Virtual Junior Ranger Program: Shen at Night

Hi I’m Ranger Miranda, and I’m Ranger Elsie We are going camping up in Shenandoah National Park tonight, and we want to know if you want to come along Before we get started, we need to make sure we have all the right supplies, so we can have a fun, and safe experience Okay! Looks like we have a lot packed here. We need to make sure that we have sleeping arrangements I have our tent right here. Awesome! Thank you And it looks like we also have some sleeping bags, and sleeping pads, as well. We have all of our food packed up in our cooler; and we have some extra jackets These are extra layers – really handy, so you can just put them on, and take them off, according to the weather Now, it looks like we have our backpacks; we have some water in there, as well And I think we’re all ready to go Miranda, how are we gonna get there? Oh wow! I didn’t even think about that. No worries! I have our map right here with our directions, so we know exactly where we’re gonna be going And, I think that we’re all packed up. Yes, all right, let’s get going Follow us! Thanks! So, when we’re up here at the campsites in Shenandoah National Park, we’re in the middle of the forest. So, we are in the middle of the home of lots of wildlife – not just the small stuff, but also the big stuff – like bear and deer If you didn’t know, marshmallows and potato chips aren’t exactly on their menu. Oh man, I was really hoping that we were gonna find a marshmallow tree when we were out here! Well they may be on our menu, but not the wildlife; so, we need to make sure that it is kept in our food container, of course. Not our tent! But also the bear box, or a locked car. Because if, that wildlife ends up eating it – I mean it might smell good to them – they are going to get a bad tummy ache Their digestive system, or their bellies cannot handle that; so do you think they could, Elsie? No, and that’s another really important part of being a visitor here in Shenandoah – in all national parks – is that we take care of these places, because it’s just so beautiful that, don’t you want someone tomorrow to come and experience the same Shenandoah that we see today? Yeah, so as park rangers and everyone who visits national parks, we ask them to leave no trace, and there’s a pretty easy way to remember that There are actually seven principles, and there are different hand movements for each and every one All right, are you ready to learn? Yes? Okay, so the first principle, or first rule – of leave no trace is to plan ahead. Okay? So we did a great job with that, because we have our food cooler, and we’re going to put it in our bear box And we also have our jackets And another part of that is making a plan. So make sure that you have enough food and water, and that map, that we saw earlier So the second principle – is to stay on the trail. So get your little legs out, and it’s important to stay on those trails; so number one – you don’t get lost! but number two, so you don’t crush any of the plant life that might be there It might be a better snack for one of those bears – rather than the tasty marshmallows we brought Third rule – is trash your trash, right? We don’t like littering, and so scoop your trash – anything that you bring with you, you want to make sure that you take it out! that includes granola bar wrappers, gum wrappers, anything like that; so either stick it in your backpack, so you can throw it away later; or if you’re near a trash can, make sure that your trash – that litter goes right in there. What about banana peels? Banana peels! Definitely banana peels, too! And orange peels. Okay. Now people think that they’re going just to decompose, or going to rot, and disappear; but they don’t do that, and so it’s really important to take all of your fruit peels out with you, too Okay, got it So principle number four – get your two fingers out like this – make your beautiful picture frame, and then take some photos Right! So principle number four is take only photos and leave only footprints. We have 1.2 million visitors that come to Shenandoah every single year Can you imagine, Miranda, if every single one of them took a rock? Oh. Yeah. Can you do you think we’d have any more rocks left in all of Shenandoah? It would look very different if everybody took something with them Yep so, when we only take photos, we make sure that that awesome thing that we saw on the trail, stays there for someone else to see it Principle number five – is perfect for when you’re camping. It is

