Wednesday Walks: Cathance River Nature Preserve

Wednesday Walks: Cathance River Nature Preserve

This week we head to a nature preserve along a river less than a 10 minute drive from our house. It’s one of our favorite places to visit. Early on this sunny and very warm morning we joined the local Audubon chapter for a guided bird walk.

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

It was a fairly quiet bird morning with the highlights being a Rose-breasted Grosbeak sighting, hearing the beautiful, almost haunting songs of Hermit thrushes (we stood in silent awe for quite sometime while the rest of the group continued on) and seeing a Hermit Thrush nest. They nest on the ground and this recently constructed one had been abandoned after a hard rain matted down the ferns that were providing cover.

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

It’s always a thrill to get to the river and witness its energy and power and beauty. On the walk in a Snowshoe Hare crossed our path and sat long enough for us to snap a photo. On the way out a young member of the group spied a Red-spotted Newt in a puddle on the trail. Very fun sightings!

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

During this walk we also noticed and took time to appreciate the variety of wild flowers in bloom. There are still plenty of star flowers and bunch berries blooming and so many lovely ferns adding to the lush atmosphere of the late spring woods. We also saw a Pink Lady Slipper in its white form for the very first time. We had read about this phenomenon just the day before so it was quite the coincidence!

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

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We also noticed two new-to-us flowers that I’m sure we have passed many many times. The first is Clintonia, a shade loving member of the lily family. Later in the summer they will develop brilliant blue berries which is where the common name of Blue Bead lily comes from.  I have read that the leaves were used by the Algonquin and Chippewa as an antiseptic poultice applied to wounds, infections, and burns and that Chippewa children liked to make designs in the leaves with their teeth.  These plants take about twelve years  for these lilies to flower so I know these have been here for a while.

The second is a Painted Trillium.  These flowers have a wavy margin and reddish splotches at the base of each petal which serves as a pollinator guide.  These flowers look so delicate and indeed in some areas they truly are.  Know your state conservation laws.  In some areas these plants are protected as they are in decline due to habitat destruction.

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

Wednesday Walks (6-14-17)

It was a gorgeous morning and we left with our hearts and minds full of appreciation for the amazing nature that surround us. 💚

Thanks for coming along!

P.S.  I did not do a blog post about last week’s walk but you can find it on my Instagram account.

Fondly,
Monique

Noticing Nature – Nature Prompts: June 2017

Noticing Nature - Nature Prompts for Children and Their Families_ June 2017

Each month here at Green Acorns you can find simple prompts to encourage you and your child to find your unique connection with nature.  They could be done while on a hike, right in your backyard, and even amidst the busyness of everyday life.
Taking the time to notice nature builds on your child’s natural curiosity and nurtures a sense of awe and wonder.  It provides unlimited opportunities for further exploration and cultivates an attitude of inquiry.  Personal connections with nature get woven in to one’s sense of place and can lead to stewardship of the natural world.  The list of benefits goes on an on…  And this all can be accomplished in little time with only a little effort.
You’ll find the link to download this month’s prompts at the end of the post.

Nature prompts for children and their families - July 2016

Listen

The variety of sounds in the environment and how sounds effect the way we experience natural settings often go unnoticed. Take time to slow down and tune in to your sense of hearing.

Find a comfortable sit spot in nature, have a seat and close your eyes. Listen carefully. Notice all the sounds around you. Record at least five in your journal. Don’t forget to include where you were sitting, the time of day, and the weather.

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Smell

Although we are primarily visual creatures, smell is quite a powerful sense for us.  Some scientists estimate that we can detect at least 1 trillion different smells and that our connection to certain scents begins in utero.  Because of our brain anatomy, sense of smell is strongly linked to emotions and memory.  It can also help us navigate the physical environment.

Strengthen your sense of smell by taking some mindful breaks to notice the scents around you.  Whether you stop to smell some flowers, notice the briny scent of low tide while at the beach, or while out for a walk get a sudden whiff of a new scent carried by the breeze, pause and take it in.

