Wednesday, May 04, 2011

My friend, birder, environmental educator, and friend of skinks everywhere Tony Croasdale asked me to come along with him on a visit to the Heinz National Wildlife Refuge with a busload of high school students, and I didn't hesitate to say yes.

Tony coordinates an after-school environmental education program (and a summer 'junior docent' program for which he's raising money right now) that connects kids at urban public high schools in Philadelphia with nature, right in some of our wildest places.

In past work Tony had drummed up donations of binoculars, so every kid got a pair and got to spy up their own swallows (barn and tree), ospreys, and yellow warblers. About the ospreys, we even got to see one snatch up a decent sized carp from the Impoundment at the Refuge.

I was there for turtle IDs, and we did spot some big ol' redbellies (Pseudemys rubriventris), painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) and a few of those invasive red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta).

Back near the refuge I pointed out a green frog on a log (Rana clamitans):

The kids were engaged, interested, and seemed to learn a good bit about birds, turtles, and the marsh.

I'll close with another appeal for support for that summer program. In full disclosure I'm on the board of the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center, and federal funding cuts have endangered our junior docent/junior naturalist program, where we train high school kids to be environmental leaders and guides in the Cobbs Creek section of Fairmont Park. Tony's spearheading the fundraising effort to keep the program alive, and you can help us out by donating here:

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