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Nature Merit Badge Guide

Nature Merit Badge

Nature Merit Badge – Your clothing and your food come directly from plants or from animals that eat plants. In much the very same method, all other animal life is dependent on plants, and those plants depend on the soil. 

You could think of a plant as a type of factory that utilizes sunshine as power, water, and minerals from the soil as raw products to make the food you need, or the food that cows or sheep transform into milk, meat, leather, or wool for your use.

In this article, we will learn the concept of nature, as well as complete the answers in filling out the nature merit badge worksheet.

Nature Merit Badge Requirements

When you want to earn a nature merit badge and you are required to discuss with your counselor about requirements:

  1. Name three ways in which plants are important to animals. Name a plant that is protected in your state or region, and explain why it is at risk.
  2. Name three ways in which animals are important to plants. Name an animal that is protected in your state or region, and explain why it is at risk.
  3. Explain the term “food chain.” Give an example of a four-step land food chain and a four-step water food chain.
  4. Do all of the requirements in FIVE of the following fields:
    • Birds
      • In the field, identify eight species of birds.
      • Make and set out a birdhouse OR a feeding station OR a birdbath. List what birds used it during a period of one month.
    • Mammals
      • In the field, identify three species of wild animals.
      • Make plaster casts of the tracks of a wild mammal.
    • Reptiles and Amphibians
      • Show that you can recognize the venomous snakes in your area.
      • In the field, identify three species of reptiles or amphibians.
      • Recognize one species of toad or frog by voice; OR identify one reptile or amphibian by eggs, den, burrow, or other signs.
    • Insects and Spiders
      • Collect, mount, and label 10 species of insects or spiders.
      • Hatch an insect from the pupa or cocoon, OR hatch adults from nymphs; OR keep larvae until they form pupae or cocoons; OR keep a colony of ants or bees through one season.
    • Fish
      • Catch and identify two species of fish.
      • Collect four kinds of animal food eaten by fish in the wild.
    • Mollusks and Crustaceans
      • Identify five species of mollusks and crustaceans.
      • Collect, mount, and label six shells.
    • Plants
      • In the field, identify 15 species of wild plants.
      • Collect and label the seeds of six plants OR the leaves of 12 plants.
    • Soils and Rocks
      • Collect and identify soils found in different layers of a soil profile.
      • Collect and identify five different types of rocks from your area.

You can download a worksheet and pamphlet to complete your answer, below.

The Importance of the Soil

The Importance of the Soil

The structure of any wildlife community, whether on land or in the water, is the soil. If the soil is fertile, it will produce a thriving plant development. This will support a vigorous and abundant population of animals.

There are many different sorts of soil, and each will motivate different kinds of plant growth. To start studying various soils on the land, first, note whether the surface layer
is sand, clay, or an in-between mix called loam.

1. Sandy Soil

Water, wind, and weather conditions like frost can break rocks into tiny particles. When enough of these particles are gathered together, the result is sand.

Sandy soil generally is not very rich in the minerals plants need to grow; consequently, pure sand does not support lush plant growth.

Decayed plant and animal matter, or humus, contributes nitrogen and other
elements to the soil. Thus, sandy soil that contains humus will be better suited for plant life.

2. Clay Soil

Clay soil particles are so small that you cannot see them individually, even under a microscope, and they tend to pack together. Clay soil generally is rich in minerals and holds water well, making it is well-suited for most plant growth.

However, if soil particles are packed together too tightly or hold too much water,
the seeds and roots of some plants will not get enough air.

3. Loam

Sand mixed with clay is called loam. Most loam soils also contain particles called silt, which is smaller than sand but larger than clay. Silt loam is loam that contains a lot of silt. Loam soils are better for cultivation than sand or clay.

The water that flows from the soil also will carry dissolved minerals, a natural fertilizer that will permit the healthy growth of plants in the water.

This will be the basis of the aquatic food chain and of crops of such animals as crustaceans, insects, fish, and land animals like raccoons and otters, which depend in
a part of water life for their food.

The Importance of Climate

The Importance of Climate

While the soil determines which plants will grow, the environment manages what type of soil will exist in a particular area.

Specific plants grow well in warm climates however can not exist in a cold environment, and some plants can grow just in cooler environments.

Cabbage palms, live oaks, and certain cacti grow in warm environments, while balsam fir, aspens, and spruces grow only where winter seasons are cold. Trees that will not grow at 4,000 feet in one place might grow at 6,000 feet further south.

Water as a Wildlife Community

Just as a forest, prairie, desert, or marsh supports a particular type of wildlife community so does a pond, lake, stream, river, bay, or ocean.

Many of the same forces help determine what kinds of plants grow in water and, in turn, these plants help to determine what kinds of animals will be found. Like plants on dry land, water plants need light to manufacture food.

That is why the most luxuriant plant growth pickerelweed, cattails, bulrushes, wild rice, arrowroot, or pond lilies are found in shallow water where the leaves can obtain pure sunlight.

What Makes Water Plants Grow?

  • The amount of water and the stability of the water level
  • Water depth and clarity
  • Water temperature
  • The speed of water flow
  • The kind of floor the body of water possesses
  • The minerals in the water and in the soil beneath
  • The condition of the land surrounding the water
  • Whether the water is fresh, salt, or brackish

Plants in the Wildlife Community

Plants in the Wildlife Community

One thing all plants have in common is that they are constantly subject to change. Sometimes factors like fire, too many animals grazing, or plowing for cultivation can result in a patch of bare ground quite a stretch from the forest’s wildlife community,
but it can get there over time.

When seeds are blown into the bare soil, annual plants such as a common garden or roadside weeds will begin to spring up. Perennial plants and grasses might get started at the same time, and they soon will crowd out the annuals.

Then depending upon the climate and other conditions, grasses will grow more dominant or shrubs and trees will take over. Sometimes these stages are cut short, especially if there is a good seed year and such trees as birch or white pine are nearby.

Water to Forest Succession

Water to Forest Succession

Many climax forests and prairies now stand where there was once a pond, lake, or beaver-dammed stream.

In almost the same way that bare soil will finally be replaced by the area’s climax growth, plant life may overtake water and the area would become a forest or prairie.
Briefly, this is what happens.

First, only water and a mineral bottom exist. As the plants that live in the water or
along the shore grow and die over many years, a layer of organic material forms at the bottom of the pond.

Finally, a bed of organic matter and mineral debris washes down from the surrounding land, replacing the pond water, and a bed of peat reaches the surface. When suitable soil has formed, other plants, like sedges or cattails, grow and form a mat.

As these plants grow and die, they help build up the soil so that still other plants can grow.

Next come the grasses and sedges that form sod. As they grow, they form solid soil. Eventually they will move out over the peat, and the peat will develop farther out toward the center of the pond.

Animals in the Wildlife Community

animals in wildlife

From microscopic species in the soil, through insects, worms, and other animals beneath the surface, to mammals such as woodchucks and ground squirrels that nest underground.

Insects, reptiles, birds, and mammals that live on the surface and up into the highest trees, all animals live in close relation to one another and to plants.

Many animals eat plants. Insects eat grasses or tree leaves, or live under the bark of trees where they find food.

Reptiles such as certain species of turtles and lizards live mainly on plants; some fish eat plant life in the water.

Birds eat fruits, seeds, and buds; mammals such as squirrels eat seeds; wild deer eat acorns, twigs, and tree leaves and buds.

Animals might also eat other animals. Some insects eat other insects; some snakes, turtles, and lizards, as well as amphibious frogs and salamanders, eat insects, while other snakes eat small mammals.

Some fish eat insects or smaller fish. There are birds that eat insects, fish, mammals, and other birds. Some mammals eat insects, snakes, fish, birds, or smaller mammals.

You can read the sub-chapters on animal succession and How Humans Affect the Wildlife Community in the pamphlet that I shared above.

Identify Birds

Identify Birds

The best way to learn to identify birds is to venture outside and look and listen for them. If your counselor or someone else who knows birds can go with you, so much the better.

If not, your task will be more difficult, but you can do it by yourself. First, borrow a pair of binoculars or field glasses. They will make bird watching much more fun and identification much easier.

Next, learn something about bird families and where they usually are found. For example, if you wanted to see ducks, you would look at a body of water.

If you wanted to see woodpeckers, you would look in trees. If you wanted to see meadowlarks or killdeers, you would look in fields or meadows.

When just beginning to bird-watch, first try to place a bird in the correct family grouping. Determining the species will then be easier. Generally, the common birds you will see may be placed in one of the following groups.

1. Wading Birds

Herons, egrets, and bitterns are in this group of birds, which have long legs,
long necks, and long, pointed bills. You usually see them wading in shallow water
watching for small fish.

2. Waterfowl

Ducks and geese are in this group and usually are seen on or near water or marshes. Ducks are divided into two groups: those that feed by tipping up and dabbling in shallow water and those that dive for food.

3. Birds of Prey

Hawks, vultures, and eagles are in this group of generally large birds. They have hooked beaks and strong feet and feed on small animals such as mice and rats, amphibians, snakes, fish, and other birds.

You usually see them soaring overhead or perched in a snag from which they watch for prey.

4. Grouse and Quail

These are birds that somewhat resemble chickens. Some are found in brushy areas, others in fields or prairies. Prairie chicken, ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, and sage hens are in this group.

Quail are smaller than grouse and are easily distinguished from them. These birds usually are seen on the ground.

5. Shore Birds

This is a group of small wading birds found along streams, ponds, or the seashore. Some kinds live in fields and prairies.

They have long, probing bills and probe for small water animals or grubs in the soil. Sandpipers, killdeer, snipe, and woodcock are in this group.

6. Gulls and Terns

These are long-winged, strong flying birds found near large bodies of freshwater or salt water. Gulls usually feed on the surface, while terns dive for their food.

Herring gulls, ring-billed gulls, western gulls, California gulls, black terns, common terns, and least terns are probably the most common birds in this group.

7. Woodpeckers

Flickers, sapsuckers, and red-headed, downy, and red-bellied woodpeckers
probably are the most common birds in this group. They usually are seen climbing tree trunks and probing the bark for insects.

In flight, they flap several times then pause, which gives them an up-and-down sort of flight.

8. Flycatchers

These birds generally perch on bare twigs or power lines, once in a while flying off to
catch an insect. While perched, they sit quite still, occasionally jerking their tails. King birds, phoebes, and flycatchers are the most common birds in this group.

9. Swallows

These are smallish birds with long, slender wings seen most often as they fly gracefully over fields or water, chasing insects. Tree swallows, barn swallows, and martins are members of this group.

10. Jays

In general, jays are birds of the woodlands, where their large size, long tails, and bluish or gray color help identify them.

Bluejays and Florida jays are found in the East; magpies, California jays, and Steller’s jays are found in the West.

11. Thrashers

This is a group of robin-sized birds with slender bills, which generally curve downward. They are seen on the ground or in low shrubs. Mockingbirds,
catbirds, and thrashers are in this group.

12. Thrushes

This group includes the robin, bluebird, and thrush. With the exception of the bluebird,
all generally are brownish on the back and have speckled breasts.

They all are known for their beautiful songs and usually are seen feeding on the ground.

13. Warblers

These small, brightly colored, insecteating birds have fine bills and flitting habits. They
are birds of the woodlands, usually seen at the tops of trees or at the tips of shrub branches.

Some of them are myrtle warblers, Audubon’s warblers, yellow warblers, and black-and-white warblers.

