On Monday we had the opportunity to visit the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center at the base of Lookout Mountain, and it did not disappoint. The Nature Center was hosting a Homeschool Day so we met up with some of our homeschool friends (normally Jack and I do a Nature Day on Thursdays, but the beauty of homeschool is that you can change plans whenever you want).
We started out learning about reptiles. The docent was finishing his talk about frogs and turtles when we arrived, but the snake discussion was pretty cool. He showed us an Eastern Pine Snake – a nonvenomous species that is endemic to the southeastern United States.
We learned that there are over 40 types of snakes in our area of Tennessee, four of which are venomous (only two are really common here). And we learned the difference between the two types of venom and that if you had to get bitten by a venomous snake, the copperhead bite is better than a rattlesnake bite.
After our snake lesson, the kids participated in a series of Native American games. They learned how to work as a team and work individually on their aim with games like toss the pine cone. When we tired of those games, the kids played on the playground and had snacks/lunch.
Then we headed over to the aviary where we were able to see a barn owl, a horned owl, and a red-tailed hawk. All of the animals at this sanctuary are rescues that will not recover enough to be released back into the wild. The barn owl we saw was missing part of one wing.
We learned some interesting facts about owls. One of the first things we learned was that all mammals (humans, cats, bears, even whales) have seven vertebrae in their necks that allow them to turn their head about 180*, while owls have 14 vertebrae in their necks that allow them to turn their necks about 270* (virtually all the way around).
And instead of ears, owls have a disc around their entire face that helps them to hear – kind of like how you can hear better if you cup your had around your ear.
Also, owls make virtually no sound when they flap their wings. Both owls that we saw demonstrated this by flapping in the air noiselessly. The hawk, on the other hand, was a noisy flapper. The silent flight of the owl allows it to grab its prey before the prey has any idea what is happening. The owl's feathers are spread apart, like if you waved your spread out fingers by your ear. The hawk's feathers are closer together, like if you kept your fingers together and waved it next your ear creating more wind noise.
After the bird talk, we walked around the menagerie where we saw more birds of prey including a bald eagle, a turkey vulture and a couple of sand cranes. There was also a bobcat and an area for red wolves.
The kids loved trying to jump as high and as far as a bobcat and were enthralled with the massive, life-sized eagle's nest.
At this point our friends headed home and the boys and I kept exploring. We took the boardwalk down to Lookout Creek, and explored the treehouse that is on sight – Jack really wants to have his birthday here.
The Nature Center is 341 acres and we only covered a portion of it on our visit. I am tempted to get a membership for the year ($70 for a family or $100 if you want to add the canoe package). It is a beautiful place to explore with lots of learning opportunities. If you live in Chattanooga and haven't been, you should check it out!
On our drive home, Jack worked on his nature journal. We used our Nature Anatomy field guide to look up all of the animals that we had the opportunity to see during our visit.
Check back on Fridays to see our weekly outings (this one happened on Monday, but I'm including it in the Friend Friday categor).
If you're following along, here are our previous Friend Friday adventures this school year: August: Coolidge Park
September: Creative Discovery Museum ⎮ Greenway Farms Picnic ⎮ Chattanooga Zoo ⎮ Big Soddy Gulf Picnic