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.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Clark Road, Goshen

Okay, another shot from my lone ramblings. At dusk I noticed a large concentration of monarchs coming in from the surrounding fields and inspecting the trees along Clark Road. They were looking for good places to roost for the night. I counted thirty seven on this branch. At sunrise the following day, I drove up and stood on the roof of my car to get this shot before the butterflies warmed up enough to fly away. --Laurel

Goose Pond Mountain Created Wetlands, 22 September 2007

Kat reflects on our outing at Goose Pond Mountain Created Wetlands...

We had such a large turnout today that we didn't have enough butterfly nets to go around! Sixteen families joined us on our outing today, some with three generations of nature enthusiasts. Children ran through tall grasses chasing butterlies with their parents and grandparents in tow. The Cabbage White butterfiles cooperated, and the air was peppered with the excited squeals of children netting butterfly after butterfly. As I stood back taking pictures I noticed the memories these families were making together, and the wonder they were experiencing as a family enjoying a beautiful day outside. The pride our children felt as they showed off the insects they caught to their families and to each other was evident on their faces.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kenridge Farm, 17 September 2007

The end of summer can often fool people into thinking that their outdoor excursions are over, and that there is nothing really to see outdoors anymore anyway. This was absolutely not the case for the 13 families (and six sets of twins) that joined us on our our outing today. As we walked around the grounds of the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum's Outdoor Discovery Center we were treated to up-close looks at Monarch Butterfly caterpillars and Tussock Moth caterpillars on their milkweed leaves. We had such a large group, so some of our regulars took over pointing out these creatures to our participants today. Lorin and Scarlett held the Monarch Butterfly caterpillar on display as stroller after stroller rolled by. The fuzzy and bright tufts of the Tussock Moth caterpillar delighted Lily and Penelope, who wanted nothing more than to touch it. After our walk today many families had a different view of the end of summer. Though many might feel a sense of sadness looking at a flower pot of geraniums gone by, upon closer observation we can delight in being able to clearly see a Praying Mantis among the flower debris.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Goose Pond Mountain Boardwalk

Can't resist posting this photo of a common buckeye I took while walking Goose Pond with my kids. It just goes to show that the more you walk, the more you see. --Laurel

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Goose Pond Mountain Created Wetlands, 5 September 2007

We're back with a bang! Bright colors and dirty birdies seemed to be the theme of our latest outing at the Goose Pond Mountain State Park Created Wetlands boardwalk in Chester. Five families joined us for our after school "Start of the School Year" celebration. Big kids enjoyed frolicking after spending their day at their desks, everyone set out to find creatures to examine as they cling to the last few days before the hard frosts of autumn.

Due to the fact that there has been hardly any rain, we were able to walk right up to seeding cattails on the dry bed of the first pond. Sebastian and Josh worked as stewards of Goose Pond and released cattail seeds into the rays of the late afternoon summer sun.

As we walked along the boardwalk to the other two ponds, someone spotted a large grasshopper munching on leaves. It was so large that even our toddlers could see it. Ginny had no trouble pointing it out to Sawyer, who happily climbed the boardwalk for a better look.

As we continued walking we spotted a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar on the underside of a milkweed leaf. This one was somewhat large, but we theorized that it wasn't large enough to begin the creation of its chrysalis. We feared that it might not have enough time before the frost.

The first highlight of our outing awaited us as we left the caterpillar to its leaf. We had seen an Orb Weaver spider suspended on its web on a previous outing, and we hoped it was still there. As we neared the spot we saw it: the giant silver dollar sized Orb Weaver was still present! This large spider had a number of meals already in its web; most were pollinators it snagged from its prime spot amongst the Goldenrods. The bright yellow and dark black of its body were mesmerising, as was its size. Though this coloration might seem to draw attention to it in other venues, it blended with the Goldenrods quite well. The zig-zag signature on its web was clearly visible; it is speculated that each spider's signature is unique. Most of us didn't linger too long near this creature, but Scarlett, Acadia, Lily and Lorin couldn't seem to break away! Later, upon inspection of the photographs of the spider taken on both days, Kat noticed that the color patterns of the spiders were not the same. Could the spider seen today be a second Orb Weaver, or is it possible that Orb Weavers have the ability to change their appearance? We will have to investigate this.

Quite close to the orb weaver, Lorin spotted a gorgeous brightly colored leafhopper. This beautiful bug wore stripes of bright red and blue. Laurel had seen this before and identified it as the Scarlet and Green Leafhopper, but it was a first for many of the other Nature Strollers.

As we reached the gravelly spot between the boardwalks and the two far ponds, we noticed a rather large hole in the dirt. We speculated that this could be the site of a turtle nest that had been raided. We had seen evidence of this before at Goose Pond. Penelope decided she would check to see if there were any more eggs left in the nest, much to Kat's chagrin. She quickly became covered in dust. Josh seemed to like Penelope's idea and, as we were counting the 30 + frogs (which we thought could be newly-emerged Bullfrogs), he created his own set of "mud mittens." Stacy thought she had finally gotten the stains from the Osage Orange off his hands; now she had to try to figure out how to get those hands clean again!

Walking across the last boardwalk to the far side of the third pond, Lorin, Ginny and Sybil noticed a flock of birds flying erratically in the sky. Kat, the resident "bird nerd," looked up to see several (roughly seven in all) larger birds she had never seen before. They were a darker bluish/black with a white strip or dot on the underside of the wing (which was all we could see, as they were quite high). By the time she was able to put Lily down and snap a shot and a movie, they had flown off. Later that week, thanks to an email from a fellow birder (thanks, Kelly!!), she was able to determine that they were Common Nighthawks... out in broad daylight! Nighthawks are usually seen at dusk and mistaken for bats as they forage for insects. This was a first for everyone, and quite an exciting find!

As we neared our cars (with the pack of "big kids" leading the way), we talked about our children and our experiences outdoors. We watched Sebastian, Nathan, and Willow holding hands as they walked along the path, and held our babies as we held onto the last few days of summer. Though we look forward to the fall, we we will surely miss the freedom of summer.