Sunday, July 8, 2012

Junior Naturalist

Taylor- Butterfly Hunter
If you want outdoor excitement, take an insect net and a 2nd grader outdoors and let her go.  My niece Taylor has collected butterflies for the Butterfly House for three years, the first year as a spotter and now as a bundle of energy and enthusiasm armed with her own net.  This year she caught 24 while I was netting six.  It was like fishing with a kid and baiting the hooks- I kept busy trying to keep ahead of her by packaging her catches.

The last two weeks I have rarely seen a swallowtail, but we caught lots of "big orange ones," Great Spangled Fritillaries.  Her real specialty turns out to be catching tiny hairstreaks that I couldn't even see, netting them off of the dried weeds.

A 7 year old sees everything through a different set of eyes and most of it is "COOL."  Thanks to her dad's pocket camera, I can share her view of the creek with this photo album.

A highlight was a rock found while chasing toads, frogs, tadpoles, fish and crawdads.  Taylor presented it to me for identification... way out of my league.  I sent it to my favorite Rockdoc, Dr. James Miller, who took the time to identify it for her. 

"Your niece has found a not common but well known fossil from the local limestone, although this one is preserved as a mold in chert.  It looks like a starfish, but it has the wrong number of rays (6 instead of 5).  It is a member of the phylum Bryozoa (Google it), which is a phylum of colonial marine invertebrates made of tiny individuals.  The phylum goes back to the Ordovician Period of Earth history, and it is still alive today.  This genus is Evactinopora, and we do find these from time to time in the local strata and in loose pieces of chert weathered out of the strata.  It extends down into the rock for some distance."
As Rockdoc points out the structure is made up of free-living organisms which form a star-shaped colony as seen at this site.  The same organisms may make structures with 4 to 9 rays, a variation  almost suggesting they have architectural talent.  The genus must not be too common as it wasn't listed in any of three field guides or The Fossil Book.  That what friends are for.  Thanks, Rockdoc!

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