I just got back from a little family vacation where we went to the luxurious place I called home for many years (i.e., “the Jersey shore”). Don’t get me wrong, being with the kids any day takes my breath away (from both ends of the spectrum, let’s be honest). But, spending time along the Atlantic coast on the barrier island where I grew up (as a local, not just “for the summers”) is such a different experience with the kids (four and one) is a remarkable opportunity to really settle and enjoy each moment through their eyes. Here are some fun ways that not only I, but the older family members around me, came to enjoy living like a kid again. Please feel free to comment and share what makes you feel like a kid again too.
Those huge platforms along the causeways are there for a very important reason. Osprey build their nests on them. They’ll also build their nests on any open platform free from predators and near shallow water. But, the man-made platforms have really help to bring back populations of osprey after their sharp decline in numbers due to DDT. Each year the huge raptors, also known as “fish hawks” because 99.9% of their diet is fish, wait until after the water thaws to build a nest. Since the winter was so long this year along the Mid-Atlantic many of the birds just made their nests in March/April. With an incubation period of just over a month and the young needing just about two months before they take off from the nest it was a perfect time to follow along with Greg Kearns of Patuxent River Park in Upper Marlboro, MD, as he banded juvenile osprey (don’t worry, he has a permit for this kind of thing).
Osprey are banded at a young age to help determine their migration patterns, life expectancy, as well as reasons for mortality. The band that is placed on the young is very light weight and has not hindered their ability to catch food. I am incredibly grateful for his time and dedication to his efforts in conservation and education. Thank you for your enthusiasm and sharing your knowledge with the Mid-Atlantic Marine Education Association late last month. Here are some more interesting facts learned along the way:
- As with all birds of prey these birds have very sharp talons. But, the osprey have a reverse talon making it easy for them to grasp their prey with two toes in the front and two from behind.
- The male usually scopes out the spot for the nest to be built several days before the arrival of the female.
- Osprey are asynchronous incubators and do not hatch all at once. The female typically lay four eggs but usually one two survive. While they do share food distributed by their mother the oldest one dominates.
- The hunts for food for the mother and young and before he returns to the nest with food he’ll eat about one-third of the fish. Hunting for fish does burn a lot of calories after all. The mother and young will eat the rest of the fish, but seem to not favor the gut of the fish. The adults generally need about 300 grams of fish per day.
- There is a 40-50% chance of survival for the young. The average age of an osprey is 8-10 years old. The oldest tracked osprey was found to be 33 years old.
- Their nests are made of sticks from the surrounding marsh plants, as well as animal hide or even litter such as plastic bags.
- Young osprey have orange eyes that turn brown as they get older.
If you live near shallow water and want to build a platform there are several plans available here: http://www.osprey-watch.org/
To watch a pair of osprey raising their young during this nesting season from the comfort of your own screen check out the Patuxent River Park’s Osprey Cam here: http://www.pgparks.com/
Still looking for that perfect gift for a certain little one? I have to admit I am the aunt that likes to wrap up books (yes, and usually one of these ocean-themed children’s books). However, in the spirit of the giving during the holiday season, and in watching little eyes twinkle, it’s fun to also wrap a little something extra. Here are five gift ideas for inspiring a love of the ocean in the next generation:
1. Stuffed horseshoe crab (pictured) from the Partnership of the Delaware Estuary, Inc. Shop: It’s a steal for just under $13! Over the years I have managed to acquire a lot of these and with that my four-year old now thinks horseshoe crabs are cuddly and cute and isn’t intimated by them when she sees them along the coast. She even brought this into preschool for the letter “H”! Proceeds help the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Inc.
2. Polar Bear from Vermont Teddy Bear: I hear this bear loves warm hugs! “He’s made of super-soft and cuddly, long white fur and his adorable, long Polar Bear snout features a realistic nose.” Made in the USA.
3. Coastal inspired linens and clothes from Wish Kingdom: Wish Kingdom is made from the finest cotton fabrics and trims. All items are pesticide and formaldehyde free. Each applique’ is cut and sewn by hand, so no two are alike. Made in the USA.
4. Match stacks game – sea things from Abe’s Market: “Even toddlers who are too young to play a memory game will love matching and stacking the shapes and vibrant colors while exploring and enriching their vocabulary.” Made in the USA.
5. Ocean Discovery Box from Green Kid Crafts: “Our entire family got in the fun to play pin the tail on the whale. It was hilarious! So thankful for the memories you provide.”
1. Barbados natural rope sandals (pictured) from Gurkees: Who knew they’d make great beach walking shoes in West Virginia? Not only that, but there is also some fun candles, belts, and keychains.
