Healthy pollinators begin in the garden

We’ve all heard the stories of bees dying out in large numbers. It’s a mysterious phenomenon, however our buzzing friends are not the only ones facing difficulties in populations.

Pollinators of all kinds – including bees and butterflies – are relied upon heavily in the plant world to, well, pollinate. The relationship between pollinators and flowers is one that most people understand.  Butterflies rely on nectar, the sweet liquid found hidden within flowers. As a butterfly lands and sips nectar, it does the flower a favor by moving its pollen around the garden and ensuring another generation of blooms. While a butterfly may visit a variety of flowers for nourishment, they look for specific plants – called “host plants” – on which to lay eggs. A caterpillar is choosy; it will not munch the leaves of just any plant.

One famous example is the milkweed species of plant. Monarch Butterflies, those bright orange and black butterflies, will only lay their eggs on milkweed, making it essential to their survival. However, if the milkweed is not present when the Monarchs make their annual migration to Mexico, they cannot breed. Likewise, the Tiger Swallowtail, Georgia’s state butterfly, looks for tulip poplar trees, on which to lay their eggs.

Henning von Schmeling, with the Chattahoochee Nature Center, said planning is needed to invite pollinators into a garden.

“Everybody always says that you have to plant flowers since adult butterflies eat nectar, but you won’t raise butterflies unless you have the specific host plants that each species of adult butterfly needs to lay their eggs on,” said von Schmeling.

Even if you live in a subdivision where there are covenants with strict landscaping guidelines, von Schmeling suggests locating a section in the back for a natural garden. Butterflies are repelled, and often endangered, by herbicides and pesticides. They prefer overgrown areas, especially with native plants and flowers of the host and nectar plants they prefer and where they can lay their eggs where the caterpillars will thrive.

Make Memories at Camp Kingfisher

Summer is almost here, and of course that means that kids will be out of school and looking for summer fun. Come experience Camp Kingfisher at CNC this summer, and see what a “True Outdoor Nature-Camp” looks like. Adventuring and learning in nature is what summer is all about. Campers get to enjoy CNC’s 127 incredible acres and activities include hiking, swimming, seeing wildlife, canoeing, arts and crafts, educational activities and experiments and more.

A little known fact about Camp Kingfisher is that not only do campers love it, but so do our counselors. We have a very high retention rate each summer with our LITs (High School Leadership Training Program) coming back to become Junior Counselors, Counselors and even Head Counselors. This has facilitated an environment with long-lasting relationships. Here is what many of our long-time camp counselors have to say about their favorite experiences at Camp Kingfisher.

Morgan Leslie of Canton, current Sophomore at Mercer University, says her favorite memory from Camp Kingfisher is:

“I vividly remember one of my campers from Week 4 last summer. She spent hours drawing me a picture at home to give as gift the next day for being her favorite.” 

Christina Boyd of East Cobb, a current Sophomore at Wafford College, says her most memorable experience at Camp Kingfisher is:

“During the power outage we had at the Nature Center one day, the kids managed to still have fun and smile through all the indoor activities we improvised. They didn’t care where we were, they just wanted to be with us and each other.”

Hudson Tsay of East Cobb is a marketing major at the University of Georgia. He started off as an LIT when he attended Walton High School and has worked his way up to Head Counselor at Camp Kingfisher. Here is what he said about the impact Camp Kingfisher has had on him:

“Camp Kingfisher has given me a huge platform for my own personal growth and development while getting direct interaction with the kids. As an LIT, I honed in my leadership and public speaking skills. Camp Kingfisher each summer has managed to challenge me in new ways and strengthen my capacity. In all honesty our Assistant Camp Director Alexander [has had a lasting impact on me]. I aspire to have half the wit he does daily. The campers [bring me back every year] by far. They give me life and make my drive here exciting in the mornings.” 

Elena Weigelt of Canton is a Freshman at the University of North Georgia. She worked as an LIT for three summers while she attended Creekview High School and she has worked her way up to Junior Camp Counselor here at Camp Kingfisher. Here is what she has to say about her experience at Camp Kingfisher.

“Each summer I have developed valuable leadership skills which I can apply to many other aspects of life. I have also made memories and relationships that will last a lifetime. Each year I return, Camp Kingfisher has facilitated my growth as an individual. My LIT coordinator and now my boss, Debbie Head has made a big impact on my life. I have always looked up to her and her great love for camp. I am always grateful for the opportunity she gives me each summer to come back and work at my favorite place. The kids [keep me] coming in every morning. I enjoy every moment when I am able to put a smile on their faces, as it gives me a feeling that is irreplaceable. The Nature Center has always been an amazing place and I call it my second home.”

