Day: September 16, 2013

New country, new species, new discoveries

We’ve seen the groundhogs, (also known as woodchucks), playing peek-a-boo, we’ve stopped in our tracks as a little (or not so little) lizard dashes across our path (or up a wall of the house) and we’ve noticed the colourful, varied birdlife and numerous damsel-flys and dragon-flys. Living in a new country offers great opportunity for exploring and last week the girls and I visited the lovely natural history museum here in Santa Barbara, to learn a little more about all the wonderful new species we are coming across. We had a very interesting time and a fun visit.

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At the museum there is a wonderful collection of insects that can be found around Santa Barbara (some of them we hope not to see in a hurry!), as well as a fabulous exhibition explaining the migration of the monarch butterfly, which come to Santa Barbara, amongst other places, to rest over the winter months (more information on the Ellwood Butterfly Preserve here and the Coronado Butterfly Preserve).

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We are familiar with this beautiful species, as it frequented our summer garden in Wellington, New Zealand, and we loved to plant flowers and ‘Swan Plants‘ (a species of milk weed) to attract them to stay and lay eggs, but we’ve never seen them in such numbers – so definitely a ‘must see’ whilst we are here!

The museum itself is located in a beautiful area, with plentiful outdoor exploration spaces – of particular appeal to children and families. The girls thought pulling a chord to discover how long a blue whale is was a lot of fun (and amazing too!).

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They also spent time enjoying the nature discovery areas – where there are large bamboo poles for fort building, rocks to climb on and a water course – offering plentiful learning opportunities! They spent a while toying with little wooden boats on the rapids, filling buckets with water and working out how many they could carry using a pole, rather than just their two hands, and making the water pumps work.

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And whilst they played around the water course, a very friendly, inquisitive squirrel scampered down from the trees to watch us too!

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We very much enjoyed the opportunity to explore and learn both indoors and outdoors at the museum. Next time we’ll have to take a picnic and stay for longer (there are vending machines, but that’s all).

Finally, I must add this write up on the mineral exhibition by my eldest daughter – a lovely piece of expressive writing;

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A Cave Filled With Minerals

I was treading carefully through the dark room filled with exquisite minerals and crystals including ruby and pyrite. In the dark room filled with riches there was an old abandoned mineshaft filled with amethyst and more priceless gemstones.

As I left the abandoned mineshaft a group of rocks captured my attention, out of the corner of my eye. 

On a small information board I spotted a small red button.  I was curious to what it was, so I pressed it.  After about 5 seconds an ultraviolet light appeared and instantly the once old, and not colourful rocks, became a cascade of fluorescent colours. My neon green top was not nearly as bright as these rocks, but there was one especially that captured my attention; it had the same pattern as a bright green and black poison dart frog, it even looked like one!  I had a look at what it was called, as I was curious to know, I have to say it had such a ridiculous name, it was called a ‘Williamite’! 

Finally it was time to leave and return to our home.

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Linking this post with the wonderful ‘Country Kids’

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall