~ ~ TRAILS CLOSED ~~
Dec. 2 - Dec. 14
~ ~ RIFLE HUNTING SEASON ~ ~
Welcome to Strawberry Hill
Let’s see, there are … three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree! Well, that’s not really the result of the Christmas Bird Count, but it makes an interesting song this time of year.
Before the turn of the century, during the holiday season there was a tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt.” This involved teams who competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals. However during this time conservation was just beginning and the decline of bird populations became a concern. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition – a “Christmas Bird Census”- that would count birds rather than hunt them. Thanks to the inspiration of Frank M. Chapman and the enthusiasm of twenty-seven dedicated birders, twenty-five Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) were held that day. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all the counts combined.
The CBC is the largest citizen-based conservation program in the world. Over 63,000 volunteers participate from over 2,200 locations from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica. Teams of citizens count birds in the field and at birdfeeders within a designated circle 15 miles in diameter, roughly 177 square miles. Each team records a census of the birds found during one 24-hour period between December 14th and January 5th. Volunteers have counted birds in the woods and fields for 32 years at Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve. The feeder count aspect of the CBC will be added this year.
At the Preserve you will learn how to identify a variety of birds at the feeders from within the warm nature center. Common field marks include color, size and shape of body and bill, wing bars, eye rings, chest streaking and more. The Black-capped Chickadee sports a stunning black cap, while the Titmice, Cardinals, and Blue Jays show off their pointed crowns. Behaviors and body positions associated with a bird can aid in the identification process. Nuthatches are like trapeze artists as they move head first down a tree trunk searching for seeds and tiny invertebrates in the crannies of the bark. The petite Carolina Wren displays quick movements and a noticeably upward-pointed tail. Woodpecker’s rat-a-tat-tatting on branches may be heard before you notice their linear movement along a tree branch. Then, body size distinguishes the larger, zebra-backed Red-bellied Woodpecker from the smaller black and white Downy Woodpecker. Some winter birds experience a change in the color and patterns of feathers. Such is the case with the American Goldfinch that changes from bright yellow to olive drab. A real treat will be to notice the Brown Creeper camouflaged on the bark of tree trunks behind the birdfeeders.
The CBC results for Adams County last year included 21 citizen science volunteers recording 4,073 individual birds resulting in 71 species. Adams County will conduct its CBC on December 14, 2013. To count birds at the feeders, please join us at Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve for a short program on bird identification and bird counting from 8:00 to 9:30 AM. Please call 717-642-5840 to pre-register.
Bio: Carole Simon is a part time naturalist at Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve and a member of the Audubon Society.
(for more info click here)
“Autumn, the year’s last loveliest smile.” William Cullen Byrant’s words couldn’t be more accurate. What could be better than the crisp and colorful days of autumn? We enjoy the fruits of our labors: The crops are harvested, the firewood is stacked and we prepare for winter’s blustery entrance.
In the autumn we say good-bye to some dear friends. Our beloved sun only visits for about 10 hours a day so we bid farewell to warm evenings on the porch and after dinner walks. Our migrating birds have gone to seek refuge in a favorite Southern destination. Also we say “see ya later” to chlorophyll. Maybe you’ve never thought about the departure of chlorophyll, but I’m sure you’ve noticed its absence. It is the molecule that makes plants green and it is responsible for photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy. During the spring and summer, the plants are growing, forming leaves, buds and fruits. But also they are storing energy in order to survive the long winter. As the days shorten, plants and trees stop sending nutrients into their leaves. Chlorophyll is no longer manufactured which means the greenness of the leaves is gone. What is left behind is what chlorophyll has been masking: the yellows, oranges and reds of the leaf. I like to think of it as the tree revealing its true colors.
Although we say good bye to long, sunlit days and bright green leaves, we welcome a new beautiful landscape. Our surroundings may be starting to look barren but this time of year is perfect for finding nature’s treasures: seed pods, cones, twisted branches and vines that are now dormant. This is the forest’s time of rest and recovery. The dropped leaves and other matter are rich in nitrogen and phosphorous and much needed by the plants and trees. The rich earthy smell and the crunch beneath your feet is a true treat when hiking through the woods. Look for the fungus and lichens clinging to a tree, suspended in time or the one lone leaf that still clings valiantly to a branch. Always welcome are the quiet nights that late autumn brings. The screech of the cicadas and songs of the katydids and crickets are now replaced with a calming quiet. Audible now is the creak of the trees as the wind blows. The bright moon and stars are stunningly visible without the leafy canopy to block their nightly display.
Take time to enjoy the bounty of this season the beauty of the year’s last smile.
Join us at the Preserve for the next program in our Natural Arts and Crafts Series: Fall and Forest Wreath Making on Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm. Learn to make a wreath constructed entirely from natural collected materials. Everything will be supplied to make one 10″ wreath including cones, nuts, and seed pods. Call 717-642-5840 to register.
Laurie Stover is a part-time naturalist at Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve.