Today's the first day of summer vacation, but my family and I are being schooled, big time, by the smallest creatures I've ever seen.
A few days ago, our five-month-old puppy Daisy uncovered a wild rabbit nest in the backyard flower bed next to our grill. We were able to shoo her away before she could get at the six tiny bunnies intertwined amid the dirt, twigs and leaves. But the discovery sent us scrambling to learn more about bunny nests and how we could protect the eensy critters from an energetic Westie bred specifically to hunt rabbits.
We learned to place an X of string, grass or sticks on top of the nest, to see if the mother bunny would displace it by hopping in twice daily to feed her brood. (In our case, she's on top of feedings.) We debunked the myth that the mommy rabbit won't come back to care for the nest if humans touch the babies, but we're still keeping a respectful distance so we don't scare the little ones. We also learned that if Daisy does bag a bunny by breaking through the (unavoidably permeable) circle barricade we constructed from cinderblocks and small patio tables, we should place the animal in a warm, dark box and call an wildlife rehabilitator (local sources can be found here),
Beyond what we've learned about bunny nests, I've been reminded that just about anything can be turned into a summer learning opportunity if you let it. My kids have been fascinated by the nest – they think the babies are supercute – and it's spurred their interest in learning about an aspect of natural science in an organic way, out of the classroom. We've seen the way the bunnies huddle in a pile for warmth, how the dirt around them "breathes" as they do and watched them take their first nascent hops.
I'll continue to keep my eyes open for such found opportunities for learning as the summer progresses. And I'll keep you up to date on those bunnies. What found learning opportunities have popped up in your backyard? Share in the comments below.
UPDATE: Smart mama bunny's survival instincts are strong. She apparently thought the danger from Daisy was too great and moved all the babies out of the nest. We filled the hole with soil and mulch, but Daisy's nose knows what was there and she's still casing the spot as if she hopes her little friends will return.