Fall Walk

This past weekend my dad turned 60. We have started a tradition of getting together for Grandpa Bill's birthday to walk among the woods and fields of Southern Wisconsin while enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of fall. As you can see from the photo above, we have not quite reached our peak fall colors yet, though there are a couple hints of what's yet to come. Here in the southern part of the state, the color change isn't as dramatic as we see elsewhere. The Oak woodlands that make up most of the habitat tend to hold onto their foliage for a longer time and turn more of a brown/red color. As we go north into the Maple and Birch forests, we see more of the spectaular reds, yellows, and oranges that draw onlookers from all over the midwest.

This year we went to Lapham Peak State Park. The weather was gorgeous on Sunday and the park was full of visitors. I haven't seen a state park parking lot quite as full for a number of years. Maybe this was because the Green Bay Packers were only playing the lowly Detroit Lions??? Regardless, I was happy to break away from an afternoon of football to hang out with my family and take in some of the seasonal splendor.
One of our first finds along the trail was this beetle. I'm fortunate to have two daughters that don't shy away from the creepy crawlies. In fact, both girls will gladly come running to check out an unusual beetle, worm, spider, or snake. I came into work this morning and asked a coworker who knows his insects about this beetle. He looked at the picture and quickly identified the bug in question as a Blister Beetle. Following his ID of the bug, he added that it's best to not agitate them because the Blister Beetle emits a chemical that can burn or blister one's skin.

Here is Nya, getting a closer look at what I thought was just an innocent little beetle. Little did we both know that she was tempting fate here. Fortunately for all, the bug was lethargic and mellow. Not in a fighting mood, I guess. When I get home today I'll be sure to tell Nya more about the bug she was handling on Sunday and maybe use it as a lesson to identify such a critter before picking it up....
There was a hint of color in the trees and that wonderful smell of decaying leaves permeated the entire forest.

When we head outdoors we always take our binoculars. I recently got both kids new binoculars. We have a new 6.5x32 model that is particularly well suited for kids. With a wide field of view, narrow interpupilary distance, and bright optics, they are a no hassle piece of equipment that takes the technological challenges out of using binoculars. Especially for kids. They kept my two girls fully engaged for a few hours in the field.

Fall is a season of transition. We spent time with the kids talking about what plants and animals do in preparation for winter. A lot of time was spent looking at seeds and talking about why there are so many different types. Seeds that fly, seeds that bury themselves into the soil, seeds that stick to animals, and seeds that are eaten.

It's always a wonderful day when you get to bring generations together to enjoy and delight in the complexities of nature. I was able to convince the kids that it was a good idea to leave the beetles, leaves, and seeds at the park. To my delight, they did manage to bring home lots of questions. I see a 3rd graders presentation on seeds in my future....

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