Spring Snow Surprise!

Spring Snow Surprise!

The spring birds are arriving daily here in the hilltowns of Massachusetts in April and this morning they awoke to a snowcapped roof – Brrrrrrr!

I’m so very glad they have a cozy spot to settle into for this momentary silly weather pattern sent by Mother Nature! 

For more New England BIRD adventures visit P.L.A.Y. Birds to read stories and engage in curious and creative activities designed for the whole family.

The bird story book begins HERE.

Mother Nature surprised us all with a stack of spring snow on the already blooming tulips in our flower garden.

Thankfully our seedlings weathered the storm indoors in both our home and in the community greenhouse so we are still on track for cucumbers and other delights in our veggie garden.

More P.L.A.Y. family gardening inspiration HERE.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 31 – Raccoon


Chapter 31

Raccoon


Mother Nature was just about to start the next learning session when a slight noise came from up the path drawing all eyes in that direction. There, shuffling down the Lone Little Path, was an interesting looking fellow. No one needed more than one glance at that sharp, black and white face to recognize him.

“Bobby Coon!” shouted Peter Rabbit. “Are you coming to join our sessions?”

Bobby shuffled along a little nearer, then sat up and blinked at them sleepily. No one needed to be told that Bobby had been out all night. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. “Hello, everybody,” he said. “I wish I felt as bright and lively as all of you look. I’d like to join you too, however I’m afraid if I did I would go to sleep right in the middle of the session. I ought to have been home an hour ago. So I guess I’ll have to be excused.”

Mother Nature nodded her head, “If you think you can’t keep awake, just go over and sit down there by Prickly Porky; he’ll
keep you awake.

“I–I think I can keep awake,” stammered Bobby and opened his eyes very wide as if he were trying to stretch his eyelids so as to make them stay open.

“I’ll help you by asking you a few questions,” replied Mother Nature. “Who is it that people sometimes call you the little cousin of?”

Bobby grinned. “Buster Bear,” he said.

“That’s right,” replied Mother Nature.

Raccoon – Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Of course, being a Raccoon, you are not a Bear, however you are related to the Bear family. I want you all to notice Bobby’s footprints over yonder. You will see that the print of his hind foot shows the whole foot, heels and toes, and is a lot like Buster Bear’s footprint on a small scale. Bobby shuffles along in much the same way that Buster walks. No one ever mistakes Bobby Coon for any one else. There is no danger that any one ever will as long as he carries that big, bushy tail with its broad black and gray rings. And there is no other face like Bobby’s with its black cheeks. You will notice that Bobby is rather small around the shoulders, and he is big and heavy around the hips. Despite the fact that his legs are not very long Bobby is a very good runner. However, he doesn’t do any running unless he has to. Bobby, where were you overnight?”

“I was over at the Laughing Brook,” he said. “I caught three of the sweetest tasting little fish in a little pool in the Laughing Brook, and I got some of the tenderest Clams I’ve ever eaten,” replied Bobby, smacking his lips. “I raked them out of the mud and opened them. Down at the Smiling Pool I had a lot of fun catching young Frogs. I certainly do like Frogs. It is great sport to catch them, and they are fine eating.”

“I suppose you have had an eye on the beech trees and the wild grape-vines too,” said Mother Nature.

Bobby’s face brightened. “Indeed I have,” he said. “There will be an abundance of beechnuts and grapes this fall. My, they sure will taste good!”

Mother Nature laughed. “There is small danger that you will go hungry,” she said. “When you can’t find enough to eat times must be very hard indeed. For the benefit of the others you might add that in addition to the things mentioned you also eat other fruits, including berries, insects of various kinds, birds when you can catch them, Mice, Turtles, in fact almost anything that can be eaten. You are not at all fussy about the kinds of food you eat. You also have one habit in regard to your food which is unique. Do you know what it is?”

Bobby shook his head. “No,” he said, “not unless you mean the habit I have of washing my food. If there is any water near, I always like to take what I am going to eat over to it and wash it; somehow it tastes better.”

“Just so,” replied Mother Nature. “More than once I’ve seen you in the moonlight beside the Laughing Brook washing your food, and it has always made me smile. Now, did you raise a family this year, Bobby?”

“Mrs. Coon did. We had four of the finest youngsters you have ever seen over in a certain big hollow tree. They are getting big and lively now, and go out with their mother every night. I hope they grow big and strong then I’ll enjoy my winter sleep better, and I know Mrs. Coon will too.”

At this Johnny Chuck pricked up his ears. “Do you sleep all winter, Bobby?” he asked eagerly.

“Not all winter, although a good part of it,” replied Bobby. “I don’t turn in until the weather gets pretty cold, and it is hard to find anything to eat. After the first snow I’m usually ready to sleep. Then I curl up in a warm bed of leaves in a certain big hollow tree, and don’t care how cold or stormy the weather is. Sometimes I wake up once or twice, when the weather is mild, and take a little walk around for exercise. I don’t go far and soon return to sleep.”

“What do you do when Bowser the Hound gets after you?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Run till I get out of breath,” replied Bobby. “And if by that time I haven’t been able to fool him so that he loses my trail, I take to a tree. Thank goodness, he can’t climb a tree. Sometimes I climb from the top of one tree into the top of another, and sometimes into a third and then a fourth, when they are near enough together.”

“Thank you, Bobby, now you can trot along home for a good sleep. Tomorrow we will see what we can find out about Buster Bear.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Raccoons have amazing markings on their tail and face. What other animals have distinct markings that set them apart and make them easy to recognize?
  2. Visit this LINK for a photo and more information on raccoons from Mass Audubon Society.
  3. *Why do raccoons like to live near the water? Of what use is their large bushy tail? How do raccoons arrange themselves in a tree for a nap? At what time of year are raccoons the fattest? Do they move slow or fast?