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Touch

So much information about the outside world can be learned through our sense of touch, which most children are naturally compelled to do.  We’re putting a fun twist on this prompt and going bareFoot!

There has been much research in recent years about the benefits of letting children go barefoot and there’s even a book about it.  Our goal is to focus on the sense of freedom and the sensory stimulation it provides.  It’s also one more way to feel more closely connected to nature.  So go for it… Free your feet and explore at least three natural surfaces (sand, grass, smooth rocks, puddles, etc). How does it feel? Soft? Prickly? Tickly? Warm? Rough? Record everything you felt and noticed in your nature journal.

P.S. International mud day  is June 29th.  Try stomping in mud puddles barefoot to celebrate.

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Observe & Move

With this prompt, children can imagine taking on the qualities of animals in the natural environment and in doing so, deepen their connection to it.

Spend some time observing a few different animals (bee, frog, squirrel, bird, etc). How do they move? Are they fast or slow? What parts of their body moves when they make a sound? How do they position their bodies at rest? What are they busy doing?

Now use your whole body to move like each animal. Record what you noticed in your journal.

Download a printable version of the prompts here.  Enjoy!

Fondly,
Monique

P.S. If you’d like to join an friendly, supportive group where you will find weekly inspiration for deeper personal connections with nature throughout the year, join me over at Noticing Nature 2017. And feel free to invite some friends.

Wednesday Walks: Evergreen Cemetery

Wednesday Walks - Evergreen Cemetery

Some time ago an Instagram follower and friend said that she’d love to go on a walk with my family because we see so many interesting things.  That was such a compliment to me and a lovely sentiment.  As I was thinking about how fun it would be to go on walks with her and with you, I had an idea – We may not be able to meet in person but we can share our walks here.  There are SO many amazing things to notice in nature and sharing with others is a wonderful way to enhance our experiences and strengthen our connections with nature and each other.

Are you ready to walk together?  Today we visit Evergreen Cemetery…

Wednesday Walks - Evergreen Cemetery

We don’t often have an agenda when we head out for a walk but today my son wanted to visit this particular location to try to find a rare bird that had been spotted a few days before.  When we arrived, my dad, youngest daughter and I spread a blanket and sat to eat lunch.  My son took off birding.  As I sat I began to take notice of the nature immediately nearby – the pink cones of a large Norway spruce, a clump of pussytoes just starting to bloom, a mallard couple cautiously checking us out, a large patch of Self-heal at the base of a tree.  I grabbed my camera and explored these sights a little.  Then it was time to join my son.

Wednesday Walks - Evergreen Cemetery

As we walked along a wooded trail my dad saw a flash of red and we all gathered for a look.  My son recognized the call and then we all saw it – a Scarlet Tanager!  Aren’t they beautiful?  I think it was just as curious about us as we were of it.  It flew closer and perched long enough for us to get a few photos.  It then flew down to a small stream to bathe.  As we stood and scanned the trees my daughter noticed a fairly large hornet nest – something we don’t come across very often.  We also began to notice other birds, like the Blue-headed Vireo pictured above, and found this sweet cup nest in a maple tree.

Wednesday Walks - Evergreen Cemetery

As we moved leisurely around the pond, senses now more alert, other things began to catch our attention.  We noticed frogs along the water’s edge holding perfectly still, maybe hoping we wouldn’t see them.  There were painted turtles gathered on a fallen tree to soak up any ray of sunshine that managed to break through the clouds and large snapping turtles thrashing about.  At first we thought they were fighting but we quickly figured it out.  It is spring after all and soon there will be a clutch of eggs.  We also spotted a Solitary Sandpiper walking in the water searching for food.

Wednesday Walks - Evergreen Cemetery

The path passes through a wooded area where there were many more birds to spot and plants that have recently emerged.  The most common spring plants we see right now in this type of habitat are field horsetails (Equisetum arvense), Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) and Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum).  Trout Lilies do not produce flowers for the first 7-10 years of its life and spread primarily by underground runners from parent bulbs.  Because it takes so long to produce large colonies, you know when you come across one that they are quite old.  Several hundred years old.  As I stood admiring this large colony blanketing the floor of the woods I tried to image who else may have passed this way and seen the same sight.  The cemetery was constructed in 1854 and there are many civil war veterans buried here.  Would visiting loved ones 150 years ago have noticed?  Who passed this way before the cemetery was built?  Would there have been anyone harvesting the bulbs to dry for winter sustenance?  To consider the history that this area has witnessed was incredible.