control your fire, so we have our beautiful little flames here So we want to make sure, if we do have a fire, because what is camping without a good campfire? That it’s in a fire pit, or somewhere contained where you’re allowed to have fires, and you have a plan for putting it out. That’s a really important part Principle number six – is get your deer antlers out – is to respect the wildlife. We can do that by making sure we store all of our food properly, but also that we give all of the wildlife – the birds, the squirrels, and especially the bears, the space, that they need; and so, you’re going to want to make sure you stay far enough away that all of those animals feel safe Okay. And last, but not least, is to not only respect the wildlife, but to respect your fellow visitors Because it’s so exciting right? to be here in Shenandoah National Park? I might be speaking so loudly, and yelling at you, because I want you to be so excited But maybe you don’t want to be yelled at, or also you want a more quiet environment to appreciate where we are. And that’s great, too And so it’s really important to keep that in mind, that we might be enjoying Shenandoah in different ways; and so always say “peace” and “hello” to your fellow visitors. That’s a really good point, Elsie, so maybe when we’re setting up our camp, I noticed a lot of other people are around, so maybe we can keep our voices down That sounds like a great plan. All right, Let’s do it; let’s get started I’m so glad we’re done setting up camp! Me too! Boy, it takes a lot of work for humans to set up to be pretty ready to spend a night out in nature But some animals are experts at nighttime living They’re adapted to live that way. So we have some animals that like to live out there during the day Those are diurnal animals. Do you have anything to help us remember what diurnal means? So, when I think of diurnal, I think of daytime, right? So, yeah, the sun is up, and my one of my favorite diurnal animals, is the cotton-tail rabbit. Oh how cute! We see tons and tons, so imagine during the day this diurnal bunny is going to be hopping around underneath the sun Makes sense! So “D” is for “day” and “diurnal”. They like to be awake during the day Now another one is nocturnal – “night” – “nocturnal”; “N and N” What do we have for nocturnal? So the moon comes out, and one of my favorite nocturnal animals doesn’t like as much light as our diurnal and our bunny, so we have our beautiful owl, here Wow.” And you’ll find our owls flapping around, all around, at night with the other nocturnal animals Very good, so if you were to guess what humans are – between nocturnal and diurnal – what would you say? I have a lot of friends who stay up really late Yes, my sister likes to stay up all night, so we could call them “night owls” as a joke, but generally humans are going to be diurnal, because we’re mostly awake during the day Now, there’s even a third kind of, type of, animals, and they like to be up right in the in between – between dusk and dawn; during that low light period Kind of like right now. So they get the kind of the best of both worlds Totally. And those animals are called “crepuscular” Can you say “crepuscular” with me? I don’t know. One, two, three – “Crepuscular.” Awesome! I think we did a good job Now, let’s look at some specific examples of animals being fine-tuned to the night, shall we? Yeah. First up, we have our bat. Okay. One of the most famous residents of the night And, the reason why the bats are so well adjusted, is because they have learned how to see without – see in the dark – without actually using their eyes But how do they do that? It’s really cool They use their ears So you know, how if you yell really loud, sometimes you might hear an echo? So that echo, when we hear it, is the sound waves bouncing back to our ears Now, bats do the same thing. They use this process called “echolocation” Now, in echolocation they kind of do yells –

they might be, not like we sound, they’re like clicks and chirps, and when they do those, they bounce off the objects in their environment. Wow! Yeah, and they hear echoes all around Their ears are so sensitive that when those echoes come back, their mind, their brain, creates a picture, a mental map, and it shows them what their environment looks like, without even the tiniest bit of light Wow, so is that why bats are okay with living in dark caves? Yes, exactly, so they can tell you, or they know, exactly what it looks like in a totally dark cave. Whoa. Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. Now, even though bats are really awesome, they eat something that I don’t really like that much – mosquitoes! Oh, gross! And I mostly don’t really love mosquitoes so much, because they give me really itchy bug bites sometimes, too Yeah, me too. But not all bugs give you itchy bug bites. That’s true There’s actually some insects that I love seeing at night, which are fireflies Oh, lightning bugs! Yeah, they just make everything in the evening seem so magical But you know it’s actually not real magic that makes our lightning bugs, or our fireflies glow, it’s this wild thing called “bio-luminescence” Whoa, right? I mean it is just, is immediately a science word, crazy Yeah, but bio-luminescence just means that they can create their own light, which is pretty insane, right? Like in their own body? So imagine if I was bio-luminescent, I could put out my hand, and then I’d start glowing That would be pretty cool. Yeah, so I mean humans aren’t bio-luminescent. I’m sure that you’ve realized this at this point in your life But our fireflies they are, and they use that bio-luminescence, that blinking, to be able to communicate with each other Wow! So different kinds of blinks mean different things to different fireflies which is wild So, somebody, I was reading about them, and they told me that those blinks, they can be trying to find mates, or they can be trying to lure prey like when you go fishing, or even to tell their friends their other fireflies that there’s danger coming And I thought that was pretty cool So, my absolute favorite nighttime animal doesn’t like to be so flashy; it prefers to stay, in what I like to refer to as stealth mode [sound: whoo-hoo-hoo-hoo] It is the owl. Now the owl has so many cool adaptations to make it a nighttime expert Elsie, have you ever heard of the word adaptation? You know it sounds familiar, but can you remind me what it means? I sure can So, an adaptation is something that a living thing does, so like an animal or a plant, and it’s going to be a behavior, or something physical, that helps it live better. A lot of that is kind of confusing, pretty much it’s something on your body, or something that you do, and it helps you be a better living thing in your environment. So when I put on a jacket when I’m cold, that’s an adaptation. If I am going to move out of the sun, because i’m getting sunburned, that’s me adapting. Now sometimes we are born with adaptations, as well For example, owls, they have really big eyes. Why do you think, Elsie, they might have really big eyes, if they’re nocturnal? Let’s let, let’s let our friends at home think about it too Okay So if they’re awake at night, got any guesses? What about you? Is it because it’s harder to see at night, and so they need bigger eyes? Definitely. So for humans our eyeballs only take up about five percent of the space in our head, not very much; but owls – their eyes take up 75 percent of the space in their head; that’s a lot of eyes in one tiny owl head. Now it’s very important for them to be able to see; their eyes help them gather up every little bit of light, so they can hunt; and they don’t only depend on their eyesight, they also have impeccable (which means really good) hearing. Do they hear like bats do? Very good question. They don’t use echolocation They have