2. Custom map and nautical chart jewelry and accessories from Chart Metal Works: Need I say more? Well, it can get better … the products are made in Maine. Definitely a gift to be treasured!
3. Long time, no sea pillow from Uncommon Goods: Handmade from recycled materials and completely on sale.
4. Mermaid bottle opener from Waypoint: I mean, what’s not to love? It looks like it was found during a shipwreck expedition! It’ll make a great story for anyone.
5. Seashell planter from Ten Thousand Villages (fair trade retailer since 1946) : “Spiraled seashell in creamy ceramic holds a cascade of vines or flowers. Handcrafted in Vietnam.”
6. Sportsman sunglasses from Randolph Engineering: “Designed for the outdoor enthusiast, this extremely durable frame stands up to harsh conditions in high style.” Made in the USA.
7. Sea of love poster (pictured) from Uncommon Goods: Printed on 100% recycled newsprint paper, this 12 x 18 inch print features 12 hand-drawn illustrations and a message of love and is a great gift for the couple that loves to spend time at the ocean. Made in the USA.
8. Taps, tees, pint glasses and a whole lot more from the Dogfish Brewing Company: It’s an idea for the beer girl or guy on your list. And, why not toss in one of these nifty ice buckets from Mr. Ice Bucket made in New Jersey for over 50 years. I’m sure there is a ton of great stuff from your local brewery or winery as well.
9. Food, food, food from the Fresh Lobster Company, LLC: Yum, yum, yum in the tum, tum, tum. Corny, but need I say more? I live in Virginia and am so grateful for every opportunity to travel to the coast for fresh seafood … a gift where it was delivered to my door would be amazing! Shipped from sunny New England.
10. Beach to boat tote from Skipper Bags: Gorgeous, multipurpose bags with lots of great options and colors. I think there is even a code to save on shipping. Fill it with some beer or wine and you have a great hostess gift if you’re traveling over the holidays. Made in the USA.
Tony Pratt’s career in science began because of a love for the outdoors. And yet, the more he climbed up through management, the less time he spent outside.
Pratt runs the Shoreline and Waterway Management section of Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, which oversees regulation of coastal construction, dredging projects and beach replenishment.
With Delaware’s beaches contributing an estimated $7 billion to the state’s economy and nearly 60,000 jobs, Pratt, who has been called the state’s beach guru, has a high-profile job. But it’s also one that keeps him in the office most days working policy, budget and personnel issues.
Still, despite the demands of his day job, you’re likely to find Pratt crouched along the waterline or in a mucky marsh near one Delaware’s beaches working as a nature photographer during his off hours.
Long before he became a scientist, Pratt was taking pictures. Now a professional, he got his first camera growing up in Massachusetts. In the sixth grade, he and a friend built a makeshift darkroom in a bathroom, developing tiny 2×2 prints. And he pored through the pages of his parents’ magazines: Look, National Geographic and Life.
“I don’t think I read a single word,” he told BeachChairScientist.com in a recent phone interview. “The pictures were everything to me.”
Later, he went to Hampshire College, where his classmates included the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. Pratt brought his camera with him on fieldwork studying the return of coyotes to western Massachusetts. But he was drawn east to the beach and to the study of the pounding waves and the ever-changing coastline that would become his life’s work.
He and his wife later relocated to Delaware and raised three children. All the while, Pratt continued taking photos. He became a sports photographer. He worked the sidelines for his children’s games all the way through college. In 2007, he got an important break. Kevin Fleming, a former staff photographer for National Geographic who lives in Delaware, asked Pratt to help out on a photography project.
Pratt didn’t hesitate to say yes, but he also asked Fleming for a favor. He wanted to tag along the next time Fleming went out shooting.
“He got me to the next level in digital photography,” said Pratt, whose work now is exhibited at Fleming’s store in Rehoboth. “He’s been a great mentor.”
A few months ago, Pratt captured a rarely seen phenomenon called the green flash, which comes off the top of a rising or setting sun and is visible only for a fraction of a second under the perfect atmospheric conditions.
Pratt said there’s no doubt he got lucky. But, he added, there’s luck — and then there’s good luck. And good luck, he said, comes from preparation.
“You go where the subject may be whether it’s the landscape or the wildlife,” he said. “You go where it is. You do your homework. You find out where things are likely to occur … and so you go back and you go back and you go back. And you make yourself be out there.”
It’s Pratt’s job to know everything about Delaware’s beaches, which, of course, helps inform his work as a photographer. But photography has helped Pratt in his day job as a state official, too.
“I do see systems that are sand starved,” he said, talking about his photographic excursions. “It’s not that I would’ve learned about them because of photography. I know about them because it’s part of the job and folks are out there looking.”
