Label: SeeMore Explorers

October 5, 2013

 

Thank you to the students and faculty at Altamont Elementary School - I enjoyed my visit to your school yesterday! We talked about everything from paper airplanes to outer space, and lots of animals, too.

 

 

  Congratulations to everyone who entered the Moth or Butterfly? contest. We had many good entries; each of you observed, did research, came to a conclusion and then wrote about it. Nice work!

As promised, there are two randomly selected winners - one individual student and one K-2 class. Each one of the winners will receive an autographed copy of my book BUTTERFLIES. Check with Mrs. Ahearn to pick up your prizes!

Here are the winners and what they wrote about which of these animals is a butterfly, and which is a moth:

Emily, age ten, from Mr. Whiteman’s Class, is the individual winner. Emily wrote:

I believe that insect A is a moth. I think this because a moth’s wings are to the side of his body, and it has very dull colors.

On the other hand, I think that insect B is a butterfly because, firstly, a butterflies wings rest upright on its back, and secondly, it has straight, clubbed antennae.

Mrs. Critelli’s Kindergarten Class were the classroom winners. They wrote:

We think that picture A is a moth because we learned that moths are nocturnal and picture A looks like it was taken at night. We also think it is a moth because it is smaller than the  insect in picture B. We learned that moths are smaller than butterflies. We also learned that moths don’t have knobs on the ends of their feelers and in this picture we do not see any knobs. These are the reasons we think picture A is a moth.

We think that picture B is a butterfly because we learned that butterflies have knobs at the ends of their feelers and in this picture we see knobs. We also learned that butterflies are larger than moths and the insect in picture B looks larger than the insect in picture A. Picture B looks like it was taken during the day so we think it must be a butterfly because butterflies are out during the daytime. These are the reasons we think picture B is a butterfly.

Thanks we had so much fun learning about butterflies and moths.

 

Mrs. Ahearn, Altamont’s school librarian, did a beautiful job of organizing everything for my visit this week. Thank you very much, Betty! Your kids were well-prepared and wonderful to work with.

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, Butterflies, School Visits, Teachers and Librarians, Contests, Kids Write   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 19, 2013

I received this interesting question from two of the readers of this blog:


We have been reading about the Alaskan brown bear and polar bears.  Both claim to be the biggest bear. Could you answer this question? Which bear is bigger, the Alaskan brown bear or the polar bear? Thank you very much! You have a wonderful site and books! Thanks for doing what you do. We really do appreciate it very much!

Kaitlyn and Jacob, Minnesota


Dear Kaitlyn and Jacob,

  One of the things that I’ve learned over years of exploring and researching my books is that sometimes it is impossible to find the answer you are looking for until you figure out what is the right question! I’ve often started out researching a subject and as I learn along the way, I end up adjusting the question, sometimes more than once. 

This is one of those times, so let’s think about what you really want to know. What does "biggest" actually mean? Do you mean the heaviest? Or do you mean the longest?

As you found, the Alaskan, or Kodiak brown bear and the polar bear are the two largest members of the bear family. The Kodiak bear is the longest (or tallest), while the polar bear is the heaviest (on average). The Library of Congress website has this excellent chart which illustrates the differences between these two kinds of bear:

 

You can see why it is hard to say which is the "biggest" bear. But you can clearly distinguish between the heaviest and the longest/tallest.

Thanks for writing, and for giving me a chance to write about the importance of finding the right the question!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, Animals, Kids Write   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 18, 2013

A visit from a red fox allowed me to capture our Cool Photo of the Week. A few days ago I was at my desk writing, and something coppery colored caught my eye. "What is that outside the window?" I wondered.

To my surprise, I discovered this magnificent red fox sunning itself on the stones at the bottom of my driveway. It was one of the first chilly days of autumn here in the Northeast….I think it probably found those stones to be a good spot to soak up the warmth of the sun.

The fox hung out for more than two hours, so of course I stopped writing and spent the morning with my camera.

As I shot photo after photo, I found myself imagining that I were the red fox, and thinking about all the chores that would fill up my morning.

