Signs of Spring–Researchers in The Cover and pike in Big Creek!! The run it on.
If it’s spring, even if it doesn’t seem like spring, we are “doing that EGG thing” again. Every year, Crossroads at Big Creek holds its traditional EGG-stravaganza…and every year, it becomes a little more eggstravagant. This year, along with our traditional activities, we will add local hens and a guest bunny. Understand that this is not a religious event, nor is it an Egg Hunt. But because people of many different faiths traditionally use eggs in their observances, this seem the perfect time of year to learn about the eggs of birds.
Just like Crossroads at Big Creek, this event will have three focuses: science, history and the environment. Learners of all ages will be welcome to attend all or any one of the parts free of charge.
The festivities begin with the showing of the feature length documentary “Mad City Chickens.” Last year, the Door Couunty Libraries sponsored a screening of this film and we liked so much, we purchased it and the screening rights so we could show it again and again, which we will do at 1:00 and again at 4:00.
According to the producers, Tarazod Films, viewers will “witness Gallus domesticus –the backyard chicken. From healthy eggs to the family’s new favorite pet, the chicken is forging a fresh place in the pecking order of human importance.”
Chickens and eggs already were on high in the pecking order of importance for Door County’s early settlers. Most families kept backyard chickens for pin money, for Sunday dinners and of course, fresh eggs for cooking (though if pioneer memoirs are accurate, the whites of gull eggs made better meringues.)
We won’t be making pies this year (though it’s an idea), but the Door County Historical Society invites participants to step into the past by visiting the Warren House and the Schopf House in the Heritage Village at Big Creek, where eggs will be “hidden” in plain sight by members of the Door County Historical Society. Each young person who can locate the eggs among the antiques will receive a small prize. The HERITAGE EGGS activity begins at 2:15.
Before and after participating in the Herritage Eggs activities, families are invited to meet some live hens and our special guest, a bunny before going into the Lecture Hall for some eggscellent short videos about chick embryo development.
At 3:00, the EGGsperiments will start. Families will squeeze, crack, and dissect eggs, and even (yes, this is part of the tradition) drop them out the window from the upper level of the Collins Learning Center before going outside to throw, toss, and otherwise test the incredible strength of egg shells.
Although it appears to be smooth and solid, an eggshell is actually bumpy, each shell having an estimated 17,000 little pores which allow for the exchange of air and moisture.
The shells are made of crystals of calcium carbonate–the same chemicals that make our bones and teeth, and around here, our bedrock. Understand that a mother bird needs an enormous amount of calcium to lay an egg. And birds don’t eat yogurt or drink milk.
Commercial “layer feed” for egg-laying hens contains lots of added calcium, but a wild bird mother-to-be craves calcium and spends most of her evenings trying to consume as much as possible.
Because they lack teeth, some (but not all) birds swallow small rocks and grit –a behavior called “graveling.” The tiny rocks help with digestion, fragmenting and grinding hard foods. In this region, because our gravel is predominately calcium carbonate, as the little rocks are pulverized in the bird’s gizzard, some calcium becomes available for egg production.
But there are other ways for birds to increase the calcium in their diets. If you watch wild birds during breeding season, you probably have noticed that in the evenings, females are down on the ground in the leaf litter, kicking around last year’s leaves, They aren’t dancing, but rather, looking for tiny land snails –a great source of calcium. They also are looking for bone-filled owl pellets, shed antlers, and eggshells of other birds. Birds somehow know which foods are high in calcium.
Apparently, many songbirds avoid making nests near manicured lawns, because without a good supply of leaf litter, there will be no prenatal calcium supplements.
With a fresh supply of calcium every evening, a mother bird can produce an egg containing the calcium the bird embryo will need to develop bones and beak, and a shell which is strong enough to withstand incubation.
That eggs shells are strong will be evident during EGGStravaganza, but even as they plummet from the second floor windows, falling eggs do little damage. But when a near-Earth Asteroid plummets toward us from space, even if it breaks up miles above the Earth, it can cause significant damage. We know this because it happened above Russia in 2013.
At 7:00 on April 7, at the monthly meeting of the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society, Gary Henkelmann will present the program; “The Chelyabinsk Meteor– Can We Survive a Bigger Impact?” Also, Professor Ray Stonecipher will share What’s New in Astronomy” and refreshments will be served. Visitor are encouraged to attend the monthly meetings of DPAS. Please use the Utah Street Entrance to Crossroads, turning left onto Stargazer Trail at the sculpture ExoPlanet with Moons.
Crossroads at Big Creek is a donor supported preserve welcoming learners of all ages to programs in science, history and the environment. The Collins Learning Center, located at 2041 Michigan in Sturgeon Bay, is open 2:00-4:30 daily and during scheduled activities. Now that it is spring (or should be), all trails are open to hiking and biking.