Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites
Winter 2011           

Dear Junior Ranger,
This year in The Georgia Junior Ranger  I will be encouraging all of you to take a closer look at nature. You will be amazed at what you can find if you just take the time to look - even in your own backyard.  In this issue we will  take a closer look at animal homes.
Many thanks to all of the Junior Rangers who responded to our Snow Day Bird Count! - see results below.
Cindy Reittinger
Chief Naturalist, Georgia State Parks
Also in this Issue:
* Cool Critter Contest
* Ask the Naturalist
* Snow Day Bird Count

* Nests, Burrows & More
* Winter Fun
Cool Critter

Can you identify this cool Georgia critter?
Correctly identify this animal by Jan. 22 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.
Ask the Naturalist
In this new section of the newsletter Junior Rangers can get answers to their questions about nature.  If you have a burning question you can submit it to the Chief Naturalist and it may end up in the next issue of The Georgia Junior Ranger.

Dear Cindy,
I found rows of holes on the tree in my backyard.  It looks like somebody drilled holes in the tree trunk.  What are they?
Jack, age 10
Decatur, GA

Dear Jack,
The holes you are seeing were made by a yellow-bellied sapsucker, a beautiful woodpecker that lives in Gerogia during the winter.  Sapcuckers drill holes in the bark to eat the sap - that  explains how they got their name.

Male yellow-bellied sapcucker
Snow Day Bird Count
Thanks to the many Junior Rangers who counted the backyard birds they observed Jan. 10-13.  They all discovered that bird watching is a fun snow day activity!   

A total of 25 species of birds were reported including: Black Vulture, Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow,
Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, American Goldfinch.

Read & Learn More 

Visit your local library and check out these titles:
* Animal Homes by Ann O. Squire
* Bugs & Critters I Have Known by Ann Heiskell Rickey 
Photo credits:
Masthead: Linda Patrick

State Parks Logo
At Home in Nature

If you were a wild animal where would you make your home?  Shelter is essential if you want to survive outdoors; it protects you from the weather and provides a place to hide from predators and raise your young.

Who Lives in this Leafy Nest? 

Winter is a good time to look for squirrel nests in the treetops.  They look like a pile of leaves caught on a branch.  The nest is built with twigs and leaves and lined with grass and other soft material.

Things to do:
* Have fun building your own shelter in the outdoors using branches, leaves and pine needles.
* Go outside and see how many squirrel nests you can find in your neighborhood.
* Watch Nesting Squirrels video

It Looks Like Spit!

Have you ever found what looks like spit hanging on a plant?  Chances are it was created by a spittle bug nymph.  This group of insects, commonly called Froghoppers, pierce plant stems and suck out the sap.  The sap is used to create foamy bubbles that provide a hiding place/home for the insect.
Things to do:
* Need a Halloween costume idea for next year?  Check out this spittle bug costume.
* Next time you see a spittle bug home gently reach inside with your finger and find the insect. 
Crayfish "Chimneys"
All crayfish breathe through gills so they need access to water.  While most of Georgia's 70 kinds of crayfish live in open water like streams, there are about 25 species that are only semi-aquatic. 

Semi-aquatic crayfish dig burrows to provide access to groundwater.  The mud ball stacks created by their burrowing are called chimneys (pictured above).  They are typically found in low wet areas and along streams. 
Backyard Moles
The eastern mole, our Cool Critter pictured in the last issue of The Georgia Junior Ranger is the most common mole in GeorgiaThey live in underground tunnels were they can find plenty of insects to eat and build burrows to live in and raise their young.  I know they live in my backyard because my cat has caught them in our basement.  Do you have moles living in your backyard?
Things to do:
* Learn more about eastern moles and crayfish.
* Crayfish are sometimes called "crawdads".  Enjoy this folk song about crawdads.
Winter Fun

Winter is a great time to enjoy a hike!
Check out these regularly scheduled hikes at Georgia State Parks:
Saturday Mountain Hike: Panola Mountain State Park,  3rd Saturday of every month
Trembling Earth Hike: Stephen C. Foster State Park, every Saturday
New Manchester Hike: Sweetwater Creek State Park, Saturdays

Colonial Faire and Muster, Feb. 5
Wormsloe State Historic Site
Step back in time and experience life in Colonial Georgia with period music & dance; weapons, tools, skills, and craft demonstrations; military encampments & drills (pictured at the top of the newsletter).

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