Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Red Tail's interview for BSlugTV (with Scooby)

Hey all, I'm having a great week with Alta Vista and Oster schools, learning a lot, clipping some poison oak on the trails (I'm about 2/3 done).

A lot of the staff at Walden West are being interviewed by Scooby, and the interviews are being posted on our YouTube channel, called BSlugTV. Check it out!

Here's my interview. In it, I talk about early nature experiences, how I got to be a naturalist, what my hobbies are, and what we can do to help the world.

Here it is:

If you can't view the above video, then click here.

Red Tail.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Giant Panda Song!

We had a fantastic week with students from Montclaire, West Valley Middle School, and Rainbow Montessori School.

What a fantastic group of kids, and I will miss you all.

Most of all I will miss us bopping through the woods singing this:

It all started when Panda announced his name, and I said it reminded me of the "Giant Panda" film segment from Sesame Street, when I was little. I started humming the very memorable music from the short film (amazing that I could remember it from 28 years ago!!!). Soon, all the kids were humming it together, and I even tried beatboxing with it.  (Didn't quite sound right, but it was cute.)  Too bad we didn't get video of the group doing it.  But I found it on youtube!  I showed it to the group on Friday morning, to everyone's delight. 

If the embedded video doesn't work, go to click this link or go to youtube and search for "sesame street giant panda".

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tasty Snacks and Healing Medicines from the Forest

I've always loved showing kids the many snacks that are available out in the forest.  But sometimes, for one reason or another, I don't have time.

NOTE:  Please be safe and make SURE you know what you are eating.  Some plants and fungi in the forest are POISONOUS.

One yummy forest edible is Miner's Lettuce.  Look for a leaf that makes a complete circle around the stalk; the stalk is round and soft.

One student a few years ago collected a whole bag of miner's lettuce on a hike, and then she asked me if I happened to have any ranch dressing on me.  Nope, I don't usually hike with it!  But maybe I should!  :)   

Miner's lettuce - The round leaves can be 1-4" in diameter.

Miner's Lettuce

Miner's Lettuce

Another yummy and nutritious snack is Douglas fir needles.  Look for 2-3" needles coming off a central stalk in a bottle-brush shape. The cones could point upward or downward, and each one has 10-30 little "tongues" coming out that look like a flame shape.  (There is a Native American myth about a mouse that jumps headfirst into the cone, with his hind legs and tail protruding; it does look like that shape!)

Douglas fir needles are edible and have a lot of vitamin C in them.  Be careful not to eat a large amount, though, because I hear that the tannic acid can give you a stomach ache if you overdo it. Here is a picture of what they look like.  The cone is unique among the Fir family:
Douglas Fir - the needles have a nice flavor and lots of vitamin C!

Finally, we come to a nice medicinal fungus found growing all over the woods around Walden West.  It doesn't fit into the "tasty" category, but it is reputed to fight cancer and help boost the immune system, helping you fight off colds and flus and worse things.  It's called Turkey Tail Fungus (Trametes versicolor).  Look for tough, rubbery shelves growing horizontally, with brown, white, or dark red stripes that go "azimuthally" or in a circle around the mushroom:

Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor)

Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor)

More information about the health benefits here:

Note that Turkey Tail tastes a little rubbery, and its texture is rubbery, too.  You can chew on it while hiking, sort of like chewing gum, and get the health benefits that way.  Or you can boil it and make a healing medicinal tea, and then drink the tea.  In the United States, this medicine is not very well known, but in Japan, it's one of the top cancer-fighting medicines.  Turkey Tail compounds account for 25% of all the money spent on anti-cancer medicine in Japan!!!! 

Have fun, kids, and be safe.

NOTE:  Please be safe and make SURE you know what you are eating.  Some plants and fungi in the forest are POISONOUS.

The three things I mentioned here do not look like anything else in the forest, but even so, you need to make sure you have adult supervision and expertise before you taste anything.  If you are sure you know what it is, and that it is safe, then it's okay to eat it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Red Squirrel's Bark and Cheetah's Trust

Here's what Red Squirrel (from Laurelwood School) offered to future groups of students:

Red Squirrel's stand for peace, trust, and kindness in the world
It's a piece of bark from a tree.  He said, "Every ridge and ripple on this bark represents a future group that will achieve the Quest."  Wow!  What a powerful and positive image to focus our intentions on!

Also, I want to share with you what Cheetah wrote in her journal, about the night hike. 

