Welcome to Strawberry Hill
When you were a child, what did you look forward to the most about summer? Was it the end of classes; the warm weather; getting to sleep in? For me, summer meant summer camp! It is a major part of the summer experience for many children. According to the American Camp Association, over 10 million children attend summer camp in the United States annually.
Not just a place or an activity, camp is an experience greater than the sum of its parts. Summer camp promotes a healthy lifestyle and fosters community connections in fun and meaningful ways. Participants also meet children from outside of their school demographics. Each child brings their own life experiences to share with the others and the campers learn from each other.
Today, most children spend only twenty minutes each school day in recess. At home, most spend their time indoors on homework, video games, and television. Summer camp gets kids outside and active. The direct physical health benefits are crucial when the reported obesity rate in children is approximately 20% in Adams County, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding areas, according to the Susquehanna Intermediate Unit Center for Schools and Communities.
These days, being a kid is stressful! Camp provides a safe place for children to enjoy their childhood. Because the participants are in a safe environment and they are having fun, they are also better prepared to leave their comfort zone and try something new.
During summer camp, children are guided by their counselors but are encouraged to make their own choices. This fosters independence and self-efficacy in children. As children participate in camp activities, they gain valuable experience in communication, leadership, and decision-making. A nature-based summer camp can stimulate the academic and social growth of young people as it promotes conservation of the natural environment. Children who are engaged in environmental education become real-world problem solvers and self-directed learners.
Summer camps can be a realistic manifestation of the old adage that, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Community organizations often create partnerships to build a camp experience. Campers get to hear from and engage with members of their own community. Camp can be an important part of connecting children to their community resources and developing positive citizenship.
Children are not the only ones who benefit from camp. Summer camps help working parents by providing a safe place for their child to go and play and receive care. Camps also provide an opportunity for family bonding; participants always love to share stories with their family and friends.
Don’t miss out on the holistic benefits of summer camp for children and their families. Strawberry Hill’s Summer Nature Adventure Camps for Kids offer something for everyone: camping, art, history, forestry, animals and insects, science, food and habitats around the world, and water exploration. Best of all, summer camp is fun! Every week provides games and activities that allow kids to just be kids. As the school year comes to an end, we have to begin planning for summer boredom; it does not take long before children are tired of being at home!
Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve’s Summer Nature Adventure Camps for Kids are now open for enrollment. For more information visit www.StrawberryHill.org or contact us firstname.lastname@example.org. Call 717-642-5840 to register. We hope to see you here, where the love of nature begins!
Once common throughout the eastern United States, the numbers of the American Woodcock, (Philhela minor) have declined since the 1960′s. Habitat loss has taken its toll to where it is estimated that perhaps 20% of the population that existed during the 1940′s exist today. The Timberdoodle, aka Whistledoodle, Wude-cucu migrates through and into our area during the spring and fall. Some of them will stay here breeding and nesting if the right habitat is available.
The arrival of the birds is commonly known as a “Fall of Woodcock!” Typically they move ahead of the frost and Arctic blast in the autumn and behind winter’s wrath in the spring. The Woodcock’s feeding habits make it necessary for them to follow this flight plan. Their long beaks have adapted for probing into soft moist earth for the earthworms that make up about 90% of the birds’ diet. Near the tip of the bill you would notice the hinge that makes it possible for the bird to grasp its prey and pull it out of the ground which is impossible if the ground is still frozen. The holes produced in the soil by this feeding activity are a good indication to the alert naturalist that a fall of Woodcock has arrived. Whitewash or droppings produced by the birds are also key indicators. Birds accidentally flushed will fly straight up through the cover like small helicopters. After reaching the desired height they will level off and zip away twisting and turning depending on the forest understory. This will all happen very quickly and be accompanied by a twittering or a piping trill-like sound. It is not uncommon for another bird or two to flush in unison or shortly thereafter.
During the spring the elaborate courtship ritual performed by the males proves to be one of nature’s spectacles. This occurs at what we call the “singing grounds.” The males produce a buzzing cicada like peent. At some point he then flies straight up in typical fashion to the desired height and then makes an erratic spiral back to the ground. This may happen numerous times as he woos and attempts to convince one of the hens to accept him. During this elaborate “Sky Dance”, the male may emit a faint tuko-turkle call or a liquid trill commonly called the “kissing sound.” This Sky Dance may occur many times depending to the degree of how many other males are competing. These little birds are very territorial.
The American Woodcock is not much bigger than a dove. Its ears are located in front of its large eyes, are situated high on its head. AND its brain is upside down. All of this, in conjunction with nearly perfect camouflaged feathers, lends to an ability to evade most predators.
The Timberdoodle’s major enemy is habitat destruction. In Pennsylvania, loss of wetlands since 1950 is alarming. However, there is more than a margin of hope for the birds. Several years ago a group of concerned outdoor people formed an alliance known as Woodcock Limited of Pennsylvania. Most of their endeavor is focused on habitat restoration. In 2012 this organization, along with several other state’s organizations went national.
On April 18 we will attempt to witness this spectacle of the Woodcocks’ Skydance at the Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve beginning at 7:00 PM. You are cordially invited to bring your camera and join us in our endeavor!
