The Rainy Day: A Children's Story and Animal Facts
Establishing a Connection With Nature
Nature can be very enjoyable to explore for both adults and children. I think that establishing a connection with nature is important for children in today's world. While this is best done in real life, written and visual material and the imagination can be helpful, too.
This article contains a story that I wrote about the animals and plants in a garden on a rainy day. Parents might like to read the story to their children. The article also includes facts about some of the animals mentioned in the tale in order to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality.
The Rainy Day: A Short Story
My Garden in the Rain
Yesterday was a very rainy day. My back garden was miserable. The sunflowers tried to keep dry by covering their faces with their petals. The poor fir tree was so cold that his needles were shaking. I had to fill all the hot water bottles in the house and wrap them around his trunk.
Our weeping willow made matters worse by crying so hard that little rivers flowed down his leaves on to the other plants. They were all annoyed. The willow tree said he was sorry and explained that he was always unhappy when it rained.
"That's silly," said his neighbour the apple tree. "Rain is good for willow trees!"
"Be brave," said the giant cherry tree. "None of us are comfortable, but the rain won't last for ever." Then the cherry tree shook her branches, sending water drops flying through the air and into the fishpond. The fish swam angrily to the water surface. They had been studying fish dancing.
"Do you know how hard it is to concentrate on our lesson with the rain pounding on our roof?" asked the biggest fish. "You just made it twice as noisy in here. I have such a headache!"
The cherry tree apologized for being so thoughtless. She promised to shake her branches in a different direction next time.
There was so much water on the roof of our house that a river formed in the gutter. Two ducks landed and went for a swim in the river. They began quarreling about who should lead the way because the gutter was only wide enough for one of them.
I threw some birdseed on the roof and the ducks stopped arguing to eat. "Why don't you take turns being the leader?" I suggested. The ducks liked my idea and quacked their thanks.
I found some spiderlings in the blueberry bush. They were swinging from branch to branch on spider silk, seeing how many water drops they could crash into. Their mother scurried out from the middle of the bush and scolded them. "You're soaking wet!" she said. "It will serve you right if you all catch a cold." Then she ran around gathering them up and chasing them back into the bush.
A Big Green Frog
After lunch a big green frog visited the garden and challenged the two garden mice to a puddle jumping contest. The mice played bravely with the frog but were secretly glad when he left. They told me that every time the frog jumped he made splash landings and the water went right up their noses.
The earthworms from the vegetable patch were in a bad mood all afternoon because their burrows were flooded. The worms sheltered under the cherry tree, cleaning themselves and grumbling about having to build new homes. "Mud baths are good for the skin," said a passing slug, but the earthworms didn't agree with him. The cherry tree tried hard to stay still so that she wouldn't drip water over her guests.
Luckily, today is sunny and the plants and animals are much happier. The garden is recovering well from its soaking and should be back to normal by tomorrow.
Animal Facts for Children
Now I'd like to share some real facts about five of the animals in my story. They are all interesting creatures even when they aren't part of a story. Here are some facts about frogs.
- When frogs swallow food, they pull their bulging eyes inwards to help push the food down their throat.
- A frog's ears are round and flat. They are located behind the eyes. Each ear is called a tympanum (pronounced tim-pan-um).
- Like us, frogs need to obtain oxygen in order to live. Their lungs are very simple and don't work as well as ours. When frogs are on land, they absorb oxygen through their skin, their lungs, and the lining of their throat. When they are in water, they absorb oxygen through their skin.
- The skin is covered with mucus, which helps to prevent it from drying out.
- Frogs are carnivores. This means that they eat only animals.
- In most types of frogs, only the male croaks. He produces a croaking sound to attract a female during the breeding season and to warn other males to stay away.
- The male has a pouch called a vocal sac beneath his throat. He fills the pouch with air from his lungs when he wants to make a sound. The air moves over the frog's vocal cords, causing them to vibrate. The combination of moving air and moving vocal cords produces the croak.
- Many frogs are great jumpers. Some can jump a distance that is twenty times longer than their body.
Differences Between Frogs and Toads
The differences between frogs and toads that are listed below are often true, but not always. Some frogs have toad features and some toads have frog ones.
- Toads have a drier skin and can survive further away from water.
- Toads have bumpy skin and frogs have smooth skin.
- Toads have shorter back legs than frogs and hop instead of jump.
- A female toad lays her eggs in a string while a frog lays her in a cluster.
How to Identify Mallard Ducks
I think that the male mallard duck is a very handsome bird. The clues below help to identify him in the breeding season.
- glossy green head
- white band around the neck
- yellow bill
- chestnut brown chest
- grey body
- white tail
- black feathers above the tail, which are sometimes curled
- orange legs
The female mallard isn't as brightly coloured as the male. Her feathers are a mixture of different shades of brown, which gives her a mottled appearance.