  

 

  

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(6) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, Animals, Cool Photo   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 18, 2013

 

 

I spotted a beautiful animal when I was eating my lunch today. This butterfly (or is it a moth?) was fluttering against the window. I grabbed my phone and used the camera to take this picture. Then I sat down to fill out my SeeMore Explorers Observation Log to help me figure out what it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is really quite unusual. Everything about it (no furry antennae, no knobs at the end of its antennae, awake during the day) says that it should be a butterfly, but it looks like a moth.

I take a good look at the photograph, and then type into Google: black moth white brown spots

I click on "Images" and a lot of different pictures come up, but none of them look like my photograph.

I decide to try again. I look hard at my photograph, and decide to be more specific in my search. Back to Google, and this time I type:  black moth white brown spots pointy butt

BINGO! Sure enough, there are many photographs that look just like my animal. It is an Anania funebris, or a White-spotted sable moth. I know for sure that I am right when I read that its caterpillars feed on goldenrod. We have fields full of goldenrod in the late summer around where I live.

So that’s what I found today. A very delicate, very beautiful, day-flying moth. Nice.


If you want to try to identify animals or plants that you see outside this summer, you can fill out your own SeeMore Explorer Observation Log. Click here to download. Print it out, grab a pencil or pen, and write the most specific notes you can about what you see. Then, go to the library or onto the Internet, and use your clues to find out what it is!

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, Animals, Butterflies, Summer Vacation Science   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 4, 2013

Something extraordinary happened on the first spring day up in the country (the Hudson Valley in New York State). Not the first day of spring (that’s March 21st) but the first day that feels like spring, which can be any day from early March to mid April. Well, we had a day like that last week and naturally we went looking for early signs of spring like spring peepers. So we were visiting pond after pond but most of them showed no signs of spring. Many of the ponds were still partly frozen and even those that had no ice still showed no signs of frogs, frog eggs, or tadpoles.

 

All that changed when we drove past a small spring pond with the car windows open and heard a deafening chorus of what sounded like a mixture of peepers and birds honking. We immediately stopped the car and got out to look. In addition to the usual high pitched chirping of the tiny spring peepers, the pond was alive with honking sounds and large, thrashing frogs. The sounds were deafening. The water looked alive with frogs leaping and grasping and showing sudden bursts of speed. I had never seen anything like it before. I had binoculars and a camera but the frogs were too far away from where we stood to really identify them. It was only after I got home and did some research that I found out what kind of frogs they were and what was happening.

I went to my computer, opened up the Google Search, and typed in "Frogs Quacking like Ducks". Sure enough, the answer popped right up.

 

The frogs were wood frogs, a small (1 to 3 inches long) blacked masked frog that lives in the eastern United States from Georgia all the way up to the Arctic Circle. It is the only frog known to live north of the Arctic Circle. Usually they live in wet grasslands or moist woodlands. But they hibernate during the winter and as soon as they thaw out in spring, they head for temporary ponds formed by spring rains and snow melt.

The wood frogs use these ponds to make and lay eggs. The male frogs call to the females with duck-like quacks. The females lay their eggs and the males fertilize them in huge masses that contain 1000-2000 eggs. The females move the floating egg mass into the shallow ends of the pond in a large raft of other egg masses. Then all the frogs leave the pond leaving the eggs to survive on their own. The eggs are even able to withstand freezing weather and ice formations. The eggs hatch in a few weeks as tadpoles and the tadpoles take about six weeks to develop into frogs. Another amazing story of the natural world!

I recorded some of the scene using the video setting on my camera. Click play below to hear (you may have to wait up to one minute for the video to load, depending on the speed of your connection. Be patient - it’s worth it!). The wind is blowing, which makes it a little noisy. But, listen past the gusty wind. The first thing you’ll hear are the high-pitched peepers. Listen more closely, and you’ll hear quacking, as if there was a flock of geese flying by. That is the sound of the wood frogs, and it was even louder in person!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, Animals, Video, Frogs, Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 21, 2013

All is well at my bird feeder, where we seem to have figured out how to keep the squirrels from lifting the cap and eating the bird seed. 

