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, December 11, 2006

6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 11 December 2006

Kat reflects on the outing at the OCAS Sanctuary...
It seemed like a break in the winter... a somewhat mild day in the middle of December! Laurel grabbed on the phone and called me desperate to get out. I, too, had cabin fever, so I quickly posted an announcement to the Nature Strollers email list... we were going out!! With hats, mittens, blankets and scarves, I packed Lily and Penelope into the car and met Ebony and Queen in our parking lot. We drove caravan-style to the parking area adjacent to the Heritage Trail alongside the sanctuary. When we arrived, we were greeted by Suzanne and her boys (Jonathan and Nathan) and Laurel and Acadia. It was still a bit windy and chilly, but the kids were bundled up in their winter gear, smiling to be out. Queen really had the right idea!

Though it seemed like we might not see much, we were in for a real treat. Ebony brought along her videocamera, recording the hundreds of geese and ducks gathered in the large ponds on either side of the trail. Among the typical Canada Geese and Mute Swans, we spotted some diving ducks, which we later identified to be Ring-necked Ducks, in the overflow pond. We continued along the trail at a brisk pace, attempting to keep warm from the wind that had started to pick up speed. As we walked past the construction area we saw flashes of blue in the trees and bushes along the trail... and were delighted to see several bright blue Eastern Bluebirds darting among us. The beautiful hue of these birds is remarkable, as there are not many true blue organisms found in nature. We watched them flit around for a while, spotting also a nuthatch and some titmice in the trees. We reached the bridge and decided to turn back before the chill became uncomfortable.

On our way back to the cars, we spotted a very large white bird on the ice with the geese... and were contemplating its identity. It was much larger than the geese, but seemed to be smaller than the swans we usually see. Was the distance of the bird fooling our eyes into mistaking if for something else? I got out my binoculars and Ebony used her camera's zoom to try to figure out if this was perhaps a Snow Goose. As we looked and pondered, it turned so we could see it's profile... and we realized it was a Tundra Swan! We could clearly see it's all-white plumage, and it's black bill, legs, and feet. I excitedly snapped a couple of pictures, knowing it was probably too far for my camera for it to come out clearly. After a few more minutes of admiring the swan, we resumed our trek back to our cars. Today was a wonderfully productive outing. Though much of the winter still lies ahead, we hope to be able to squeeze in a few adventures throughout the season.