Saturday, December 14, 2013

Practical Identification: Fossils

The geology students had a good time identifying selected fossils from my collection.  Some specimens were tricky, and some required a very close examination.

Two young geologists examine a fossil shark tooth.

Everyone easily identified the fish.

They needed a hand lens to see the fossil gastropod shell embedded in limestone.

The ammonite was also an easy I. D.

Each sample was classified by fossil type and identified if possible.  The students drew each sample on the station sheet.

That shark tooth.

We didn't have any petrified wood, but I promised a photo.  Here, Trip examines a former log in Petrified Forest National Park.

Need some books for young fossil hunters?  Here are a few:

Or, get your own starter set, and set up a set of practical stations.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Strings of Elven Pearls

It was so foggy this morning!  Silent dew drops clung to everything--the perfect day to take some pictures.  Click on the photos to enlarge.

I tried to get a shot of this drop as it lenses the oak tree next door in a perfect upside-down image in miniature, but was annoyed to find this bit of string in the image.

Then I took a closer look.  It was covered with smaller drops.

And soon I saw that these fine filaments were everywhere.

Tiny strings of pearls, they seemed...

woven along the yew...

as though a tiny elf had strung them...

on each branch,  for Christmas.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Raven Eats Wasps

Did a quick image search for this sort of behavior but nothing turned up.

(Caveat:  Never birdwatch while driving.)

Way in the back of the long office parking lot, there is a pass-through driveway to the supermarket next door.  The back of the parking lot is a bit overgrown, and in the curbside underbrush grows a tree. And on that tree, there hangs an impressive and unmistakable paper wasp nest.  Big and grey, it waves, heavily on a windy day, on the tip of a delicate branch.

I was taking the shortcut through the supermarket lot on my way to the office when I saw a big black bird fly over the car and land on the nest.  I thought it was a crow at first, as ravens are not as common in these suburbs.  But this was a big glossy bird with a heavy bill, and it was making no sound, unlike the boisterous local crows.

The pass-through is narrow, and I hit the high curb as I was looking at the bird.  Two cars leaving the office lot stopped to stare as I backed off the curb and let them pass.  I drove through when they had gone and pulled into the nearest space, hoping the bird was still there.  It stayed as I stepped out of the car and into the lot.  A guy drove up behind me and honked impatiently until I moved to the side.  A woman drove up behind him and smiled indulgently as I snapped a few shots.

All I had was my Samsung tablet.  It takes photos, but not like the Nikon does.  With no zoom lens, and only a screen which reflects the sky on a bright day in such a way that one cannot tell what one is photographing, I took a few blind shots while the raven picked at the nest, sending shards of the soft gray paper fluttering to the ground. This is the good one:

This one wasn't too bad, either, left uncropped.  It was a gorgeous cold day, and the raven is beautiful black bird.

Since it was a sub-freezing,  I imagine the raven got a few tasty torpid wasps for its trouble.  Ravens are the largest of the perching birds, members of the crow family, and quite stunning up close.  Paper wasps are nasty, stinging insects.  I'm thankful for ravens.

Want to learn more?  Here are some raven books:
Mind of the Raven (Heinrich)
Ravens in Winter (Heinrich)
The Raven (Poe!)
Raven and the Red Ball (picture book)
Raven (Native American tale)
Arabel's Raven (Aiken)
Charlie's Raven (George)
Clem (true story)
The Seven Ravens (Grimm)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

10 Cool Gifts for Earth Science Students

...and some books, of course.  Since I am teaching earth science this year, I thought I'd pull together a quick list of small gifts, bigger gifts, or stocking-stuffers for the enthusiastic rock lover.  Of course, nothing says Merry Geological Christmas like a lump of coal.  But here are a few other suggestions. Books for earth science are listed at the end.


Small sample boxes

Rock hammer

Loupe set

Rock Tumbler

UV flashlight

Safety glasses


Prospecting pan

Stereo microscope for rock samples

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ye Olde MacBeth's Opinion Website

Seems as though the home page has been taken over by some equally olde web entity.  I changed the link (left sidebar) to the nature study page. All links except the homepage are available through the nature study page.  If you have encountered problems in the past, try visiting now.  Meanwhile, I hope to get back to moving the whole mess to the blog, and revitalizing the links.