Bio: Michael (Mick) Group has been a writer/photographer for several national and regional magazines since 1986 including but not limited to: National Hunting and Fishing magazine, The PA Angler, Talbot Bay Banner, Shotgun Sports magazine, Mid-Atlantic Fly Fishing, and Railpace magazine. During the 1980′s-90′s he contributed a regular outdoor feature column to the Sentenial, and the Cambridge Daily Banner. He is a speaker on conservation topics and a member of Woodcock Limited of PA.
A great resource to learn more: www.timberdoodle.org
Read “Woods for Woodcock,” published in the Autumn 2010 Northern Woodlands magazine, to learn how public and private landowners are helping to bring back the woodcock.
If it were said to be a “voice” of Strawberry Hill, it would have to be that of the Barred Owl which is also known as the Hoot Owl, Eight Hooter, Rain Owl, Wood Owl, and Striped Owl. The bottomland forests around Swamp and Middle Creeks are ideal habitats for this bird. On many nights, the various calls of the Barred Owl resound with the typical, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” However this most vocal of all Pennsylvania owls can bark like dogs, chatter like monkeys, whinny like horses, and scream like banshees. When they are young and newly fledged from the nest, they make a rasping sound that is nothing like the typical hoot of an owl. The only times the owls are relatively quiet are when they are sitting on their nests in early to mid-spring.
Although primarily nocturnal animals, don’t be surprised if you hear a chorus of Barred Owls calling in mid-afternoon. An owl will often awaken from its daytime slumber in a mature forest of deciduous trees and evergreens that are probably close to water. He will give a brief territorial call which is answered by other owls throughout the forest.
The Barred Owl is a stocky, large bird with a rounded head, but no ear tufts. This beautiful creature has brown-and-white striped plumage. He takes flight noiselessly through the dense woodland. Banding a few Barred Owls has revealed that they don’t migrate; instead only move about 6 miles away.
It is easiest to spot a Barred Owl during the daytime by listening for the mobbing calls of blue jays or crows. These birds will often sound the alarm. Since they are mortal enemies, a whole contingent of smaller birds will descend upon an owl, harassing it until they drive it out of the area. Even though the owl could turn around and easily kill one of the pesky birds with one swipe of its mighty talons, it probably won’t happen. Similar to a schoolyard bully, the owl, doesn’t want to waste energy on a bunch of puny kids, the jays and crows, taunting it. In its drowsy state, the owl just wants to find another place to enjoy undisturbed sleep.
At night it is a different story. With incredibly keen senses of sight and hearing, the owl is one of the most formidable hunters in the woods. He will prey on all kinds of rodents, rabbits, birds (including smaller owls) and even skunks. Owls have comparatively weak bills and often prey is swallowed whole. Unlike other birds, owls have no crop and food passes straight into their foregut. The acid in the owl’s gut is weak so bones, fur, and feathers remain virtually intact. Regurgitating a “pellet” is a voluntary act. Pellets contain the indigestible bones and fur.
(Video by: Canada Wild http://www.youtube.com/user/CanadaWild?feature=watch)
Have you ever been worried about catching “cabin fever” over the winter?
Stephen King’s 1977 novel The Shining is an exaggerated warning of the dire effects of being cooped up inside for too long. Most of us are familiar with the idiom, but did you know that cabin fever, while not technically a medical condition, refers to an actual psychological phenomenon?
Without access to the outdoors, people have a tendency to develop stress, anxiety, claustrophobia, and even depression. The cold winter weather often prevents us from being physically active. Time spent in the outdoors gives us the opportunity to stretch our legs and focus on natural stimuli that gently catch our attention, allowing our brains time to recharge from actively focusing on computer screens, advertisements, and printed materials.
Cabin fever historically referred to the bacterial disease typhus, which spread quickly among people living in confined spaces. Typhus was a particular problem during long winters in the north, where blizzards would keep people snowed-in for weeks at a time. The more casual meaning of cabin fever, which most of us are familiar with, was first used in 1918.
When the weather turns cold, people tend to stay indoors and watch T.V. or play computer games. These activities pass time, but do not allow the same energy outlet as a game of baseball or tag, particularly for children. In addition, indoor activities tend to require our constant, directed focus. In contrast, outdoor activities tend to engage a person physically, while allowing their mind to shift more casually between various natural stimuli. Because the person is not being bombarded with pictures and text that require very direct attention, their brain can recharge.
Humans aren’t the only ones that tire of staying indoors all winter. Honey bees spend the colder months huddling for warmth inside their hives, but do not actually hibernate. In order to maintain a clean and healthy hive they store up body waste and debris. Only on warm winter days (about 50°F or more), will the bees exit the hive to stretch their wings in a “cleansing flight.” They also survive the entire winter on honey stored from the previous fall. Can you imagine that cabin fever?
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to combat cabin fever. Many local hotspots offer opportunities to engaging in winter sports and getting outdoors even when it is cold. A change of scenery, though still indoors, can help break the monotony, so museums and galleries are always an option. Get out of the house and visit Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve in Fairfield, PA to learn more about how honey bees deal with cabin fever during part one of the 2013 “Bee-ginner Backyard Beekeeping” series at 12pm on Saturday, January 12th.