Notes from the Naturalist Week 23:The Nature Preschool at HCMA
If I could stop or even slow time, I would have done just that yesterday. I was in the back of the pack as we walked toward the woods and it was a beautiful moment. The sunlight, the warmth, the laughter and gait of the children, it was picture perfect. I could have taken many more still photos, but I was once told that the difference of viewing a scene through the lens of a camera is not as powerful as a memory formed by just viewing the scene before one’s eyes. I think I agree.
Into the woods we went with our snowshoes. Some children jumped right in and loved every minute of the experience. And others found it to be awkward or just not the right fit. Some left them on for an entire hour and some wanted them off within minutes. This was a great exercise in trying new tools to help us in the exploration of nature. We believe that exposure eventually leads to exploration, followed by mastery of skill. Sometimes it just takes the same exercise of experience before we eventually feel comfortable enough to try something new out.
Along with snow shoes we brought along a snow brick maker and a shovel. The snow was dry and that lack of moisture took a few attempts to figure out how to make a snow bring that would stick together. Eventually the children worked together to pound the snow tighter into the brick maker and out came a perfectly shaped block. We had plans to make snow furniture and dig into some of the snow banks, but interests and nature grabbed our attention elsewhere. Several children noticed White Tailed Deer tracks that had move through the area. At first glance we thought perhaps they were from a Moose, but upon further examination, we felt they rightfully belonged to a White Tailed Deer. As the sun warms the snow, it melts and compacts, creating an exaggerated track in the snow.
“White-tailed deer can live in a variety of habitats, including farmlands, brushy areas, woods, mountains, and suburbs and gardens. They feed on green plants, including aquatic species in the summer, acorns, beechnuts, and corn in the fall, and woody vegetation, including buds and twigs of birch, maple and conifers in the winter. White-tailed deer will typically consume 5 to 9 pounds of food each day and find water from snow, dew and water-bodies. During the winter, deer groups may come together, forming communities of up to 150 individuals in locations called “yards.” This unification keeps trails open and accessible for feeding and also provides protection from predators. However, there have been problems with humans providing supplementary feed sites for deer in the winter. These sites can cause unnaturally high densities of congregated deer that attract predators, increase the risk of disease transmission, increase aggression within the community, and lead to over-browsing of local vegetation and more deer-vehicle collisions. They cause deer to be more dependent on humans and artificial food sources that provide few benefits. NH Fish and Game does not advocate the supplemental feeding of deer, will not participate in winter feeding efforts, and urges landowners not to feed deer. “– NH Fish and Game Department.
One of these days, I am sure we will see some wildlife other than squirrels, chipmunks and birds. But for now, we are a fairly noisy bunch with our snowshoes crunching the snow and our voices calling out to our friends. In time, we may have more moments of stillness that just might allow us to be in the right place, at the right time for a viewing of a deer or moose. And so it is; we will keep on exploring!
For more information on White Tailed Deer or the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department: http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/profiles/deer.html
For more information on Snowshoeing with children: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/snowshoeing-kids.html and http://snowshoes.com/learn/article/choosing-snowshoes-for-your-kids