During the night hike, I felt scared because I thought something was going to jump out and eat me.... Maybe it would have been better if I believed in myself. I felt like I trusted in [Red Tail], and I trusted in everyone.  I knew we had a family that was connected. I knew that we had something in common.  I knew who I was and what I believed in - I was something, something that cared about me. I knew who I was. I knew I would trust in myself, my friends, and my parents.  I never found anyone like them. I trust in everyone, and I hope they do too. 

                   - Cheetah. 

Thanks for a great week, kids from Laurelwood and Norwood Creek!  May you take all this back to your communities and enrich the world in joyful ways!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Lichens! And a Flicker Feather!

Wow, we saw some really great lichens this week!

Our Mystery Lichen!  (Eagle from Cadwallader School in background)

A closer look at our mystery lichen! 

Above are two photos of the lichen we found this week. Lichen (pronounced "LIE-ken" in the U.S. or "LIH-chen" in England) is a wonderful symbiosis, or cooperation, between a fungus and (usually) an alga (algae).  The fungus provides a structure and a place to live, and the alga does photosynthesis and shares the glucose it creates with the fungus.  So both organisms benefit, and they live together, helping each other out.  How cool is that?

Here's a little story to help you remember all this:
Alice Alga and Freddie Fungus took a "lichen" to each other, and decided to go out on a "limb" and get married.  Alice made the food (by photosynthesis) to feed both of them, and Freddie built the house that they both lived in.  It was a great arrangement, and they lived happily together for many years.  Now I hear that their marriage is "on the rocks."  (Get it?) 

Now a little interactive quiz - can you tell which type of lichen ours is?

All the thousands of types of lichens are grouped into just a few categories based on their morphology, or shape, kind of like vertebrates are grouped into five categories (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals).  Here are the lichen morphologies (with photos from the internet):  

Foliose lichen is "leafy" like lettuce

Crustose lichen is like a thin, tough crust, often on rock (or tree trunks).

Fruticose lichens are "shrubby" like a bush. 

More info on lichen morphology types here.

Here's our mystery lichen again.  Can you tell what type it is?

So which type is ours?  Come on, take a guess.  (Then check your answer with Red Tail's guess, at the end of this post.) 

We also found this feather: 

Cool feather (from a flicker) with Red Chipmunk (Cadwallader School)

I don't know for sure, but I think our feather is from a Red-Shafted Flicker (one of five types of Northern Flicker - the Red-shafted Flicker lives west of the Rocky Mountains).  More info on Northern Flickers here.

Here's are two pictures of Northern Flickers from the internet:

Red-shafted Flicker (a type of Northern Flicker) in flight, showing the tail feathers

Northern Flicker in a more typical position

This was a really cool week despite me being gone for two days due to illness.  Thanks for all the fun, kids from Clark and Cadwallader Schools! You rock!  I am so proud of you!

My group!

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot!  My guess is that our mystery lichen is.... FRUTICOSE!  Wow, that's so cool!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Great week Jan 3-6, and Night Hike reports from some students

Jan 3-6 was a great week. We didn't hear any owls, but we did hear Red Tail make some owl calls during the night hike.

Here are some student quotes:

"Cool air prickling my skin as I slowly put one foot in front of the other, which made a leaf-crunching sound.... Trees that were surrounding me looked as if they were encouraging me to go farther and farther.... An occasional bird tweet seemed like a song with notes softly prancing in the air. The moon's bright light was only partly blocked out by the trees, [accompanying] me the whole long way through the calm, alive forest...." - Tree Frog (Guadalupe School)

"I was scared at first, for this was my first night hike, but soon I wanted to go on another hike just like this.... We also learned about the moon phases. I learned a lot of things in only ONE night. This experience changed my life." - River (Guadalupe School)

who also shares this picture:

And another student:

"... we stopped at an open spot on the trail ad we had a 'Thank-you' circle.  Red Tail taught us about moon phases, solar eclipses, and lunar eclipses.... We looked at the stars and we found Cassiopeia and we used it to find the North star or Polaris.... I learned what fractoluminescence means [light emitted from the breaking of a crystal]."  - Squirrel (Guadalupe School)

Finally we have a nice picture from another student:
- Gray Squirrel (Guadalupe School)

Thanks for being your wonderful selves, kids! Keep being amazing in every way! Let me know all the things you're doing to help each other and the world.

-Red Tail.