Take a Virtual Nature Walk with Chad!

Written by Chad Thomack
    Wednesday, 25 March 2020
Take a Virtual Nature Walk with Chad!

We're encouraging our staff to share the natural discoveries they've found on their walks. Come along on a "virtual nature walk" with our Environmental Educator Chad Thomack, and hear stories about his recent discoveries in nature!

Owl Pellets

While exploring the woods, simply observing the softest call of a Great Horned Owl delights my ears, and even more so, my curriosity. My daughter hears it too, so she took out her binoculars, and I my camera. After looking in the pines where we heard the call, we decided the bird was clearly camoflauged well!

So, I started to look to the ground and immediately found several owl pellets scattered around the trees. Did you know that owls cannot digest the fur and bones of their prey, so instead cough it up as something called a "pellet"? I, like many, have dissected these and as I pulled this one apart, we discovered the bones of a mouse, skull and all! What an exciting find. Even better was the larger bones (about 2 inches) that I found in a different pellet. Not entirely sure what those bones were from, but owls are known to eat animals as large as skunks and rabbits! It makes sense why owls have been deemed "the tiger of the sky" by some.

Sometimes nature speaks in different ways, today it spoke as the wisper of an owl calling me to look deeper.


Mysterious Discoveries

As I wander along, I began exploring a blown down beech tree. There, I found little protective homes made by an insect - a wasp or hornet was my best guess at that point. The size was of a large chicken egg - it was even shaped that way too! When I broke it open I found the exoskeleton of what I can imagine was food for the host. I did some research after my discovery because nature gives us all many opportunities to learn and to collaborate. 1beetle pupate I checked in on what those strange egg like cases could be with an expert on insects, Kate Redmond, know as the Bug Lady on her blog posts, and I asked for her opinion. She replied, "They look like pupal cases (though whose, I can't say - possibly a beetle of some kind).  

Lots of beetles pupate at or near the soil surface. Because there were so many of them, and they were in a cavity, I'm guessing that you found the "midden" of some small mammal that feeds on pupae.  Maybe a mouse or more likely a red squirrel.​"

As the saying goes you learn something new everyday, so get outside if you can and take a closer look.


Thanks for joining us!

Thanks for joining us for this virtual nature walk! We hope you learned something new or fascinating. And the good news is, going outside for walks, hikes, bike rides, bird watching, and other activities can be done while using appropriate social distancing measures. We encourage you to take advantage of the natural beauty surrounding us and the wonder of this transitional season. We hope you'll get outside and discover some natural wonders of your own!

Chad Thomack

Chad Thomack

Chad Thomack, Environmental Educator, has been a staff member of the Urban Ecology Center for over 15 years.  Chad received a biology/wildlife degree from UW Stevens Point and has been teaching about nature ever since.  His hobbies include outdoor adventures like kayaking, mountain biking, trail running and cross country skiing, as well as exercising, reading, playing video games, journaling and gardening.


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