Fall is slowly coming to an end, and everything in nature is readying for winter. Plants are closing up shop, migrants are leaving, forest residents are prepping to sleep or stick it out; and we are here to enjoy it all. Late fall is probably my favorite time to be in the woods. Deep breaths of cool autumn air, the sound of crunching leaves under my feet, and that magical fall smell of the forest are just some the reasons to take a hike in December. With the leaves off the trees, visibility is increased and you would be amazed at the number of last years’ nests that are visible now. Animal watching reaches new levels, since seeing birds of all kinds and mammals is easy without leaves blocking your view. The sounds of the forest are enhanced as well. I am always amazed at how far the sounds of woodpeckers can travel in a leafless forest. It’s not just the loud and obvious, but the soft sounds of squirrels’ claws on the bark of tree as they scurry up to safety, and the footsteps of deer traipsing along can finally be heard. As the temperature drops and the days shorten, and we are often feeling trapped inside, let’s not forget what a great time it is to be outside.
See you on the trails,
Marc Gussen, Naturalist
October is a magical time of the year. Transition from summer to fall brings the fireworks display of foliage as the trees lose their leaves, the migration of birds and Monarch butterflies, and my favorite: the proliferation of mushrooms. A handful of species are prized as food, but other than those, most are ignored and are often maligned.
Mushrooms are actually just the "fruit" of a fungus. As an apple tree makes apples - fungi make mushrooms. Their importance in the forest is eclipsed only by trees themselves; forests simply could not survive without fungi. They exist in the forest soil, and on living and dead trees. They act as decomposers, parasites, and sometimes as mutualistic “symbionts” (which help living plants to get water and nutrients from the soil). When the fungi are ready to reproduce, they make their reproductive structures: mushrooms. The mushrooms make spores, which are the fungi's version of seeds. Mushrooms come in an amazing variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and October is probably the best time to experience and enjoy this enchanting slice of forest life.
September is here and the kids are back in school. While children learn many things both academic and social in school, the relatively new subject of Environmental Education is the one we at the Nature Center are most concerned with. By learning about natural systems, the field of ecology, and society’s impact on nature, they will be able to appreciate nature and make decisions with the good of our planet in mind.
A lot of what we teach here is the science behind nature, and also how to go outside and have fun! Armed with a knowledge of our world and a love for its’ wonders, kids will be able to enjoy and preserve our ecosystems for the future. Our programs are designed to accent the state science curriculums for children from Kindergarten through 8th grade. They are based on what kids are supposed to learn, but with a good bit of extra natural history and eco-awareness. We hope to provide these to our local schools for years to come.
See you on the trails...Marc Gussen, Naturalist