Prompts with a * are inspired by or found in the Handbook of Nature Study written by Anna Botsford Comstock, a professor at Cornell University, focusing on flora & fauna in the Northeast in 1911.


If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 29 – Bobcat


Chapter 29

Bobcat


Jumper the Hare arrived at school a little late and quite out of breath from hurrying. His big soft eyes were shining with excitement. “You look as though you had had an adventure, Jumper,” said Mother Nature.

“I have,” replied Jumper. “It is a wonder I am here at all; I almost became Yowler the Bobcat’s breakfast and it makes me shiver just to think of it. I guess if I hadn’t been thinking about him, he would have caught me.”

“Would you tell us all about it?,” requested Mother Nature.

“Well seeing Black Shadow the Cat over here yesterday, and knowing that today’s lesson was to be about Yowler, I couldn’t get cats out of my mind all day yesterday,” began Jumper. “Black Shadow is too small to worry me, however I must confess that if there is any one I fear, it is Yowler the Bobcat. Just thinking about him makes me nervous. The more I tried not to think about him, the more I did think about him, and the more I thought about him, the more nervous I got. Then just before dark, on the bank of the Laughing Brook, I found some tracks in the mud. Those tracks were almost round, and that fact was enough to tell me who had made them. They were Yowler’s footprints, and they hadn’t been there for very long.”

“Of course, seeing those footprints made me more nervous than ever, and every time I saw a leaf move I jumped on the inside. My heart felt as if it were up in my throat most of the time. I had a feeling that Yowler wasn’t far away. He goes sneaking about, without making a sound, or else he lies in wait, ready to spring without warning on the first one who happens along. A fellow never knows where to watch out for Yowler.”

“I spent nearly all night sitting under a little hemlock tree with branches very close to the ground. I sat there because I didn’t dare do anything else. As long as I stayed there I felt reasonably safe, because Yowler would have to find me, and to do that he would have to cross an open place where I could see him. I knew that if I went roaming about I might walk right into his clutches.”

“It was lucky I had sense enough to stay put. You know the moon was very bright last night. It made that open place in front of where I was hiding almost as light as day. Once I closed my eyes for just a minute. When I opened them, there was Yowler sneaking across that open place. Where he had come from, I don’t know. He hadn’t made a sound. Not a leaf rustled under his big feet. Right in the middle of that open place, where the moonlight was brightest, he stopped to listen, and I simply held my breath.”

“Can you tell us what he looked like?” prompted Mother Nature.

Bobcat – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“He looked just like what he is–a big Cat with a short tail,” replied Jumper. “Just to look at him any one would know he was a cousin to Black Shadow. He had a round head, rather long legs, and was about twice as big as Black Shadow. His feet looked big, even for him. On the tips of his ears were a few long black hairs. His coat was yellowish to reddish-brown, with dark spots on it. His chin and throat were white, and underneath he was white spotted with black. There were spots all down his legs. His tail was whitish on the under side and had black stripes on the upper side, and all the time he kept twitching it just the way Black Shadow twitches her tail when she is out hunting. All of a sudden he opened his mouth and gave such a yowl that it is a wonder I didn’t jump out of my skin. It frightened me so that I couldn’t have moved if I had wanted to, which was a lucky thing for me. The instant he yowled he cocked his head on one side and listened. That yowl must have wakened somebody and caused them to move, for Yowler turned suddenly and crept swiftly and without a sound out of sight. A minute later I heard a jump, and then I heard a fluttering. I think he caught one of the Grouse family.”

“Yowling that way is one of Yowler’s tricks and how he got his name,” explained Mother Nature. “He does it for the same reason Hooty the Owl hoots. He hopes that it will startle some sleeper so that they will move. If they do, his keen ears are sure to hear it. Was that all of your adventure, Jumper?”

“No,” replied Jumper. “I remained right where I was for the rest of the night. Just as daylight was beginning to steal through the Green Forest, I decided that it was safe to leave my hiding place and come over here. Half-way here I stopped for a few minutes in a thick clump of ferns. I was just about to start on again when I caught sight of something moving just back of an old stump. It was Yowler’s tail. Had he kept it still I wouldn’t have seen him at all; however he was twitching it back and forth again. He was crouched down close to the ground with all four feet drawn close together under him. There he crouched, and there I sat for the longest time. I didn’t move, and he didn’t move, save that foolish looking tail of his. I had begun to think that I would have to stay in that clump of ferns all day when suddenly Yowler sprang like a flash. There was a little squeak, and then I saw Yowler trot away with a Mouse in his mouth. I guess he must have seen that Mouse go in a hole and knew that if he waited long enough it would come out again. As soon as Yowler disappeared I hurried over here.”

“That was a splendid account of Yowler and his way of hunting,” said Mother Nature. “He does most of his hunting in just that way, sneaking about on the chance of surprising a Rabbit, Bird or Mouse, or else patiently watching and waiting beside a hole in which he knows some one has taken refuge. He hunts in the Green Forest exactly as Black Shadow, Farmer Brown’s Cat, hunts Mice in the barn or Birds in the Old Orchard. In the spring Yowler eats many eggs and young birds, both those found in nests on the ground and also those in nests in trees, for he is a splendid climber.”

