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.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Goose Pond Mountain Old Road, 30 May 2008

It has started to get hot so we decided to go out on one of our shaded routes. The Old Road trail in Goose Pond Mountain State Park has always been a favorite of ours, though it can sometimes be quite buggy.
Underneath the first log Laurel overturned we saw a fiery-orange Red Eft and even our littlest participants got great looks.
We also saw a Flat-backed Millipede crawling in the debris, moving fast enough to catch their attention but not fast enough to elude the infants' gaze.
Josh also spotted an American Toad on the bank of the path, and we wondered if it was one of the toads we had seen four weeks ago mating in the wetlands.
Walking back at a toddler's pace allowed moms to chat about their children and about life in general. It doesn' get better than bonding in the backwoods of Orange County!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Heritage Trail, 28 May 2008

We wanted to scout out the situation at the Heritage Trail in Goshen. We usually follow the trail alongside the 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary to look for Snapping Turtles and birds, but due to construction on the Route 17 overpass that section of the trail is closed. We decided to go the other way on the trail today.
Where the wildflowers have not been mowed down we have seen hundreds of dragonflies and damselflies, and we've also seen Snapping turtles nesting in the gravelly dirt on the sides of the trail. Today we had no luck with turtles, but the wildflowers were still there. Tracy laughed as she rubbed the fuzz of a mullein leaf that resembles Rabbit's Ear (commenting how it feels just like Chase's new buzzcut), and the kids certainly had fun trying to catch all of the insects we saw!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Goose Pond Mountain Created Wetlands, 23 May 2008

The Nature Strollers hit the boardwalk at Goose Pond Mountain State Park on a sunny, spring day. With at least one at this location every week, we enjoy the seasonal changes and look forward to seeing the familiar wildlife of the season: blue herons overhead, toad tadpoles in the small pond, bullfrog tadpoles in the large ponds, preying mantis egg cases, and the songs of the gray tree frogs overhead.
Even small toddlers like Olivia are excited about the prospect of seeing
a northern water snake basking in the sun.

Meanwhile, the boys grab sticks and pretend they are lightsabers, acting out Jedi epics.
Sybil and Olivia look closely at a predaceous diving beetle larva we scooped up in our net. The whitish stripe down its back was conspicuous in the aquatic vegetation.

The edges of the two large ponds are bright with blue flag iris, as beautiful in bud as in flower. I mention to the moms that this one is native. Several families have asked for advice about planting native wildflowers in their yards, I'm thrilled to see they are appreciating the beauty of our local flora.
We spotted a ladybug eating some wooly alder aphids. The kids helped bend back the branches of the alders. Soon we discovered thirty "patches" of the tiny sap suckers. I mentioned that when they fly, they are said to look like white pom-poms on the wing. This garnered a chuckle.
One of the parents noticed that two species of pine were flowering next to each other, a nice contrast between the yellow-green “candles” and the pink “pine cones.”
Acadia (3) was all over the pink ones.
Acadia and I found an unidentified caterpillar or larva on a rush. We called the gang over to see.
We took all the kids up to the pines to see the robins in their nest, everyone was startled when one flies off. That’s one big baby!

The hickory hairstreak caterpillars are active, using their silk to “tie” up the leaves
and make a shelter.
Pinkish-orange galls on a hickory leaf, one of Sebastian’s discoveries, are a bit of a mystery. My guess is a gall-making wasp, but there are other possibilities.
Sybil is very proud of her net wielding that results in a close-up view of a bullfrog tadpole.
Acadia stomps it up in the mud, a popular activity with the toddler-in-rainboots set.
Finally, along the path we see that the earthstar mushrooms have curled up in the dry air, disappointing Sebastian and Nathan who were at school when we first discovered them. The earthstars depend on pelting raindrops to help distribute their spores. I include a picture of them open, which is much cooler.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Orange County Arboretum, 06 May 2008

We came just in time to see the tulips!