile that we went to (mainly just pictures for an hour). I finished the day writing a proposal for the updating of the Arboretum Guide.
Monday June 9:
On Saturday from 830-1030 the Audubon held an event called Moths and Music. There was light refreshments and a selection of local beer and wine and music by a local man who also happened to be our insect specialist. For the rest of the night we spent looking at moths, mosquitoes, caddis flies, mayflies, midges etc. on white sheets that were set up at different parts around the Audubon. We used specimen jars, a black light and flashlights to see them.
(Monday) Discovery walk to a small group of second graders. We visited the garden and Liberty before going out Paved Trail and looking in nesting boxes, seeing dragonflies, bumble bees, green and bull frogs, a water snake, a predacious diving beetle larvae, and lots of poison ivy. We came back through Bunny Trail and made it through many mosquitoes to see the decomposing snapping turtle and the "underworld" (dead logs with critters under them). We looked for the deer bones but were unable to find anything other than a deer's leg bone. Other exciting news...there was a dead frog in the parking lot (the kids got a kick out of this), a fawn was found in the tall grass on the outer edge of the land and Emma (my roommate) had a groundhog in her car. I also finished writing the proposal for the Arboretum Guide. Jeff, Emma, Emma, Conner and I ended the day doing pond dipping looking for macroinvertebrates. We found water beetles, leeches, dragonfly larvae, water scorpion, backswimmers, lots of peepers in various stages of the life cycle, spiders, and many other creatures. A 12 spotted skimmer was newly emerged and easily handled (it landed on my face). Also, female American Toad died in her cage after 16 years.
Tuesday June 10:
Today I was Trail Guide for 2 of Panama Elementary School's 3rd grade class for their Discovery Walk. We did my loop including the garden, Liberty, out the Paved Trail and back Bunny Trail. The kids were great and very enthusiastic about nature. We saw a bunch of stuff including bones, dead snapping turtle, green bees that have been there for 20 years, the edibles in the garden, Liberty fly, a water snake, green frogs, Tree Swallow nest etc. One of the dragonfly larvae that we caught yesterday for Jeff had a parasite on it and it "birthed" a white skinny worm out of its abdomen in front of his 6th graders this morning. In the afternoon I continued working on organizing and branding my project.
Wednesday June 11:
Today was spent working on and re-working my Arboretum Project. It was suggested and approved that I take on signage throughout the trail and an archway at the entrance. I need to now finish the guide book and talk to Land Management and see what the Land Interpretive Plan is to talk about sizing, engraving, etc so that both tools are cohesive and interpretive. There is also talk of writing and implementing a policy for the future layout and plan of the arboretum.
Thursday June 12:
I led two more Discovery Walks today for kindergarten and second grade kids and assisted lunch monitoring the recycling area. Afterwards around 2, Jeff, Conner, Emma and I went pond dipping again to catch more macroinvertebrates. By the end Emma and I were in the pond up to our knees rotating nets as we caught more things to add to the bucket. I also managed to step on a turtle. Following the theme of turtles, the maintenance crew found snapping turtle eggs in a wood chip pile. We relocated them and now there are 25 turtle eggs in a tank in our office. They take 6-8 weeks to hatch so hopefully (depending on temperature and how much they got jostled) we should have baby snappers by the end of the summer.
Friday June 13:
This morning's Discovery Walk did not go smoothly. The 1st graders did nothing but give the trail guides headaches (a few of us at least). My group visited the garden, Liberty, the paved trail, the overlook, the underworld and the bunny trail. We saw lots of green frogs, a leopard frog, snails, slugs, birds, dragonflies etc. We looked under logs and found earthworms and ants and checked out the decaying snapping turtle. The rain held off until the kids left but then drenched me and the other interns when we went out to collect flying insects with the aerial nets. Unfortunately, I promptly squished a beautiful dragonfly I caught. Our yellow rat snake has not eaten recently. He needs to take a visit to the vet because during his last shed he did not get rid of his left eye scale and it is now stuck. He has been trying to get it off and its threatening to rip out his eye. Also, Emma and I caught an American Toad yesterday at the cabin to replace the female that just died. We needed to catch a male as to not take a breeding female out of the population. We managed to find a male (you can tell this by gently squeezing in front of its back legs and if they chirp its a male, this tells other males not to try and mate with that toad) however we could not keep him because Audubon permits require them to be found on the property. It is also not wise to relocate them to a new population because of bacteria, fungi and other diseases that one but not the other may be immune to.