“Yowler is found in nearly all of the swampy, brushy and wooded parts of the whole country, excepting in the great forests of the Far North, where his cousin Tufty the Lynx lives. Yowler is himself a Lynx, the Bay Lynx. In some places he is called simply Wild Cat. In others he is called the Catamount. He is not so fond of the thick forests as he is of swamps, brush-grown hillsides, old pastures and places where there are great masses of briars. Rocky ledges where there are caves in which to hide and plenty of brush also suit him. He prefers to hunt at night, and once in awhile he is seen in broad daylight. Mrs. Bobcat’s kittens are born in a cave or in a hollow tree. Despite the fact that he is an expert climber, Yowler spends most of his time on the ground and is primarily a predator of Rabbits, Mice, Squirrels and ground Birds.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. What sounds does a barn cat or house cat make? Which of these sounds do Bobcat’s make too?
  2. What animals can you name that make sounds to startle their prey? What animals can you name that stay silent and still to catch their prey?
  3. Visit this LINK to see a bobcat and more information provided by Mass Audubon Society.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Toad BOOK LOOK – Chapter 2 of 19


Chapter 2

Jimmy Skunk Consults His Friends


Jimmy Skunk scratched his head thoughtfully as he watched Old Mr. Toad go down the Lone Little Path, hop, hop, hipperty-hop, towards the Smiling Pool. Jimmy Skunk was certainly puzzled. If Old Mr. Toad had told him that he could fly, Jimmy would not have been more surprised, or found it harder to believe than that Old Mr. Toad had a singing voice. The truth is, Jimmy didn’t believe it. He thought that Old Mr. Toad was trying to fool him.

Presently Peter Rabbit came along. He found Jimmy Skunk doing some hard thinking. Jimmy had quite forgotten to look for fat beetles and he was puzzling over his chance encounter with Old Mr. Toad.

Cotton-tail Rabbit by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Hello, old striped-coat, what have you got on your mind this fine morning?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Him,” said Jimmy simply, pointing down the Lone Little Path.

Peter looked. “Do you mean Old Mr. Toad?” he asked.

Jimmy nodded. “Do you see anything odd about him?” he inquired.

Peter stared down the Lone Little Path. “No,” he replied, “except that he seems in a great hurry.”

“Well, that’s just it,” Jimmy returned promptly. “Did you ever see him hurry unless he was frightened?”

Peter confessed that he never had.

“Well, he isn’t frightened now and yet just look at him go,” replied Jimmy. “Says he has a singing voice, and that he has to take part in the spring chorus at the Smiling Pool and that he is late.”

Peter looked very hard at Jimmy to see if he was fooling or telling the truth.

“Old Mr. Toad can sing? And he is a member of a chorus? This I’ve got to see!” said Peter with great curiosity.

Jimmy grinned. “I think he’s crazy, if you ask me,” he said. “And yet he was just as earnest about it as if it were really so. I think he must have eaten something that has gone to his head. There’s Billy Possum over there. Let’s ask him what he thinks.”

So Jimmy and Peter joined Billy, and Jimmy told the story about Old Mr. Toad all over again. Billy chuckled and then said “ I learned long ago that I will always have more to learn about my neighbors. Seems to me we’ve overlooked something about Old Mr. Toad. Let’s all go down to the Smiling Pool and see what this is all about.”

“Oh yes, let’s go!” cried Peter, kicking up his heels. You know Peter is always ready to go anywhere or do anything that will satisfy his curiosity.

Would this fat beetle make for a good skunk snack?

Jimmy Skunk thought it over for a few minutes, and then he decided that as he hadn’t anything in particular to do, and as he might find some fat beetles on the way, he would go too. So off they started after Old Mr. Toad, Peter Rabbit in the lead as usual, Billy Possum next, grinning as only he can grin, and in the rear Jimmy Skunk, taking his time and keeping a sharp eye out for fat beetles.


  1. What animals always seem to be in a hurry when they move? What animals seem to keep a slow steady pace? How about insects – slow ones? fast ones?
  2. Why does Jimmy Skunk like beetles so much? What else do skunks eat? Does Peter Rabbit like beetles too?

Discover more P.L.A.Y. TOAD nature videos and adventures!

Visit the P.L.A.Y. Bird Nature Story Adventures too!


The Burgess Animal Story for Children, The Burgess Bird Story for Children, and The Adventures of __________ series, are all originally authored by Thornton Burgess and are now available to you through P.L.A.Y.

P.L.A.Y. has provided new online versions of these updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classics to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about the fields and forests through these animal story adventures
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 28 – Coyote and Wolf


Chapter 28

Coyote and Wolf


“Of course, you all know to what branch of the Dog family Old Man Coyote belongs,” said Mother Nature as she looked expectantly at the circle of little four-legged folks gathered around her. No one answered. “Well, well, well!” exclaimed Mother Nature, “I am surprised. I supposed that all of you knew that Old Man Coyote is a member of the Wolf branch of the family.”

“Do you mean that he is really a true Wolf?” exclaimed Striped Chipmunk.

“Yes” replied Mother Nature. “Old Man Coyote varies in size from not so very much bigger than Reddy Fox to almost the size of his big cousin, Howler the Timber Wolf. Also he varies in color from a general brownish-gray to a yellowish-brown, being whitish underneath. His face is rather longer than that of Reddy Fox. He has a brushy tail, although it is not as thick as Reddy’s.”

Coyote – Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“In his habits, Old Man Coyote is much like Reddy, except he is larger and stronger and he is able to hunt larger animal including Pigs, Lambs, and newly born Calves. He is one of the swiftest of all runners.”

“Old Man Coyote is a good parent and provider for his family. He and Mrs. Coyote have a large family every year, sometimes as many as ten babies. Their home is in the ground and is very similar to that of Reddy Fox. They eat almost everything eatable, including such animals and birds as they can catch, Frogs, Toads, Snakes and insects, and even some fruits. Mr. and Mrs. Coyote often hunt together. Sometimes, when the children are full-grown, they all hunt together. When they do this they can prey on an animal the size of Lightfoot the Deer.”