Drew King of Easton Cobb is a current Sophomore at Kennesaw State University. He attended Camp Kingfisher as a camper for 9 years and 2 more years as part of the travel program, then he worked one year as Junior Counselor and an additional year as a Counselor, making that a total of 16 years here at Camp Kingfisher.

“Camp Kingfisher has helped me build my character to be kind to others. It also has helped me to make stable friends that I still have today. Amy, the Camp Director at the time [made an impact on me and] was my favorite person at Camp. She was always happy and full of energy, and that is who I strive to model. When I was a kid, I enjoyed every activity and always had a blast at camp. I come back as a counselor to pass on the joy that my counselors brought me. [My favorite memory was when] it was superhero day when I was a Barn Owl. I wore a pretty solid Nature Nerd costume and was excited to try and win the costume competition. I came down with a cold in the middle of the day so Amy said I won the competition and gave me a prize which made me feel so much better.”

Camp Kingfisher is truly an incredible place that encourages personal growth, teamwork, and environmental stewardship in campers. Learn more here and registration is open here. Contact camp@chattnaturecenter.org or call    770-992-2055 ext. 232 with any questions about Camp Kingfisher at CNC this summer!

On Fire for Interpretation

CNC Naturalist Christie shares insights from her trip to the Regional NAI conference in March, 2017

  

What happens when you bring together naturalists, park rangers and folks from cultural and history centers all over the Southeast for a conference about Interpretation? You get a lot of good stuff — that’s what!

I was fortunate to attend the National Association for Interpretation’s “Sunny Southeast” Conference, March 7 -10, 2017, in Shepherdsville, KY (near Louisville).  We had 3 ½ days and nights of seminars, networking and meals together to share ideas and the latest trends that are working well for us in our field. 

One session I attended was about hosting a 36-hour “Bio-blitz;” an event we have considered having at CNC. The bio-blitz was in a Pisgah National Forest park, called Cradle of Forestry Heritage Site, near Asheville NC. Can you imagine organizing an outdoor event for volunteers–school and community groups, to come in specified time slots over a nonstop 2-day event, to count every different species each group could find in a small designated area for 2-4 hour shifts? The event turned out to be amazing and revealing; including the staff being unprepared for a few things: groups who showed up at unexpected times, cold and rainy weather conditions, not enough experts to cover each section to confirm species, and folks leaving before they reported all of the data.  

Overall though, it was an amazing and successful experience.  

 

Interpretation is a mission-based communication process that forges emotional and intellectual connections between the interests of the audience and the meanings inherent in the resource. – NAI 2000.

Christie Hill has been the Naturalist and Docent Coordinator at the Chattahoochee Nature Center for 10 years, and has been integral in the education and training of staff and volunteers, She has been a Certified Interpretive Trainer since 2009. 

 

Re-Discovering The Chattahoochee Nature Center

This post was submitted by Sophia, a local resident of the Roswell, GA area

About 10 years ago as a 7th grader, I visited the Chattahoochee Nature Center on a field trip. At the time, the nature center was much different than it is today. For example, the Discovery Center wasn’t even built yet. At the time it was just another field trip for me, I was excited to get out of school for at least part of the day and get outside. I wish I could remember more about that day, but I do recall walking some of the grounds and being struck by what an escape it was from the “city life” of the main Roswell area.

But sadly, for almost 10 years, I never came back, not even with my family, although we lived just minutes away. Luckily, that changed last summer when my sister got a job at the nature center this past summer. Because my family wanted to support my sister, we started coming out more frequently to visit. I could not believe I had forgotten what a relaxing escape the nature center was. There are multiple trails you can take, even one along the Chattahoochee River. It is also a great place for families of all ages to learn more about wildlife in the Roswell, GA area. Since my family and I knew we’d be coming back, we decided to join as members to take full advantage of the events going on all year at the nature center.

In the last year, the nature center has quickly become one of my favorite places in the North Atlanta area. Here are four reasons why I think the nature center is a great place to visit:

1. Variety of daily activities

Fairy Houses can be found in the forest!
Fairy Houses can be found in the forest!

Whether you are interested in walking/hiking or spending time learning more about the wildlife on the property, or both, you will be pleasantly happy! What I also like is the manageable size of the property, so you can easily make a day of it if you want, but if you only have a few hours you will still be able to take in a great experience

2. Summers at the nature center

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Canoe on the Chattahoochee River!

Summer in Georgia can be hot, but it is worth braving the heat to come to the nature center! Plus there is so much to do! Some of my favorites are the Butterfly Encounter and Sunset Sips! But I am also looking forward to checking out the canoe trips, with the first one being April 22nd!

