Nature Strollers

The mission of the Nature Strollers is to support parents and grandparents in their role as primary interpreters of nature for their families; to provide opportunities for families to enjoy unstructured time outdoors; to familiarize families with local trails, refuges, sanctuaries and preserves; and to develop networks among families with a common interest in nature.

Monday, November 27, 2006

6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 27 November 2006

Kat, Laurel, Acadia, Lily and Penelope were joined by "Fred" the friendly Great Blue Heron, who stayed just ahead of us the entire way to the bridge!

Friday, November 03, 2006

6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 03 November 2006

It turned out to be a bit colder than we thought, so it was a good thing everyone arrived bundled up. Hats, mittens, scarves, and blankets were donned as we got ready to walk along the Heritage Trail alongside the OCAS Sanctuary. Heidi and Liam, Laurel and Acadia, Suzanne, Jonathan and Nathan, and Kat, Lily and Penelope walked briskly to the part of the trail alongside the lakes to see what was there today. There were hardly any Canada geese, leaving us wondering where they all could have gone. The American coots were still swimming and diving about in the lake. We also saw many mallard ducks, and they were in full swing of their pairing ritual. The male mallards (drakes) "perform" for the females (hens). They bob their heads up and down, wag their tail feathers, splash droplets of water by dipping and flicking their bills, and do the "head-up/tail-up" display; they lift their heads and tails out of the water simultaneously, showing off their metallic green heads and curled undertail. This behavior will continue through November, when the hens decide with whom they will pair. They will stay together through the winter and through the breeding season in the spring.

We had a great time watching the antics of these drakes, but we couldn't stop for too long... Lily was not too interested in being out today! On our rushed way back to the car to quiet poor Lily, we noticed a number of birds foraging in the trees. They were eating the numerous fruits of the bushes and trees in preparation for winter. We saw titmice and nuthatches, and a beautiful female cardinal. Below is a somewhat blurry picture of one of the nuthatches.
Though this walk was a relatively short one, we will be back again to continue watching the mallard ducks and to log just how many different water birds make a stop at our sanctuary.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wallkill River NWR, Liberty Loop, 01 November 2006

It was an absolutley GORGEOUS summer-like day today, and four families took advantage of the weather to make the trek to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. The trip from Chester took approximately 35 or 45 minutes; from the Greenville and Port Jervis area it is only about 10 minutes long. We met at the Liberty Loop trail, also part of the epic Georgia-to-Maine Appalachian Trail. Heidi and Liam were there waiting as the Laurel/Acadia and Kat/Lily/Penelope caravan rolled up. The parking area, equipped with benches and viewing platform, made a nice base to give children snacks and to listen to the thousands (yes, THOUSANDS) of water birds before venturing onto the open path for a walk. From our comfy platform base we saw (and heard) ducks and Canada geese resting and fattening up for their journey south.
We also saw about 5 or 6 Northern Pintail ducks asleep on the water, their heads tucked under their wings. We thought we could see a snow goose and, unsure of ourselves, assumed it probably was just a swan; but after looking at the photographs it did indeed turn out to be a snow goose. While finishing up our snacks, Laurel and Acadia spotted a wooly bear caterpillar. The children loved looking at it, and Penelope seemed to study it very intensely. Lily almost squeezed it before we released it into the grass!
Soon, Suzanne and her boys (Jonathan and Nathan) arrived, and, after posing for a photograph near the Wallkill River NWR sign, we set off along the Liberty Loop.
The Liberty Loop is a roughly 2 mile long loop around the formerly sod farm impoundments of the Liberty Marsh. Thousands of water birds come to this area, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service employee we met said that at last count there were roughly 1500 Canada geese and about 300 or 400 blue-winged teal in the water in the impoundments. The marsh is also home to many types of other birds, and this time of year produces spectacular sightings of them. Visitors to this area can spot birds of prey such as hawks, vultures, eagles, and owls in addition to smaller birds like larks, thrushes, sparrows and wrens. Laurel and Heidi started along the loop with their half-walking / half-toted toddlers, scaring up a northern harrier and spotting numerous turkey vultures high in the sky. Laurel had her hip carrier, and Acadia seemed content to see the marsh from her four-foot-high viewpoint.
Several types of smaller birds were twittering among the marsh grasses. As the twins caravan caught up to the toddler group, we spotted a snake swimming in the water, and with every step we flushed leaf bugs from the grass. A dragonfly of some kind flew right onto Kat's shirt, and rested there for a while so Acadia could examine it.
On our way back to the parking area, a Kingfisher noisily flew up to the telephone wires and then off into the marsh, and a double-crested cormorant soared in a circle directly overhead. Just before we left we spotted a group of diving ducks which we could not identify... but we are still working on naming them.
This was a great place to visit, and we plan to come back again to see the hundreds of water birds that congregate here when many of the other the rivers and lakes freeze over!