Thursday, February 28, 2013

Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes March 2013

    Dressed warmly in snowsuits, hats, mittens, and boots, a hearty group of four year olds, their parents, grandparents, nannies, and younger siblings have joined me outdoors for Green Hour.  It is an opportunity to get fresh air, exercise, see friends and find out what winter has to offer us.  We have gone sledding on the hill and experienced the usual thrills and spills.  Avoiding the gully of water at the bottom is a real challenge!  A couple of times we have used sand castle molds, buckets, and shovels to make frosty snow castles, decorating them with natural materials and bird seed. 
    At Green hour we have learned that the snow tells a story about what animals have been around by the tracks they've left behind.  We've found crow, cat, dog, fox, and our own tracks in the snow.  The group thought they had come across large bear tracks but learned that melting and refreezing snow changes the size and shape of tracks.  The big tracks were probably a dog's.  We've made snow angels, used Zelak's snowball maker, and invented a flat snowman!
    One day, running out of time and snow,  Zach still wanted to make a snowman.  Suddenly, I got the idea to take a bucket and press the rim of it into the snow.  I made three rings and had the outline of the snowman/woman.  The group was down on the snow decorating the snowman in no time.  Eyes, nose, mouth, and buttons were easy to press on.  We added a scarf and some pine bough arms.  Voila!  If you are pinched for time or the snow is not of packing consistency, try a flat snowman.
    There have been multiple sightings of the Barred Owl in the woods off the Zim Smith trail.  Julie and Stu, Leah Stein, and I have all gotten to see it.  Stu  found a couple of owl pellets under a White Pine tree. He showed one to me and I could see tiny bones in the regurgitated ball, probably belonging to a mouse.  Leah was driving on Herlihy Road when she saw the owl fly across the road and land on a tree branch.  One day in early January, I was lucky enough to just see a large wing go into the top of a pine tree located off the trail.  As I got closer I saw the owl.  After watching it for a few minutes, I ran home to get my camera.  When I got back it was still there and I quickly took a picture.  Unfortunately, I forgot my reading glasses and couldn't tell if the photo was any good.  I chanced going home again, this time bringing the camera with the zoom lens.  The owl was still in place, eyes shut.  I hurriedly took a few pictures, then relaxed as I saw the owl was sleeping and not going anywhere.  I was able to get some good shots while the owl slept.   
    The next day, walking past Alyse and Steve Peterson's yard, a juvenile Cooper's Hawk sat up in a tree overlooking the feeders.  Its intentions were not to eat seed but to snatch a small bird.  Every bird had taken cover except for a bold Mourning Dove that was perched right up in the tree near the hawk.  Did it have immunity or was it too much of a mouthful?  I ran home for my camera and with luck on my side, the hawk remained stationed in the tree allowing for another photo opportunity.  A couple of days later, I saw the hawk coming from Josette's yard where it must have been trying for a meal. It flew off into the woods.
    With all the looking up I have been doing, I was very surprised when I almost stepped on a snake that was on the trail off of Peck Avenue.  To read more about the snake and to see pictures of the owl, hawk, snake, and flat snowman visit: Please don't forget to look up and down!