“Old Man Coyote has one of the strangest voices to be heard anywhere, and he delights to use it, especially at night. It is like many voices shouting together, and one who hears it for the first time cannot believe that all that sound comes from one throat.”

“His big cousin, Howler the Gray Wolf, sometimes called Timber Wolf– is found now only in the forests of the North and the mountains of the Great West. Once he roamed over the greater part of this whole great country. Howler is as keen-witted as, and perhaps keener-witted than, Reddy Fox or Old Man Coyote, and added to this he has great strength. He is one of the most feared of all the people of the Green Forest. In summer when food is plentiful, Howler and Mrs. Wolf devote themselves to the bringing up of their family. When winter comes, Howler and his friends get together and hunt in packs. With their wonderful noses they can follow Deer and run them down as well as Sheep and young Cattle. The harder the winter the bolder they become. In the Far North they grow especially large, and because of the scarcity of food there in winter, they become exceedingly fierce. They can go an amazingly long time without food and still retain their strength.”

Wolf – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Howler and Mrs. Wolf mate for life, and each is at all times loyal to the other. They are the best of parents, and the little Wolves are carefully trained in all that a Wolf should know.”

“When Wolves hunt in packs they have a leader, usually the strongest or the smartest among them.”

“The color of Howler’s coat usually is brownish-gray and that is why he is called the Gray Wolf; and sometimes it is almost black, and in the Far North it becomes snowy white. Howler the Wolf is very closely related to the Dogs which humans keep as pets. They are really first cousins.”

“My!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit with a shiver, “I am glad Howler the Wolf doesn’t live around here. Do Old Man Coyote and Howler the Wolf get along with one another?” he asked.

“Actually, Old Man Coyote takes pains to keep out of Howler’s way,” said Mother Nature,” and yet he is clever enough to know that when Howler the Wolf has found his prey and had his dinner there may be some left over. So when Howler is hunting in Old Man Coyote’s neighborhood, the latter keeps an eye and ear open to what is going on.”

“By the way, all branches of the Dog family do one thing: they walk on their toes. They never put the whole foot down flat as does Buster Bear. And, as you have already discovered, all branches of the Dog family are intelligent.”

“Why Hello, there is Black Shadow, the cat from Farmer Brown’s, coming down the Lone Little Path!” announced Mother Nature. “I suspect it will be well for some of you smallest ones to get out of sight before she arrives. She doesn’t live over here in the Green Forest rather she simply visits along the edges. She does have a cousin who lives in the Green Forest though, Yowler the Bob Cat. Shall I tell you about Yowler and his cousins tomorrow?”

“Yes please!” cried Happy Jack, speaking for all. Then, as Black Shadow was drawing near, they separated and went their several ways.

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Look closely, can you see the differences between a wolf and a coyote with these paintings? Perhaps look at what they do have in common first and then look for differences.
  2. Visit this LINK to get another view of a coyote from the Mass Audubon Society and this article with photos about coyotes in Massachusetts.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 27 – Red Fox and Gray Fox


Chapter 27

Red Fox and Gray Fox


When the learning session began the following morning not one four-legged friend was missing. You see, with the exception of Jimmy Skunk and Prickly Porcupine, there was not one in whose life Reddy Fox did not have a most important part. Even Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel and Chatterer the Red Squirrel, tree folk though they were, had many times narrowly missed furnishing Reddy with a dinner. As for Johnny Chuck and Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare and Striped Chipmunk and Danny Meadow Mouse and Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, there were few hours of the day or night when they did not have Reddy in mind, knowing that to forget him even for a few minutes might mean the end of them.

Just imagine these little folks getting comfortably seated for the morning session when Reddy himself steps out from behind a tree. Never before was there such a commotion! In the blink of an eye Mother Nature was alone, save for Reddy Fox, Jimmy Skunk, and in the trees Prickly Porky the Porcupine and Happy Jack and Chatterer the Squirrel.

Reddy Fox looked uncomfortable. “I didn’t mean to break up your morning session,” he said to Mother Nature. “I wouldn’t have thought of coming if you hadn’t sent for me.”

Mother Nature smiled. “I didn’t tell any one that I was going to send for you, Reddy,” she said, “for I was afraid that if I did nobody would come this morning. I promised them a surprise, and it is very clear that no one guessed what that surprise was to be. Reddy, if you wouldn’t mind, please go over by that old stump near the Lone Little Path and have a seat.”

Then Mother Nature called each of the little four-legged friends by name requesting they each return at once. She spoke gently and yet with a firm and reassuring voice to encourage everyone to join her. One by one they appeared from all sorts of hiding places, glancing fearfully towards Reddy Fox, and looking to Mother Nature for extra reassurance.

When at last they were all crowded about her as closely as they could get Mother Nature spoke with her soft voice. “Reddy Fox is here because I sent for him, and he is going to sit right where he is until I tell him he can go, and not one of you will be harmed by him. To begin with, I am going to tell you one or two facts about Reddy, and then I am going to find out just how much you have learned about him on your own.”

Red Fox – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“It may seem odd to you that Reddy Fox belongs to the same family as Bowser the Hound, and yet it is true. Both are members of the Dog family and are quite closely related. Howler the Wolf and Old Man Coyote are also members of the family, so all are cousins. Look closely at Reddy and you will see at once that he looks very much like a small Dog with a beautiful red coat, white waistcoat, black feet and bushy tail. Now Peter, you probably know as much about Reddy as any one here. Could you tell us what you have learned in your efforts to keep out of his clutches?”

