Cicadas here in the Sonoran desert start singing around Father's Day and can be found throughout the summer. Because they are so abundant, you might not take a second look at them.
While out picking blueberries recently, a California woman did notice a cicada and she took a photograph of it. After she uploaded the photo the iNaturalist, an expert realized it wasn't any old cicada. The cicada belongs to the species Okanagana arctostaphylae, which hasn't been seen in over a century!
Looking for low cost ideas to add some STEAM to your week? How about bird safaris, plant identification chalk art, and/or making a permanent record of the animals and plants in your neighborhood?
Idea 1: Birdwatching Safari
Have you seen people putting stuffed animals in their windows or yards? Those are part of Teddy bear scavenger hunts for children. Take the idea to the next level: walk, bike or drive through the neighborhood looking for birds.
Virtually every neighborhood has birds perching, singing, flying, swimming, and feeding. See how many birds you can spot. Write down what you see or record using voice recognition on your phone.
For more bird-related lessons and activity ideas, visit:
Extensions: If birds aren't your thing, consider an insect safari.
Idea 2: Sidewalk Chalk Plant Identification
On the same vein, have you seen driveways and sidewalks decorated with chalk artwork and inspirational/positive messages? Wouldn't it be cool to take those ideas and incorporate a little science? Leave chalk notes about plants you see.
In England, "rogue" botanists are using chalk to identify common plants along sidewalks (Guardian article gives details). As they emphasize, when people learn the name of plants they can find out more about them, such as how they provide nectar for pollinators or are food for butterflies.
Note: Make sure you have permission before applying chalk to sidewalks.
Idea 3: Make a Nature Notebook or Journal
A nature journal is a physical record of your observations.
Below, children's science author Loree Griffin Burns shares a wonderful nature notebook that her children made when they were younger. She explains what they learned and gives suggestions for making your own.
Notice that they used both photographs and drawings.
You can choose either or a combination. Be sure to jot down your observations and date every entry, as well.
Firstly, it helps me remember the names of insects, especially those that I don't see often. There are more than a million species of insects, so even experts need help.
Blogs can also be a record of life cycles, for example our recent discovery of lady beetles on brittle bush and two weeks later we found lady beetle larvae.
Because I show the insects I've photographed that day or within a few days, it is also an archive of seasonality of insect appearance. For example, this week I noticed two damselflies in the back yard.
This mainly brown one perched on the rim of an old flower pot.
Every minute or so it would launch into the air and grab a gnat. Can you see the gnat snack in its mouth?
About two feet away a bluer version perched on some radish flowers.