• Naturalist Notes: April, 2019

    >> Naturalist Notes & Musings:


    Each spring, ponds like our very own Ruckman pond go through an amazing seasonal shift.

    First, the increasing day length and higher sun angle lead to a melting of the ice and a warming of the pond’s water and bottom sediment.

    The shallow nature of ponds lets some of the sun light reach the dark colored bottom and warm it from underneath. This lets the warming sediment begin the yearly rebirth of the pond's phytoplankton, zooplankton and insect life.

    While some of these tiny pond dwellers are out and about during the winter, most are hidden away in the pond’s muddy bottom until conditions are right for them to return. The warmth wakes them up, and then they quickly go to work. The tiny "plant-like" phytoplankton use that sun light combined with nutrients dissolved in the pond water to do the magic of photosynthesis and make much of the food that will feed the rest of the pond’s inhabitants.

    Some of the zooplankton, or "animal-like" microscopic creatures rely on decomposing last year’s bounty, but most await the bloom of phytoplankton and graze like rabbits in a field of clover. The exponential growth of the zooplankton is just one link in the food chain, as they become much-needed sustenance for the waking insect life stirred from long winter’s nap. The pond’s fish, rejuvenated by warming water, get ready for their spring reproduction attempts by feeding heavily on all of this new-found food. Most of this spring activity we miss, not just because it is under water, but because most of the pond’s life is microscopic. They might be small but they are what makes the pond’s glory possible.

    See you on the trails!

    Marc Gussen, Naturalist


    Continue reading
  • Naturalist Notes: June, 2018

    >> NATURALIST NOTES: June, 2018

    What would The Nature Center be without Ruckman Pond? I have a hard time even imagining it. I often hear people referring to the nature center as "The Pond". Although Ruckman Pond is far from being our geographical center on the map; it is definitely the heart of it. People of all ages take advantage of what it has to offer: from toddlers coming to see their first duck, to seniors reflecting on a long life- and everyone else in between. Kids fishing, bird-watchers watching, dog-walkers walking, coffee-drinkers sipping, hikers hiking, musicians playing, picnickers eating, and people enjoying the magic of nature. Forgive me if I left you out, I'm sure the list can go on for a whole page. The importance of the pond to our educational programs is immense. Our pond ecology classes are among the most popular choices for school trips and summer programs- and with good reason. They are exciting and fascinating. The pond is home to an incredible number of plants and animals that are often the focus of our science lessons, and is, itself, a great classroom for so many ecological concepts. I am ecstatic about the number of kids that have learned to canoe here and hope it opens up a world of adventure that they can take with them forever. On June 3rd, we will be hosting our annual pond celebration. It can't possibly capture all that Ruckman Pond means to us, but it is a chance for our community to celebrate this gift that brightens our lives in so many ways.

    See you on the trails...Marc Gussen, Naturalist

    Continue reading
  • Naturalist Notes: May, 2018

    >> NATURALIST NOTES: May, 2018

    Last May while out walking the trails with my then 5 year old, Willow, we came across one of the Nature Center’s many low-lying areas. What made this one special is that the forest floor in this particular spot is plastered with small yellow flowers. Willow was quickly mesmerized by the fact that what at first glance appeared to be a yellow painted meadow was actually acres of tiny yellow flowers. Her excitement quickly grew as we ran home to tell her mother about what she enthusiastically titled -  "The million field of flowers". Those flowers lasted only a couple of weeks but during the height of their glory we made several trips to visit them. Now that another spring is here we are waiting patiently for their return. If the suspense is tearing you apart, stop worrying. By the time you read this they will be here, and I'm sure Willow will be more than happy to direct you to "The million field of flowers".

    See you on the trails...Marc Gussen, Naturalist

    Continue reading
  • Naturalist Notes: April, 2018

    NATURALIST’S NOTES: April, 2018

    Some of my favorite frequent visitors to the Nature Center aren’t people, but dogs. There are quite a few dog walkers and their four legged friends that come for a stroll daily, and some that come less often, but all greatly enjoy the time they spend here. The combination of a taste of nature, exercise and quality time spent with your best friend is too good  a thing to pass up. We see everything from St. Bernards to tea-cup Yorkies, and every breed in between. 

    You can see the excitement in their snouts as they pull up to the CNC parking lot, and when the door opens up it’s like a kid in a candy store-- or better yet: a dog in a nature center.

    I can only imagine what all the smells, sights and sounds of nature do to the mind of a house dog, but I’m sure that many of them end up on the verge of sensory overload. 

    We encourage everyone to get out and enjoy this little 136 acre gem...and if you have a dog, bring them too! As you might expect, we have a couple of simple rules: Please keep your dogs on a leash, clean up after them and, most importantly, enjoy your time at the candy store!

    See you on the trails....

    Marc Gussen, Naturalist


    Continue reading
  • Naturalist Notes: March, 2018

    NATURALIST’S NOTES: March, 2018

     As the days lengthen and the air temperatures warms, nature gives us many signs that spring is on the way. The harbinger of spring that has the most profound effect on me and on my natural history calendar is the first sighting of aquatic turtles. During winter, ponds and lakes don't seem like hot beds of animal activity, but a lot goes on under the ice. Fish of all kinds can be actively feeding and prepping for the spring breeding season. Being cold blooded doesn't stop fish from enjoying winter, but reptiles like our native eastern painted turtles and northern water snakes must hibernate to survive the cold months. The red-eared sliders are the first of our aquatic turtles to make a showing in the spring, with painted and snapping turtles soon to follow. After months of sleeping in the mud, they awaken as the water temperatures rise and they set out to look for their first meal of the new year. On warm sunny days in March they can sometimes be seen sitting en masse on the rocks around Ruckman Pond soaking up some much needed sunshine. I look forward to seeing the first robin and hearing the first spring peeper; but soon, on a warm and sunny afternoon, a little head will pop up and break the water’s surface marking the end of winter.

    See ya on the trails.

    Marc Gussen, Naturalist

    Continue reading