Peter scratched a long ear thoughtfully and glanced sideways at Reddy Fox. “I certainly ought to know something about him,” he began. “He was the very first four-legged folk my mother warned me to watch for, because she said he was especially fond of young Rabbits and was the smartest predator. Since then I have found out that she knew just what she was talking about.” Johnny Chuck, Danny Meadow Mouse and Whitefoot the Wood Mouse nodded as if they quite agreed. Then Peter continued, “Reddy lives chiefly by hunting, and in his turn he is hunted, so he needs to have sharp wits. When he isn’t hunting me he is hunting Danny Meadow Mouse or Whitefoot or Striped Chipmunk or Mrs. Grouse, or Bob White, or is trying to steal one of Farmer Brown’s Chickens, or is catching Frogs along the edge of the Smiling Pool, or grasshoppers out in the Green Meadows. So far as I can make out, anything Reddy can catch supplies him with food.”

Reddy Fox, who had been listening with a grin on his face said, “I am also rather fond of certain kinds of fruits, sometimes fish, and eggs too.”

Peter continued by stating “Reddy Fox hunts with his ears, eyes, and nose. Many a time I’ve watched him listening for the squeak of Danny Meadow Mouse or watching for the grass to move and show where Danny was hiding; and many a time he has found my scent with his wonderful nose and followed me just as Bowser the Hound follows him. I guess there isn’t much going on that Reddy’s eyes, ears and nose don’t tell him. And it is Reddy’s quick wits that the rest of us fear most. We never know what new trick he will try. Lots of predators are easy to fool, although Reddy isn’t one of them. Sometimes I think he knows more about me than I know about myself. I guess it is just pure luck that he hasn’t caught me with some of those smart tricks of his.”

“Reddy hunts both day and night, although I think he prefers night. I guess it all depends on how hungry he is. More than once I’ve seen him bringing home a Chicken, and I am told that he is smart enough not to steal Chickens near his home, rather to always go some distance to get them. Also I’ve been told that he is too clever to go to the same Chicken yard two nights in succession. He doesn’t seem to mind being chased by Bowser the Hound at all.”

“Actually, I don’t,” spoke up Reddy. “I rather enjoy it. It gives me good exercise. Any time I can’t fool Bowser by breaking my trail so he can’t find it again, I deserve to be caught.

Mother Nature nodded and said “ Reddy, where do you and Mrs. Fox make your home? And how do you raise your babies?”

“This year our home is up in the Old Pasture,” replied Reddy. “We have the nicest kind of a house dug in the ground underneath a big rock. It has only one entrance since there is no need of any other. No one could possibly dig us out there. Last year our home was on the Green Meadows and there were three doorways to that. The year before we dug our house in a gravelly bank just within the edge of the Green Forest. The babies are born in a comfortable bedroom deep underground. Sometimes we have a storeroom in addition to the bedroom; there Mrs. Fox and I can keep food when there is more than can be eaten at one meal. When the babies are first born in the spring and Mrs. Fox cannot leave them, I take food to her. When the youngsters are big enough to use their sharp little teeth, we take turns hunting food for them. Usually we hunt separately, and sometimes we hunt together. You know often two can do what one cannot. If Bowser the Hound happens to find the trail of Mrs. Fox when there are babies at home, she leads him far away from our home. Then I join her, and take her place so that she can slip away and go back to the babies. Bowser never knows the difference.

“Our pups are well trained if I do say it. We teach them how to hunt, how to fool their predators, and all the tricks we have learned. No one has a better training than a young Fox.”

“I want you all to know that Reddy Fox and Mrs. Fox mate for life,” said Mother Nature. “Reddy is the best of fathers and the best of mates.”

“Now, here is a tricky question for you little four-legged folks,” said Mother Nature. “When is a Red Fox not a Red Fox?” Everybody blinked. Most of them looked as if they thought Mother Nature must be joking. Then suddenly Chatterer the Red Squirrel, whose wits are naturally quick, remembered how Mother Nature had told them that there were black Gray Squirrels. “When he is some other color,” cried Chatterer.

“Right you are!” said Mother Nature. “Once in a while a pair of Red Foxes will have a baby who hasn’t a red hair on him. He will be all black, with perhaps just the tip of his tail white. Or his fur will be all black just tipped with white. Then he is called a Black Fox or Silver Fox. He is still a Red Fox, yet there is nothing red about him. Sometimes the fur is only partly marked with black and then he is called a Cross Fox. A great many people have supposed that the Black or Silver Fox and the Cross Fox were distinct kinds. They are not. They are simply Red Foxes with different coats.”

“There’s one thing I do envy about Reddy,” Peter Rabbit spoke up, “and that is that big tail of his. It is a wonderful tail. I wish I had one like it.”

Everybody let out a burst of laugher as they tried to picture Peter Rabbit with a big tail like that of Reddy Fox. “I am afraid you wouldn’t get far if you had to carry that around,” said Mother Nature. “Even Reddy finds it rather a burden in wet weather when it becomes heavy with water. That is one reason you do not find him abroad much when it is raining or in winter when the snow is soft and wet. Reddy Fox is at home all over the northern half of this country, and everywhere he is the same clever fellow whom you all know so well.”

Gray Fox – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“In the South and some parts of the East and West, Reddy has a cousin of about his own size whose coat is gray with red on the sides of his neck, ears and across his breast. The under part of his body is reddish, his throat and the middle of his breast are white. He is called the Gray Fox. He prefers the Green Forest to the open country. He is a better runner. Instead of making his home in a hole in the ground, he usually chooses a hollow tree-trunk or hollow log. The babies are born in a nest of leaves in the bottom of a hollow tree. He is the only Fox that climbs trees.”

“In any case, both Red and Gray Foxes are curious and clever.”