ear cavities, kind of like us, but then they have an extra one; so you know the outside of our ears – how we have this extra thing right here? well, they have an extra thing of feathers. It’s called a “facial disc”, and it’s a stiff ring of feathers . Can you guys make a facial disc like an owl? Very good, Elsie So that helps catch the sound around them So they can actually move that. If the sound is over there, they can move that; and they don’t have to move their whole body to give away their position; because remember, they’re in stealth mode Think of it like, if there was a flower, right, flowers have petals, and if the flower wanted to catch sunlight, it could move those petals – kind of like an owl moves its facial disc feathers It’s pretty cool So, something else about the owls feathers that I found to be amazing when I found out about it, is that their feathers are specially made, well by nature at least, to give them silent flight. Now think about why they would want to fly silently? why would that be important? Well you said that they’re hunters, right? Yes, exactly So, if something is going hunting, when they’re ready to to jump on their prey, or their food, they don’t want to make a lot of noise, because then they’ll scare away the prey So when they decide that they’re going to go for it, they can swoop down virtually undetected Whoa! And get their tasty prey. I think that’s so awesome Now, you guys might have seen, or heard that owls can move their necks around – a lot more than humans. They can move them almost all the way back, and look in back of them. That’s so they don’t have to turn around their whole bodies, and give away their position Okay. So, even if you don’t hear an owl, or see an owl, that’s okay, we do have something else in the park that you might want to see and hear – any ideas on what they might be? Hmm Well, I don’t hear as well as an owl does No But, when I get really quiet, [quiet sounds of insects and breeze] I can hear a lot still. I hear the trees, I hear some of our neighbors Exactly. Sometimes nature can be pretty loud So, out here in Shenandoah, sometimes i hear – [sounds of insects] bugs, so I’ll hear cicadas, or crickets, things like that, or I’ll hear the hoot of an owl. [sound: whoo-hoo, whoo-hoo] The barred owl says “whoo-coo-hoo-hoo” Can you guys do that? It says, “who cooks for you?” Let’s do it together – one, two, three “whoo-cooks-for-you” Very good. Now, we can hear that here, what does it sound like at your house? Sometimes we hear cars; if you live in a city, you might hear some horns honking sometimes All of the sounds put together at any one time, wherever you are, that’s the soundscape You may have heard of things like landscapes, when you look out, that’s what you see with your eyes; what you hear with your ears, that’s the soundscape Here in Shenandoah National Park, especially if you get away from the campsites, it can be, we can have a pretty nice soundscape And one of my favorite things to do on a dark night, is to look up, and out here we are far enough away from the cities, that we have a pretty dark sky. You can see something called the Milky Way, if the moon isn’t out and too bright Now when the city is too bright, there’s an extra glow that’s called a sky glow; and you want to kind of get away from the city to see extra things Elsie, do you know any constellations? I’ve heard of a few of them. I always try and find the Big Dipper. Do you know of any constellations? For those of you wondering what a constellation is, it’s a whole bunch of stars that are kind of drawn together in our minds, and we think of it like a picture Now you mentioned the Big Dipper; depending on where, or when, you are, you might know the Big Dipper as other things – some think of it as Ursa Major, and that translates in English to the Big Bear. Yeah,

pretty cool. So we have different stories associated with different cultures and different times I hope you guys get a chance soon to come out to Shenandoah and have your own experiences out in the park; and if not, you can go out into your own backyard on a dark night, and try to see the skies, and the sounds, and maybe the fireflies, too. Thank you so much for joining us, and helping us set up camp We will see you next time. Bye [sound: whoo-hoo-hoo-hoo] you