Tag Archives: wild animals

Teacher movie night at the Smithsonian

My sons and I went to IMAX movie night at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum this month.  Each teacher was allowed to invite one guest and William, who teaches 4th grade, invited his brother Thomas.  I invited my husband, but he was in California judging a VEX robotics competition.  So, the three of us met at East Falls Church and took the Metro to Federal Triangle and walked over to the museum.


Outside the Natural History Museum

Before the movie they had some of the mobile cart exhibits in the foyer.  One had some very neat ocean fossils which we were allowed to touch and explore and another had insects from the insect petting zoo


Fossilized vertebrae of a whale


Rows of shark teeth waiting to take the place when one falls out


Petting a hissing cockroach

Learning about the tomato cutworm/sphinx moth

Large grasshopper

Large grasshopper

The first movie was “The Ultimate Wave Tahiti”, an exciting 3D movie filmed in Tahiti showcasing two famous surfers, Kelly Slater and Raimana Van Bastolaer.  The movie skillfully embedded lots of knowledge on how and why waves form.  It would be a great film for the upper grades, especially those studying landforms or the ocean.

During an intermission we were invited into the Ocean Hall to explore the exhibits.  It was very cool to be in there after the museum has closed and we had this huge space practically to ourselves.

Looking up at the whale exhibit

Looking up at the whale exhibit

Many displays are interactive including this one with pull out drawers to show collections

Many displays are interactive including this one with pull out drawers to show collections

The next movie was my favorite and was “The Flight of the Butterflies”; also in 3D.  It felt like you could reach out and touch the butterflies as they flew about.  It highlighted the history of the Citizen Science Project and the discovery of the monarch winter hibernation grounds in Mexico through the story of Dr. Fred Urquhart who developed a monarch tagging system to discover where they migrated to each winter.

I highly recommend going to see either of these movies.  If you are a teacher, your admission is free-any time, any day, for any Smithsonian IMAX movie that is not a feature film.  Here are some places to get more information about teaching migration, ecology, biodiversity and the process of scientific discovery through the study of monarch butterflies.

Flight of the Butterflies

Maryland Science Center

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project

Monarch Watch

Journey North


Another week at “The Libby”

The sharp shinned hawk, front facing view

The sharp shinned hawk, rear facing view

The week after mom and I discovered the weekly animal shows at the Libby Museum, my son and husband were visiting and so we made a point of going to the presentation by the science center. This week they had three animals, all birds, a different Sharp Shined Hawk, a Saw Whet owl and a Falcon.  The owl was very tiny and very cute!  When my son was a young boy he aspired to be a falconer and seeing the falcon reminded him of that goal again.

All the animals at the Squam Lake Science Center are there because they have been orphaned or injured and could not be returned to the wild.  The falcon was brought in with a broken wing and you can see that his wing droops a bit lower than the other wing.  He either was hit by a car or ran into a power line, they aren’t sure which.


The animal handler had a great visual of the owl’s eyes.  If we humans were to have eyesight as good as that of this little owl our eyes would have to be this big!

Not much space left on our faces if we humans had eyes this big!

This is how the talons of a raptor close in around the prey.

The Libby Museum

The Libby Museum at Winter Harbor on Lake Winnipesaukee is owned by of the town of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.  The museum, is celebrating their 100 anniversary this year.  When my own two boys were small they spent many years enrolled in nature programs at “The Libby”, as it is affectionately known.

One Wednesday this summer, my mother and I stopped by and they happened to have a program with three live animals led by the naturalists from the Squam Lake Science Center.  They had a Sharp Shined Hawk, a box turtle and a real live beaver!

I learned that box turtles have a large habitat of about 100 acres and that they know all about the food sources in their personal habitat as they are very territorial.  If you remove them from this habitat to captivity and then go to release them later and do not release them in the same spot where you got them from they will not survive.  Southern New Hampshire is the only part of the state where you find box turtles which explains why we don’t see them up at Lake Winnipesaukee.  Hawks have very light skeletons with holes in the bone so they can fly fast and beavers have a peculiar odor!

Most of the animals at the museum are stuffed.  Not cute little sewn from fabric animals, but taxidermied animals, which means they once were alive and after they died the skin, fur and hair were preserved.  After removing the organs the animals were stuffed to make them look real again.  Here are some photos of the live animals from the science center visiting The Libby Museum.

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Bear lecture

One morning this summer my husband and I went to Castle in the Clouds  www.castleintheclouds.org for a talk on bears given by Ben Kilham.  It was the second time I have heard him speak.  The first time was at “The Libby” right after he wrote a book titled “Among the Bears”.  Since then he has made two TV documentaries on bears for both the National Geographic and The Discovery Channel.

Because we had seen a bear in our yard earlier this summer we were interested in hearing more about them.  Ben is the first person in NH that the state Wild Animal and Game Department gave a license to so he could actually keep bears that were orphaned and help them learn to survive in the wild.  You can learn more about him here at the state site:  http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Wildlife_Journal/WJ_sample_stories/WJ_b01_Bears_Kilham.pdf

or here at his own website:  http://www.benkilham.com/Benkilham.com/HOME_PAGE.html

Checkered Adder

One night I was climbing up the “hill” in our backyard.  Well, it really isn’t a hill, it’s only about 4 feet high!  It is our septic system and we have planted it as a daylily garden and put two “recycled chairs” (which really means we got them for free at the town dump) on top to sit in.  Low and behold, look what was on the path!

A checkered adder

My neighbor says it is a Checkered Adder.  Feel free to Google “Checkered Adder” to learn more.  I can tell you that he liked to open his mouth very wide and show us the pink inside.  I guess we were supposed to feel scared away by that.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a very good picture of him (or her) doing that.

He (or she) is back!

I’m not sure if our visiting black bear is a he or a she but it came back this morning.  I first saw it out back when I opened the door and walked onto the deck.  I heard something that sounded larger than your average squirrel, chipmunk or bird, which are frequently around our house. It was the crack of a stick and then I saw a large bush on the other side of the dirt road swaying.  My car was in the way so I couldn’t get a really good view.  Two more steps and I could see the bear sitting and looking at me so I retreated into the house, saying “yep, it’s a bear”. Often when I walk out that door I speak loudly into the air “if there are any bears out there, go away, I am coming out”!  I don’t really expect to run into one so it was a surprise when I did.

Can you spot the black bear looking at me from the other side of the dirt road?

About ten minutes later I spotted him again out front near a blueberry bush which hangs over the water.  Eventually he wandered out of the bushes so I could get a good photo of him.  I took the picture from inside the house through a glass window.

Maybe he just wanted to borrow a kayak?

Right before he ran away to the next door neighbor’s yard. How big do you think he is? As in, how much does he weigh?

The New Hampshire Seacoast Science Museum

The New Hampshire Seacoast Science Center

Inside the Seacoast Science Center is a museum geared towards young visitors.  It isn’t a big museum but it has a lot of neat exhibits skillfully laid out to make the best use of the space.  They have a tidal pool with starfish, sea anemones and hermit crabs.  Another tank housed horseshoe crabs and small sharks. Under the guidance of a naturalist, kids and adults too can reach into the tank and touch these animals.  They also had some large aquariums with a blue lobster, seahorses, and many different fish.

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