“Now I think this will do for Reddy Fox. Reddy is going to stay right here with me, until the rest of you have had a chance to get home. After that you will have to watch out for yourselves as usual. Tomorrow we will take up Reddy’s big cousins, the Wolves.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. What phrases have you heard folks say in reference to a fox? Quotes? Catchphrases? Songs? Fables? What type of characters do foxes usually represent in stories? Can you think of a few stories with foxes in them? Would you like to create a story or cartoon with a fox character in your nature journal? Perhaps hum a little ditty or foxy tune you make along the way?
  2. Visit this LINK for more information and photos of foxes provided by the Mass Audubon Society.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Toad BOOK LOOK – Chapter 1 of 19


Chapter 1

Jimmy Skunk Is Puzzled


Old Mother West Wind had just come down from the Purple Hills and turned loose her children, the Merry Little Breezes, from the big bag in which she had been carrying them. They were very lively and very merry as they danced and raced across the Green Meadows in all directions, for it was good to be back there once more. Old Mother West Wind almost sighed as she watched them for a few minutes. She felt that she would like to join them. Always the springtime made her feel this way, young, carefree, and happy. However, she had work to do. She had to turn the windmill to pump water for Farmer Brown’s cows, and this was only one of many mills standing idle as they waited for her. So she puffed her cheeks out and started about her business.

Jimmy Skunk sat at the top of the hill that overlooks the Green Meadows and watched her out of sight. Then he started to amble down the Lone Little Path to look for some beetles. He was ambling along, never in a hurry, when he heard someone huffing and puffing behind him. Of course he turned to see who it was, and he was greatly surprised when he discovered Old Mr. Toad. He was quite out of breath, and yet he was hopping along in the most determined way as if he were in a great hurry to get somewhere.

Skunk – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Now it is a very unusual thing for Mr. Toad to hurry, very unusual indeed. As a rule he hops a few steps and then sits down to think it over. Jimmy had never before seen him hop more than a few steps unless he was trying to get away from danger, from Mr. Hognose the snake for instance. Of course the first thing Jimmy thought of was Mr. Hognose as he is very fond of toads for his dinner. And so he looked for him and yet there was no sign of Mr. Hognose nor of any other danger. Then he looked very hard at Old Mr. Toad, and he saw right away that Old Mr. Toad didn’t seem to be frightened at all, only very determined, as if he had something important on his mind.

“Well, well,” exclaimed Jimmy Skunk, “whatever has got into those long hind legs of yours to make them work so fast?”

Old Mr. Toad didn’t say a word, he simply tried to get past Jimmy and keep on his way. Jimmy stayed put in the path as he was so curious to know what was the rush.

“I–I beg your pardon. I don’t have any breath to spare,” panted Old Mr. Toad. “You see I’m in a great hurry.”

“Yes, I see,” replied Jimmy. “Now, what could you possibly be in such a hurry for? I don’t see anything to run away from.”

“I’m not running away, I’m running towards something” said Old Mr. Toad. “I’ve business to attend to at the Smiling Pool, and I’m late as it is.”

“Business!” exclaimed Jimmy as if he could hardly believe his ears. “What business have you at the Smiling Pool?”

“Why, I have a very important part in the spring chorus, and I’m going down there to sing and share my beautiful voice” Old Mr. Toad said with a smile.

This surprised Jimmy Skunk as he had never thought of Old Mr. Toad as a singer or as being a member in a chorus. This gave him a little chuckle realizing there is so much he still doesn’t know about his neighbors in the Green Forest and Green Meadows. He sat looking to the sky for a moment pondering this a bit.

“How is it that you are a singer and I’ve never even heard you?” Jimmy Skunk asked Old Mr. Toad with great curiosity.

However he was too late, Old Mr. Toad was already on his way again hop, hop, hipperty-hop, hop, hop, hipperty-hop down the Lone Little Path.

And so Jimmy Skunk sat alone with a puzzled look on his face trying to figure out what he had just learned.


  1. Why do toads sing? Do other amphibians sing? What other animals in general sing? Why do they sing? What is the difference between a bird singing vs. calling?
  2. Does Jimmy Skunk have a singing voice too? Does a skunk make sounds? If so, what are they?
  3. Have you ever seen a Hognose snake? If not, what do you think it looks like based on the name?

Discover more P.L.A.Y. TOAD nature videos and adventures!

Visit the P.L.A.Y. Bird Nature Story Adventures too!


The Burgess Animal Story for Children, The Burgess Bird Story for Children, and The Adventures of __________ series, are all originally authored by Thornton Burgess and are now available to you through P.L.A.Y.

P.L.A.Y. has provided new online versions of these updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classics to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about the fields and forests through these animal story adventures
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 26 – Fisher


Chapter 26

Fisher


“There is one remaining member of the Weasel family for us to speak of,” began Mother Nature, when she started up the learning session at the old meeting place in the Green Forest the morning after their visit to the Smiling Pool.

“Pekan the Fisher, sometimes referred to as Blackcat, lives here in the Green Forest too. His coat is a brownish-black, light on the sides, and browner below. His nose, ears, feet and tail are black. He gets his name of Blackcat from his resemblance to a Cat with a bushy tail, though on the ground he looks more like a black Fox. He lives in the pine and spruce forests and prefers to be near swamps. He is a splendid climber and also spends quite as much time on the ground. He is even livelier in the trees and can catch a Squirrel up there and often does. He isn’t afraid of leaping to the ground from high up in a tree, and often when coming down a tree he comes down headfirst. He is very fond of hunting the cousins of Jumper the Hare and is so tireless that he can run them down. He is very clever.”

“Do you all remember how frightened Prickly Porcupine was when I merely mentioned Pekan the Fisher. It was because Pekan is almost the only one Prickly Porky has reason to fear. If Pekan is hungry he doesn’t hesitate to dine on Porcupine. He has learned how to turn a Porcupine on his back, and, as you have already found out, the under part of the Porcupine is unprotected.”