Monday June 16:
No Discovery Walks today. We had the usual morning touch base meeting in the kitchen with coffee and updates about the weekend and activities. Interrupting our meeting was a volunteer that was mowing. She came in and reported that there was a gosling limping on the hill where she was trying to mow. After googly eyes at Sarah we went out and corralled the goose before I CAUGHT IT! Emma and I then had an ethical conversation about what we wanted to do with the gosling. There were three options...take care of it and keep it at the cabin until it was ready to be released, take care of it and call Shanon (an animal rehabilitator) and our last option was to release it back out to be food for the coyotes. Although it is the circle of life it would have been extremely difficult to release it to be eaten after having held it and looked at its face. So we decided that first aid would be good to perform and also a call to Shanon too. Emma and I used a tank and soaked its leg in a saline solution and then used isopropyl alcohol to clean his wound further. Then we used Neosporin and gauze to wrap the wound and stuck him in a cage with grass and water to take it easy. Shanon is came at 2:00 to pick it up. I spent the rest of the afternoon working on organizing my first week of camp and continuing my intern project.
Tuesday June 17:
2 Discovery Walks today! It was hot with high humidity; perfect for small 2nd and 3rd graders. We saw many things today such as, a painted turtle covered with duckweed, a water snake, bull and green frogs, dragonflies, green bees etc. There was also a female snapping turtle in the parking lot today that had just laid its eggs in an ant hill in the back. We are trying to protect it from critters like raccoons that will try and eat them. However, it may be a futil attempt since snappers also make fake nests to deter predators. This afternoon we have an adventure...dragonboat riding on the river.
Wednesday June 18:
While the rest of the staff had First Aid Training in the Auditorium I spent the day in the office continuing to work on updating the guide. I have been trying to complete this so that I can move on to the next steps before camp starts. However, making sure that the whole thing is branded correctly has proven to be a pain and is very tedious.
Thursday June 19:
Today was field trip day in order to thank all the volunteers that work here at the Audubon. It was raining and the turnout was not great but we all had a blast. We took the JAS van down to Kinzua Bridge in the State Park and had a park ranger all to ourselves. We are not like all the other groups humorously. The 8 of us stopped every 5 seconds to look or smell or touch or eat something new and climb on things we shouldn't have been. The structure was amazing. A 301 foot tall bridge made out of steel came partially down with a tornado. The crumpled steel was laying at the bottom of the valley. When we walked down we saw wood ferns, braken ferns, cinnamon fern, sensitive ferns, Christmas ferns, wild strawberries, a snake, a bird nest, an indigo bunting, and heard oven birds, black throated green and black throated blue warbler. There is a new app I want to download called IBird.
Friday June 20:
Today was the last Discovery Walk and also the day I got shadowed unfortunately. The group was a little uninterested today but we saw many of the same things along with a predacious diving beetle, three baby turtles, a snapping turtle, a leopard frog and a doe nursing its fawn. I spent the rest of the day trying to re-catch the leopard frog and working on the arboretum guide.
I also went pond dipping and got ready for tomorrow's event.
Saturday June 21:
Today was the Great Lakes Experience in Dunkirk. Emma and I left the Audubon at 9 and made it to set up around 10. This was an all day event with people from places like the Buffalo Audubon, Fish and Wildlife Service etc. We were there from 10-5 and talked with between 600 and 700 people. At the booth we had a live snapping turtle, displays that the kids to touch and interact with and information for the parents. Also, a craft that the kids could do.
Monday June 23:
Today I mostly worked on my project more while being a mom to a baby wood duckling that was found on the trail and brought in. It is now Emma and I's pet and the most loved duckling in the whole world. I looked up how to take care of them and they are difficult. He's only 2 days old and this time is critical. We have to keep him warm at all times and its important that he eats almost constantly. He needs love and attention at all times as well. I have hope that he will live and can be released later this summer! (if he doesn't imprint first).
Tuesday June 24:
Today was the start of Counselor Camp. We learned songs, crafts, activities, games, took a trail hike etc. so we knew things to do for the kids. We also learned where everything was within the building and what to do in case of emergencies, fire drill etc.
Wednesday June 25:
The duckling died today :(
We had a burial for him this morning under a tree in our designated graveyard. It was also the second day of counselor camp so more songs, crafts, team building, etc.
Thursday June 26:
Today was the last day of counselor camp. We went on a nature walk and used the aerial nets. We caught dragonflies and damselflies, mosquitoes, diurnal moths and butterflies. We also caught a brown snake and a short headed snake both getting ready to give birth. In the water chestnut pit (where they bury the water chestnuts pulled every Saturday so they don't continue to spread) we found and saved a female painted turned that had fallen in and overturned most likely laying her eggs somewhere close.
