Coastal Bend Nature Challenge: Nueces Delta Preserve

**This is our final Nature Challenge for 2016!

*Joey and William will be guests here on the blog as they document our Nature Challenge journey for 2016.

The Challenge:  1.  Find an animal track: photograph it, measure it and ID it.  2.  Observe a bird at Rincon Bayou:  note its distinguishing characteristics, sketch it, and ID it.

W:  We went to the Delta Preserve.  We went down by the pond and looked for animal tracks.october-2016-001_1_1 october-2016-003_2_1 october-2016-005_4_1 october-2016-006_5_1 october-2016-009_6_1

J:  We found a lot of deer tracks.  We sat down and drew them.

W:  We measured the track.  Then we used our Track Guide to identify them.  Yep, they were deer tracks.october-2016-010_7_1 october-2016-011_8_1 october-2016-013_9_1 october-2016-016_10_1_1 october-2016-017_1_1

J:  We went back up to the pavilion and were given paints to paint our prints.  We also received our very own nature journal (that’s what we painted in!).  I drew the deer track and then painted over it.  october-2016-018_2_1 october-2016-019_3_1 october-2016-020_4_1 october-2016-021_5_1_1 october-2016-022_6_1 october-2016-023_7_1 october-2016-024_8_1 october-2016-071_7_1

W:  Next we drove down to the Bayou but we had to stop on the way because we saw a turtle crossing the road.  We think it was red eared slider because Auntie Jessica and I saw red on its ear.  october-2016-025_9_1 october-2016-027_10_1 october-2016-029_1_1 october-2016-031_2_1 october-2016-034_3_1 october-2016-035_4_1 october-2016-037_5_1

J:  When we got to the Bayou we saw Snowy Egrets and Brown Pelicans.  We used our binoculars and our field guide to identify the birds, but Mr. Dane was there, too, to help us.  october-2016-038_6_1 october-2016-042_8_1 october-2016-043_9_1 october-2016-044_10_1 october-2016-046_1_1 october-2016-047_2_1 october-2016-048_3_1 october-2016-049_4_1 october-2016-050_5_1 october-2016-070_6_1 october-2016-072_8_1

W:  After drawing our birds, Mr. Dane took us on a guided walk.  It was a loop walk because the trail looped around.

J:  We saw a fiddler crab.  We also saw a dead animal and there were huge beetle looking bugs that were carrying away the remains.

W:  We also saw a giant green walking stick.

J:  We saw some tracks on the trail, too.october-2016-051_6_1 october-2016-052_7_1 october-2016-055_8_1 october-2016-059_1_1 october-2016-061_2_1 october-2016-063_3_1 october-2016-064_4_1 october-2016-069_5_1

Well, thank you to everyone for following along our journey.  We completed 15 out of 21 challenges.  We learned all kinds of new nature facts.  We SAW BOBCATS IN THE WILD and pelicans diving for fish.  We learned how to blog and we practiced using the camera.  It was all kinds of fun and we can’t wait for the Nature Challenge next year!


Coastal Bend Nature Challenge: Nature Trails and Sensory Exploration at the Botanical Gardens

*Joey and William will be guests here on the blog as they document our Nature Challenge journey for 2016.

The Challenges:  (This was actually 2 separate challenges that we combined into one!)  Walk along the trails and make a list of 5 shrubs/trees with spines or thorns and 3 without.  List some possible reasons why plants have spines or thorns.  Use your senses to observe nature along the path.

Plants we saw with thorns/spines:

  • Spiny Hackberry
  • Lotebush
  • Prickly Pear
  • Blackbrush Acacia
  • Lime Pricklyash

Plants we saw without thorns/spines:

  • Flame Acanthus
  • Retama
  • Sea Ox Eye Daisy
  • Tanglewood
  • Texas Persimmon

The reason we think plants might have thorns or spines is to protect themselves from predators (or kids!).  october-2016-035_9_1 october-2016-037_10_1 october-2016-038_11_1 october-2016-039_12_1 october-2016-040_13_1 october-2016-041_14_1 october-2016-042_15_1 october-2016-043_16_1




Coastal Bend Nature Challenge: Discovery of the Kapok Tree at the Botanical Gardens

*Joey and William will be guests here on the blog as they document our Nature Challenge journey for 2016.

