Begin with viewing the Postcard from the International Crane Foundation video. Enjoy the sights and sounds of spring. After the video, consider asking some supplemental questions. A few example questions include:
Have you seen any of these plants or animals in your own neighborhood?
What animals benefit from early blooming spring ephemerals?
What habitats are these plants and animals found in?
Why don’t all flowers bloom at the same time?
Another great video to watch is Phenology – Climate Wisconsin. Nina Leopold Bradley, one of Aldo Leopold’s children, explains the importance of phenology and the significance of cranes in Wisconsin. Record keeping is an essential aspect of being a phenologist, and Aldo Leopold was well known for his meticulous notes about the cycles of nature. Nina Leopold Bradley continued her father’s tradition of documenting phenological changes.
Our next activity is creating a nature journal, the main tool phenologists use to keep track of seasonal changes. For this, you will need paper, a writing utensil and the great outdoors! If the outdoors is not accessible right now, Explore.org and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have some fantastic webcams from which to choose. You can make your nature journal anything you want – from jotting down a few notes to creating works of art.
To start a nature journal:
1) Find a piece of paper or journal and a writing utensil and head outside.
2) Record the date, time and weather in a small corner of the page.
3) Observe! Use your senses. What do you see, smell, hear or feel? Look at the landscape around you as well as the small details. Which flowers are blooming? Are there any insects on the ground, in the air or on a plant? Any firsthand observations should be included in your journal.
Some prompts for this can include:
What do you notice?
What does it remind you of?
What questions do you have?
4) Write and/or draw what you see. Quick sketches with descriptions are the most common in nature journals.
5) Research! What species did you encounter? It’s always helpful to consult a field guide. And, many useful free apps are available, such as Audubon and Seek, that can assist you in your explorations.
5) Keep it going! Use nature journaling to keep track of the amazing seasonal changes around your neighborhood or park. Try to journal in all seasons and note the differences in the world around you. Making a habit out of nature journaling will bring the most enjoyment. In time you will get to know many of the thousands of organisms that call your neighborhood home!
Some alternatives to the traditional nature journal: focus on one organism, like an osprey (you can use this nest webcam) or a specific tree in your yard and keep track of the progress of leaves or behavior, such as building a nest, eating fish or raising chicks. For a more scientific approach, consider this phenology activity from Hubbard Brook, a research foundation with the U.S. Forest Service.
We also encourage you and your family to explore the multitude of apps and online resources available to assist in phenology exploration!
Status of Spring – National Phenology Network – Is it spring yet in your neighborhood? Has it arrived earlier or later than expected? Check out the National Phenology Network’s collection of interactive maps to find out.
BirdCast – A bird migration forecast great for those looking for new bird species.
Nature’s Notebook Mobile App – An app specifically designed for phenology and recording animal and plant life cycles.
iNaturalist Seek – Ever wish you could snap a photo of a plant or animal and your phone could tell you what species it is? With Seek, you can do just that and much more. In addition to identifying species, you can also record and share your observations onto iNaturalist, the world’s largest community database of species observations!
For more phenology-related content, please visit our NatureNet partner, Aldo Leopold Nature Center, and their #PhenologyFriday series here.
What do you think? Please send your feedback to [email protected]. We would love to see photos of you and your kids learning about phenology and exploring the outdoors. We will see you next week for Week 6 of Quarantine with Cranes!