Winter is here!

Everyone give a big cheer! The first colony of several thousand monarch butterflies has arrived at their winter rest over in the Sierra Chincua Sanctuary, Mexico. What a journey on two beautiful wings! The monarchs migrate from as far away as Canada and New England to a stopover in Texas before flying over the Gulf of Mexico. Many of them fly almost 3000 miles! They will overwinter in Mexico until spring when warmer temperatures beckon them northward once again.

Discovery Center is proud to have participated with Journey North in this amazing wonder of nature by hatching, tagging and releasing 30+ monarchs this summer. Journey North engages citizen scientists in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. We hope our monarchs have found their way to the Sierra Chincua Sanctuary.

While the monarchs rest in Mexico other animals are preparing for winter as well. Look to the sky and you may see large flocks of birds migrating southward. Geese and ducks leave the lakes and ponds to seek warmer waters. Muskrats, otters and raccoons grow denser fur while turtles bury in thick mud as they begin their winter sleep. Observe squirrels busily gathering nuts and storing them in the crooks of trees. Winter birds visit feeders as the trees shed leaves and lower sap to begin a period of rest. Early in the morning frost may cover the ground. Our pets grow thicker coats of fur to protect them from winter’s colder temperatures and we pull our warm coats and scarves from the back of our closets. Winter is coming soon!

Discovery Center has also engaged our young citizen scientists in the Spark! program by planting a tulip garden. On November 10th and 11th they planted 50 emperor tulip bulbs. They will chart and report their observations of the garden over the next several months.

Bill’s Blog- Where did the summer go?

Wow! Where did the summer go? I can hardly believe it’s the end of vacation and time for back to school. So many of you were our guests at Discovery Center, and we really enjoyed having you visit!

Were you here when wonderful spicy aromas drifted from our kitchens as the staff busily baked loaves of zucchini bread? The DC gardens have been supplying an abundance of squash, tomatoes, tomatillos, and scrumptious blackberries. Ms. Rachel found the bounty irresistible and made lots of tasty dishes in her cooking camp and Snack Attack. Mr. Eric and Ms. Micki continue to monitor the gardens to assure they are in tip-top condition.

The gardens have also provided nectar for our honeybees and created natural vegetation and a habitat for beneficial insects like butterflies and praying mantis. The gardens also received a visit from one of Tennessee’s native snakes, the rough green snake.

I understand the gardens will soon be converted to fall crops. The sweet potatoes will be dug and the basil will be whirled into delicious pesto. Yum!

Stay connected to Discovery Center through my blog as there is always exciting news to share with you!

Insect Facts:
The number of insects is believed to be between 6-10 million. Insects have 3 body parts: Head, Thorax and Abdomen, 2 antennae and 3 pairs of legs (6 legs total). Spiders are NOT insects, they are arachnids.
Mantis Facts:
Praying Mantis eat other insects, and as pictured below they are the only insect that can turn their head side-to-side (180 degrees). Praying mantis have 5 eyes; 2 compound eyes and 3 simple eyes but only one ear. There are over 1500 species of praying mantis worldwide.

Rough Green Snake facts:
A fairly common snake, but can be difficult to see. This camouflaged snake is an excellent climber and can hide easily in green vegetation.

 

Bill’s Blog: Discovery Center Bees

Hello everyone! I hope you are staying cool and enjoying your summer. I’ve been having a ball seeing so many of you laughing and having a good time here at Discovery Center. Our summer schedule is full of so many exciting and fun things to do.

Have you heard the buzz at Discovery Center? No, I don’t mean the saws in Makerspace,Meet the Bees Install (20)
although I can hear the sounds of hammering and sawing as our visitors explore their creativity. I’m talking about the buzz made by our bees. Oh yes, the bees are back!

 

Our first colony of Discovery Center bees had swarmed in the spring and left the hive. Swarming is the natural means of reproduction of honeybee colonies. We really missed our bees until Keith Elrod installed a new colony of beautiful honeybees for the observation hive. The new queen has a green spot on her back, and all of the bees are strong and industrious. The bees have settled into their routine of gathering pollen from the DC gardens, attending to the Queen, and nurturing the babies. Katie Woodward of our DC staff keeps a close watch over the bees. She recently dusted them with vitamins to insure they stay healthy. She also does her best to keep the hive free of disease or infestations of mites and beetles.

Let me share some interesting bee facts:
Bees will visit up to 2 million flowers to fill a single jar of honey.
Bees can buzz up to 15 miles per hour.
Worker bees (girls) do all the work inside the hive, care for the Queen and live for 4 weeks.
Drone bees (boys) are only for mating and die after mating.
Queen bees (girls) one to a hive, their only job is to lay eggs and they can live for about 5 years.

Our butterfly garden is in full bloom and our new bees love collecting pollen from the mint
and basil flowers. I can curl in a ball and observe them for hours! Make plans to come to
Discovery Center soon to see these marvelous honeybees at work.

Wetland Wonders

 

Spring took a long time to arrive at the Wetlands this year and now it is already summer!  There is so much activity to report! My animal friends are a-buzz with stories about all the children that visited Discovery Center and participated in our Wetland Wonders tour.

