Latest post at my blog: TheNatureSchool.net
Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are, of course, in the midst of winter (you southern hemisphere folk will have to wait till July). What winter looks like varies greatly from latitude to latitude. What winter usually does usually have as a common thread is unpredictable weather. The northeastern United States is buried under mountains of snow that are atypical for that region at this time of year. US weather reporters have said that there is snow in all but one state, Florida. (Yes, this includes Hawaii. Mauna Kea, Hawaiian for "White Mountain", is widely known to extreme skiers.) Other regions, notably Florida and other parts of the south are facing unusual cold. Here, in the coastal bend, cold stunned sea turtles are being taken in for rehab. In Florida, Manatees and Florida based sea turtles are facing similar issues. Humans across the country are battening down the hatches and hunkering in away from the elements.
To this I say, "Get Out!" Seriously. Get out. Winter can be a great time to explore nature in your area.
Those of us who feed birds become popular destinations for food because A) food stocks are normally starting to deplete at this time of year and B) those that are there are buried in the northern states. If you want to start with a feeder in your yard, the most popular food is Black Oil Sunflower. It is a great food for this time of year because of its high fat content. Fat is a great slow release source of energy and can help all animals maintain metabolism in stressful weather conditions.
Another advantage of winter weather is that, in many parts of the world, trees are bare and it is far easier to see what is up in them. Couple this with the sound muffling properties of snow and you have a tailor made opportunity for easy looking. This is because distant noises are damped and what is near is clear and easy to hear.
Get out. Take a walk in your neighborhood and listen. Follow the sound directions and see what you find there. This morning, pursuing just that pattern, while drafting this post, I found a house wren (links to image and sound files on the original post) gleaning insects from the great, sweeping mesquite in my front yard.
Finally, there is smell. Winter brings its own set of smells with it. Sitting outside this morning, in the damp coastal bend day that followed two days of soft rain, I was reminded of the variety of smells associated with winter. When I lived in snow country I learned that each kind of snow had its own smell. There is one snow smell, crisp and clean, almost alway associated with a spring snow in March, that takes me back to a vivid childhood memory of visiting relatives in Denver and a day spent outside with my older cousins building sculptured snow people. Smell is powerful that way.
Thanks to wonders of modern outerwear, getting out in the elements is easier than ever. Yes, kids get muddier and wetter and a little colder in this weather. This is what kids do. It is a natural state and one that supports the natural wonder and curiosity that is innate in all kids. Its fun for most kids. Dirty, wet and cold can be cleaned, dried, and warmed.
Winter is a grand time to explore. Get out. Enjoy!
*With thanks to Judy Molland for the idea "Get Out".