Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ideal Bug For Kids

In a recent post I touched on fear of bugs and how most kids are intrigued by things that crawl.  The question is - which bugs are so harmless that kids (or yourself) might be very comfortable touching them?  One option is the Stink Bug. I know, not exactly the best name for a 'touching' recommendation. 

Stink Bugs are common in Newfoundland throughout the summer.  If you are clothesline person no doubt one has made its way into the house. They are about the size of your fingernail.  Stink Bugs have sucking mouth parts so pose no threat to you.  The best thing about these six-legged beauties is that they will mostly hang around. Place them on a child's hand and they will walk all around.  Though they are able to fly most times they simply stay put.

Oh - the stink.  Fortunately, Stink Bugs only use their defense system when threatened.  If you happen to hold it too tight or squeeze it accidentially - stink!  Even then it's distinct but not all that bad.

Next summer introduce your child to a Stink Bug.  It will be a huge leap in reducing fear of bugs!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Big Thank You

Hi folks,
I was surprised and humbled yesterday to see that I was Blog of the Week. Thanks for visiting and reading.  I'll keep the Newfoundland Nature coming with lots of variety.

A big thank you to Stephen and Newfoundland & Labrador BlogRoll.  I love being a part of this community and the awesome blogs here.  Stephen, thanks for the work you do in keeping it rolling.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Puffins at Bonavista

The Puffin is an amazing bird.  About the size of a pidgeon, it settles in flocks on the rocky coastline and perseveres through regular raids of its eggs by larger birds.  The nest is burrowed into the soil.  Puffins have the look of Penguins - crisp black and white attaire, but they fly. A little more squat and stocky, it's their brilliant broad orange beaks which set them apart.

Puffins are common in Newfoundland but I will highlight Bonavista given the opportunity provided there to view them up close. At Cape Bonavista one can stand close to the lighthouse and have a clear view of hundreds of birds going about their business. The business, of course, is cruising over the North Atlantic, diving and returning with lunch. It is amazing to behold, even on the foggy wet days which seem to come frequently to the Cape.  If you visit prepare for birds zooming in all directions.  Very cool. 

The Puffins at Cape Bonavista have settled on the cliff side of a small island.  You can't get there but your camera lense will allow for some cool pics. If travelling in Newfoundland look for these lovely birds. Be careful if taking pics near the ocean's edge.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Moon and beyond

I sure hope you've taken a moment to get outside tonight or on recent evenings. The Moon, being the closest to earth it has been in 18 years, looks amazing. I was outside an hour ago and the moon peeked out behind some trees - it took me by surprise for a second!

The video below does a good job of showing the moon against landscape - giving this unique happening a sense of scale and perspective.

As for the Beyond - if you've read Stephen Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time' you'll recall that there are an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the universe. Each galaxy has an estimated 100 billion stars. Just read a cool piece today. It seems that our galaxy (Milky Way) has about 300 billion stars with 50 billion planets. Of these 500 million exist in the not-too-cold, not-too-hot areas.

Happy sky-gazing!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Afraid of Bugs?

It's an amazing thing - something in the back of ancient brain tells us to avoid bugs; to jump, scream and squish any that come near. Of course there is a good arguement for learned behaviour.  A kid who is left alone will most likely pick up a carpenter (sow bug) and examine it.  An opposite response would likely stem from observing others.

So, are you scared of bugs - is it a phobia?  You may recall a movie called Arachnophobia?   It highlighted one of the primary bug phobias - the fear of spiders (the phobia includes insects like scorpions).  Most people do not like spiders and other insects.  Choosing not to brush up against a spider's web or allowing some insect to scurry by at a safe distance is a normal, socially-driven discomfort with bugs. 

When is it a phobia?   A phobia is a irrational, intense and persistent fear.  There is an excessive and unreasonable desire to avoid the object/situation.  It's important to note that it is irrational - people say/think 'I should know better'.  For example, a person with a wasp phobia might react by letting go of a steering wheel and loosing all control of  car simply to get the thing off...all reason goes out the window.  A key question is 'is it interfering with my life?'.  If so, and you wish to change this, a psychologist could be quite helpful.  They do systematic desensitization - the thing of fear is gradually introduced over time and eventually you are able to move past it. 

This is a heavy topic.  Most bugs weigh less than your fingernail and most will not cause harm.  By the way, none of the hundreds of Newfoundland-based spiders which have walked across my hands have ever bitten me.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Depending on where you live in Newfoundland the word could be ballycatter or maybe battycatter.  Though what it describes is a common winter ice structure, the word has practically lost its use among the younger generation. During winter ice forms around the coast of Newfoundland - in places filling coves and inlets completely. Rougher ice moves in from the north, seemingly endless in places such as Notre Dame Bay on the province's northeast coast.

When an inlet becomes a frozen sheet and eventually breaks up the ridge of ice left attached to the rocks is called ballycatter. It's usually solid and is sometimes used for walking around the coast. Though don't try it; falling into the Atlantic in winter will be the end of you.  Even ice thinly formed around the rocks, clearly outlined during low tide, tends to get the name ballycatter.

So, if you visit a small coastal town in winter test out the word, but stay off of the ice!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


The Dragonfly.  It is one of the largest insects you'll see around Newfoundland.  Most people avoid them for fear of their biting or stinging abilities. Still, their helicopter-like flight makes us pause in amazement when they hover over ponds or in our gardens. We've dubbed them with names such as 'arse stinger, horse stinger and in some places, devil's darning needle.  My boyhood logic told me to avoid anything which could sting a horse! 

In reality, they are not harmful at all.  Dragonflies do not sting.  Also, despite having large jaws they are unlikely to bite - only when handled.  Even then the most a Dragonfly could muster is a good pinch.  Dragonflies are very beneficial to humans in that they feed on other insects - such as mosquitos and black flies, which they catch in flight. 

Adults tend to live near water but are very strong fliers and range several miles each day.  Eggs are laid in water or on aquatic vegetation.  In late June and early July look in still water or streams for nymphs (pre-adult). They are often visible walking along the bottom.

Welcome Dragonflies to your garden. They are nature's awesome insect flier!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Backyard Birder

My good friend is a backyard bird enthusiast.  He has been feeding birds for many years and in winter provides a heated bird bath.  The birds have responded to his welcoming garden: they visit all day long and eat generously from his several feeders. His secret is consistency and variety. The feeders are always filled and they each contain different types of seeds. I admire his efforts and the calm, loving approach to providing this oasis. A well-used bird identification book sits near the window and he knows every type of bird visitor, even the rare ones.

When I visit his home I am settled as much by the birds as the nature of their care.  Life can be fast-paced with much attention to media (such as blogging!). Any opportunity to pause and really take in your surroundings is vital.  Happiness really does come from doing things which bring perspective and joy.

Some of the most frequent visitors to my friend's feeders this time of year are Pine Siskins (top) and Black-Capped Chickadees (bottom).