School’s out, and the best way to beat summer boredom is to head outdoors. With creeks to seek, baby animals to watch, and fireflies to catch, there’s plenty to do in June and July. Here are a few more things to discover.
One of the best ways to beat summer’s heat is to wade a cool Ozark stream and fish for smallmouth bass. Move slowly so you don’t spook wary fish. Cast a crayfish lure, plastic worm, or tube jig into the deep, flowing water around boulders or under a snag. Let the lure sink and then twitch your rod as you reel in the lure. With any luck, you’ll soon feel the explosive tug of a hungry smallmouth on the end of your line.
Are you up for a challenge? Then see how many nights you can spend sleeping outside. It isn’t as hard as it sounds. Just pitch a tent in your backyard and pretend it’s your bedroom for the summer. There’s no need to rough it. Going inside to eat, relax, and use the bathroom isn’t against the rules. You can even keep a radio or fan in your tent.
What’s the best way to cool off after a steamy afternoon picking blackberries? With a bowl of blackberry ice cream, of course. In a food processor, blend 2 cups of blackberries, 1 cup of sugar, and ½ cup of water. Pour the mixture through a strainer into a glass bowl. Mix in ½ cup of heavy cream. Chill the mixture in your refrigerator for an hour, pour it into an ice cream maker, and soon you’ll have a berry yummy treat.
Mason and leafcutter bees are perfect pollinators that hardly ever sting. Unfortunately, these colorful bees have disappeared from many yards. Bring back the buzz by building a house where bees can raise their babies. Find a block of untreated lumber that’s at least 4 inches thick on all sides. Have an adult drill holes almost all the way through the block using a ³⁄8-inch drill bit. Nail the block to a board, and then nail the board to a fence post or tree where it will get sun in the morning but stay shady for most of the day.
All kinds of interesting critters live in the muddy muck at the edges of ponds, streams, and wetlands. It’s easy to get a close-up look at these creepy-crawlies. Just wash and rinse an empty bleach bottle. Ask an adult to help you cut off the end of the bottle and poke holes in the top as shown in the photo. Take your swamp scoop to the nearest muddy bank and use it to shovel up some soupy mud. Water will drain out the holes in the scoop, leaving behind all sorts of squiggly creatures.
The best way to get robins bobbin’ in your bird bath is with shower power. Wash and rinse a plastic milk jug. Using a small nail, poke a hole in the bottom and top of the jug. Fill the jug with water and screw on the cap. If the holes are the right size, water should drip gradually, which birds find irresistible. Hang the jug above your bird bath, and in no time, beaked bathers will flock to your yard for a shower.
Don't miss the chance to Discover Nature at these fun events.
Looking for more ways to have fun outside? Find out about Discover Nature programs in your area at xplormo.org/node/2616.
Speckled kingsnakes, which are also called salt-and-pepper snakes, are named for the yellow speckles on their black scales. Kingsnakes prey mostly on mice, but they also eat lizards and even other snakes. They’re immune to pit viper venom, which comes in handy when tangling with rattlesnakes and copperheads. Kingsnakes kill prey by wrapping around an unlucky animal and squeezing until it can’t breathe.
Don’t let the flashy feathers fool ya. Painted buntings aren’t afraid to fight. Males fiercely defend their territories, and bunting battles break out when one male invades another’s space. The colorful songbirds fight dirty by pecking, clawing, and hitting each other with their wings. Fights can lead to lost feathers, gouged eyes, and even death.
Nichole LeClair Terrill