The Challenge:  Describe the unusual bark on the trunk of the Kapok tree and tell how this part of the tree was utilized for water rescue for people traveling by sea.

J: We went to look at the Kapok tree.  It had lots of spikes on its trunk.  We looked it up and the reason it has spikes on it is because that helps it protect its trunk.october-2016-019_1_1

W:  People use the trunk of the tree to make canoes.  The white fluffy seed covering is buoyant (which means it floats in water) and it’s water resistant so it can be used in flotation devices like life jackets.october-2016-020_2_1 october-2016-026_3_1

J:  So the white fluffy seed covering can be used to rescue people traveling by sea.

W:  It’s a really neat tree.october-2016-027_4_1 october-2016-029_6_1

J:  Although you could also rescue dogs with it.

W:  We all drew a picture of it and had our picture taken with it.  october-2016-028_5_1 october-2016-030_7_1 october-2016-032_8_1



Coastal Bend Nature Challenge: Oso Wetlands Preserve

*Joey and William will be guests here on the blog as they document our Nature Challenge journey for 2016.

The Challenge:  Attend a Guided Nature Walk.  Take 2 fun pictures of your team on the walk and include 3 fun facts that you learned during the walk.

J:  We went out to the Oso Preserve and OH MY GOODNESS, WE SAW BOBCATS!  But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Mommy woke us up early.  We drove out to the Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve and we got there on time but we missed the group by just a minute.  So we hurried to catch up but Katie’s legs are so little that we soon stopped and then there were so many forks we weren’t sure which way the group went!

W:  So we built our own group!

J:  Yes, there were other people that missed the group, too, and they were walking so we made our own group that way.  We finally caught up with the real group only to lose them again.october-2016-002_1_1 october-2016-013_6_1 october-2016-016_7_1 october-2016-017_8_1 october-2016-018_9_1

W:  We did get a chance to sit with the group on the observation deck and do some nature sketching.  I drew a y shaped body of water and then I saw a huge body of water that I’m guessing leads out to the Gulf of Mexico.october-2016-007_2_1 october-2016-008_3_1 october-2016-009_4_1 october-2016-012_5_1 october-2016-020_1_1

J:  I drew the water tower in the distance and the tracks I could see.  october-2016-022_3_1

W:  And Katie made a drawing too.october-2016-021_2_1

J:  After we finished drawing and the group left, we tried to follow along but again it was hard for Katie to keep up.  Finally Mommy said it was okay and we could just leisurely stroll along the path.  It’s a good thing we did.  We saw lots of butterflies and plants and then Mommy said, “This is where the bobcats have been seen.  Let’s say a prayer to St. Francis of Assisi and ask him to call the bobcats out for us.”  As soon as we finished the prayer, the mommy bobcat came out.october-2016-021_4_1 october-2016-029_5_1 october-2016-030_6_1 october-2016-031_7_1

W:  She sat and stared at us.  She was about 200 feet away.  She was staring at us trying to decide if we were a threat.  I guess she decided we weren’t because then she left and came back with her babies.  At least three.october-2016-036_1_1 october-2016-038_2_1 october-2016-039_3_1 october-2016-040_8_1

J:  It was amazing!  The babies were rolling around and they were so cute.  I bet they were cuter than that lizard my cousin Alex told me about.

W:  We said a prayer to St. Francis again to thank him for sending out the bobcats.  Later, at home, we looked up facts about bobcats.  Here’s what we learned:

  • It mostly eats rabbits and hares but it will eat almost any mammal, reptile or bird.
  • The fur color and markings of the bobcat vary.  For example, bobcats living in the south have lighter coats than those in the north.
  • Kittens are usually born in the spring BUT females in the south may have a second litter later in the year.

J:  After the bobcat sighting, we finished the trail and just as we got to the end, we saw this snake!  Ms. Sara helped us identify it as a Dekay’s Brownsnake.  Then Ms. Sara let us touch the milk snake.october-2016-043_9_1 october-2016-044_10_1 october-2016-046_11_1 october-2016-048_1_1 october-2016-049_2_1 october-2016-051a_3_1 october-2016-055_5_1 october-2016-054_4_1

W:  Ms. Sara said it was cute and I agreed.

