Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites
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Spring 2011           

Dear Junior Ranger,
In this issue of The Georgia Junior Ranger  we are going to take a closer look at life under rocks and logs.  The amazing creatures that live there are some of nature's best recyclers.  They break down dead plants and animals and return nutrients to the soil.  Our world could not function without them.
Cindy Reittinger
Chief Naturalist, Georgia State Parks

Also in this Issue:
* Cool Critter Contest
* Ask the Naturalist
* Pill Bugs, Worms & More
* Spring Fun

Cool Critter

Can you identify this cool Georgia critter?
Correctly identify this animal by April 17 and be entered to win a free Park Pass - good for free admission to all Georgia State Parks for a whole year!  Email your answer to the Chief Naturalist.

Read & Learn More


Visit your local library and check out these titles:
* There's a Hair in My Dirt: A Worm's Story by Gary Larson
* What's Under the Log by Anne Hunter
*  Under One Rock by Anthony D. Fredericks


Ask the Naturalist
Have a question about nature?  Junior Rangers can submit their questions to the Chief Naturalist.

Dear Chief Naturalist,
I have been watching the birds at the  bird feeder in my backyard all winter.  With the help of a field guide and my mom I identified the different kinds of birds.  We used to see lots of dark-eyed juncos but, I haven't seen them lately.  Why not?
Kate
Atlanta, GA




Dear Kate,
When people think about birds migrating south for the winter they usually think of places like South America.  But, for some birds "migrating south" means coming to Georgia.  In most of Georgia Dark-eyed Juncos are winter residents only.  They head to their breeding grounds farther north in the spring.  That is why you aren't seeing them in your backyard anymore. Junior Rangers who live in the north Georgia mountains may see juncos year-round.  Everyone else has to wait until next fall to see them again.

Wow - What a Fungus!

This large fungus found at Hard Labor Creek State Park is commonly called Lion's Mane or Satyr's Beard.  It typically occurs in the fall on wounded trunks of hardwood trees - especially beech, maple and oak.


Photo credits:
Masthead: Linda Patrick


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Under Rocks & Logs
There is an amazing world of small creatures living under rocks and logs and you don't have to travel far to find them.  Many of them live in your backyard!
 
Millipede vs. Centipede

Like other creatures that live in the soil under rocks and logs, millipedes (pictured above) like dark, damp places.  Most millipedes have 30 or more pairs of legs!  They all have two pairs of legs per body segment and  when disturbed some release a chemical that smells like cherries.  I confess; I have shaken one in my cupped hands to test this and it is true!  Fortunately, millipedes don't bite. 

Centipedes DO bite so make sure you know the difference. Centipedes have a single pair of legs on each body segment and the last two pairs are directed backwards.   They are fast runners compared to the slow moving millipede. 

Things to Do:
*  Watch this video to see the difference between centipedes (shown first in the video) and millipedes.

Pill Bugs
Perhaps the most widely recognized "rock dweller" is the  pill bug, the Cool Critter pictured in the last issue of The Georgia Junior Ranger.  Roly polies, as they are commonly called, have the special ability to roll up in a ball when they are disturbed.

Things to Do:
* Go outside and look under rocks and logs in your neighborhood.  Make a list of what you find; other possibilities include beetles, crickets and fungi.  Remember that these places are animals' homes; you should keep disturbance to a minimum and follow these rules:
  1. Always put rocks and logs back exactly as you found them.
  2. Never reach into places where you can't see what is inside.

Beneficial: Worms  & Termites

Earthworms (pictured above) and termites (pictured above right) may also be found under rocks and logs.   While it is bad news to have termites in your house, they are beneficial in nature.  Earthworms with their ability to create topsoil are a huge benefit to mankind.  Their burrowing aerates the soil while their droppings provide fertilizer.

Things to do:
* Worm Activities for kids
* Learn the worm song.  This silly song is a favorite to sing around the campfire!
* Learn how to build a worm bin and compost your kitchen scraps.

Spring Happenings

Georgia Mountain BirdFest
, April 28-May 1
Unicoi State Park
Beginners as well as experienced bird watchers will learn new things while enjoying the north Georgia mountains at the peak of spring migration. This exciting new event features field trips, hands-on activities, classes as well as free Public Programs. Learn more.

Wild About Wildflowers, April 9, 23 & 30
Cloudland Canyon State Park

Enjoy a guided hike to look for spring wildflowers in Cloudland Canyon.
 
 


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