High Season

September 17, 2020

By Steve Cary

A Quick Announcement: The Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) has centralized all “Butterflies of New Mexico” content so it can be accessed here. If you go to that site you can see my blog posts conveniently listed on the right-hand side. The main part of the page is an introduction to “Butterflies of New Mexico,” a completely new and unique online text and photographic resource covering all our 300+ species, which is now available for your use.

In the Introduction, find the list of all the families and subfamilies. Click on any of those to go to your family or subfamily of interest. Within each family or subfamily is a species list and soon you will be able to click on a species to go right to text and images for that species. Currently you can do that for the Swallowtails, Metalmarks and Whites. The other hot links are in-process, and it is a long, tedious process.

My heart-felt thanks go to PEEC, particularly Board Member Jennifer Macke who continues to expertly handle all the webpage design and functionality for the Butterflies of New Mexico project. PEEC staffer Rachel Landman continues to steer me safely through the blogoscape. Katie Bruell guides it all from her perch at the helm of the ship. You three are AWESOME!

Read more High Season

Camping and the Summer Solstice

Participants in PEEC’s fall 2019 Weekend Horseback Outdoor Adventure program wave from inside their tent! (Photo by Beth Cortright)

This Saturday, June 20, 2020 is the summer solstice — the longest day of the year! This week on Take It Outside, learn about the science and traditions of the solstice. On Saturday, PEEC is also partnering with Los Alamos County for the Los Alamos County Campout.

Summer Nature Challenge:

Participate in our Summer Nature Challenge! Every week, participants who complete the challenge can earn a sticker. If you finish all nine weeks, you’ll earn a bonus sticker! Find our archive containing all of our past Take It Outside activities here.

Download the challenge sheet here to print out and complete at home. At the end of the challenge, you can either bring it to the nature center or mail it to us at 2600 Canyon Rd, Los Alamos, NM 87544.

If you don’t have a printer or prefer to work online, you can tell us about your experiences in the Google Form below or email your stories and pictures to takeitoutside@peecnature.org.

Blog Post:

Astrophysicist and PEEC volunteer Rick Wallace introduces the science and traditions of the summer solstice in the following videos:

In his first video about the solstice, Rick Wallace explores the science behind the solstice and seasons.
In his second video, Rick looks at some of the traditions that happen around the world to celebrate the summer solstice.

Outdoor Challenges:

We’re posting three outdoor challenges today that you can enjoy throughout the week!

Tell us about your experiences with one, two, or all three of them! You can do this in the Google Form below, by writing or drawing about them on our summer challenge sheet, or by sending an email to takeitoutside@peecnature.org.

 

Challenge #1:

Students on our Weekend Horseback Outdoor Adventure program cook fajitas over the fire. You can do one of our County Campout activities this week to make an artificial campfire! (Photo by Beth Cortright)

Go camping! Many public recreation areas are currently closed for overnight use, but you can camp right at home, and it’ll still be a special experience. Set up a tent in your backyard, or even make a cozy campsite in your living room. Learn how to participate in the Los Alamos County Campout on Saturday, June 20 and pick up your goody bag here. If you’d like to join the crafty campfire at 7:30 PM, find the link to the Zoom event here. Participants can enjoy activities, crafts, and a story with the Los Alamos Public Libraries. If you can’t make it to pick up a goody bag, download the campout packet here.

 

Challenge #2:

You don’t need equipment to get outdoors! Spending time in nature can improve mental and physical health for adults and children, and result in reduced stress. So spend some time outside today!

You can build a fort or tiny fairy houses, or just sit in a favorite spot and focus on each of your senses in turn. Read more and see our detailed suggestions on this page. The five senses mindfulness activity was one of our favorite outdoor challenges from the first 10 weeks of Take It Outside.

Challenge #3:

During the solstice, the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. Try tracking one or both of the following:

  • The length of your shadow at midday. As the sun gets higher, your shadow gets shorter! Every day, go outside at the same time, stand in the same place, and put a mark where the top of your shadow’s head is. Do you notice a pattern?
  • The position of the sun at sunset. Did you know that the sun doesn’t always set exactly in the west? The longer the day, the more time the sun spends above the horizon, and the further to the northwest the sun sets. Every evening at sunset, note where the sun sets compared to the landscape to the west. You can also mark the position with a marker on a west-facing window. Make sure never to look directly at the sun! Let us know what you notice!

 

Want to Learn More?

Share Your Experience:

Tell us about your outdoor experiences! We’d love to see your photos, too. Please send them to takeitoutside@peecnature.org or share them on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #peectakeitoutside. If you’d like this to count for the Summer Nature Challenge, be sure to include your name and email address.

Signs of Summer

Summer breeding season means that you might be seeing nestling and juvenile birds! The Black-chinned Hummingbirds in this photo have almost outgrown their nest. (Photo by Mouser Williams)

To kick off summer, we’re focusing on the signs of the season this week in Take It Outside.

