Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites
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Summer 2012           

Dear Junior Rangers,
Our Growing Up Wild series continues - in this issue you will learn about wildlife in Georgia that grow up in the water.  This includes dragonflies like the Georgia River Cruiser,  the Cool Critter pictured in the Spring Issue of The Georgia Junior Ranger.  These insects and many other Georgia animals begin life in the water and later move onto land.
Keep your eyes open the next time you visit a stream, lake or pond!
Cindy Reittinger
Chief Naturalist, Georgia State Parks

Also in this Issue:
* Cool Critter Contest
* Ask the Naturalist
* Things to Do
* Read More About It
* Wow!

* Outdoor Fun

Cool Critter

Can you identify this cool Georgia critter? Correctly identify this animal by August 15th 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.

Don't forget to include your first name and your age.


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

Dear Chief Naturalist,
When a mama turtle lays her eggs in the sand and the eggs hatch, how do the baby turtles breathe under the sand? 
                          Jared,
                         Ellenwood, Georgia


Dear Jared,
That is a great question! 

There is actually enough air in between the grains
of sand so the young sea turtles don't suffocate when they hatch and dig their way out of the sand.  Digging up and out is a group effort ; it may take several days before they emerge at the top of the nest.


Wow - Nice Nest!
Spencer & Katie from Woodstock, Georgia sent me this beautiful photo of a bird nest they found in their yard.

After the eggs hatched they continued to watch from afar until one day they discovered that a predator had killed the young birds.  It was shocking and sad but, it is a very common occurence in nature.  Studies of nesting success in songbirds have found that at least half of nests don't make it.
One of the most helpful things that Junior Rangers can do to help nesting birds is to keep cats out of their yard.  House cats should always be kept indoors.  Scientists tell us that house cats kill millions of songbirds every year in the U.S.

Read & Learn More

Visit your local library and check out these titles:

* A Dragon in the Sky: The Story of a Green Darner Dragonfly by  Laurence Pringle
* Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Marwil Lamstein
* Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast by Giff Beaton



Photo credits:
Masthead: Linda Patrick
Common Green Darner: Giff Beaton
Spotted Salamander: J.D. Wilson
Barking Treefrog: John Jensen


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Growing Up Wet

Many of Georgia's wild creatures begin life in the water and later move onto land.  This includes some insects, frogs and salamanders.

"Skeeter Hawks"

"I
am the dragon,
  the demon of skies
Behold my bold
enormous eyes
I sweep, I swoop
I terrorize
For lunch I munch
on flies and bees
Mosquitoes with
my feet I seize"
 
"The Dragonfly", a poem by Douglas Florian, well describes these voracious predators.   Their appetite for mosquitoes has earned them the nickname "skeeter hawks".

Like all dragonflies the common green darner (pictured above), lays its eggs in water.  When the young nymphs (pictured right) are fully developed they climb out of the water, the back of their "skin" splits open and the adult emerges.

Things to Do:
* Use a dip net to look for dragonfly nymphs and other small creatures in a stream or pond.  Download Field Guide to Macroinvertebrates in Georgia Streams to help identify what you find.
* Dragonflies vs. Damselflies - what's the difference?

Vernal Pools are IMPORTANT!
Vernal pools are temporary pools of water that provide critical wildlife habitat.  They can be found wherever a depression fills with water.  Because they dry up at times fish cannot live in them.  That makes them ideal places for some frogs and salamanders to lay their eggs - there are no fish to eat their eggs or young.

Barking treefrogs lay their eggs in vernal pools and the young tadpoles grow up there.  These bright green frogs are the largest treefrog in the U.S. and common in Georgia.  Like most other treefrogs they can change color quickly.








Spotted salamanders are one of Georgia's most common salamanders and they lay their eggs in vernal pools too.  The young (left picture) grow up in these temporary pools while the adults (right picture) live in underground burrows on the forest floor.

Things to Do:
* Watch this Spotted Salamander in a vernal pool.
* See a hellbender, a huge salamander found in north Georgia
* Listen to the call of the barking tree frog.

Outdoor Fun
Night hikes and other evening programs are a cool way to enjoy Georgia State Parks during the steamy month of August!

Blue Moon in August
The term "blue moon" is used when a full moon occurs twice in the same month and it only happens every two and half years. Georgia State Parks will be offering full moon hikes and lots of other nighttime programs in August - come join us!
Go Paddling!
Better yet, enjoy an evening paddle!
 


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