J:  We got to play on the playground after that!  As we left the preserve we saw a rabbit or maybe it was a hare.october-2016-056_6_1 october-2016-066_7_1 october-2016-067_8_1 october-2016-068_9_1 october-2016-069_10_1 october-2016-071_1_1 october-2016-072_2_1 october-2016-073_3_1 october-2016-074_4_1 october-2016-075_5_1 october-2016-077a_6_1

W:  That’s all for now!



Coastal Bend Nature Challenge: Port Aransas Jetties

*Joey and William will be guests here on the blog as they document our Nature Challenge journey for 2016.

The Challenge: Exploring and identifying different species and their habitats found at the Port Aransas South Jetty

J:  After the UTMSI, we went to the South Jetty in Port Aransas.  It’s the tip of Mustang Island.  Mostly we saw birds and fish.  The first thing we saw were a group of Laughing Gulls.  Then I pointed out that crabs could live in the nooks and crannies of the jetties but I didn’t see any.  october-2016-053_1_1 october-2016-054_2_1 october-2016-055_3_1 october-2016-056_4_1 october-2016-057_5_1

W:  There was a man fishing and he caught a stingray.  We got to go over and see it.  We saw the bottom of it which looked kind of reddish-pink.

J:  We saw a man carrying a fish.  We asked him about it.  He said he pulled it out from under a rock but it was already dead.  Then we saw a man with a net.  He was trying to catch mullet.  He caught a net full and put them in a bucket but they kept jumping out so he put us in charge of standing guard.  october-2016-058_6_1 october-2016-059_7_1 october-2016-074_3_1 october-2016-075_4_1 october-2016-076_5_1 october-2016-077_6_1 october-2016-079_7_1 october-2016-080_8_1 october-2016-081_9_1 october-2016-082_10_1 october-2016-084_11_1 october-2016-085_12_1

W:  Every time the mullet jumped out of the bucket we had to catch them to put back in.  But they kept squirming out of our hands!  It took us awhile to catch just one.  But we did catch them all and made sure no more got out.

J:  We saw a pelican sitting on a rock waiting to catch a fish.  We sat very quietly and very patiently and watched him.  He didn’t catch any fish.october-2016-064_10_1 october-2016-065_11_1 october-2016-067_12_1 october-2016-069_13_1 october-2016-071_14_1 october-2016-073_2_1

W:  As we passed by the fisherman who had caught the stingray, we stopped to talk to him.  He asked us, “Have you ever seen live shrimp before?”  We responded, “No, but we have seen crawdads.”  He pulled out a live shrimp that he was using for bait to show us.  We got to hold them.  Daddy says live shrimp will catch all kinds of things from stingrays and catfish to redfish and trout.  october-2016-086_13_1 october-2016-088_14_1 october-2016-089_15_1 october-2016-090_16_1 october-2016-091_17_1

J:  The fisherman’s name with the shrimp was Chris.  We met a lot of fishermen there!  The jetties were very busy while we were there.

W:  See you next time!  Bye-bye!

J: See you later alligator!

W:  After a while crocodile!

J:  Not too soon you big baboon!

W:  See you soon racoon!



Coastal Bend Nature Challenge: Snap a Critter

*Joey and William will be guests here on the blog as they document our Nature Challenge journey for 2016.

The Challenge:  Using any kind of camera, seek out 3 different categories of nature from these categories: 1. reptiles and amphibians, 2. birds, 3. mammals, 4. bugs and insects, 5. landscapes, 6. plants.  Label the photos with the category and the location.

