Hitting the Trails at the TRAC

We are continuing our missions as part of the Nature Mission Challenge. We won't complete all of the missions because we just have too many other things we want to get done this summer. However, it is great participating in the ones we do get to do. Today's mission is at the Trinity River Audubon Center in Dallas. We had to explore the Great Trinity Forest, the largest urban hardwood forest in the United States, and locate or find evidence of 5 animals and then identify one fact about each animal. We were given a backpack complete with field identification guides, magnifying glasses, a compass, a pack of colored pencils, and a notepad. We were on our way!

Just outside the door, Nicholas found a cicada. It was dead so he didn't mind posing for pictures!

On to the trails...

Nicholas always likes to have a walking stick when we go out on trails. Boys and sticks, sticks and boys - they are truly inseparable.

We saw lots of different colored dragonflies.

We found lots of different webs which are evidence of spiders or caterpillars.

There were lots of cattails around the Cattail Pond, of course.

I learned that when cattails mature, they explode to spread their seeds by the wind. We saw several of these exploded cattails around.

We also could not identify this bird. At first we thought it was a heron but as we zoomed into the picture we didn't think he had the right head and beak to be a heron. But it was helpful to have my camera with me so we could take pictures of the things we saw before they darted off so we could look back and identify them later.

Next along the trail, we came to the bird blind, the perfect place for hiding to watch and photograph birds and wildlife. We stopped here for a rest while we had our snacks and drinks.

The kids loved going up and down the stairs and looking out all of the different windows.

Nicholas had a keen eye to spot a bunch of snails on some branches.

There were lots of offshoots of smaller trails from the main trail so we had to keep an eye on the map to make sure we knew where we were. Nicholas used the compass and helped to keep us on track.

There were lots of grasshoppers. These were Rachel's favorites because they always seemed to hop around right next to her.

The Overlook trail was neat because you could see the tops of skyscrapers in downtown Dallas!

Nicholas found an interesting hole. I wonder what kind of bug or animal made it?

Check out this giant yellow and black beetle. He was kind of scary looking and was just staring at Nicholas like he was about to jump on him.

After we finished on the trails, we stopped back by the main center to go through our identification books to complete the information needed for our mission.

Then we spent some time looking at all of the great exhibits inside the center. There is a cool bird tracker station like this one HERE where you can log the types and locations of birds you see and study what other bird watchers have logged.

This was a great hands-on exhibit which demonstrated for Nicholas the power of water in changing the land. He was able to move different water faucets in different directions to change the course of the "rivers" and therefore change the shape of the landform (sand, in this case).

Nicholas was excited to see the skull of a longnose gar. He likes this scary looking fish for some crazy reason!

There were several great exhibits like these that showed pictures of birds or animals and then you could press a button to hear the bird call or animal sound. What a great way to learn bird and animal identification!

I've never seen a soft shelled turtle but this little guy looked like he had a piece of carpet on his back!

I love the trays of nature treasures. There were lots of these on display. We have tons of nature stuff that we've collected over the years and I'd really like to get them organized and in some kind of case like this with identifying names.

Enjoy time with your kids in nature and encourage them to learn about the world around them and the impact they have on it.

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