Monday, May 17, 2010

Spring SKIP Week 3 - Misunderstood at Murphys Point

Our SKIP participants were treated to a beautiful sunny day at the Lally Homestead and no bugs to speak of for the third week of the spring session.

This week's program, led by intrepid interpreter Tim Wood, was called "Misunderstood at Murphys Point" and gave us all a great perspective on some area animals that have an undeserved bad reputation. Tim demonstrated how messages can get mixed up by playing the telephone game. He whispered a message to one of the kids, and we were all amused by how much it had changed by the time it had been whispered to each participant.

Tim had a wide range of props to show us. First we learned about the little brown bat. This flying mammal uses echolocation to find mosquitoes - so it is not "blind" as some might believe. We learned about its habitat and habits and some of the threats it faces, including a deadly fungus that is spreading into Ontario. He showed us skulls from a wolf, coyote and fox - all members of the canine family - and talked about some of the troubles they face as humans continue to encroach upon their territories, which means we haven't always gotten along.

We played a game of "Bat O Polo" to demonstrate echolocation. A few participants were blindfolded (the bats) and called out "bat!" while the rest of the kids (the bugs) responded "O Polo!" and tried to avoid being tagged. The game was interrupted by the surprise guest appearance of a young black ratsnake, another misunderstood creature, that proceeded to demonstrate its fantastic climbing abilities by scaling the side of the Lally Homestead. This led nicely into Tim's discussion about this threatened species and how roads, development and human fears have led to difficulties for the snake. He passed around snake skins and then showed us a live captured black ratsnake. Everyone had an opportunity to feel how a snake's skin is actually warm and dry - not cold and slimy!
The fisher, a mammal that has recently returned to this area thanks to improved habitat, was also discussed. Tim said this shy creature is an efficient hunter and is one of the only critters around that can effectively hunt a porcupine. This led to a game of porcupine versus fisher - another tag game designed to dispel the myth that porcupines throw their quills. Rather, they tend to swing their tails when threatened, and if you're too close - then ouch!
The program ended with a delicious snack organized by our Skipper Cindy. Big thanks to her, Tim and our volunteers Jane, Judy and Steph for another great day! Next week it's all about birds at the Lally Homestead or the SKIP kids. (For avid birders, check out the info about our annual bird count at the Friends website.)

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