This morning's school groups were lucky to experience the Garden in an overcast, rain-threatening condition. Often, teachers are reluctant to let their students 'get wet' - but these teachers were hardier. Their kids didn't get damp at all, as it turned out, but the promise of rain focused our awareness on the forest and woodlands, and what we could observe, hear, and smell.
Seeing cavities used by squirrels, discovering the large leaves of big-leaf magnolia, and listening to Tufted Timice calling back and forth, punctuated by Carolina Chickadees, and the ever-present American Crows made for an interesting morning.
We looked at lichens, talked about mosses, and where butterflies (and other insects) 'go' in the winter.
It made an excellent morning, and more immediate than my rain backup plan (also interesting) which involved using excellent Thayer Birding software to learn bird calls while watching video clips and seeing photos of different common garden birds...
This software is worth pointing out, as they're using Cornell Ornithology Lab's data and partial interface to provide an excellent resource at a reasonable price. For iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone (and probably other smart phones), iBirdExplorer is an excellent portable field guide that's user-friendly and highly informative.