Fisher – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Just why Pekan should be called a Fisher, I don’t know. True, he eats fish when he can get them, although he isn’t a water animal and doesn’t go fishing as do Billy Mink and Little Joe Otter. He is especially fond of Rabbit and Hare. He is so strong that he can kill a Fox and often does. Bobby Coon is a good fighter and much bigger and heavier than Pekan, and yet he is no match for Pekan.”

“Now this ends the Weasel family. That’s only one family of the order of Carnivora, or flesh eaters. There is another family you all know so well that I think we will take that up next. It is the family to which Reddy Fox and Old Man Coyote belong, and it is called the Dog family.”

“Tomorrow morning when you get here, I may have a surprise for you.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Do you have any members of the Weasel family living near you? Which ones? How do you know? Tracks? Scat? Trail Camera? Or?
  2. Visit this LINK from the Mass Audubon Society to see a fisher and read historical and current findings on their local habitat, food & diet, life cycle, etc.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 25 – Mink + Otter


Chapter 25

Mink and Otter


The bank of the Smiling Pool was a lovely place to hold a learning session at just after sun-up. Everybody who could get there was on hand, and there were several who had not been before. One of these was Grandfather Frog, who was sitting on his big, green, lily pad. Another was Jerry Muskrat, whose house was out in the Smiling Pool. Spotty the Turtle was also there and Longlegs the Heron too. You see, they hadn’t come to the learning sessions the learning session came to them, for that is where they live or spend most of their time.

“Good morning, Jerry Muskrat,” said Mother Nature pleasantly, as Jerry’s brown head appeared in the Smiling Pool. “Have you seen anything of Billy Mink or Little Joe Otter?”

“Little Joe went down to the Big River last night,” replied Jerry Muskrat. “I don’t know when he is coming back, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see him any minute. Billy Mink was here last evening and said he was going up the Laughing Brook fishing. He is likely to be back any time. One never can tell when that fellow will appear. He comes and goes continually. I don’t believe he can keep still five minutes.”

“Who can’t keep still for five minutes?” a new voice jumped in and there was Billy Mink himself just climbing out on the Big Rock.

“Jerry was speaking of you,” replied Mother Nature. “This will be a good chance for you to show him that he is mistaken. I want you to stay here for a while and to stay right on the Big Rock. I may want to ask you a few questions.”

Just then Billy Mink dove into the Smiling Pool, and a second later his brown head popped out of the water and in his mouth was a fat fish. He scrambled back on the Big Rock and looked at Mother Nature as he laid the fish down.

“I couldn’t help myself,” he mumbled. “I saw that fish and dove for him. I hope you will forgive me, Mother Nature. I just can’t sit still for long.”

As Billy Mink sat there on the Big Rock for a moment eating his fish everyone had a good look at him. One glance would tell anyone that he was a cousin of Shadow the Weasel. He was much larger than Shadow and of the same general shape being long and slender. His coat was a beautiful dark brown, darkest on the back. His chin was white. His tail was round, covered with fairly long hair which was so dark as to be almost black. His face was like that of Shadow the Weasel. His legs were rather short. As he sat eating that fish, his back was arched.

Mink – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Mother Nature waited until he had finished his feast. “Now then, Billy,” she said, “Which do you like best, night or day?”

“It doesn’t make any particular difference to me,” replied Billy. “I just sleep when I feel like it, whether it be night or day, and then when I wake up I can hunt. It all depends on how I feel.”

“When you go hunting, what do you hunt?” asked Mother Nature.

Billy grinned. “Anything that promises a good meal,” he said. “I’m not very particular. A fat Mouse, a tender young Rabbit, a Chipmunk, a Frog, Tadpoles, Chickens, eggs, birds, fish; whatever happens to be easiest to get suits me. I am rather fond of fish, and that’s one reason that I live along the Laughing Brook and around the Smiling Pool. I do like a change, and so often I go hunting in the Green Forest. Sometimes I go up to Farmer Brown’s for a Chicken. In the spring I hunt for nests of birds on the ground. In winter, if Peter Rabbit should happen along here when I was hungry, I might be tempted to sample Peter.” Billy blinked his bright eyes as Peter shivered.

“And if Jerry Muskrat were not my friend, I am afraid I might be tempted to sample him too,” continued Billy Mink.

“Oh Pooh!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit. “You wouldn’t dare tackle Jerry Muskrat.”

“Wouldn’t I?” replied Billy. “Just ask Jerry how he feels about it.”

One look at Jerry’s face showed everybody that Jerry, big as he was, was afraid of Billy Mink. “And how do you hunt when you are on land?” asked Mother Nature.

“I hunt with my eyes, nose and ears,” replied Billy. “There may be folks with better ears than I’ve got, although I don’t know who they are. I wouldn’t swap noses with anybody. As for my eyes, well, they are plenty good enough for me.”

“In other words, you hunt very much as does your cousin, Shadow the Weasel,” said Mother Nature.

Billy nodded. “I suppose we are similar at that,” he said.

“You all saw how Billy catches fish,” said Mother Nature. “Now, Billy, if you would swim over to the farther bank and show us how you run.”

Billy slipped into the water and swam for a distance and then popped just his head out. When he reached the edge of the pond he climbed up on the bank and started along it. He went by a series of bounds, his back arched sharply between each leap. Then he disappeared before their very eyes, only to reappear as suddenly as he had gone. So quick were his movements that it was impossible for them to keep their eyes on him. It seemed sometimes as though he must have vanished into the air. Of course he didn’t. He was simply showing them his wonderful ability to take advantage of every little stick, stone and bush.