Wednesday Walks - Evergreen Cemetery

So you see, the things we notice when we are outside are not things out of the ordinary.  They are things that we are surrounded by all the time.  My children and I have simply developed a habit of noticing nature which involves curiosity, enthusiasm, a sense of awe and wonder, and a focusing of attention.  And now I’m so happy to be sharing our nature walks with you.  After all, “A joy shared is a joy doubled”.  Thanks for joining us!  See you next Wednesday for another walk.

Would you like to share some sights and experiences from one of your walks?  If you are interested in having a featured ‘Wednesday Walks’ post, let’s chat!

Fondly,
Monique

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Nature Word of the Month: SUBNIVEAN

Last winter, after warmer temperatures had melted the top layer of snow, we noticed a network of tunnels throughout our yard.  We soon realized that they were created by either mice or moles.  It was a fun discovery!

A couple of months ago my husband started reading Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich to our children.  He got to a section that talked about the subnivean zone and the kids realized that the tunnels we had seen were evidence of subnivean life.   My husband was fascinated and suggested that I use it as one of my nature words of the month.  Well, this is the perfect month.  I hope you enjoy exploring the subnivean zone!

Nature Word of the Month: SUBNIVEAN | via Green Acorns

Learn More

  • Northern Woodlands has a great article about these shelters in the snow.
  • This article by the National Wildlife Federation is very helpful and has a nice graphic.

Resources to Inspire

Fondly,

Monique

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NOTICING NATURE 2017: 52 weekly prompts to inspire deeper personal connections with nature

Noticing Nature 2017: 52 weeks of prompts to inspire deeper personal connections with nature

A very happy New Year to you!  I hope that you are entering 2017 with optimism for the possibilities that lay ahead.

While I don’t make New Year resolutions I do feel a renewed energy and a restored clarity after the holidays – a great time to move ahead more mindfully and with stronger intention.

One thing I’ve been wanting to do is share nature experiences with you in a more personal way.  With this in mind I have created a private Facebook group called Noticing Nature 2017.  Every week I will share one word to serve as a prompt for noticing nature as you go about your days.  My hope is that you and your children will find inspiration for deeper personal connections with nature throughout the year.   My hope is that it will be a supportive community for people on the shared  journey of seeking a greater appreciation for nature and our place in it.  I hope you will join me there.

Noticing Nature 2017

Fondly,
Monique

NOTICING NATURE: Nature Prompts – December 2016

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts - December 2016

December can be an extra busy month and making the time to appreciate nature’s gifts, large or small, can be just what we need to create some space and enjoy some mindful moments connecting with our children.  I hope these nature prompts will help…

Noticing Evergreens

Conifer trees aren’t the only plant that is an evergreen.  There are many shrubs and smaller plants that keep their green leaves throughout the winter.  Wintergreen is a common one here in Maine.  How many different evergreens can you spot this month?

Finding Frost

While snow crystals form in the clouds, frost crystals form on solid surfaces near the ground when it cools past the dew point.  Like snow, frost is made up of tiny ice crystals and comes in a variety of structures.

When the conditions are right, bundle up and go in search of frost.  How many different examples of frost can you find throughout the month?

Seasonal Senses

A change in season is signified by so much more than rising or dropping temperatures or the sights of the transforming nature.  Each season can have its own smells, sounds, tastes, textures and more.   I love how quiet it is during a snow and how the fallen leaves feel extra crunchy underfoot.  My family and I also enjoy noticing the patterns and textures in frost and ice.  How about you?  What special sensations mean winter to you?

As we approach the next solstice, mindfully engage your senses while you are out in nature.  Pay close attention to what you notice.  Give some thought to what you experience.  Perhaps make a list of descriptive words or write a few notes on a calendar to record your observations.

