Saturday, January 07, 2012

Madrona Marsh Tyke Hike, Torrance

Well, we made it back to Madrona Marsh in Torrance on Thursday for their "Tyke Hike," which happens the first Thursday of every month. It was a great trip, and the hike was perfectly calibrated for the littles. Not too long or too talky, with lots of sensory experiences ("Can you hear the bird even though you can't see the bird?" "Cockleburrs are prickly.") and good creature sightings. I even spotted a frog (although I couldn't catch the little guy) and whenever I'm in an environment where amphibians exist, I know someone is doing something right somewhere, because amphibians--with their permeable skins--are highly vulnerable to environmental disruptions. Anyway, even though this poor marsh is surrounded on all sides by commercial and industrial stuff (including, you know, an oil refinery), Madrona Marsh has a lovely collection of local flora and fauna, and while it wasn't quite a complete getaway into the wilderness, it was a super place to visit--much more open and relaxed than Ballona. We'll definitely be back in March and April, which I'm told is the "high season" for spotting ducks and flowers and such.

P.S. I forgot my regular camera so these are all fuzzy cell-phone pics.

"Turtle!" While we waited in the lobby of the nature center for the group to assemble, Jackson was delighted to discover three aquaria full of turtles: two with sliders, and one with two tiny baby desert tortoises eating broccoli. After we got back from the hike we explored further and found tanks with snakes, and a sensory box full of shed snake skins, which J got to touch and feel. The next day we ended up talking about skin (OK OK, fine, it was in the context of poo, but never mind) and Jackson busts out with, "Snake? Snake snake snake!"
Ranger/volunteer Daniel shows Jackson and the rest of the gang to hold up their special spotter cards and yell "I found it!" if they saw the thing on their card inside the gates of the marsh. I wouldn't have expected Jackson to process that instruction, but a few minutes later he held up his card to me and said, "Found it?" (We never did see any honeybees, though, which were what was on his card.)
This was a lovely little willow glade. For the kiddos, it was like being a forest, and as we ventured in further, there was a mudhole/pond, as well as wildlife like the aforementioned froggy!
Jackson listens while the very well-informed Daniel splains about ducks the group spotted, in this case Northern Shovelers that had taken flight to check us out.
Tired now. I fully expected to carry/stroller-push the kid the whole way, but he just took off marching, charging ahead with the rest of the group. He made it under his own power for a good 30 minutes, but the heat and excitement finally got the better of him, so I put him in the stroller for the return trek.
20 minutes per duck! Jackson really liked this display case because it had a daddy mallard, a mommy mallard and a baby mallard.

Can I just say that I adored the Madrona Marsh Nature Center?  Their display about the local ecology was just excellent, and it included a superb display of taxidermied local fauna. Honestly, I'd rather bring the kiddo here any day than take him to see the melodramatic creatures in the North American gallery at the Natural History Museum.

Kiddo was genuinely fascinated, and there was a ton of cool stuff to see and touch. (Among other things they had four animal pelts to touch and pet--for the record, skunk fur is incredibly soft!)

There was even a fossilized mastadon jawbone with huge teeth that had been donated by a retired science teacher who used to give her kids extra credit for bringing her their natural history finds!

In addition to the great display of dead stuff, they had small living animals (including the aforementioned snakes and turtles and an iguana) scattered around the center, as well as a lovely classroom and science library. The gift shop was closed for inventory, but I will so totally be going back there for nature-study paraphernalia in the future.

Anyway, this was great fun, and it's pretty easy to find, plus free parking, not too much danger, and great kid-appropriate natural science education. We'll be back!

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