Friday June 27
Monday June 30:
Today was the first day of Nature Nuts Day Camp. I am counselor for 8 boys and 4 girls until Thursday. I have two assistants, Gwen and Tony. Today we played name games, sang songs, made a list of activities, played camouflage in the little field, saw a frog, played obstacle course, checked out the pepsi plant and the sensitive plant, saw a monarch caterpillar, played and sculpted with clay and caught a garter snake.
Tuesday July 1:
Today was the second day of day camp. We played in the mud, played a water game, played opossum, saw a leopard frog, bull frogs, a green frog, and Liberty. We also found animal tracks and identified them. We also saw a baby American toad and a grasshopper (another reflex bleeder).
Wednesday - Thursday:
These were the last two days of camp. I learned patience, time management and teaching skills. Wednesday we went bird banding with MAPS and caught and banded a Rose Breasted Grosbeak and a juvenile House Wren. After that we had snack and then went pond dipping to catch critters. We ended up collecting water scorpions, snails, baby bullhead, tadpoles, giant water beetles, backswimmers, a pickerel, a bass, and a fishing spider. After lunch we went out to the big field and did aerial nets catching mostly orange dragonflies, diurnal moths and a butterfly. On Thursday we went on the all day hike starting at about 10. We had snack on the overlook and talked about invasive species, habitats, ecosystems and niches. Afterwards we walked the trails exploring and identifying things. I tried to catch a massive female water snake that ended up biting, musking and pooping on me before slithering into a hole. Later in the day we played on the trampoline log, made peep houses, watched a dragonfly teneral and played mud man.
Monday July 7:
Over the weekend I hurt my knee thanks to some stupid dogs and am now in crutches and a brace, waiting for an MRI. Hopefully camp will not be terribly affected. Instead of walking today I continued to work on my Arboretum project.
Tuesday July 8:
Today, the first day of mini camp was all about plants. We read plant books and explored the outdoors and the garden. They snacked on edible plants and spotted different types on our nature walk.
Wednesday July 9:
Thursday July 10:
Today the mini campers and I learned all about birds. We visited Liberty and talked about what makes a bird a bird then went in the woods and made nest out of natural materials. Then we took a walk and tried to find as many birds as we could and hear their calls as well. The campers also colored pictures of birds and we read a book about them during snack. We also played camouflage.
Friday July 11:
Today was the last day of mini camp and we focused on our senses. This includes listening to bird calls and crickets, touching plants, trees, bugs etc, smelling flowers, trees, air, tasting edible plants and berries in the garden, and seeing everything the outdoors has to offer. Before snack Emma helped me with a live animal program. We finished the day with lollie pops, reading and sharing circle.
Monday July 21:
Today is my last day back from my week off. It was full of preparation for another week of Day Camp starting tomorrow. This week I have Green Play in the morning and Nature Music in the afternoon. Green Play is focusing on connecting children to nature in an unstructured way. Nature Music's goal is to listen to all the sounds nature has to offer, learn songs about nature, and make instruments from natural materials to make music of our own.
Tuesday July 22-Friday July 24:
This was the rest of the week of Green Play and Nature Music Camp. These camps are very unstructured because of the age of the children so we went with the flow of each day. Our activities included playing on the hammocks, taking nature walks, making peep houses, listening to the wind, birds, crickets, etc., finding frogs and snakes, catching worms for the turtles, making shakers out of sticks and beads, singing songs, and doing a live animal program.
Saturday July 26:
Today was the Wild 5k that another intern Crin organized. Her hard work paid off and it was a success. I helped work the finish line from 9:30-12.
Monday July 28:
The start of another week brings back the routine of Monday. We have the morning "what do you know?" meeting in the kitchen over coffee at 9:15 and then the "touch base" meeting at 10:30 to go over the calendar. Tasks today include getting ready for camp tomorrow (writing lesson plans, getting organized), cleaning up headquarters from the week before, uploading pictures to Flikr from camp, taking care of the caterpillars and butterflies we are raising etc.
Tuesday July 29:
Today was the first day of my Eco Explorer camp with the oldest group of kids I have had so far. They are 5-7th grade, so 10-12. There is also one of me and eleven of them! They are incredibly enthusiastic and eager to catch and observe wildlife. The goal of this week is to learn what we can about ecosystems, habitats, food chains and food webs, invasive species, biodiversity and communities. We walked around the ponds twice today on a mission to find as much wildlife as possible in hopes of catching an American Toad or Leopard Frog. We caught neither but saw many green and bull frogs, 7 water snakes (one of which I caught and promptly bit me in the hand), a baby grackle, and a baby painted turtle. The turtle is now in our classroom after we recreated the habitat it was living in outdoors and talked then about natural versus artificial habitats. We also did a live animal program in the discovery room where I took out the turtles and the Yellow Rat Snake we have at the Nature Center.