Did you know?

Brain research confirms that combining the use of one’s various senses leads to more connections made within the brain.   The result is a more thorough, meaningful experience that can be recalled more easily and with more detail.

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts - December 2016

Practice Stillness

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

– Mother Teresa
What is stillness?  It is basically the act of doing nothing.  It’s quieting your mind and sitting in silence.  It’s making space to connect to your essential self, to God, to nature.  It’s cultivating an inner calm and serenity.  It’s simply being.

 

In our modern, over-scheduled, media-driven world, stillness and silence are more crucial than ever for our  well-being.  Even young children need this.  For most of us, life is noisy and we are constantly processing information.  This causes fatigue, stress and tension.

 

This month, I’m requesting that you and your child follow nature’s example.  Let go of what is not serving you, send your roots deeper so that you may find connection and strength, and be still.  Try it for at least five minutes a day.  Sit in silence.  To get the most benefits, take it outside.  Dress appropriately and sit in silence with nature.

Download and print your nature prompts here.

I am also including another weather tracker this month.  I heard from so many of you that you enjoyed the simple log (found in November’s prompts) and would like to continue the routine.  You can get a December copy here and a blank version for use any time here.

Wishing you and your family a joyous, wonder-filled holiday season!

Fondly,
Monique

NOTICING NATURE: Nature Prompts – November 2016

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts for Children and Their Families - November 2016

Some people say that this time of year can be bleak.  The temperature is dropping.  Many birds have migrated.  Flowers have gone by.  Trees are bare.  The landscape is turning brown.  There doesn’t seem to be anything exciting happening.

Let this month’s nature prompts motivate you to get outside and notice what nature does have to offer.  There is still much beauty to be found if you shift your perspective a little.

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts - November 2016

Seeds Uncovered

Bare stalks and branches mean that you are now more able to observe what was once hidden from view.  Take this opportunity to notice the variety of seeds and seed pods in the landscape around you.  You may be surprised at what you notice and once you start, you might not be able to stop.

Investigating Further

Visit an earlier post to learn about seed dispersal.  It includes a printable for an activity and plenty of resources.

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Noticing the Night Sky

It’s getting darker earlier and earlier which means it’s a good time to get out at night with the kids before bedtime.  The sky also appears clearer as the temperatures drop, making the stars seems more brilliant.  Why not bundle up and take advantage of it?

Learn to identify a few constellations.  Go on a full moon walk (the next full moon is on the 14th).  Use an app to find out which stars are really planets (we use Star Chart).

This is also the perfect time to learn more about the moon start a moon journal.  I created one for my kids some time ago that we use over and over.  If you’d like to use it, you can download the cover and observation pages (print as many of these as you think you might need).  Please note the printing directions below:

  • Cover – Print the two sheets back to back on the same sheet
  • Observation pages – Printing is easiest when downloaded and printed from Adobe Reader.  Choose “multiple” with 2 pages per sheet.  Print in portrait on both front and back sides of your paper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Symmetry of Leaves

Before all the leaves have dropped from the trees, take the opportunity to observe their symmetry.  Use this printable to practice bilateral symmetry and then collect some leaf samples from different types of trees to explore further.  Are they all symmetrical?  If not, what makes the two halves different?  Sort the leaves in to symmetrical and non-symmetrical groups to compare and contrast.

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Weather Tracking

The weather can change quite drastically this time of year and there is often a significant difference in temperature from the beginning of the month to the end of it.  Print off this weather log to record the daily weather and temperature throughout the month.  Review the log at the end of the month.  What do you notice?  Are there any patterns?  Did one type of weather occur more frequently than the others?  How much did the temperature change?  What predictions might you make about next month’s weather?

You can get the printable version of the November prompts here.

Pop over to the Green Acorns Facebook page and share your experiences with them throughout the month.  I’ll be sharing ours there too.  If you’d like to follow our other nature experiences, I post regularly on Instagram – like about the Ruffed Grouse that was in our yard or this epic find.

Have fun noticing November nature!

Fondly,
Monique