Thank you for visiting the home blog of Caliso Learning, a natural science-based business celebrating the beauty and ecology of our natural environments. Our goal is to connect you and your family with nature--actually, we want you to fall in LOVE with nature!

Here you will find nature-inspired articles and posts, family activities, personal stories, resources, and more--all with the goal to connect you with the benefits of nature for family fun and inspiration! Please enjoy and let us know what you like :) Follow us on Facebook for even more resources, more frequently!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Predator or Prey

My husband took our 4-year old to our favorite desert zoo and botanical park. One of their most recent additions is the North American Jaguar exhibit. As you enter the exhibit, you walk along a path surrounded by familiar Sonoran desert vegetation (familiar to us anyway!), where you can easily imagine this beautiful large cat lurking somewhere nearby. Careful observation yields jaguar tracks and even its scat—convincing enough to invite a little fear into the back of your mind, there’s no way this thing got out, right? Then you are at once upon the exhibit, with glass and fencing that blend away so easily that you can easily enter into the veil of a wild and free close encounter with this predatory cat. It was here that my husband and son had an amazing, albeit a little creepy experience.

My husband had to follow up on scheduled call and while he was doing that, my son sat in the little zoo wagon watching the jaguar. And the jaguar was watching him. Rather, the jaguar was stalking him. Each moment my husband would turn away from the jaguar (only seconds at a time), it moved closer to my son, always watching him. My son noticed the jaguar moving closer and told my husband. What a great learning opportunity my hubby thought, and so they decided to “test” it. Sure enough when my husband simply looked away, the jaguar would move in closer. When my husband was looking at the jaguar, the jaguar would glance at my husband. It moved quickly from the cover of one bush to another.

The photos are of the jaguar after it moved in, now crouched beside some bushes, less than 5 feet away from my son. Notice how his paw is forward in the second shot which to me, looks like he’s entering a “pounce” position. It was enough to give both my husband and son an uncomfortable feeling. In my sons words, “that was creepy daddy.”

I've often heard of similar experiences with young children and large cats at zoos, in fact years ago one of the mountain lions here used to watch small children very intently and show similar behaviour within its enclosure. I think it's a fascinating opportunity to see these elusive animals react in such an instinctive way. I imagine it’s an intense experience, especially when you realize YOU are the prey that is triggering this instinctive behavior. As for my son, he bravely returned to the exhibit (very reluctantly at first) in order to show me the jaguar that he, “thinks wanted to jump on me mommy.”

Only the week before my son enthusiastically learned about carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores in zoo camp, including his preschooler perspective, “I’m meat mommy, so there are animals that would want to eat me!” which led to this interesting opportunity to apply those same concepts when talking about his encounter with this particular meat-eater. (Not to mention an additional opportunity to reinforce some favorite bedtime stories on courage and compassion through a gentle and supportive pep talk on courage that helped my brave little guy return to see the same cat less than an hour later!)

It could end up being a memorable experience that will stay with him for a bite..er bit :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Spontaneous Critter Encounters!

This beautiful June Beetle flew into our car this morning just as we were leaving for zoo camp. Spontaneous critter encounters are the best! It was a great reminder to have handy a safe and secure critter catcher for up close viewing. These encounters are exciting and you want to be able to take advantage of such a wonderful moment with your children.

A mason jar with a screen lid, a jar with its lid punched with nail holes, or a small pet store critter carrier are all great standby's for safely catching, securing and viewing unexpected visitors before releasing. Having more than one on hand is sometimes useful as we have all three but this plastic one was perfect for taking with us for sharing. Why not keep one in your car for the park, the trail, or when camping, or at a friend’s house—you never know when a critter may stop by to say hello for a short visit!

We recommend releasing critters after a few hours of viewing—so get those field guides out, take some photos, and identify it while you can. Use a hand lens to get up close viewing that you wouldn’t normally be able to do. It’s fascinating! Even though you are being VERY careful with them by not moving the container around or tapping on it, you can imagine it is likely a stressful situation for your critter. This can affect their health very, very quickly as it is not an ideal environment for them (being enclosed, experiencing unnatural temperature variations and being away from their natural resources and cycles they rely on throughout the day or night). Just keep that in mind but be sure to enjoy this spontaneous gift from nature, then release your critter near where you found it.

Three cheers for cool, green, metallic beetles! Bugs--bugs--bugs!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

SDBG's Insect Fair & Hamilton Children’s Garden

For those of us who live in the southern California desert, summer temperatures tend to limit our options for outdoor play time and exploration. One way to get around this is to escape to cooler areas like the mountains or the beach. We enjoyed a great day trip to the Hamilton Children’s Garden at the San Diego Botanic Gardens (formerly Quail Bontanic Gardens) in Encinitas, CA. This weekend’s event was their annual Insect Fair and we went especially for that event.

We learned about a variety of native and exotic insects, reptiles, and birds. Many live critters were on hand to get visitors up close to the many creatures we share our planet with everyday. All of these first encounters started near the wonderful Undersea Succulent Garden which is filled with beautiful tiled sculptures, lava stone, huge shells, and marine glass planted planted among succulents that looked very much like ocean coral, sea stars and other marine critters.

Nearby, young visitors and their parents played in nature with some water play, bubbles, plant creatures, garden play houses, dino dig, a miniature railroad, and crafts within the Seeds of Wonder garden, especially created for toddlers and preschoolers. While on the other side of the park, the laughter and energy of children climbing up and under a huge tree house, splashing in a stream, creating music in a musical garden, spelling and smelling in an alphabet garden, herb and salad gardens, exploring a grass maze, and boulder jumping in the "rock hopping" garden (you must hop from boulder to boulder, no touching the ground!), led the day for families in the equally fantastic Hamilton Children’s Garden.

What an amazing place! You will likely find something for the entire family to experience between the amazing gardens, integrated sculptures, children’s play areas and specialty gardens, trails and lookouts. We found a lot of hidden whimsy throughout the day in the form of critters, “secret” hideaways and paths, artful, enchanting gardens and inspiring displays.

Be sure to visit their site for more information about the Seeds of Wonder garden of delights for the little ones and the huge tree house to be explored and climbed on in the Hamilton Garden! Some of their annual events include the Chocolate Festival, Fairy Festival, Garden of Lights, Lady Bug Day, Orchid Festival and much more! Click San Diego Botanic Garden

If you’d like to see more pictures from our day at the San Diego Botanic Garden check out our Facebook album.