Loree Griffin Burns: The Flora and Fauna of Our Place

From: A Life in Books
July 17, 2012 at 09:30AM

© Loree Griffin Burns

As a science project for our homeschool year (2010-2011), my three kids and I created an inventory of all the creatures we’d documented in our suburban back yard. We scoured a decade of garden photographs and, at the same time, began spending loads of time outdoors looking for animals we had not yet recorded. At the time, we lived on a one acre property about five minutes outside Worcester, the second largest city in Massachusetts. I was SHOCKED at the diversity we found on our little patch of Earth. Talk about a year of surprising discoveries and unexpected connections!  I have been thinking and writing about it ever since.

This month, a portion of our project is on display at the Beaman Memorial Library, including the stick insect above (I’d never seen a stick insect in my life, outside the movie Ants, but when I started looking closely, they popped up regularly) and the introduction below …

In September 2010, we began to organize years of our backyard photographs as part of a science project on animal classification. We were shocked to discover that a fairly large variety of creatures from the Animal Kingdom were living under our noses. Here are a few of our findings …


  • Of the nine phyla in the Animal Kingdom, we photographed members of four (Chordata, Arthropoda, Annelida, and Mollusca).


  • Of the seven classes of animals with backbones, we recorded four (Amphibia, Reptilia, Aves, and Mammalia).


  • Of the ten species of frogs and toads found in Massachusetts, we saw four in our yard, and we managed to see three others around central Massachusetts.


We spotted an amazing variety of other animals in our one-acre West Boylston yard, including stick insects, cicadas, katydids, a clearwing moth, monarch butterflies, two species of salamander, a snake, pileated woodpeckers, a ruby-throated hummingbird, a porcupine, a groundhog, deer, and a black bear! Some of our favorite animal photographs are shown here. We hope you like looking at them … and we hope our project inspires you to look more closely at your backyard.


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