3. The Harvest on the Hooch

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Yum yum! Harvest on the Hooch is tasty.

One of the largest events the nature center has all year, this is the event to be at in the Fall. Come hungry because there are multiple restaurants to sample food from, as well as music and activities. And you are supporting North Fulton Community Charities, a local charity in the area.

4. The Beaver Exhibit

Beavers enjoy swimming and playing.
Beavers enjoy swimming and playing.

In late 2016, the nature center received two young beavers, and they are worth a visit to check out! It has been fun to see them interact with their environment, as well as learn a thing or two about beavers. I often enjoy spending time watching (and taking pictures of them).

Ready to take a trip out to the nature center? Learn more and plan your visit today!

What’s that Cloud up there?

Mark Gialanella, Community Programs Coordinator

Clouds come in all shapes in sizes. Do you remember looking up into the sky and pretending that you could see all sorts of different shapes in the clouds? There was the cloud that looked like a ship, the one that looked like a dog and the cloud that didn’t look like anything at all. Those clouds have different names and serve a specific purpose. Clouds are formed by a continuous cycle of evaporation and condensation. Tiny drops of water and ice each about .02mm in size join together in this process to form clouds.

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Let’s learn about the four main types of clouds – cirrus, cumulus, stratus and nimbus. Cirrus clouds can be found the highest in the atmosphere and are entirely made of frozen water vapor. Cumulus clouds are the fluffy clouds we think of when we picture a cloud. Depending on the season, they can be a sign of good or rainy weather. Stratus clouds are the lowest to the surface of the earth. They are the dark looming clouds you see covering the entire sky before a torrential downpour. Nimbus clouds are the ones that bring our thunderstorms. The nimbus cloud is further classified based on where it is in the atmosphere; nimbostratus clouds are lower in the atmosphere and bring lighter precipitation, while cumulonimbus clouds bring heavy precipitation and thunderstorms. Next time you look up in the air, try to figure out what type of clouds you are seeing and what they are telling you about the weather.

The Earth Has Music for Those Who Listen

Twitter is a popular way to communicate using social media, but birds do it naturally by “tweeting” songs and talking with each other with specific sounds that can be used to identify them. The Earth has music for those who listen, with sounds surrounding us. For instance, the deathwatch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) has had a strange impact on humanity. It lives in wood and, when searching for a mate, it bangs its head against the wood, making a “tick tick tick” noise, like that of a watch. People would hear these ticks when the house was quiet, notably when someone is on their deathbed. So the beetle’s ticking was interpreted as a symbol of impending death. While most of nature doesn’t have quite so morbid of an impact on us, the noises created by plants, trees and animals are all around us, all the time. Nature can be very loud, if we just listen.

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Deathwatch Beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum)

The music made in nature was an influence for classical composers, such as Bach, Beethoven and others. They may have made music using precise keys on a harpsichord or strings on a violin, to mimic animals in nature. Musicologists have identified the ways that birds have influenced human music, since the earliest composers used various birdsongs to inspire their classical compositions. Some composers intentionally imitate bird song in a composition. Each animal has its own language of sounds and makes its own music. Frogs like to sing for different reasons and in different ways, especially in the evening. The sound of tree frogs singing is one of nature’s soothing sounds. Some frogs have vocal pouches that are different sizes which stretch out and serve as a resonating chamber. Others make noises without any such chamber or sac. Large frogs make low, deep sounds, which means they call at a low audio frequency; small frogs use high frequency by singing with high chirping noises. Just like the frogs, when we sing, we make a noise. This noise comes from the sound waves we create in our mouths moving the air around us, just like throwing a pebble into a pool – the waves travel out, away from us. We can use these sounds to communicate with each other, and animals are no different.

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In fact, they can use other methods as well. Sound is part of the spectrum of electromagnetic waves that includes the light spectrum. Radio waves, microwaves, visible rays such as infrared and ultraviolet, soft and hard x-rays and gamma rays are all part of this spectrum and they resonate around you, even if you can’t see or hear them. You can think of sound as the different frequencies that can be heard. Sound is part of the spectrum of electromagnetic waves that includes the light spectrum. Radio waves, microwaves, visible rays such as infrared and ultraviolet, soft and hard x-rays and gamma rays are all part of this spectrum and they resonate around you, even if you can’t see or hear them. You can think of sound as the different frequencies that can be heard by different ‘receptors.’ Dogs can hear a dog whistle, but humans can’t. It is a higher frequency of sign that is outside the ‘hearing range’ of humans. Human’s hearing ranges vary according to age with younger humans having a wider range on the audio spectrum. Frogs croak, birds chirp, hawks cry and dogs bark, all to tell other animals “hello” or “beware.”