“But by the same token, I can go back to the job invigorated and perhaps energized a little bit more because I’ve been out there looking at red knots that are eating horseshoe crabs, and I understand the importance of quality beaches that will allow that phenomenon to continue.”
For more about Tony’s photos, visit TonyPratt.com and to learn more about Delaware’s shoreline management section, click http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/
My husband isn’t happy about this … But, recently, I have found a new love of birds. It’s because we live in the woods and not near the ocean, so those flighted friends have stolen my heart just like fish did back some many years ago. My husband thinks it is hysterical since we grew up in Cape May County, NJ and birders are synonymous with “tourists”, a group to which locals have a love/hate relationship. But, I don’t care … I can hardly contain my excitement for this Saturday – during World Shorebirds Day!
The celebration was proposed and organized by György Szimuly, a well-known bird conservationist based in Milton Keynes, England. Szimuly set out to promote and celebrate shorebirds.
Find out the differences between a seabirds, shorebirds, wading birds here.
“The idea to hold a World Shorebirds Day was inspired by the ongoing conservation issues we have been facing,” Szimuly said. “I think that setting a commemorative day for shorebirds will give conservation bodies and individuals another chance to educate.” He continues that “This is not particularly a citizen science program, but rather an effort to raise awareness for the importance of regular bird monitoring as the core element of bird protection and habitat conservation.”
“I think the global shorebird counts are a good get-together event,” Szimuly said. “I asked birdwatchers to book their site now, where they can go counting shorebirds on the 6th and 7th of September.” There are hundreds of sites and counters already registered for the World Shorebirds Day. The ‘booked’ sites can be seen on the event’s Google Map. https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=z3yRwAVo2mAw.k42bDqIRe7a4.
Earth’s surface is about 70% water. But, only 1% f that is freshwater that is easily accessible (found in lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds). Thanks to McGraw Hill for pulling together this infographic illustrating the amount of water of the surface of the Earth that humans can actually use … just a drop in the bucket really. Consider this reality when thinking about what’s going on over in California this summer with “its third-worst drought in 106 year“.
Taking a trip this summer to the beaches along New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, or North Carolina? Don’t forget there is a lot to see beyond the sea. Late last month my family and I were back home briefly and decided to check out the Nature Center of Cape May. It was the perfect venue to brush up on some local natural history, view wildlife over the Harbor (with a pair of their lender binoculars), get an up close look at some terrapins and snakes, check out the colors in one of the multiple butterfly gardens, and even had time to get creative at the arts & crafts table. What is your favorite nature center spot at home or on vacation to the shore?
The mission of the Nature Center of Cape May focuses in providing quality environmental education experiences, encouraging stewardship of the harbor area and other natural areas, and promoting volunteerism as a rewarding means of community involvement and service.
Last March I spent some time focusing on what we do in our communities that affect watersheds. Forgive me, but I’m just now getting around to sharing some quick and simple (repeat: simple, simple, simple!) household practices that are not only better for my local watershed, but also the growing family and I. Each of these products reduces our plastic impact and uses ingredients that are significantly less toxic than their commercial counterpart.
In addition to water, you only need at most three ingredients for each of these – all of which you can purchase from Amazon, Target, or Trader Joe’s.
Laundry detergent from Wellness Mama: All you need is pure castile soap, borax, and washing soda
Liquid hand soap from Thank Your Body: All you need is pure castile soap
Simple Homemade 3-in-1 Cleaner from Frugal Granola: All you need is white vinegar and lemon (or essential oils)
Vanilla Coconut Brown Sugar Scrub from Treehugger: All you need is coconut oil, brown sugar, and vanilla
Wipes (great for cleaning tile, counters, leather, and flooring) from Wellness Mama: All you need is liquid castile soap, 100% pure aloe vera, and witch hazel
In an effort to keep my life a little less crazy, I do try to find homemade household product recipes that use only a few common ingredients (read: three or less). Do you have any other great ideas worth sharing?
This isn’t the typical list of the most popular Beach Chair Scientist posts throughout the year (you can find those on the right sidebar under “Top Posts & Pages from BCS” any day of the year). Those posts typically include questions typed into a search bar such as ‘Are manatees and elephants really related?‘, ‘Do sharks have bones?’ or ‘How much salt is in the ocean?’. This list is a review of my favorite posts from the past year and why I enjoyed them:
- 99 reasons I’m in Limulus Love: Before the horseshoe crabs started mating in May and June I sat down and cataloged a list of 99 reasons Limulus polyphemus are a creature worth respecting.
- All five posts from the “What we do affects our watershed week“: This series was a great reminder that even though you might not live anywhere near a river, lake, or stream our daily actions have massive consequences on the waterways – and ultimately the ocean.
