Thursday, April 16, 2009

Master Naturalist Class

My Minnesota Naturalist Class is going well. Last night was class #4 (there are a total of 9 classes). I thought I was pretty knowledgable about nature, but I'm finding out in this class that I really don't know very much at all! I felt a little smarter in yesterday's class: Creatures of the Big Woods. We had the opportunity to go outside and make a plaster cast of an animal footprint found along the edge of the pond. Here's how our group's turned out -- do you know what animal made this footprint?
If you guessed "hind foot of a raccoon" you would be correct!

So far we have learned about Minnesota's biomes (we are in the deciduous forest biome), glaciers and geology and what effect they had on the big woods, management and identification of terrestrial plants (trees and shrubs), and last night's class on wildlife. I'm enjoying these classes and especially all the new things I'm learning.

And now to totally change the subject, look at this picture I took yesterday morning......

Those dang starlings! It took them almost 3 months to figure out how to get to the suet log inside this cage. I don't know if it's just this one bird, but when I got home from work this afternoon, there was a starling all the way up inside--with one foot braced on the suet log and one on the cage. I was hoping they'd never figure this out, but this is one smart bird. Now I'm going to have to attach a pie plate to the bottom of the log and cut off that access. The only bad thing about that is the hairy woodpeckers will also lose their access to the suet log. Crap!!


Lisa at Greenbow said...

I agree those dang starling.

Your class sounds like so much fun.

Richard said...

Good thing is that they don't hang around long.

KGMom said...

I applaud your life-long learning.
Isn't it amazing how ingenious creatures can be in pursuit of food?

Gaelyn said...

That's one determined bird.

So glad you're enjoying the naturalist classes. I consider myself a naturalist, and am still constantly lerning something new about nature.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Lisa,
There were some other more descriptive words I wanted to use for starlings, but this is a family blog! ;-)

Well Richard, you must have better trained starlings than I do, because mine hang around all year long!

Thanks Donna. We learned about wildlife adaptation in class last night too and I think starlings are good examples of wildlife adapting to a variety of situations-especially for obtaining food.

Hi Gaelyn,
The class is somewhat overwhelming....there's so much to learn and 2.5 hours once a week just doesn't seem like enough time. I only hope I remember most of it!

dAwN said...

I think it is fantastic that you are taking these classes. You are learning and I see so is the Starling..tee hee

Lynne said...

I guess you have to give him credit for smarts! Last evening I had three Robins fighting over my suet cage! Never saw that before.

You class sure sound fun!

Jayne said...

So glad that the classes are so enjoyable Ruthie. LOL at that starling... blasted acrobat! Guess where there's a will...

Anonymous said...

Rotten starlings, somehow they want to prove they can out smart us humans.


Carolyn H said...

Starlings are such rascals. And your photo just confirms they how smart they are.

Carolyn H.

NCmountainwoman said...

Starlings and squirrels! They always seem to find a way, and then they spread the word.

Glad you are enjoying the classes. You've inspired me to find some in our area.

troutbirder said...

Glad to hear you are having a good time at class. I never miss the ranger talks when we are off camping at state parks.

Red said...

I know it's an icky Starling, but it's ingenuity is to be commended :)

Keep up the hard work on your naturalist class. I think that's always the case, the more you learn, the more you realize you have to learn. It's a lifetime of learning in store for you. But with your passion for nature, you'll keep those brain juices flowing and won't stagnate. Therefore you won't be growing old, good news, eh?

Meggie said...

Hey Ruthie! Thanks for the email about burning...not sure my space is suited for such. Those dang starlins sure are ingenious. I guess a raccoon foot...I have enough of those critters around here. Tonight when I took in the birdfeeder...I take it in every night to discourage raccoons and possum, there was a flying squirrel eating at the suet cake. Life is good!

cindy said...

Ruthie, that fire in St.Charles sounds terrible. That's a ways from you, right? Those dasturdly starlings!! I refuse to use capital letters for those things. You have to wonder if it wasn't revenge from the English for us gaining our independence. That and the house sparrow. You must find a way to outsmart them. Our brains are larger, ya know! Have a great weekend. P.S. sounds like you are having fun at your classes. Good for you!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Dawn,
There are quite a few states that offer Master Naturalist Class and I think the first class offerings originated in Florida.
It was interesting watching that starling try to figure out how to get to the suet. It would climb all over that cage and also sit on the deck railing and just look at the cage--so far I think it's only the one bird that can get in there.

Hi Lynne,
My sister has had robins eating suet in her backyard too this spring.
The class IS fun. Here's the website if you want to investigate any courses being offered closer to you:

Hi Jayne,
You realize just how much starlings love peanuts when you see the lengths they go to for getting them!

You're right Mom - I think squirrels are the same way. I guess that's what makes backyard birdfeeding fun and challenging at the same time.

Hi Carolyn H,
Rascals for sure! I'm debating whether to take this suet log down for the summer, but it's nice to see the Downy Woodpeckers up close--especially once they start bringing their little ones. Maybe if I just close off the bottom for a few weeks the starlings will get discouraged and go away.

Hi Carolyn,
I see South Carolina has a Master Naturalist program through Clemson Univ, but I couldn't find anything for North Carolina. But maybe you could find some classes through a nearby nature center? Good luck.

Hi Troutbirder,
I'll have to check and see if Forestville has any programs scheduled yet. We've attended classes there on birding, owls and a bat count a few years ago--that was really fun!

Starlings are ingenious for sure Heidi!
It seems like the more I learn, the more I want to learn, so you're IS all good news!

Oh Meggie,
I'm excited about your flying squirrel. I would be thrilled to see some of those little guys at my feeders, but I think my backyard is just not wooded enough.

Hi Cindy,
I think St. Charles is almost 30 miles from us, but we've been through there on the bikes many a time and that factory that burned is right in downtown! So sad for the community and employees to lose a business like that!
The classes ARE fun--the hard thing for me I think is going to be getting the 40 hours of volunteer activities each year to retain my certification.

Ruth said...

I would find your classes very interesting. Glad you are sharing some of your new found knowledge. There is no doubt that starlings are intelligent. If there is only one stealing your suet, I would let it be. But it will likely teach its tricks to all its friends and relatives.

Aleta said...

Your class sounds like so much fun!
Your starlings - not so much fun! That is, however, a cute picture of its acrobatics in getting the suet! But, for what it's worth, especially if you have a garden you may be interested to know that they are, among birds, one of the biggest bug eaters there are. But they are a nuisance!
We have an occasional starling that passes by, but they never stay (so far) - they seem to prefer a house way down the road from us that has a nice big garage with open rafters. They nest there every summer. Good luck getting rid of them!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Ruth,
So far it's only 1 starling, so I'm letting it be until I see 2 or more eating from that suet log.

Hi Aleta,
I have watched flocks of starlings working the ground for insects in my backyard. I try to remember this good thing about starlings, but when they're screeching and fighting over suet, they're really annoying!

Heather said...

Thanks for the update on your Master Naturalist program. Glad you're having fun. I just learned that there's a similar program for the Hocking Hills region near where I live, but they call it a "volunteer naturalist" program. I might look into taking it next year (it's already gotten underway for this year).
Those are some smart and acrobatic starlings you've got there. At least you had a little time before they figured it out!