14. Meadowlarks, Blackbirds, and Orioles

These birds are found in several wildlife communities: bobolinks, meadowlarks, and cowbirds in fields, orioles in high trees, grackles in marshes or woods, and redwings in

Most of them are brightly colored, and all have distinctive songs.

15. Finches and Sparrows

Birds in this group all have strong, cone-shaped bills adapted for crushing or cracking seeds. They are found in almost all wildlife communities. Cardinals, rosbeaks, sparrows, towhees, and juncoes are in this group.

Identify Mammal

Identify Mammal

At first, identifying three different wild mammals in the field might seem difficult. You might find rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, or woodchucks rather easily.

But depending on where you live or camp, other mammals might be more difficult to
see. But if you start by looking for tracks or other signs, you will find that mammals are much more common than you think. Look for the following signs.

  • Tracks in the mud or sand along waterways
  • Signs of feeding around fruit-bearing shrubs or trees
  • Rough bark around the hole in a hollow tree
  • Droppings on animal runways in woods and fields
  • Animal homes holes in the ground, muskrat houses, or beaver dams

Identify Reptiles and Amphibians

Identify Reptiles and Amphibians

Before starting projects that will help you learn more about reptiles and amphibians,
you should know what reptiles and amphibians are and how they differ from each other.

Reptiles include snakes, lizards, turtles, alligators, and crocodiles. When they are born, these animals look like their parents. All of them are born on land and all have lungs. They all have scales, plates, or shells.

Salamanders, frogs, toads, and newts are amphibians. All of these animals spend their early life in water or where it is quite moist.

As they grow older, many of them change into entirely different looking animals. You may have seen tadpoles, which dart around in the water and somewhat resemble largeheaded fish.

Later, they grow legs and develop into frogs or toads. They then live on land or in the water and on land. They are called amphibians because they spend part of the
time in water and part on land.

Identify Insects and Spiders

Identify Insects and Spiders

Wherever you hike or camp, whether it is in the mountains, on the edge of the deserts, on a coastal island, or in a prairie, woods, marsh, or park, you are sure to find insects and spiders of many kinds.

To identify insects and spiders you will need a good field guide. In addition, your counselor or another expert can help you.

If there is a museum or a zoo nearby, you can probably get help there. If not, rely on books available from your school or public library, or, with your parent’s permission, search the Internet.

Identify Fish

Identify Fish

Fish can be found just about anywhere there is water. Whether as small as a backyard pond or as large as an ocean, bodies of water are home to fish of all shapes and sizes. Freshwater fish you might catch include the following.

1. Black Bass

Look for largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass around brush, fallen trees, weed beds, and rock ledges. Use bait such as leeches, minnows, frogs, jigs, and plastic worms and bugs.

2. Panfish

Rock bass, bluegill, and crappie are all in this category. Rock bass are brassy-colored with rows of black scales. They will strike at almost any kind of live bait or lure and can be found around bridge piers, docks, boulders, and weed beds.

Bluegill are purplish with a distinctive dark blue patch on the gill cover. Use small hooks to catch them. Crappie are white and black and will strike at small spinners and lures.

3. Catfish

These are smooth-skinned, scaleless fish found in clear, icy waters in the North and
warm, muddy waters in the South. They are relatively easy to catch with all kinds of bait. Look for them beneath undercut banks and logjams, and in deep holes and channels.

4. Stream Trout

These are sleek and colorful fish. Brook trout are dark green with bright red spots, rainbow trout have a bright red streak along their silvery sides, and brown trout are yellowish-tan with brown and red spots.

Trout will bite all types of flies, small spoons, and spinners, as well as worms, minnows, and insects.

You can read the sub-chapters Mollusks and Crustaceans, Plants, and Soils and Rocks in the pamphlet. thank you.

I'm a Mechanical Engineer and lifelong Eagle Scout. My passion for scouting guides my writing, aiming to inspire fellow Scouts on their path. Thanks for reading, and best wishes on your journey to Eagle!