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Not all animals are the same, however, in their communication. Bats are a little different. They can use sound waves to navigate, using a process called “echolocation.” Humans cannot hear these noises – “ultrasound” – but bats can: they use it for echolocation when hunting insects. Bats are able to “see” the world around them – and their prey – using sound waves, listening for those ripples in the pond. They chirp and chitter, using their large ears to listen intently to those ripples as they bounce off objects around them. Just like bats in the air, a similar thing happens under water – animals make noises in their mouths and the sound travels through the water! This is how whales make their long, loud calls that can be heard dozens of miles away and is also used for echolocation.

Franjestaart; Natterer's bat; Myotis nattereri

We humans have been able to replicate this for guiding submarines under water and allowing ships to see what is underneath the waves. We call it SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging). Animals also make use of the world around them to make noises. Woodpeckers rap on trees for food. Beavers slap their tails on water to warn other beavers of danger. Chipmunks and squirrels play in the trees and the undergrowth, making noises all around us with their chasing.

You just have to stop and listen. Maybe you can even “Tweet” it.

Listen for the Songs of Nature

by Christie Hill, Naturalist Coordinator

April showers bring May flowers, but also they bring out amphibians. The Southeast is home to more than 140 species of frogs, toads and salamanders, and is the center of amphibian biodiversity in our nation. As we all know in Georgia, insects provide the white noise of life by day, but the night belongs to the amphibians. I roll down my windows when driving along the Chattahoochee River, an auditorium for frog’s symphonic choruses. And this wonderful music is super-affordable as concerts go. The sounds are good reminders of how many other living things share our space.

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Walking in the forest (or wetlands) is a part of almost all of our programs at CNC. Frogs not only sound good, but also play a central role in our ecosystem. They eat many of the insects we consider pests and are food themselves for countless other animals. One of the most important roles that frogs fill for humans is warning us of important changes in the environment. Frogs breathe and take in toxins through their sensitive skin. We know something is amiss out there when they start getting sick or we begin to lose numbers of them. Scientists now track amphibian health carefully. The sounds we find in nature are comforting these days. In our time of technology and networking we can learn from the simplest of creatures. Frogs have always known how to find and communicate with each other more effectively than we still do. You can learn and help. Check out the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program at this site.

Summer Fun at the Nature Center with Camp Kingfisher

Give your child a chance to learn, grow, and make memories this summer at Camp Kingfisher at the Chattahoochee Nature Center

Camp Kingfisher runs May 30 through August 4, 9 am -4 pm (with longer and shorter days available.) Campers experience fun, hands-on, and educational activities at the nature center including animal encounters, hiking and other outdoor activities, science exploration, swimming and canoeing, arts and crafts, and so much more!
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Campers of all ages are welcome, and they are divided into age-appropriate groups. The youngest campers, Owlets, are four year olds and the oldest group is a Travel Program open to rising 8th and 9th graders.

All campers have access to a junior-Olympic-size swimming pool that is constantly life-guarded, and the older campers have opportunities to canoe in three different ponds: Kingfisher Pond, Beaver Pond, and Heron Pond. Each one of Camp Kingfisher’s canoe ponds is staffed by an American Canoe Association certified instructor.

Each age group is themed with highlighted activities. Learn more about the schedule of activities designed for each age group here.

A High School Leadership Training Program (LIT) is also available for rising 9th through 12th graders who are interested in leadership, education, and naturalist training.

Camp Kingfisher counselors are role models, mentors, and leaders. Counselors are professionally trained in counseling, team building, and naturalism. Most counselors have completed at least one year of college, and junior counselors are recent high school graduates with an interest in education and environmental science. Anyone interested in being considered for a counselor position is encouraged to apply as soon as possible. See more information here.

Summer camp provides many benefits for children. These include learning teamwork, making good decisions, building character and resilience, and trying new things!

Debby Head is a life-long lover of Camp Kingfisher. She started attending when she was just four years old, and now she is the new director. She encourages everyone to give their children opportunities to grow, and Camp Kingfisher is an amazing place to do that. She says, “As summer approaches, I hope you give your child the opportunity to grow and have fun at a great outdoor camp. You may just find that, by giving your child a chance to try something new outside, he or she may gain memories that will last for a lifetime.”

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Member registration is already available, and open registration starts on January 23. Visit the Camp Kingfisher site or call 770-992-2055 ext. 222 for more information and to register.

Don’t wait! Sign up for a life-changing summer at Camp Kingfisher!

