Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Of Dinosaur Things and Dragonfly Wings

Today the Boyo has an extra couple of hours to prepare for the school day, thanks to the snows of last night.  Also thanks to the snow, I missed the lunar eclipse.  Unfortunate, because I love space sort of stuff (I'm starting to plan for the big Venusian transit in 2012) and because had it been clear, I would have taken the Wife and Boyo out to see it.  She likes space stuff too, and he is interested in everything!

For example.  As we entered a big box store last week looking for printer ink, he was telling me all of the wonderful things about dinosaurs he had learned that day in school.

"There is a big one called a T Rex that eats other ones!  And there is one with three horns called a trip... tram... uh..."
"Triceratops?" I asked.
"Yeah!  That one is cool!  And you know what Daddy?  I think we should raise a couple as pets for the yard!  We could get little baby ones and they would be our friends!"
"Umm... buddy?  Did they tell you that dinosaurs are extinct?" I asked.
"Yeah!" says he excitedly.
"Do you know what extinct means?"
"No!" just as excited.

So I explained it to him gently.  But still he was weeping as we walked through the front door, genuinely grieving for animals that have not walked on the planed for millenia.  Sad that we could not even go to a zoo to see them.  So we talked a bit about critters that have been around since dinosaur times.  Sharks are pretty much unchanged for example.
"Oooh!  Let's get some of those!" He said, brightening instantly.
"Umm... No."
Crocodiles, too, are pretty much the same.  Again I shot down the adoption idea for that critter also.
Dragonflies used to be the size of crows, and they have not changed in 300 million years!  He warmed greatly to that, and so we started learning about dragonflies.  More specifically, we started learning about the eighteen species that for sure live in our neck of the woods.  There may well be others, but since dragonflies are shockingly under studied nobody knows for sure.

But for now, the Boyo and I have learned to identify the 18 in our area, both the male and female of the species, too.  It is very fun to hold up the flashcards I made - like this one...

 and hear him say "Oooh!  That's the male Twelve Spotted Skimmer!"  or...

 "That's the female River Jewelwing, and she's a Damselfly, not a dragonfly!"
He can rattle off the names of the Widow Skimmer, Common Green Darner, Halloween Pennant, Ruby Meadowhawk, Common Whitetail, Ebony Jewelwing, Common Pondhawk, Canada Darner, Proghorn Clubtail, Saffron Winged Meadowhawk, Four Spotted Skimmer, Eastern Amberwing, White Faced Meadowhawk, Cherry Faced Meadowhawk, and his personal favorite, the Dot Tailed Whiteface, seen here showing why it is called what it is called!

I've even changed the pictures on the cards to make sure we are learning to identify the dragonfly and not the picture.  We look at wing patterns, body, face and tail markings, and even how they hold their wings to identify them.  It is really fun!

He's incredibly gifted with his recall ability.  I made 24 cards initially, with male and female of some species.  Within a couple of days he knew all 24.  Come this spring and summer, we'll be ready to go hunt our dinosaur dragonflies and maybe, just maybe, find one not on the list that is common to the area as well.  Who knows?  If we are really lucky and diligent, maybe we'll even discover a new species!

Want to know more about dragonflies in your area?  Check out http://www.odonatacentral.org/.  If you live in the US, you can go to the checklist part and find which species have been recorded in your county! 

Eastern Amberwing - male

It is a fun bonding project for him and me.  I think we will have some serious fun when the weather warms up!

More Later

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