Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites
Spring 2013             

Dear Junior Ranger,
Spring is an exciting time in the natural world.  In this issue, Signs of Spring, we will look for things in nature that are coming to life during this busy time of year - from spring wildflowers to birds returning from migration (like the Hooded Warbler - the Cool Critter pictured in the last issue).
Get outside and enjoy this beautiful time of year.  Take a walk or a bike ride, enjoy a picnic with family or friends or find a quiet place to sit and watch the wonders of the season unfold. 
Cindy Reittinger
Chief Naturalist, Georgia State Parks
Also in this Issue:
* Who Lived Here? 
* Ask the Naturalist
* Try This!
* Kerchoo!
*  Warblers Are Back
* Trout Lilies
* First Butterflies
* Outdoor Fun

Cool Critter
Can you identify this cool Georgia critter? 

Correctly identify this animal by April  28th 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.

Include your first name, and your age.

Who Lived Here?

Correctly identify the historical figure who once lived at this historic home by April 15th and be entered to win free admission to visit the site with your family.  Email your answer to the Chief Naturalist.
Note:  The historic home pictured in the last issue was the Chief Vann House.
Try This!
Birds are busy building their nests right now and they often use man-made found items.  Scientists have documented bird nests that included candy wrappers, dollar bills, colorful yarn and much more.

Try stuffing an old mesh onion bag or unused suet cage with pet hair or cotton yarn cut no longer than 3 inches.  Hang it from from a tree in your yard for birds to use in nest building.

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

Dear Chief Naturalist,
What is the worst invasive plant pest in Georgia?
                    Solomon, age 10     
                    Dallas, GA

Dear Solomon,
Cogon grass (pictured above) probably poses the worst threat in Georgia. 
The Georgia Forestry Commission has issued a statewide alert for cogon grass and is monitoring the plant wherever it is found.

Learn More About It

Check out these books at your local library:
A Kid's Spring Ecojournal by Toni  Albert & Margaret Brandt
Everything Spring (National Geographic Kids) by Jill Esbaum
Sharing the Seasons: A Book of Poems by Lee Bennet Hopkins & David Diaz
Wildflowers, Blooms & Blossoms (Take Along Guides) by Diane Burns

Photo Credits
Masthead, Linda Patrick
Cogon Grass, University of Georgia
Mourning Cloak, Encyclopedia Britannica
Tiger Swallowtail, Wikipedia

Spring is Here!

The lavender flowers of the redbud tree are a sure sign that spring has sprung!

Color Change?
Georgia's green anoles are most active in the spring.  On a hike last week I saw my first of the season - a bright green male with his red dewlap extended.  He does this to attract females and defend his territory from intruders.

This small lizard cannot change color to match its background as some mistakenly believe.  Color change is determined by the anole's body temperature, behavior and activity level. 

If you are not sure how to pronounce "anole" you are not alone. 

Pollen is another sure sign of spring.  The small male cones on pine trees produce tiny pollen grains that are carried on the wind.  While the yellow dusting of pollen is inconvenient to us - especially allergy sufferers - it is a necessary stage in the tree's life cycle.

The Warblers are Back!

Wood Warblers are a family of brightly colored, fast moving, little birds.  Most of the warblers that live in Georgia go south in the winter. Their return in the spring is highly anticipated by birdwatchers. 
The "masked bandit" pictured is a common yellowthroat, one of just 24 warbler species that breed in Georgia.  It can be found nesting in wetland areas across the state.  About 1/3 of Georgia's warblers nest only in the mountains.

Things to do:
* Go outside and look & listen for signs of spring.  Take a camera or sketchbook to record what you find.

* Watch the live FalconCam of a peregrine falcon nest in downtown Atlanta.
*  Watch a live white-breasted nuthatch  nest in metro Atlanta.

* Listen to the witchity, witchity call of the common yellowthroat.
Trout Lilies are Blooming

One of the first woodland wildflowers to appear in the spring is the trout lily (pictured above).  The plant's speckled leaves resemble the splotches on a brook trout which is how it got its name.  The nodding yellow flowers open in the morning and close at night.

First Butterflies


The mourning cloak (pictured left) and the zebra swallowtail (pictured right) are two of the first butterflies to appear in the spring.  Both are unmistakable; their distinct markings are unlike any other Georgia butterfly. Can you guess how the zebra swallowtail got its' name? 
Things to do:
*  Go for a hike and look for wildflowers and butterflies.
Track the migration of hummingbirds and monarch butterflies at Journey North.  Join the fun and report your spring arrivals!
*  Plant a butterfly garden - include plants that provide food for caterpillars as well as nectar plants for adult butterflies.  If you want to keep it simple plant parsley in a pot and wait for a black swallowtail to find it and lay her eggs.

Outdoor Fun
Nature Hikes
Go on a ranger-led hike at a Georgia State Park to see wildflowers, birds & butterflies.
WildflowersCloudland Canyon, Red Top Mountain, Unicoi & Vogel
Birds: Crooked River, F. D. Roosevelt, Hard Labor Creek, High Falls, Red Top Mountain
Butterflies: Hard Labor Creek

Great Gopher Chase
Visit Georgia State Parks in June and join in the Great Gopher Chase.  Take your picture with a gopher cut-out at participating parks to earn prizes and the right to submit a name for our Gopher.

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