Now that school’s out, it’s also a great time to work on PEEC’s Passports to the Pajarito Plateau if you haven’t finished them yet. When the nature center opens again, bring them in to collect all the prizes you’ve been earning! If you don’t have a Passport booklet, you can order one for curbside pickup from our online shop. They are free, but you will need to go through the ordering process to request one. We also have some trail guides and maps available for curbside pickup.

Summer Nature Challenge:

We’re issuing a special summer nature challenge starting today! This challenge will run for nine weeks. Every week, participants who complete the challenge can earn a sticker. If you finish all nine weeks, you’ll earn a bonus sticker! 

We are finalizing the sticker designs now and will be ordering them soon and figuring out the pickup process. We’ll keep you updated on that, but you can get started now!!

Download the challenge sheet here to print out and complete at home. At the end of the challenge, you can either bring it to the nature center or mail it to us at 2600 Canyon Rd, Los Alamos, NM 87544.

If you don’t have a printer or prefer to work online, you can tell us about your experiences in the Google Form below or email us your stories and pictures to takeitoutside@peecnature.org

Blog Post:

Every year, Bandelier National Monument brings in an intern to help with bird banding efforts and education about bird biology through the summer breeding and fall migration seasons. Today, meet this year’s intern, Zoë Moffett, and learn all about fledgling birds in her blog post!

Outdoor Challenges:

We’re posting three outdoor challenges today that you can enjoy throughout the week! Each one focuses on a different sign of summer that you can observe outside.

Tell us about your experiences with one, two, or all three of them! You can do this in the Google Form below, by writing or drawing about them on our summer challenge sheet, or by sending an email to takeitoutside@peecnature.org

 

Challenge #1:

This is a fledgling Juniper Titmouse. Local birder Bob Walker observed it begging for food and following the adult around to his feeder. Notice its fluffy appearance! (Photo by Bob Walker)

Throughout the summer breeding season, we can see baby birds in our area. Learn more about baby and juvenile birds in this week’s blog post. To recognize a juvenile or fledgling bird, look for:

  • Feathers that are often duller or streakier than their adult counterparts. Young birds can’t fly as well as adults, and their streaky plumage helps them camouflage and escape predators.
  • A fluffy look. Baby birds are transitioning from downy to sleek plumage, so they often look a little scruffy. They are in the bird version of a human’s awkward teenage years!
  • Short tails, if their long, sleek tail feathers haven’t grown in yet.
  • Begging behavior. Sometimes you’ll see them following a parent, begging for food. You might see the juvenile flapping its wings, making noise, and holding its mouth open. Watch to see if the parent feeds its youngster!
  • Awkward movement. Baby birds’ motor skills are developing, just like the young of other species.

Make sure to keep your cats inside, especially at this time of year when baby birds are especially vulnerable. If you see a fledgling bird acting helpless, it probably doesn’t need your help, and it is usually best to leave it alone. But you can observe it from a distance and take a picture. We’d love to see it, send it to us at takeitoutside@peecnature.org or tag us on social media (@peecnature on Facebook and Instagram)!

 

Challenge #2:

At this time of year, you’ll notice a few changes in the weather. Try tracking one or both of the following over the next several weeks:

  • Cloud cover over the course of a day. In New Mexico, clouds build up over the course of a day as heat from the sun causes air masses to rise until they cool down enough for moisture to condense. What time do you notice clouds forming in the sky? What time is the maximum cloud cover? How much of the sky is covered at this point? Use this chart to help you decide.
  • Dewpoint temperature. The dew point is the highest temperature at which condensation will occur, and it depends on the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. The more water there is in the atmosphere, the higher temperature at which water vapor will condense into droplets. Dew point is a good predictor of our monsoon season here in New Mexico: when the dew point rises to about 45°F, there is enough moisture in the air for monsoons to begin. If you have a thermometer, try measuring the dew point yourself with this simple experiment involving a metal can, some water and a few ice cubes! What variations do you notice over the course of a few days or weeks?

Challenge #3:

Colorado Blue Columbines can be found at high elevations, typically on the Ski Hill in Los Alamos. They bloom from about June to October, so look for them soon. (Photo by Craig Martin)

Summer flowers and plants are starting to come out as well. Flowers are great for sketching and observing closely because they hold still! Check out this video from John Muir Laws for some tips on how to get started drawing plants and wildflowers.

If you’re interested in learning about what wildflowers are popping up during the summer in Northern New Mexico, you can check out PEEC’s Wildflower Guide, which will show you what should be blooming now. We also recommend checking out Craig Martin’s Jemez Mountains Plants blog. He updates it fairly regularly and shares the flowers he finds on his adventures.

 

Want to Learn More?

Share Your Experience:

Tell us about your outdoor experiences! We’d love to see your photos, too. Please send them to takeitoutside@peecnature.org or share them on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #peectakeitoutside. If you’d like this to count for the Summer Nature Challenge, be sure to include your name and email address.