- Mother Nature vs. Santa Claus: 13 reasons why Mother Nature should always win: This post was a response to the Toys ‘R’ Us commercial that pitted nature against toys. It’s important to remember what Mary Catherine O’Connor with Outside Magazine stated as the “tremendous value to childhood development (as well as to self-awareness, health and confidence) that is spending time in the natural world and trying to understand how it works”.
- A seal on the shore isn’t always stranded: This post is a nice reminder to stay back and let nature takes its course, also you never know what you’ll come across during a wintry beach walk.
- 3 truths on the fables about dolphin-safe labels: It was an eye-opening post to write and discover that just because it’s labeled as dolphin-safe it isn’t safe for all marine life.
- A Scientist’s Inspiration (by Jim McElhatton): This interview with Dr. Penny Chisholm, recipient of the National Medal of Science, should be a must read for anyone in school with even a slight interest in science as she explains how “My interest in science grew slowly as I went through school”. She also explains the merits of writing for children in that it helps to boil down the subject matter.
- Beach Chair Birding, A Ray of Hope in a Sea of Chum, A Visit from Dungeness Crab: These posts are three of my favorites because they were all contributed by guest bloggers. Ernie Wilson, Jim Wharton, and Cherilyn Jose each brought a perspective as unique as they are … I can’t wait to see what they’ll share next year! If you’re interested in guest blogging please feel free to share your ideas anytime!
Say it isn’t so! Unfortunately, it’s the truth: Toys ‘R’ Us has pitted Mother Nature against Father Christmas.
In case you missed the buzz in late October and early November about the Trees vs. Toys commercial I’ll share some of the outrage (that I share, but haven’t expressed until now) from Twitter.
So how exactly did Toys ‘R’ Us miss the mark? Well, they portrayed nature as a drab, boring place and toys as much more exciting. However, here is a list (in no particular order) of compelling reasons from doctors and other experts in the environmental education field on why kids need nature, not just toys, in their lives.
1. “Children who climb trees, make mud pies, explore streams, stare at clouds, collect leaves, make swords of sticks, wish on dandelions, build forts and fairy houses—these children are exercising their bodies as they exercise their imaginations, with no batteries required, and are immeasurably the richer for it.” Todd Christopher, Senior Director of Online Communications with National Parks Conservation Association and author of The Green Hour
2. “Time outdoors reduces obesity, improves academic learning and behavior, and helps gets kids excited about learning.” Amanda Paulson, Staff Writer with Christian Science Monitor
3. “Because our health is intimately linked to the health of our environment, we can’t have one without the other. In order to protect and conserve the environment, we must first value it. In order to value it, we must know it, and in order to know it we must touch, smell, breathe, and experience Nature. By getting people outside in Nature, I find that much more happens than weight reduction, lower heart rate, and a sense of focus and well-being.” Dr. Robert Zarr, Founder of Parks Rx
4. “Of tremendous value to childhood development (as well as to self-awareness, health and confidence) is spending time in the natural world and trying to understand how it works.” Mary Catherine O’Connor with Outside Magazine
6. “While playtime is important, spending some moments outdoors is especially good because it helps with the physical, mental and cognitive development of a child.” Dr. Tandon
7. “Children come alive when they step out into nature. It may not be loaded with bright and shiny electronic toys that whir and buzz, but the forest has its own sparkling magic and children feel it instantly.” Barbara Tulipane, President and CEO with National Recreation and Park Association
8. “Kids in the woods get other benefits too. They breathe in fresh, clean air and get more oxygen. They can run and play and burn more calories while getting stronger bones and improved muscle tone. Their internal sleep clocks are reset by the bright daylight and they can count on a better night’s rest.” Barbara Tulipane
9. “Problems associated with alienation from nature include familiar maladies: depression, obesity, and attention deficit disorder.” Richard Louv during an interview with the editors of Scholastic’s Parent & Child
10. “Scientists have discovered that bacteria on the surface of the skin play an important role in combating inflammation when we get hurt … Parenting groups welcomed the findings as ‘a vindication of common sense’ and urged parents to allow their children greater freedom to play outdoors.” The Telegraph
11. “We are negligently risking the health of our students — and by extension posing a health threat to the Earth — by not ensuring them adequate time to play outdoors in beautiful “wild” spaces.” GreenHeart Education
12. “Time in nature enhances children’s creativity, and the complex thinking, experimentation and problem-solving that nature affords carries over into their academic and interpersonal lives.” Susan Sachs Lipman, Director of Social Media Promotion and Partnerships for the Children & Nature Network
13. “Nature (Vitamin N) can have a profound positive effect on children’s mental and physical health,” Dr. Mary Brown, past member of the board of directors for the American Academy of Pediatrics
Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences being a kid in nature or taking kids in nature. Comment below!