Notes from the Naturalist Week 20:The Nature Preschool at HCMA


There is a story in the forest. It might be from today, a week or even a month ago. In such a place that holds great solitude, it is also a place of great hustle and bustle. Do you take the time to read the story, listen for or see who the characters are? Do you slow your pace to pick up the tiniest of clues? If you are willing, you will be enchanted by the very story set within the forest. And that is just what we did today!


It has been said that children need the first 15 minutes of outside time to just get into the rhythm of being outside and relaxed enough to fully participate in free play and reap the benefits of this valuable time. And as if on cue, 15-20 minutes in, we noticed the children start to relax and explore. Some children played house within the dense Hemlock Trees and some just slid down the hill. But once we spotted tracks in the snow, off we went only to discover more tracks! The story began for us with a set of dog-like tracks, perhaps a coyote or maybe just a domestic dog. It was hard to tell and differentiate in the glossy snow as to whom the tracks really belonged to. But it was those dog-like tracks that lead us to more tracks that tell another story – a story that is close to a month old!


We set out at the end of our Winter Solstice Gathering back in December to decorate several trees with birdseed ornaments along with strings of cranberries and popcorn. Upon returning form Christmas Break, we saw little evidence that anyone had come to our trees while we were away, yet it was obvious that the trees were bare. Perhaps a Chickadee or a Nuthatch came flitting in for a winter snack. Somehow, cranberries were left behind, buried in the snow, only to resurface with the warm temperatures. As we slowed our pace following the dog-like tracks, we spotted the tiniest of tracks, followed by red, swollen berries and urine patches. We surmised those tiny little tracks belonged to a chipmunk or a squirrel.

And because the story of the forest is so contagious and fun, as we turned our eyes deeper within the trees, we saw yet another great sight! Perched on the hillside, a fallen, dead tree lay with over five holes drilled wide and deep. How interesting! Off we went to climb, inspect, and investigate the beauty of this fallen log. When asked who would do this to a tree, one child quickly yelled out: a woodpecker! Beyond the fallen tree, up the hill and onto a mossy and exposed rock, the children slid and tumbled. And at the very top of this rock, back into the cold winter snow, we discovered more tracks! A White Tailed Deer! With each twist and turn in our story today, the children found excitement and joy. Nature at its most simplest and yet complex, gives us such an amazing story. May you find the time to slow down and discover the story on your next visit into the forest!

Animal tracking can be a fun family activity. With the new snow on the ground, you may want to find some time in the next 12 -24 hours to explore your backyard to see who may be part of the story in your area. A useful resource for identifying New Hampshire wildlife species can be found for printing in the following link:

Happy Tracking everyone!

Jennifer MacDonaldComment