Spider (Bugs and Insects), Goliad State Park

Spider (Bugs and Insects), Goliad State Park

Crawdad (crustacean), Cherryville, MO

Crawdad (crustacean), Cherryville, MO

Western Box Turtle (reptiles and amphibians), Cherryville, MO

Three-Toed Box Turtle (reptiles and amphibians), Cherryville, MO

Turtle (reptiles and amphibians), Nueces Delta Preserve

Turtle: maybe a red-eared slider? (reptiles and amphibians), Nueces Delta Preserve

(bugs and insects), Oso Wetlands Preserve

We can’t identify this one!  We submitted the picture to but we’re still waiting for a response (bugs and insects), Oso Wetlands Preserve

Bobcats (mammals), Oso Wetland Preserve

Bobcats (mammals), Oso Wetland Preserve

Dekay's brownsnake (reptiles and amphibians), Oso Wetland Preserve

Dekay’s brownsnake (reptiles and amphibians), Oso Wetland Preserve

Fiddler Crab (crustacean), Nueces Delta Preserve

Fiddler Crab (crustacean), Nueces Delta Preserve

Pelican (bird), Port Aransas Jetty

Pelican (bird), Port Aransas Jetty





Coastal Bend Nature Challenge: UT Marine Science Institute

*Joey and William will be guests here on the blog as they document our Nature Challenge journey for 2016.

The Challenge:  Check out an Explorer Kit to become a scientist at the Reserve.

W: We went to the UT Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas.  We checked out an Explorer Kit.october-2016-004_3_1 october-2016-005_4_1 october-2016-008_5_1 october-2016-010_6_1

J:  We followed the map and went to different stops along the way.october-2016-012_7_1 october-2016-013_8_1 october-2016-014_9_1 october-2016-016_10_1

W:  At each stop, we stopped and made observations.october-2016-017_11_1 october-2016-020_12_1 october-2016-021_1_1 october-2016-023_2_1

J: Auntie Jessica read the cards from the kit to us which asked us questions.  We had to be scientists to answer the questions.  For example, we used the microscope to look at leaves and the refractometer to measure the salinity of the water.  october-2016-024_3_1 october-2016-025_4_1 october-2016-027_5_1 october-2016-028_6_1

W:  I learned that an estuary is where freshwater mixes with salt water and the salinity changes rapidly.  I also learned that animals use the sand dunes as protection.  october-2016-030_7_1 october-2016-031_8_1 october-2016-032_9_1 october-2016-034_10_1

J:  I learned that the sand dunes block the wind and provide shelter for the animals who live at the estuary.  I already knew what an estuary was since we visited Ms. Pringle last year.  october-2016-035_11_1 october-2016-038_13_1 october-2016-039_1_1 october-2016-040_2_1

W:  We learned about barrier islands, too.  I really liked going down on the dock.  I saw a few brown pelicans there.october-2016-041_3_1 october-2016-042_4_1 october-2016-043_5_1 october-2016-044_6_1

J:  After the trail we headed into the Explorarium.  I went fishing and I put the fish where I thought they belonged.  There were lots of fun things to do there.  october-2016-046_7_1 october-2016-048_8_1 october-2016-049_9_1

W:  See you next time!


Coastal Bend Nature Challenge: John E. Connor Museum

*Joey and William will be guests here on the blog as they document our Nature Challenge journey for 2016.september-2016-021_1_1

The Challenge: Complete a bird scavenger hunt in the museum.  Go outside to sight birds and create a journal entry of the birds seen and identified.october-2016-013_7_1 october-2016-014_8_1 october-2016-015_9_1

We went out to the Texas A & M University – Kingsville on Saturday, September 10th.september-2016-031_9_1 september-2016-035_13_1 september-2016-034_12_1 september-2016-033_11_1 september-2016-032_10_1

J: I liked the part where I had to look at the different habitats that are around the Coastal Bend area and find the birds.september-2016-036_14_1 september-2016-040_4_1 september-2016-039_3_1 september-2016-038_2_1 september-2016-037_1_1

W:  My favorite was the roadrunner.

J: The Greater Roadrunner.

Me: Does anyone remember which habitat the Greater Roadrunner was in?september-2016-041_5_1 september-2016-046_9_1 september-2016-044_8_1 september-2016-043_7_1 september-2016-042_6_1

J:  Mesquite Chaparral.  It was the first habitat we visited.

Me: Are you sure?

J:  Yes!  Then after that we saw the Hollow Tree.