Both the male and the female mallard have beautiful purple-blue feathers on their wings. The feathers sometimes show as a patch on the side of a duck's body when the wings are folded. The patch is brighter in some birds than in others. The blue patch is called a speculum (pronounced "spec-you-lum). You can see the speculum in the duck photos shown above.
Mallard Ducklings and Their Mother
The Life of a Mallard Duck
Mallards are dabbling ducks. They tip themselves upside down and dip their head into the water to feed. They eat plants, seeds, roots, and small animals like insects, snails, and worms. The ducks sometimes move on to land to feed. Mallards are omnivores—creatures that eat both plants and animals. Only the female mallard quacks. The male produces a quieter call.
The female usually builds her nest on the ground. Sometimes mallards make their nests in other areas, such as a hole in a tree trunk or a garden found on a roof. The female lays about twelve eggs that are greenish-grey in colour.
After breeding, the ducks molt. During this process, the birds lose their old and damaged flight feathers and grow new ones. The male looks like a female when he's molting. Molting is a dangerous as well as a useful process because the birds can't fly without their flight feathers. Mallards can fly at speeds of up to fifty-five miles an hour when they do have their flight feathers.
Mallards are very common ducks in parks, ponds, and marshes and live in many parts of the world. They are sometimes seen in backyards. You may be able to find the ducks near your home.
Facts About Spiders
Some people are scared of spiders, but I like them. Most are harmless. A few types can hurt humans, however, so it's best not to touch spiders.
- Spiders are arachnids (pronounced "aracnids"), not insects. They have eight legs and two sections to their body. Insects have six legs and three sections to their body. Most spiders have eight simple eyes. Insects have two large compound eyes.
- Most spiders make silk, which is released from spinnerets located near the end of their body. The silk is released as a liquid and almost immediately solidifies. Many spiders build a web of silk in order to trap their prey. Some spiders wrap silk around prey animals to trap them, use it to make a shelter, or use a silk thread as a safety line to attach them to their web.
- Spiders don't stick to their web because only some parts of the web are sticky. Spiders stand on the non-sticky part. In addition, they touch the web with just the tips of their feet. This makes it easier to pull away from the silk if necessary.
- Webs stay sticky for only a day. A spider eats its old web so that it can use the protein in the silk to make a new one.
- Ballooning is the process in which spiderlings drift through the air attached to threads of silk. The young spiders move to a high point and release silk. The silk threads and the attached spiderlings are then carried by air currents to a new area. Here the spiderlings grow into adults.
- A spider has hollow fangs that are connected to venom glands. The fangs act like injection needles. They pierce the skin of a prey animal and inject venom at the same time. Nearly all spiders produce venom. Luckily, most spiders are harmless for humans.
Earthworms are very common animals. There are more than 6,000 different types in the world.
- Earthworms have no eyes, so they can't see like we can. They can tell the difference between light and dark, however.
- Worms have no ears, so they can't hear.
- Worms can sense vibrations in the ground. They can also sense that they are being touched.
- Although they have no nose, worms can detect the presence of many chemicals that touch their body.
- Worms create an underground burrow as their home. Earthworms breathe through their skin. When their burrow fills with water, they must come to the surface in order to survive. The water fills the air spaces in the soil, which means that a worm will drown if it stays in its burrow.
- If a worm stays out of the soil for too long it will dry out and die.
- Earthworms eat soil and filter out bacteria, fungi, and tiny animals to eat. They also eat dead plant material.
- Earthworm poop is released at the entrance to the burrow, forming piles known as castings. These castings contain nutrients, which enter the soil and help plants grow.
- An earthworm is both a male and a female. A worm must mate with another worm in order to produce eggs, however.
Slug slime is amazing! It's also called mucus and helps a slug in many ways.
- Slime prevents a slug's body from drying out.
- The slime is sticky and helps a slug to move.
- Slugs can climb up walls and even windows with the help of their slime.
- Some slugs lower themselves to the ground on a rope made of slime.
- The slime helps to protect a slug from damage caused by rough surfaces.
- Slime changes its thickness when it's pressed by a slug's body.
- It also stretches when it's pulled.
- A slug leaves chemical messages in its slime for other slugs. The chemicals enable slugs to follow and find each other.
- Scientists have created a new glue to cover wounds based on slug slime.
Nature Study Is Fun
Observing animals and their behaviour is a lot of fun. Writing observations in a notebook, making drawings, and taking photos of both animals and plants can be fun as well.
Make sure that you don't go anywhere dangerous while you're exploring nature and that you don't touch anything that is unsafe. It's also important to treat animals and plants well. If you're careful, you should have a great time. I hope you're able to observe some interesting creatures very soon.
© 2010 Linda Crampton