Children - Nature

Signs of Spring
by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer, April 9, 2018
 
One of welcome signs of Spring is the changing colors of birds who have remained here all Winter  It’s as if they have tired of the dull landscape and dark hues to put on vibrant cloaks of brilliant colors. The American goldfinch is one year round resident who goes through a dramatic transformation, which  can be now seen changing day by day.  In the Winter, this  small finch with a conical bill and a notched tail is drab, and plain brown, with two blackish wing bars and pale stripes . Once Spring arrives, the goldfinches feather turn a brilliant yellow to catch the eye of even the most discerning female. 
 

More information: 
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Goldfinch/overview
http://www.birdsandblooms.com/birding/bird-species/sparrows/8-cool-facts-juncos/

Nesters and Great Horned Owls
by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer, April 2, 2018
Did you know that even though we still have snow on the ground, there are birds already sitting on their nests and raising their young?  Throughout the year, birds and mammals tell what season it is by the amount of sunlight during the day.. During Springtime, the increased daylight sends the signal that it’s time to attract mates and build nests. Some of our earliest nesters are the owls and woodpeckers. In fact,  NH, our earliest nester is the Great Horned Owl.  They may be actually be covered with snow as they sit on their eggs as early as late January and February. Other early nesters are the Barred owls  and woodpeckers.  Yesterday, we set out our bluebird boxes as these brightly colored birds are already thinking about family time.

Great sites to learn more about nesting birds
 
https://nestwatch.org/learn/general-bird-nest-info/nesting-cycle/
 
https://nestwatch.org/learn/focal-species/
http://www.ecosystemgardening.com/early-spring-nesting-birds.html
 
For more information on great horned owls
https://blog.nature.org/science/2014/12/08/the-hooting-season-enjoying-great-horned-owls/
 
https://www.nhnature.org/visit/animal_info_sheets/great_horned_owl.php
 
How our Feathered Neighbors Survive in Winter
While some birds migrate to escape our harsh, cold winters here in NH, we have a number that stay.  On the coldest of days, as we snuggle in our warm homes, we wonder “How do these tiny, feathered neighbors survive? One simple strategy is to fluff up their feathers. The fluffing makes spaces between the feathers where air is trapped insulating the bird’s body from the icy cold. Shivering also helps the birds build heat in their bodies, but that takes a lot of energy. Did you know that birds need to eat more food in winter than in Summer. Sunflower seeds and suet are both great sources to help our feathered friends survive.
Having Fun Learning about Animals in Winter!

Stories on the Trail
by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer, January 23, 2017
During our winter season, the snow provides a wonderful opportunity to interpret the stories of who’s around and about in our backyards and forests.  Every time it snows, nature provides a new canvas on which active animals leave clues through their footprints.  The first step in reading the story is to determine who are the characters?  Animals like amphibians, insects, and reptiles are immediately excluded, as they need external sources for body heat and are hibernating.  Only active, warm-blooded birds and mammals (who are not dormant or hibernating), will move about during the cold days of winter. Three key decoding clues are “Print, Pattern and Place.”  The print gives information in its shape, size, straddle (width apart) and stride (length between footprints)  The pattern determines whether the animal is a bounder, waddler, galloper, or walker and trotter.  Finally the place gives clues as to who lives in a this habitat; for example, a series of tracks which disappear at the base of a tree might indicate a squirrel. Head out, make your own set of tracks and see if you can read the stories in our natural landscapes.  Our library and also the internet (https://www.fws.gov/newengland/pdfs/Track_Card.pdf) have print guides to take with you.
Wildflowes
by Wendy Oellers, May 23, 2016
“Look down. The flowers at your feet are whispering to you — in gentle
tones of yellow, red, violet, white and blue — that beauty, grace
and order are the principle of the universe.”*
 
One of the free gifts we receive from living in New Hampshire, is the incredible diversity of wildflowers found on its mountains, fields, forests, wetlands, and its roadsides.  After a long winter, and the seemingly endless shades of brown of early Spring, wildflowers are true harbingers of Spring, bringing welcome color that lasts through the summer.  Ranging from incredibly complex and exotic designs to the simplicity of daisies, wildflowers are visual reminders of how beautiful the natural world can be.  A wonderful site to for an eye-opening guide to NH wildflowers is: 
 
*http://www.newhampshirewildflowers.com/index.php 
 
So head outdoors and see for yourself what beauties are just around the corner.  A quick reminder: although it is tempting to gather a bouquet to prolong the visual pleasure, please resist.  
Dandelions
One of the early burst of colors in Spring is the common dandelion. While children delight in presenting bouquets of  these bright, yellow flowers, others view it as a invasive weed, a detriment to the ideal lawn. But dandelions have another aspect and history to their pretty/pest identity.    From traditional Chinese Medicine, European and Native Americans medicine to current day herbalists, dandelions have long been incorporated for their rich source of benefits.  These benefits include vitamins A,B, C and D as well as the minerals iron, potassium and zinc.  Dandelions have also been used for treating liver and kidney ailments as well as tempting the palate in salads, sandwiches, teas and wine.  The next time you spot a dandelion’s sunny petals, take the time to wonder if can improve your life.
 
For more information on the benefits of dandelions:
 
Body into Balance An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care by Maria Noel Groves
http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/dandelion