(We looked at the pictures to confirm) Me: Yep, you’re right Joey!september-2016-047_10_1 september-2016-048_11_1 september-2016-049_12_1 september-2016-050_13_1 september-2016-051_14_1

W:  I pushed the button that made the bird sounds.  Remember, Mommy, it drove you nuts?

Me: Oh yes, I remember.september-2016-052_1_1 september-2016-053_2_1 september-2016-054_3_1 september-2016-055_4_1 september-2016-056_5_1

J:  I wish I had known there were birds sounds I could do.  Then remember we saw some animal skins?  Alligator skins and we saw an actual starfish!september-2016-057_6_1 september-2016-058_7_1_1 september-2016-060_8_1 september-2016-062_9_1 september-2016-063_10_1

W:  I touched all of the skins, too.  I liked the fur from the fox.

J:  I liked the soft furry ones.  They were good to touch.  We saw birds at Oak Motte and the Dry Chaparral, too.  My favorite habitat was the Hollow Tree because it looked so cool to live inside the tree.  It looked nice and cozy.  I’d want to be a bat living in there where I could hang upside down without being scared.september-2016-064_11_1 september-2016-065_12_1 september-2016-066_13_1 september-2016-067_14_1 september-2016-069_1_1

W:  My favorite habitat was the Mesquite Chaparral where the roadrunner was.  The Hollow Tree looked nice, but I liked the Chaparral best.

J: After the habitats, we walked over to the Wild West room.  I walked in and at first I thought we were just going to pass through it, but it turned out we were actually going to play in it.  The Wild West room was made up of things to do in the wild west: ride a horse, take care of a calf, cook, pump water.september-2016-071_2_1 september-2016-073_3_1 september-2016-074_4_1 september-2016-075_5_1 september-2016-077_6_1 september-2016-078_7_1 september-2016-079_8_1

W: My favorite part was riding the horse with Katie.  She was a cowgirl and she sat on the back.september-2016-081_9_1 september-2016-082_10_1 september-2016-083_11_1 september-2016-091_1_1 september-2016-092_2_1 september-2016-093_3_1 september-2016-094_4_1

J:  There were also exhibits that showed how the pioneers lived.  For example, they had an exhibit that showed a bedroom.september-2016-095_5_1 september-2016-096_6_1 september-2016-098_7_1 september-2016-099_8_1 september-2016-101_9_1 september-2016-102_10_1 september-2016-103_11_1 september-2016-104_12_1

W:  It was a really neat room.september-2016-105_13_1 september-2016-107_14_1 september-2016-108_1_1 september-2016-109_2_1 september-2016-110_3_1 september-2016-111_4_1 september-2016-112_5_1 september-2016-113_6_1

J:  Yeah, it really was. {sigh}september-2016-117_7_1 september-2016-118_8_1 september-2016-119_9_1 september-2016-120_10_1 september-2016-121_11_1 september-2016-122_12_1 september-2016-124_13_1

W:  After we played for awhile, we went out of the museum, crossed the street and looked for birds on the campus.september-2016-020_1_1 september-2016-133_2_1

J:  We had to be very quiet.  First we had to pick a spot, wait 30 seconds and then for 2 minutes we watched.  Then after that we walked 120 steps and did the same thing.  We repeated that five times.  We saw a total of 5 birds and heard 3 birds, but we saw a lot of dragonflies and butterflies and we heard a lot of cicadas.september-2016-134_3_1 september-2016-136_4_1

W:  Some of the birds we saw were mourning doves.   We always see mourning doves at our house.september-2016-138_5_1 september-2016-139_6_1

J:  We only got to see new places for three of them and then we walked back for the other two.  I got to use my binoculars, which is always fun.

W:  Okay, until next time!

Coastal Bend Outdoor Challenge: Create Your Own

*Joey will be a guest here on the blog as he documents our Nature Challenge journey for 2016.

The Challenge:  Select your favorite nature spot in the Coastal Bend and create an activity that can be done by other teams in the area.

Joey:  I attended a Nature Journaling Class with Ms. Nicki Sohn at the Oso Preserve and I am going to tell you everything I learned.  Then you’ll be able to go in your own backyard and make your very own nature journal.

