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Nature Study Can Happen Anywhere

Who would think that a day of shopping and running errands would provide some neat opportunities for nature study?  Two different times during the past week we stopped to check out the effects of recent weather and watch birds.  Taking the time was the key.

Often, when we are out we are cramming in everything we can.  We live a bit too far from town to make frequent trips; once a week is generally it.  I’ve been learning though, that it is worth so much to take few extra minutes to just observe.  In the warmer months, it is easier.  We’ll bring along lunch and park someplace with an interesting view while we eat.

We were driving on a frontage road and noticed various waterfowl at a retention pond.  One of the girls cries out “A heron!”.  Well, that was all it took; I love Great Blue Herons.  We continued on to the drive through for our treat (half-price shakes at Steak’n’Shake are not to be missed!) but came back to watch while we passed the cups around.  I tried taking some pictures, but all I had was my woefully inadequate iPod.  Bummer!

The next day was a planned outing for two of my daughters and I for “birthday shopping”.  I planned ahead this time and brought my camera!  We stopped at checked out the ice that was still hanging around from an earlier thaw/flood followed by a freeze.  There’s just something about seeing sheets of ice clinging two to three feet above the ground to the trees.  I have observed this phenomenon in the past, but hadn’t discussed it in any way with the children.  I asked my daughters with me (the 11 and 6 year olds) if they could tell how the ice came to be up there.  I always ask the youngers first so the older ones can “fill in the gaps”.

We went about the rest of our shopping, planning to stop at Steak’n’Shake again as the birthday girls requested.  When we passed, we noticed many geese, but no heron.  We had noticed the heron flying toward a subdivision behind the nearby strip mall and thought we’d check for another pond there.  Jackpot!  Not only was our friend the heron there, but there were more geese and several mallard ducks as well.

I’m so glad I brought my camera!  I’m so glad I wasn’t too caught up in the hurry of our to-do’s that I didn’t take time to “smell the roses”.  We did grow a bit impatient.  Those herons can stand for a long time, barely moving.  We made a bit of noise and movement to see him move a little.  Ooops — too close.  He flew off – landing right back at our first spot.  Around the building and across the parking lot we went.  We arrived in time to watch him “fishing” and successfully catch some dinner.  You can just make out the fish dangling out of his mouth and then his wiggling as he swallowed it down.  This was the highlight of our day!  It was even more exciting than the great bargains from our shopping.

Do you make time for nature study?  What are some of the unusual places you have stopped to just watch God’s creation?

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