5 Ways You Can Help the Environment this Earth Day

Founded on April 22, 1970, Earth Day is not only a celebration of our beautiful earth, but it is also a call to action. The fact that our planet is in danger is an understatement. Saving the planet seems impossible, and many people find the idea just too overwhelming to even know where to begin. Standing up for the planet and taking action to protect it is more important now more than ever. Here is just a short list of five easy ways you can make an impact today.

  1. Change up your commute. 

With over 15% of global CO2 emissions coming from the the transportation sector, it is important for you to reconsider how you commute. Instead of driving everywhere, walking or biking is ideal, but definitely not an option for everyone. Public transportation or carpooling is much more efficient, and another great alternative to driving in your personal vehicle.

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2. Decrease your consumption of animal products.

The animal agriculture industry is the most environmentally destructive on the planet. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. When you consider the vast amount of resources that goes into raising and processing animals for meat and other products, it only makes sense to drop (or at least decrease) meat consumption for the well- being of planet.

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3. Evaluate your home energy use. 

Lower your thermostats, check your home for energy leaks, switch out your light bulbs for more energy efficient ones. These are all great (and very easy) ways to save energy (and money) in your own house. You could even take it a step further and consider installing solar panels at your house – they are more affordable and accessible than ever!

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4. Consider your resource consumption.

You can save water by taking shorter showers or using a low-flow shower head, or watering your lawn less often or using a drip irrigation system. Switch off lights and be aware of your personal natural resource consumption. Check our the EPA’s Carbon Footprint Calculator to learn more about how much energy we actually use.

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5. Compost and create less waste. 

Every pound of trash you create has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is a landfill. Landfills cause all sorts of environmental problems, and lots of times that trash gets lost along the way and ends up as litter in the environment. The average American produces 7.1 pounds of trash every day. Composting eliminates natural waste going to landfill. Buy food items in bulk (or at least not individually packaged), reconsider unnecessary purchases with excessive packaging, use re-usable shopping bags and bring a reusable water bottle or coffee cup with you to work or school.

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Come out to the Chattahoochee Nature Center this Earth Day to reconnect with nature. Some of the special Earth Day Activities at CNC include a canoe trip, a youth fly fishing and conservation clinicevening hike and campfire, a presentation by Safari guide and ornithologist Matt Brennan about Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands Private Game Reserves and book signing with David Haskell.

The possibilities to help the environment are endless, and the global impact is immeasurable. Integrate some of the ideas into your everyday life to help the planet and make a difference.

Environmental Initiatives in the Community and Schools

Environmental education programs and clubs are critical for raising awareness for environmental issues in a community. Small grass-root organizations of committed people working for change is truly how things get done. Or, put more eloquently by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Communities need organizations for different social causes, and the environment is no exception. If you are passionate about the environment and conservation, consider volunteering or creating project initiatives in your community.

Volunteering is a great way to get started. Find a local organization where you can volunteer and learn more about environmental issues. The Chattahoochee Nature Center is a great place to start if you live in the greater Atlanta area! Find an issue that you are passionate about and want to do something about. It may be educating people about the environment, removing harmful invasive species, or working to slow the effects of climate change. There are so many, many diverse problems that need solving.

School clubs and programs are an amazing way to get younger generations aware and involved with environmental problems. Initiatives are already in place in many schools in the Atlanta area. If there isn’t a program at your school or in your community, consider starting your own.

For example, student Kelsey Hall started the LEAP (Leaders for Environmental Awareness and Protection) Club at King’s Ridge High School in Alpharetta. Kelsey is passionate about the environment, and currently is an intern at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. After attending a summer program geared towards students interested in environmental-related careers the summer before her junior year, she decided to bring some of what she learned at the program to her school. Once she got full support from the school to start the club, the KR LEAP Club got over 35 involved members, and hit the ground running.

The club’s first project included fundraising for and installing electric vehicle chargers in the parking lot, making King’s Ridge the first high school in North Fulton to do so. After the first project completion, LEAP was awarded a Georgia Independent School grant to purchase two indoor hydroponic gardens to plant and manage with an environmental science class.

The club has been a success at King’s Ridge, and Kelsey hopes the increased environmental awareness at KR will be her legacy to the school.

“Everyone has something they are passionate about, and it’s so important to pursue that passion,” said Kelsey. “I was afraid no one would join LEAP, but after telling people about what I wanted to do and why, they were totally on board. People are excited about other people that are passionate about things. Don’t be afraid to pursue your passions and change the world!”

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No matter how daunting of a task it may seem, go after your passions and change the world, one step at a time. Massive change starts small, and your own community is the best place to start!