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.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Goose Pond Mountain Created Wetlands, 26 March 2008

Kat reflects on a walk at the boardwalk...

Frogs, frogs, everywere!

Our neighbor needed us to walk her dog for her today, so the girls and I took "Pebbles Honey" (as they fondly call her) over to the boardwalk at Goose Pond for some exercise. We wanted to tire out the little five-pound Yorkie so Jaime, our 5-months-pregnant neighbor, wouldn't have to come home exhausted so late at night to a pouncing puppy still full of energy. As we made our usual circle we were delighted to hear not only the sound of the Spring Peepers but the quacking of the Wood Frogs. They were so bold as to allow me, two toddlers, and a dog to get right up close to their mating spot in the Buttonbush Swamp. We laughed as we listened to their "song," sounding much more like a flock of ducks than a group of frogs. Lily giggled as she listened to them and watched them swim.

We also spotted some old Coyote scat, promping me to keep Pebbles on a much shorter leash than usual.

Every day at Goose Pond yeilds something wonderful.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kenridge Farm, 25 March 2008

The rolling hills of Kenridge Farm in Cornwall were inviting exploration, and a group of eleven nature strollers took up the invitation. Tree swallows dipped and red tails soared above as we pushed the strollers toward the pond. Our net brought up backswimmers, a dragonfly nymph and a small fish, probably a pumpkinseed. Several members of the group saw a muskrat enter its tunnels along the bank of the pond. Others strolled ahead and heard the call and watched the flight of the belted kingfisher. A bench along the banks of one of the larger ponds provided a nice rest stop for a toddler snack break.

On the return hike the two groups met up at a newly dug pond that was hosting a contingent of wood frogs, these masked amphibians were quacking it up, calling for mates with their characteristicly duck-like babble.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Goose Pond Mountain Boardwalk, 17 March 2008

Serenaded by spring peepers, three Nature Stroller families hiked the familiar trails of Goose Pond Mountain looking for even more signs of spring. Aquatic beetles dove for cover in the first pond as we drew near. Sebastain and Willow built a hideout from sticks and winter-bleached grasses as the moms searched the water.

Kat happened upon a praying mantis egg case of the old-fashioned kind on the pond's edge. This one was made by one of our native mantids, its shape is different than that of the Asian praying mantis that is very common at Goose Pond.

Lorin netted some small, transparent crayfish. Willow was able to determine which ones were male and which ones were female by looking at their swimmerettes, a skill she had recently learned in school.

Heavy-bodied blue herons passed overhead and the peepers song rose and sank in intensity, occasionally detouring into a staccatto as one male peeper defended his territory from an interloper. We left happy to have heard the first amphibian serenede of spring.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Goose Pond Mountain Boardwalk, 03 March 2008

Give us a sunny, fifty degree day in March and we'll celebrate the end of cabin fever. Fifteen nature strollers hit the still snow-covered trail. Three week old Sylvana was with us on the very first nature walk of her life, and a new Nature Stroller family joined us for the first time as well, Blessing and Rylee. Considering the cold weather we'd had, I didn't expect much in terms of wildlife, but Lorin's patient eyes spotted movement on the bottom of the first pond. Reed stems seemed to have sprouted legs! Inside tubes of their own making, caddisfly larvae cruised the pond bottom looking for food.

In the second pond, it was Blessing whose careful examination of the unfrozen edge turned up two red spotted newts. One swam off, but the other was sluggish and easily lifted from the water. We examined its bright yellow belly, warning predators of its unpleasant taste, and its stout midsection before placing it back in the water.

Lorin's sharp eyes spotted a small shrub on the edge of the pond. This was seedbox, one of my favorite plants of winter. As per its name, seedbox forms exquisite little salt and pepper shaker boxes for its seeds. Lorin, an artist and potter, suggested that they would make lovely pots.

Kat pointed out the mottled yellow, red and green skunk cabbage flowers growing below the boardwalk, and we got up close and personal with some of these stinkers in the last wetland on the trail. We discussed their heat-production, a trait that helps their kin in the tropics disperse their carrion or dung like smell in order to attract flies, up north in the temperate zone, the heat production gives them a head start on flowering, a bit of a jump on the springtime season.