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, February 28, 2009

Farewell to February

The parents and kids took to the trail at Goose Pond Mountain State Park with abandon. Cooped up too long by winter's winds and ice, fourteen Nature Strollers hit the trail on a sunny 40 degree Saturday. Ginny, catching up with the strollers, proclaims "This is my favorite group. No one cares if I am late. We don't have to bring snacks for everybody, and no one expects us to do anything but have fun."

Good friends and new friends meet up on the trail. There are expressions of joy at being able to get outside again. The three and four-year-olds lined up at the pond's edge with their "fishing poles." It was there we spotted some bullfrog tadpoles active in the cold water, and we heard three-year-old Sawyer's latest question for his mommy "Why is nature so mysterious?"

Was it only a year ago, that Sylvana went on her very first nature walk?

Just like this time last year, the kids were were able to touch and smell the first wildflowers of spring, the skunk cabbage. Not exactly as sweet as a rose, but perhaps more welcome.

On a sad note we found a handful of black feathers made us worry that one of the red-winged blackbirds that just returned from the South this week had met an untimely end, then again, maybe all the fox or coyote got was feathers for lunch. The kids enjoyed sifting through the dirt, pretending to plant a garden, and drawing with sticks. Sawyer, realizing how dirty they all were getting, invited the child next to him over for a bubble bath.

In the parking lot on the way out, Acadia declared Jacob King of the Rock, and herself Queen. Another successful winter walk with plenty of make believe thrown in.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Off the Beaten Path

We bushwacked through the barberry and raspberry canes and around bottle and can dumps to Seely Brook which is an outlet stream of Walton Pond. Seely runs quiet and full this time of year, the rain and snowmelt filling it close to its banks. Acadia and Olivia grabbed some sticks and immediately set to "fishing." Later Olivia toddled in and required a change of clothes, effectively ending our off-trail adventure.

Before our premature return to the car, Anderson and Sebastian discovered a tree with a large canker or injury. They could not wrap their arms around the huge boll at the base of the trunk.

The boys explored the shoreline, throwing in a few obligatory rocks and dropping in sticks and chasing them as they drifted downstream.

On our return we found the jawbone and spinal column of a rabbit or woodchuck.

The kids are begging to return to Seely Brook in the summer when they can get in the water. But the best we can do is another winter or early spring trip, because the banks of this lovely stream grow profusely with poison ivy! But that's okay, because there are other places to streamwalk without the risk of rash.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Goose Pond Mountain State Park February 8, 2009

Fourteen hearty Nature Strollers step out onto the snow for our first walk of the year, celebrating the sunshine and forty-five degree temperatures. However this mild weather has turned the footing treacherous on our typically easy trail. The kids slip and splash their way to the toad pond for some snowball throwing. “Splash” is not usually a sound associated with this winter activity, but with several inches of meltwater on the pond, snowball throwing fun increases exponentially for Lily, Penelope, Jayden, Acadia, Owen and Kira. Sebastian forgoes the contest and glides across the submerged ice. As we cross the boardwalk, a red-tailed hawk soars quite near, enabling us to see the sun glint off the iconic red tail feathers that give the bird its name.

Otherwise there is precious little wildlife activity, so we turn our attention to the plants. The dried seed heads of the ironweed, Joe-pye, and vervain are conspicuous against the snow.

Seedbox, with its miniature box-like seed capsules, is prevalent.

Some of the cattails are at full fluff.

Owen’s mom spots a quiet praying mantis egg case, where the insects wait for spring. A few wooly alder aphids remain, apparently lifeless on the alder branches.

We see the clever little trails voles leave in the snow.

An inspection of the branches of a young tree in the parking lot reveal
the shiny, dark egg cases of the tent caterpillar.

Our very first indication of spring is still absent, but in a couple of weeks we expect to see and smell the emerging flowers and leaves of the skunk cabbage poking through the ice in the red maple swamp. Hopefully the weather will hold, and we’ll be there as the new year begins to unfold.