One morning this week my wife Liz and I were eating our breakfast and watching all the different kinds of birds at our feeder, which is right outside the kitchen window. We started naming and counting all the different types of birds that we were seeing. 

Of course, we don’t automatically know the name of every single bird. There were lots of little brown birds with a very distinctive pattern of brown and white stripes on their heads. I was pretty sure it was a sparrow, but didn’t know what kind. So, I did a Google image search, typing in the words: "small brown bird, striped head." Sure enough, up popped a picture of my bird - a white-throated sparrow. Then, just to be sure the image I found was correctly identified, I searched again, this time for "White-Throated Sparrow." That second search took me to legitimate websites like the Cornell Ornithology Lab and eBird.org, where I was assured that my bird was indeed a white-throated sparrow.

While I was on eBird.org I decided to file a report on what I was seeing. Do you know this great website? They track bird populations by collecting data from regular people like you and me. It is a very simple form to fill out. Here is what I wrote about what I saw:

You can do this, too. They are interested in what you see where you live - in your backyard, in your school garden, in a park or vacant lot in the city. Wherever you are, you can be part of a community of people who are collecting this huge body of data on our everyday birds.

If you decide to try it, please write by clicking "comments" at the bottom of this blog post, and tell me what you see! 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, birds   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 12, 2013

Feeding birds at a bird feeder is not new, but for me, setting up my own feeder has been an eye opener. I used to watch the birds at a feeder and think to myself, that’s interesting but all those birds look alike. Or at least they look like two kinds: big birds and little birds. All that changed when I set up my own feeder near my country house and started to use good binoculars to look at the birds. Suddenly I saw that there were all kinds of birds at the feeder, some with crested heads, some with black streaks on their heads, some had dabs of color here and there, females looked different than males, and so on and so on. I began to use a bird identification book constantly. In the first few days I had logged over a dozen different kinds of birds using the feeder. What fun, I thought. Now I have to set up a feeder just outside my kitchen window in my downstate home in Great Neck, on Long Island.

One of the problems with bird feeders is that squirrels like bird feeders, too. And on Long Island there are plenty of squirrels and most of them seem to hang out around my kitchen window. Squirrels eat all the food, and keep the birds away from the feeder. I know what I’m going to do, I thought. 

I’ll get a squirrel-proof feeder, the one that has a cage outside the feeder, completely enclosing the feeder inside.

It looks sort of like a bird cage with the feeder inside. The squirrels will never break into that, I thought. Well, it took only a couple of hours for the squirrels to figure out that the "squirrel-proof" cage was "really-not-squirrel-proof at all!" 

All the squirrels had to do was lift up the top of the feeder (the part that I lifted to put the seeds inside), reach in and grab all the seeds they wanted.

What should I do? I am determined to match wits with my squirrels! After all, I am a writer, an author, a teacher. How can a squirrel match wits with me? Easily, it turned out! I wasn’t nearly as smart as I thought! OR, the squirrels were a lot smarter than I had realized. OR maybe both! 

Anyone have a suggestion about what I should try next?

 


Bird Identification:
Top Left: White-Breasted Nuthatch

 

Bottom Right: Black-Capped Chickadee (have you ever heard their call? It sounds like: "chick-a-DEE-dee-dee")

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, Animals, birds, Great Squirrel Robbery   •  Permalink (link to this article)

February 28, 2013

So I had a hitchhiker anemone in my saltwater aquarium. Using the SeeMore Explorers Observation Log, I finally figured out that the hitchhiker was named an Aiptasia anemone, also known as a Rock, Tube or Glass Rose Anemone. It’s called a pest not because it keeps asking questions you can’t answer (only kidding), but because it can multiply rapidly, grow quickly and more-or-less take over the aquarium from other invertebrates.

The Aiptasia Anemone looks like a tiny palm tree, with a long, thin body and miniature, waving tentacles on top. Like many other anemones, Aiptasia uses its tentacles to sting enemies and food animals that come too close. The tentacles have stinging cells called nematocysts that can sting fish, crabs, shrimp, coral and anything else (like your fingers) that come too close. An Aiptasia also withdraws into a tiny hole in the rock if threatened.

It’s hard to get rid of a colony of Aiptasia in an aquarium. If you try to rip it out, each tiny torn piece that you leave behind grows into a new animal. This results in more animals than you originally started with. BAD IDEA! So what do you do?

 

In doing research to find the answer, I searched on the Internet using these terms: "control unwanted Aiptasia Aquarium." You could have used many similar words and come up with suggestions about what to do. And here’s one simple solution I discovered: Purchase a small, colorful animal called a peppermint shrimp. A peppermint shrimp in an aquarium is part of what’s called "the cleanup crew." It likes to eat leftover food that you feed to the fish. It also has an interesting taste for…guess what?? It eats Aiptasia anemones!

And that’s exactly what I did. I purchased two peppermint shrimp and put them in my small reef aquarium. The next morning I looked in and the Aiptasia was gone. It worked exactly as I had read. The peppermint shrimp ate the Aiptasia and I have two new colorful members of the new cleanup crew, my new heroes, peppermint shrimp.

 

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, Coral Reefs, Oceans   •  Permalink (link to this article)

February 26, 2013

Yesterday, I posted a story called "Mysterious Visitor in my Aquarium," about finding an unexpected living thing in my aquarium. I wrote about how I figured out what it is, and said that in my next post, I will tell you all what I am going to do about it.

Today, I heard from Mrs. Sposito’s class in Menands, New York. Her students are regular visitors here, and this is what they wrote:

Hello Mr. Simon,

            How many tentacles did the pest anemone have? What color was the anemone? We took a class survey and predicted that you would take the pest anemone out of your tank. We can’t wait to hear what you decided to do with the pest.

Your friends,

Mrs. Sposito’s First Grade Class

Menands School

 

Hmmmmm…..good questions. This is a picture of what it looked like. It is called an Aiptasia anemone, which probably came in as a "hitchhiker," on a rock or plant that I put in. It is a reddish brown color, but it is far in the back, behind some rocks, so I can’t say for sure how many tentacles it had.  

These creatures are not easy to remove. Stand by for the end of the story. I think you will be surprised to hear how I solved this problem!

  

Photo: Debbie Hauter

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, Coral Reefs, Oceans, Kids Write   •  Permalink (link to this article)

February 25, 2013

I’ve kept freshwater aquariums for many years and I’ve always enjoyed setting them up and keeping them going. But it’s been a long time since I’ve set up a saltwater (marine) aquarium. Nearly forty years ago I even wrote a book titled TROPICAL SALTWATER AQUARIUMS but technology and our understanding of keeping aquariums have changed. So when I decided to set up a new saltwater aquarium, I pretty much had to start from the beginning.

I had just finished writing my new book about CORAL REEFS and I wanted to see if I could keep some kinds of coral in an aquarium, so I decided that I would set up a reef aquarium. A reef aquarium contains both fishes and some kinds of coral and other invertebrates as well. My aquarium has been going for about two months now and everything seems to be going fine. I have two saltwater fish (a clown fish and a yellow tailed blue damsel), an anemone (called a bubble-tipped anemone), hermit crabs and several kinds of coral.

Imagine my surprise the other day when I saw a new kind of living thing in the tank; something I had never put into the tank. I pulled out my LED flashlight to take a better look and saw that the mysterious visitor had a central trunk and then a top with many waving tentacles. I imagine that it come in as a hitchhiker on some rocks or plants that I had put into the tank. So I decided to try to find out what it was and whether it was a welcome or unwelcome intruder. I used the SeeMore Explorers Observation Log and wrote down what I saw.

Well, the mysterious visitor turned out to be a kind of anemone and a very unwelcome one at that. You can read how I found out on the observation log (below). As to what I did then, you’ll have to read that on my next installment on the blog! 

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, Animals, Coral Reefs, Oceans   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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