Hope you are all enjoying autumn!

Monday, November 4, 2013

St. Andrew Chaplet for the Terminally Forgetful

Raise your hand if you have started the St. Andrew prayer during Advent, planning faithfully to follow the prescribed prayer series only to forget.  Every year, I do the same thing.

Fortunately, for those terminally forgetful among us, there is a solution and solace to be found in the simple chaplet...put it on your wrist for a constant reminder of the devotion.

Pretty, isn't it?

Made by my friend Ruth, who anticipated my need, this beautiful chaplet can be found find on her website, along with the prayer.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Photographing Fairies

Just for fun.  Not exactly Cottingley Fairies (famous and fictionalized), but still, these might make one wonder.

Ah!  It's only milkweed.

The other shots were failed attempts to capture milkweed in flight.  I hope the seeds grow in my yard next spring so I can capture blurry monarch photos.  Find out more with this book:  Monarch and Milkweed.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mine Again, and An Astronomical Opportunity

Six years ago, we took the kids to a copper mine, and they had a blast.  Heh. But that was not our first experience with indeed.  Ten years ago, I took my kids to the Herkimer Diamond Mines in upstate NY.  4 hours from NYC is another world--a world of ancient rocks and beautiful crystals.  This past weekend, I took another set of kids to the same spot.  Like prisoners on a chain gang, the kids diligently broke rocks with little pay-off.  Towards the end of the day, a mine employee came out and gave us some hints.  We were rewarded with a find of small, beautiful crystals. Here are some photos of the adventure.  (You can click on the link above and see the difference in digital photography via cell phone then, and my Nikon today.)  Mining is fun for the whole family.  It is even more fun when your group camps together at a campground with an observatory.  Yes, indeed.

The young miners hit a wall.

A careful inspection of the rocks.

Resting on the ledge.

Nursing mothers can feel right at home in the mines!

Finding her own space.

Mining in the field.

There's cell service.


Sifting through the rubble.

Looking for the perfect spot.

Water break.

You keep what you find!
After a hard day in the mines, one wants to relax.  We chose the Herkimer KOA as our lodging place...Why?  This is why:

A lovely porch (I bought the books).

A gas grill...

Oh, did I mention the observatory?  We rented this lodge and had it all to ourselves.

It had plenty of seating.


The master bedroom.
In the kitchen.


In the lodge for our enjoyment.

 It was a spectacular adventure.  Sure we had to cook, but food on a stick or prepared on the grill was easy.  Had we wanted more, we had the cooking facilities to make meals to die for.  Bacon and sausage and oatmeal and pumpkin bread for breakfast...and s'mores, of course.

Some of our younger miners fell asleep early.

One stayed up until the wee hours of the night.

Big kids helped keep the fires going.

The kids camped across from us, along the creek.

We had some clouds, but the skies cleared and we had good viewing.

There was also wine.  It's not just about the kids.

Under the observatory was a hammock and picnic area.
 No visit to the Herkimer area is complete without a visit to the Mohawk River and the Erie Canal.  Unfortunately, the boat we had planned to take on the canal was undergoing maintenance, but we drove to Little Falls and walked along the canal and enjoyed the history and the scenery.  And the moms took pictures.

Kids along the Mohawk.

A waterfall.

Holy Family Parish in Little Falls.

The walk to the Lock (17).

A boat from Ontario heads east, and waits for the lock to open.

And waited...
Well, you may have to wait, but the price is right.  We had to move on.

We hiked and saw historical signs telling us about the raised canal and boat basin that used to serve the area.  Afterwards we got ice cream (moms ate free!!) and were treated to stories of the area told by the ice cream man.
Mill with shops, and ice cream.

Goodbye from along the Erie Canal!

Also:  The tale of mining from the Bonnie Blue House!

Mineral Information Institute (free stuff, and stuff for sale)
Mining History (worldwide)

Good books for young miners: