Children - Nature

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.
Sign up for Winter Tracking!

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 
Hummingburds!
by Wendy Oellers, May 2, 2016
They’re back!  A exuberant and colorful sign of Spring is the return of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, New Hampshire’s only breeding hummingbird.  These tiny migrators fly all the way to Central America for the winter.  Their iridescent feathers glow in the sun as they zip around our gardens and feeders.  Amazing flyers, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds  can stop mid-air, hover, fly backwards or up and down with incredible grace & skill.  Hummingbirds and flowers need each other: one for food, the other for pollination. 

Fun facts:  
  • A hummingbird can consume anywhere between half (1/2) to eight (8) times their body weight in one day.*
  • Hummingbird’s wings can beat at about 70 times per second in normal fight and about 200 times per second during a high speed dive. *
 
Sounds of Spring
by Wendy Oellers, April 22, 2016
Along with returning birds signifying Spring is on its way, we also say goodbye to feathered visitors who spend their winters in our “warmer” climate of New Hampshire. A true “snowbird”, the Dark-eyed Junco makes its appearance during the onset of winter and remains here until Spring, where it will head northward for breeding season. Juncos are primarily ground feeders & seed eaters and you can find them either hopping around your feeders or flitting in partially wooded areas. A surprising fact is these spritely, little sparrows are actually one of the most common birds in North America.