First you are going to need a journal.  It could be a blank book, a sketch book, a scrapbook, a notebook.  Basically you need something filled with blank paper.  I received a fancy bamboo journal at the class but I also have other nature journals.  Some are blank notebooks and some are sketch books.october-2016-086_2_1october-2016-020_6_1 october-2016-025_1_1

You’ll also need a pencil or a pen (I recommend a pencil because you can erase if you need to), some crayons or colored pencils, an eraser, a pencil sharpener and a bag to carry it all in.  You might need to bring some water with you if you’re going out far from your house.  If you’re really far and you’re hungry, bring a snack bag with you.july-2016-024_1_1

One kind of journaling you can do in nature is looking for evidence.  You pick a spot.  A place with trees is a good place to choose, but you really can choose any nature spot.  Then you sit very quietly and look for animals.  Then find out why they are there in that spot.  You could also look for animal tracks and scat and journal about who you think has been there and why.  You could also look for an interaction between animals.  Whatever evidence you look for, record what you find and show it to your parents.  Make sure you explain, in your journal, what you think the evidence means.october-2016-087_3_1 october-2016-088_4_1 october-2016-090_5_1 october-2016-092_6_1 october-2016-096_10_1october-2016-022_4_1 october-2016-024_2_1

Another kind of nature journaling that is fun is called Stop and Jot.  You find a place and set a time limit.  Then you walk around it and every few seconds you jot down anything you hear, see, or smell in nature.  When you are done observing then you can draw a map of what you observed.  Include any plants or tracks that you might have seen!  Later you can write about your observations.  It could be a narrative or a story.  I like to pretend I’m an animal in that habitat and I use my observations to make a story or a narration.october-2016-016_10_1 october-2016-017_9_1 october-2016-018_8_1 october-2016-093_7_1

Another kind of journaling I like to do is where I read about and observe a plant and then I use pictures (if the real thing isn’t available) and I draw it and write down some fun facts about it.  I like to do this when I study herbs.  I also include a “Time to Be a Scientist” sidebar where I describe ways you can use the herb for medicine.april-2016-007_1_1october-2016-021_5_1

When we do nature study during our school day, I take my journal and go outside wherever we are and a choose a spot.  I sit there for ten minutes and I draw whatever I see in my area.  Then I label it, if I can.  I don’t write much about it when I do this type of journaling, but you could if you wanted to.  It’s really more about drawing though.october-2016-026_1_1 september-2016-023_1_1 september-2016-032_1_1 september-2016-045_3_1october-2016-019_7_1

It is fun to get out in nature and to write and draw about what I see.  You should get your own nature journal and get started!  I hope you will come back here and share with me some pictures of your journals.




Coastal Bend Nature Challenge: Urban Xeriscape Garden

*Joey and William will be guests here on the blog as they document our Nature Challenge journey for 2016.

The Challenge:  Visit the Urban Xeriscape Garden near downtown Kingsville.  Walk through the garden and find as many different types of plant leaf shapes as possible, while marking off the leaf types we find.october-2016-012_6_1

J:  We took a walk through the city park.  I had a clipboard with a sheet of leaf types.  We identified each leaf we saw not by its name (we knew their names by their signs) but instead by their leaf type.september-2016-001_1_1 september-2016-002_2_1 september-2016-003_3_1 september-2016-004_4_1 september-2016-005_5_1 september-2016-006_6_1

W:  I had to ride in the stroller because I was still recovering from my surgery.  I helped Joey identify leaf types.september-2016-007_7_1 september-2016-008_8_1 september-2016-009_9_1 september-2016-010_10_1

J:  We sat on a bench and we saw A LOT of bird poop.  Then we looked up and saw why.  There were a ton of mourning doves.  Mystery of bird poop solved.september-2016-011_11_1 september-2016-012_12_1 september-2016-013_13_1 september-2016-014_14_1

W:  My favorite plant we saw was the Firecracker plant.september-2016-015_15_1 september-2016-017_16_1 september-2016-018_17_1 september-2016-019_18_1

J:  I liked the wishing weed we found and wished on.  It was neat to see plants that grow in this area easily.  Now we know what we can plant.  Okay, until next time!