Children - Nature

Shakespeare Gone Awry
by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer, June 18, 2018
European starlings are the bane of backyard birders, farmers and healthcare professionals. Raucous, messy, bullies of native birds, they were once the inspiration of a Shakespeare loving eccentric, Eugene Scheffelin, who in 1890 and 1891 released a total of 100 starlings in New York’s Central park, as a way to bring to America, every bird listed in one of Shakespeare’s plays.  Without any natural predators, the starlings now number over 48 million and have become a costly and destructive presence throughout the United States. Besides devouring stores of seed and fruit (a horde up to one million can devour 20 tons of potatoes in one day), they are linked to many diseases.  If you are invaded as we were this week, one suggestion by local bird expert Steve White of Wild Bird Depot,, is to bring your feeders (especially suet) inside for a week or so.


For more information:
https://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/01/opinion/100-years-of-the-starling.html
http://www.birdsandblooms.com/birding/birding-basics/bully-birds-feeders/
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/European_Starling/lifehistory
Lady Slippers
by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer, 5/22/2018
One of our harbingers of Spring here in New England is the blooming of Lady Slippers which can be found in our woods now.  Also known as Moccasin Flower (and NH's state wildflower), this Native American wild orchid comes in shades of pinks, whites or a mixture of colors. Although the blossoms look fragile, Lady Slippers are actually a hardy plant to survive through our brutal winters. Lady Slippers take a long time to develop from seed to blossoming plant. If left undisturbed, they will propagate on their own. They are grown through a long process called symbiosis which you can find out more about with the links listed below. The plant has a less than 5% transplant success rate. As a result, they are listed as of "special concern" under the Native Plant Protection act.  are considered "off limits" to pickers and diggers.  So when you see these deceptively fragile flowers, let them be.
For more information, click here!
 
​Tiny Travelers
by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer, May 14, 2018
A welcome arrival to our feeders this week was the tiny, aerial speed demon, ruby-throated hummingbird. These hummingbirds are the only breeding ones in the Northeast and are remarkable creatures  who migrate each fall down to South America and can fly more than 1200 miles without a break.  The older birds leave earlier in the fall than the younger ones and usually are solo fliers during their long journey.  Returning  in the Spring, the hummingbird pairs stay together along enough for a courtship.  Mama Hummingbird raises her babies on her own.  You can attract these amazing birds to your yard by planting tubular flowers, (particularly if they are red or orange) and by hanging hummingbird feeders. For more information about these tiny travelers and how to properly attract them click here!

Robins in Spring
by Wendy Oellers-Fulmer, April 19, 2018
The north wind shall blow and we shall have snow and what will poor robin do then?  
He’ll sit in the barn and keep himself warm and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.old nursery rhyme
 
Although they have long been considered the messenger singing Spring is here, the truth is not all American robins migrate.  Many scientists believe that robins follow a hypothetical line of 36 degrees. While most robins to head south, some can still be seen in our northern location.  Fruit is their main food in the winter, as frozen ground keeps them from eating their favorite food, insects and worms. Food can be scarce. We were astonished to find a pair at our feeders during this latest snowstorm.
 
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