“Billy is a great traveler,” said Mother Nature. “He really loves to travel up and down the Laughing Brook, even for long distances. Being so slender he can slip under all kinds of places and into all sorts of holes. Quick as he is on land, he is not so quick as his Cousin Shadow the Weasel; and good swimmer as he is, he isn’t so good as his bigger cousin, Little Joe Otter. However, being equally at home on land and in water, he has an advantage over his cousins. Mrs. Mink makes her home nest in a hole in the bank or under an old stump or under a pile of driftwood, and you may be sure it is well hidden. There the babies are born, and they stay with their mother all summer. Incidentally, Billy can climb too.”

“Now, I wish Little Joe Otter were here. I had hoped he would be,” said Mother Nature looking all around.

“Here he comes now,” cried Jerry Muskrat. “I rather expected he would be back.” Jerry pointed towards where the Laughing Brook left the Smiling Pool on its way to the Big River. A brown head was moving rapidly towards them. There was no mistaking that head. It could belong to no one other than Little Joe Otter. Straight on to the Big Rock he came, and climbed up. He was big, being one of the largest members of his family. He was more than three feet long. No one looking at him could mistake him for anyone other than a member of the Weasel family. His legs were short, very short for the length of his body. His tail was fairly long and broad. His coat was a rich brown all over, and a little lighter underneath than on the back.”

“What’s going on over here?” asked Little Joe Otter, his eyes bright with interest.

“We are holding a learning session here today,” explained Mother Nature. “And we were just hoping that you would appear. Would you hold up one of your feet and spread the toes, Little Joe for all to see?”

Otter – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Little Joe Otter did with a puzzled look on his face. “Well I’ll be!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit. “His toes are webbed like those of Paddy the Beaver!”

“Ah yes,” said Little Joe, “I never could swim the way I do if they weren’t webbed.”

“Can you swim better than Paddy the Beaver?” asked Peter.

“I should say I can. If I didn’t, I guess I would go hungry most of the time,” replied Little Joe.

“Why should you go hungry? Paddy doesn’t,” replied Peter.

“Paddy doesn’t live on fish,” replied Little Joe. “I do and that’s the difference.”

“Might you show us how you can swim?” suggested Mother Nature.

Little Joe slipped into the water. The Smiling Pool was very still and the four-legged folks sitting on the bank could look right down and see nearly to the bottom. They saw Little Joe as he entered the water and then saw little more than a brown streak. A second later his head popped out on the other side of the Smiling Pool.

“Phew, I’m glad I’m not a fish!” exclaimed Peter and everybody laughed.

“ Like Billy Mink, Little Joe is a great traveler,” Mother Nature continued, “especially up and down the Laughing Brook and the Big River. Sometimes he travels over land, although he is so heavy and his legs are so short that traveling on land is slow work. When he does cross from one stream or pond to another, he always picks out the smoothest going. Sometimes in winter he travels quite a bit. Then when he comes to a smooth hill, he slides down it on his stomach. By the way, Little Joe, haven’t you a slippery slide somewhere around here?”

Little Joe nodded. “I’ve got one down the Laughing Brook where the bank is steep,” said he. “Mrs. Otter and I and our children slide every day!”

“What do you mean by a slippery slide?” asked Happy Jack Squirrel, who was sitting in the Big Hickory-tree which grew on the bank of the Smiling Pool.

Mother Nature smiled. “Little Joe Otter and his family are quite fond of play,” she said. “One of their ways of playing is to make a slippery slide where the bank is steep and the water deep. In winter it is made of snow and in summer it is made of mud. There they slide down, splash into the water, then climb up the bank and do it all over again. In winter they make their slippery slide where the water doesn’t freeze.”

“I suppose that means that Little Joe doesn’t sleep in winter as Johnny Chuck does,” said Peter.

“Oh no, I should say not,” exclaimed Little Joe. “I like the winter, too. I have such a warm coat that I never get cold. There are always places where the water doesn’t freeze. I can swim for long distances under ice and so I can always get plenty of food.”

“Do you eat anything other than fish?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Oh, sometimes,” replied Little Joe. “Once in a while I like a little fresh meat for a change, and sometimes when fish are scarce I eat Frogs, but I prefer fish, especially Salmon and Trout.”

“How many babies do you have at a time?” asked Happy Jack Squirrel.

“Usually one to three,” replied Little Joe, “and only one family a year. They are born in my comfortable house, which is a burrow in the bank. There Mrs. Otter makes a large, soft nest of leaves and grass. And now I think I will go on up the Laughing Brook as Mrs. Otter is waiting for me there.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Perhaps you live in a climate where there is snow to make a winter slippery slide just like Little Joe Otter. Have you ever thought to make a mud slide in the summer like him too? Try a little research with your family to see what otter slippery slides look like and then see if you can recreate your own version for some summer P.L.A.Y.!
  2. Have you seen a mink walk on land? Can you arch your back “between leaps” like Billy Mink? Or how about leap AND hide as he does? Where are you best suited for travel – on land or in the water?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.


Nature Poop Post #13

A magical moment in any outdoor adventure is to find . . .

SCATBEDOODOO!!!

Who left this behind?


SCATBEDOODOO is a new special combination of two fun things:

SCAT = animal poop.

SCAT = the improvised singing of nonsense syllables in jazz music like bop-doo-wop.


❤ 🙂 ❤

What to do on this special occasion:

1-Watch Your Step!

2-Look with your eyes not your hands (no touch!)

3-Draw or take a snapshot of the poop to later decipher which field or forest animal

left behind this special clue.

4- Then sing your own verse of SCATBEDOODOO to celebrate discovering which

animal has passed this way before you!

❤  🙂 ❤


What other natural treasures did you find in your P.L.A.Y. today? 🙂


Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your Nature Adventure book!