Wednesday July 30:
Today the rain did not stop us! As soon as the whole group arrived we went downstairs and took a net for each of us and a few cups and containers for critters and set out for the ponds. After a good 2 hours of pond dipping and 3 ponds later we had many creatures to show for it. This included a water scorpion, many large dragonfly larvae of a variety of species ready to emerge within the next day or two, snails, giant water beetles, back swimmers (that bite), 2 leeches, fish (including a baby bullhead and a large pickerel, tadpoles, and a gravid female water snake that was about 3 feet long (no bites today). After lunch and adding some our finds to the tank with the turtle we played opossum upstairs and camouflage outside after checking out the mourning dove in the sweet gum tree.
Thursday July 31:
Today consisted of more rain and a failed attempt at aerial nets. We did catch a Virginia Chanuchid (I'm not sure how to spell that) moth that was gorgeous. We also played many games of camouflage and ended the day in the pond having a competition to see who could become most like the pond habitat we were looking at.
Friday August 1:
Today we were supposed to do our all day hike but instead due to complaints, flew around Big Pond briefly checking out what the forest had to offer before going back to the Nature Center to eat lunch. Afterwards we played in the Underworld and the kids did the obstacle course before returning out past Spatterdock and playing Mud Man and building forts with another group. Our list of finds today includes a water snake, lots of frogs, a baby snapping turtle, spring peepers, red back salamanders, a northern slimy salamander and a dead chipmunk.
Monday August 4:
Today was the traditional Monday with the morning meetings and coffee to touch base. Then it was preparation for my camp this week which is Friends of the Earth. This is all about learning to be kind to the Earth, each other, and the wildlife we come across.
Tuesday August 5:
Today was the first day of camp with the 1-2 graders. We made tree friends and colored name tags for them in their favorite colors. We learned what being a friend of the earth means and visited Liberty as our first friend. Today also included orientation of the building and a fire drill. We also played camouflage in the field and did a live animal program.
Wednesday August 6:
Today we went on a long hike! We made it all the way around Big Pond (about 3 miles) before lunch. On the way we saw many dragonflies, snakes, grasshoppers and crickets, skunk cabbage and played in the pit of death (where the water chestnuts are buried). For snack we stopped at the 3 story tower overlooking the pond and saw 2 Great Blue Herons and a White Tailed Deer. Once we got onto Spatterdock Bridge and stopped to admire a garter snake the bridge broke! I thought we all were going in the water. After lunch back at the Nature Center, we went on another shorter walk and saw a baby turtle, snapping turtle bones, skunk cabbage, kissing berries, more snakes, visited the underworld and said hi to our tree friends. We ended the day picking blackberries (and eating them), playing games and climbing the mulch pile.
Thursday August 7:
Today was a great day! We made bird feeders out of tennis tubes, sticks, paint and bird seed and then hung them in the trees where everyone could see them. We released a newly emerged Monarch Butterfly onto a cone flower in the garden and afterwards checked out the milkweed next to the building. I split up the kids into teams to have a competition to see who could rip out the most of a Japanese Honeysuckle Tree (harder than you might think). Tomorrow they get treats. We visited Liberty and the Underworld again today and went on another walk. Yesterday was full of snakes, today was packed with frogs. We learned that even by killing the honeysuckle we were being friends to the earth because it was an invasive species and the other plants needed our help.
Friday August 8:
Last day of Friends of the Earth.
Monday August 11:
The usual meetings and preparation. Second printing of Arboretum Guide today.
Tuesday August 12:
Today was the first day of Surprise Camp and I only am in charge of 4 children this week. This allows a lot of flexibility with the schedule and the kids get to pick a lot. Today we went on a walk and saw lots of water snakes. I caught one and managed to get bitten. We also saw frogs and snails and grasshoppers. My group also made shadow boxes that we will finish tomorrow. After lunch their surprise was watching a movie which was Planet Earth, the freshwater episode. Then we joined with Ms. Emma's group for another walk where 7 more snakes were found and three were caught. No bites this time. We made our way across Spatterdock and found a garter and red-bellied snake before turning around to come back.
Wednesday August 13th:
Today we took a long walk around Big Pond. We spotted deer and lots of snakes. We had lots of outside play time and then went pond dipping in Spatterdock Overflow catching a lot of fish!
Today we played pranks on the other groups, saw lots of snakes and had a huge game of camouflage.