April and May are Goldilocks months — not too hot nor too cold. Wildflowers pop up, songbirds migrate, and fish finally find their appetites. Here are just a few things to discover.
Want a good look at some fluttering phantoms of the night? Then mix up some moth mash. Take an overripe banana — the browner, the better — put it in a bowl, and squish it into goo. Stir in a cup of apple juice and half a cup of honey. Use a paintbrush to slop the mixture onto tree trunks in your yard. After sundown, put on a headlamp and head outside to see what flutters in to munch the mash.
We know you do some fun things in nature. Next time you’re out exploring, snap a photo of your adventure. Ask an adult to submit the picture to the “Kids in Nature Photo Contest” at flickr.com/groups/mdc-kids-innature. Each month, the Conservation Department will select a winning photo to display on their website, and all winners will appear in the January 2014 issue of the Missouri Conservationist.
Cooking over a campfire is yummy and easy. You don’t even need a pan — just a few sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Combine the above ingredients, and sandwich the mixture between two sheets of foil. Next, fold the edges of the foil inward to form a packet.
Place the packet on red-hot coals for about 40 minutes. Use tongs or sticks to remove the packet, give it time to cool, then peel open the foil and dig in!
House wrens are tiny birds with huge voices and attitudes. Coax a pair to nest in your yard by making a papier-mâché birdhouse. Cut a newspaper into 1-inch-wide strips. Mix together 2 cups flour, 2 cups water, and 1 tablespoon salt. Dip each strip in the paste and wipe off extra goop. Layer the strips over a balloon until you have about five layers. When the paste dries, pop the balloon and have an adult cut a 1 1⁄ 8-inch diameter hole in the side. Cover the birdhouse with waterproof paint so your wren mansion won’t turn to mush when it rains. Once the paint dries, hang the house from a branch.
April showers bring May flowers — just in time for Mother’s Day. Snip a few blooms from your backyard (leave most for nature) and place the flowers between several sheets of newspaper. Stack heavy books on top and leave them there until the flowers dry. Make a card out of construction paper, write a nice note on the inside, and glue the pressed flowers to the front. We’re sure your mom will be im-pressed.
Some people see worms stranded on a sidewalk after a storm and think, “Gross!” Others think, “Let’s go fishing!” If you fall into the latter category, gather the stranded wigglers in an empty coffee can, then stuff in some loose, wet leaves. Put the can in a cool, dark place. The refrigerator works well — if it’s OK with mom. The worms should keep for several days until you can head to your favorite fishing hole.
Looking for more ways to have fun outside? Find out about Discover Nature programs in your area at xplormo.org/node/2616.
Male turkeys go to a lot of trouble to impress females. During mating season, which runs from March to May, males grow flashy feathers, gobble, and strut around with their tails fanned out. But their charm attacks don’t stop with the chicks. Rival males sometimes attack each other, using sharp spurs on the backs of their legs as weapons.
He’s no dummy. Each male sedge wren builds, on average, seven ball-shaped nests in wet, grassy habitats. Yet, he uses only one to raise his family. Biologists aren’t sure why wrens build so many “dummy nests,” but the extra digs may help confuse predators. If a hungry snake or raccoon searches several nests and doesn’t score any eggs, it might give up and hunt elsewhere.
Nichole LeClair Terrill