 

10257854_10152375107114591_8262904027533771679_nDuring the tour, the children saw muskrats, which are herbivores, feeding on fresh green shoots of arrowroot and cattail. Nearby sleek otters playfully swam and dove for fish. Otters are carnivores; they rely on varying combinations of aquatic invertebrates, amphibians, fish, and other prey. Many species of mammals depend on wetland habitats for survival.

Plump tadpoles have emerged from layers of mud and young turtles swim upon the surface of the water in the Lily Pad Pond. A Frogs life cycle starts in the pond as an egg. The tadpole hatches out and stays in the pond, slowly growing back legs and then front legs. As it turns into an adult frog, its whole body slowly changes. Its mouth and tongue become better suited for catching insects and other living things. As adults, only two of our local frogs spend much time in the pond: the Bullfrog and the Green Frog.

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Dragonflies sport brilliant blue and green coats as they flit about in the air and water snakes slither out to sunbathe on logs. Birdwatchers have reported sightings of cedar waxwings and hummingbirds. Soon the yellow-rumped warbler will announce its’ arrival. Recently a pair of American Wigeon rested here from their long migration. They are a rare sight as they mainly stay in the southwest. You can learn more about birds and migration with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (http://www.allaboutbirds.org)

How wonderful to see the Wetlands come awake after all these months! Come to Discovery Center and walk through the Wetlands to see what spring offers to those who love and connect to nature.

 

Experience the wetlands on a guided Wetland Walk, Citizen Science, and Nature Nuts. Find out more here!

 

Bill’s Brain Building Vocabulary

Wetlands: A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally. They include swamps, marshes and bogs. Wetlands are important because they contain more life than any other habitat in our area. Mosquitos, dragonflies, frogs, salamanders, and many other animals need wetlands as a key part in their life cycles. They also provide habitat for herons, ducks, and geese to live in and rest in as they migrate. Wetlands are the most diverse habitat in our area.
Learn more about wetlands . . . (http://www.nwf.org/Kids/Ranger-Rick/Animals/Mixture-of-Species/What-Is-A-Wetland.aspx)

Life Cycle: a life cycle is a series of changes in form that an organism undergoes. Check out these fun life cycle games from turtlediary.com (http://www.turtlediary.com/kids-games/science-topics/life-cycle-games.html)

Migration: For animals, migration means to move from one area to another at different times of the year.

Bill’s Blog

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Welcome to my blog! My name is Bill and I am a ball python living in Discovery Center at Murfree Spring. I have a great time here with all my animal friends, and I excited to bring you news about them through my blog.

Discovery Center is a hands-on museum and nature center which houses a collection of reptiles, amphibians, and mammals for the teaching and enjoyment of our visitors.

 

Let me begin my blog by telling you that we had a fire at Discovery Center in the reptile and amphibian room.  It started in my terrarium! It was in the early morning of October 1st, 2013. I was awakened by the smell of smoke and before I could call out for help and warn my friends, the sprinkler system began to rain water down on us! Oh my, we were very frightened! Our terrariums began to fill with water and became aquariums! Many of my friends don’t swim and were beginning to panic. Within a few minutes, though, the Murfreesboro firemen charged in and began to put out the fire and rescue us. Whew! Thank you, firefighters!

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We were moved out of our quarters and placed in safe areas around the museum. Workers quickly began to repair the damage and soon we were all back in new homes. I think Panzer, our leopard tortoise, had the most fun with her new enclosure. It was not quite tall enough, and she enjoyed climbing over the side and wandering all around our room! Miss Shelly found a better home with higher sides and now Panzer is secure and enjoying her daily salad.

 

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It has been fun watching the bearded dragons, Rex-Ann and Saphira. They are next door neighbors in our new home, and I think before their move they had no idea what they looked like! They just stare at each other and try to climb over their terrariums to see each other. It is so much fun to watch!

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Mazie is the newest addition to our reptile family, and she was a very brave little girl during the fire. Mazie recently outgrew her small home and now resides in a new 10 gallon terrarium. She looks so sleek in her spacious home.

 

The king snakes, Scarlett and Rhett, have had the hardest time with the transition to new homes. I was a bit worried about them because they weren’t eating. I checked a web-site, http://www.livescience.com/7348-snakes-survive-months-food.html and discovered that just like myself, these amazing friends can go for months without food and still keep growing! Sure enough, they have begun to enjoy mealtime again and have adjusted well. They love curling up in the fresh shavings and taking long naps.

 

We are all doing fine and look forward to seeing you here at Discovery Center. I have many other animal friends that I will be telling you about in the future. Our Great Horned Owl, Pemberton, will have exciting news soon. You won’t want to miss it, so please visit my blog often!

 

If you’d like to learn more about some of my animal friends, check out these great sites:

Bearded Dragons (link to http://www.thebeardeddragon.org/)
A-Z Animals (link to http://a-z-animals.com/)
Kid Zone – Snakes (link to http://www.kidzone.ws/lw/snakes/facts.htm)

 

Bill’s Brain Building Vocabulary

Terrarium: a closed container for keeping small animals or growing small plants. A terrarium is usually made of clear glass or plastic.

Aquarium: a tank or other container filled with water in which water animals and plants are kept.

Transition: change from one position, stage, or situation to another.