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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

December 27, 2006

A quick drive around Berlin Pond yielded some lingering waterfowl – in fact, most likely some of the same individual ducks seen on the December 15 Christmas Bird Count. Out in the open water were 3 Common Goldeneye, a female Ring-necked Duck and a Hooded Merganser. Also two dozen Mallards (that's a male's blazing blue speculum and feet pictured to the right) were in a small farm pond near Berlin Pond. No sign of that female Black Scoter.

Monday, December 18, 2006

December 18, 2006

Birds are still the major theme of Nature News this month. This morning a flock of 25 Cedar Waxwings flew over the nature center.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

December 16, 2006

Another Christmas Bird Count today – Plainfield, which includes parts of towns from Marshfield to Montpelier (including the nature center). Highlights from this count include a Bald Eagle (an adult), first seen by one team near Max Gray Road in Calais and then by the "Nature Center Team” in East Montpelier, just off Route 14 south of Route 2. Also notable were 2 Northern (“Yellow-shafted”) Flickers at the Barre Country Club (the first since 1996), a Northern Shrike and 57 Mallards (a record high count for that species).

Stay tuned for complete count results or visit the Mad Birders website for Mad River/Northfield results.

Friday, December 15, 2006

December 15, 2006

Some preliminary results from the Mad River/Northfield Christmas Bird Count. The “Nature Center Team” of Sandal Cate, Matt Brantner and Chip Darmstadt covered a territory around Berlin Pond.

Highlights from their count include 65 Canada Geese, 3 Common Goldeneye, a Ring-necked Duck, a female Black Scoter, a pair of Hooded Mergansers and a lone American Black Duck on Berlin Pond. Also, a Ring-necked Pheasant at the north end of Berlin Pond (not in the count circle) and a Northern Shrike on Crosstown Road in Berlin.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

December 14, 2006

With no or little ice on the North Branch of the Winooski, there have been a few lingering water bird sightings. Both a female Common Merganser and a Belted Kingfisher were seen/heard today.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

December 6, 2006

A lone American Robin feeding in a Winterberry Holly shrub at the North Branch Nature Center today. Hopefully not yet a sign of spring!

Friday, December 1, 2006

Education Blog Posts

Here is a collection of our blog posts related to education through the ECO (Educating Children Outdoors) program, Forest School and Preschool, and other NBNC programs:

Play and Child-driven Learning in a Classroom Without Walls

November 28, 2014A field of golden rod and a green forest canopy greeted students upon their arrival at Forest Preschool this Fall.  A landscape, covered in...

A World of Leaves at Forest Preschool

October 21, 2014Mother Nature pulled out all the stops this Autumn, transforming the landscape into a brilliant wash of red, orange, and gold...

October 2, 2014

In central Vermont we are welcoming in another school year with stunning foliage, warm days and the ongoing chorus of crickets and katydids. Here at the North Branch Nature Center we are celebrating our 5th year of...

To Be a Black-capped Chickadee

May 23, 2014

In the morning and evening these days, the spring air is filled with bird song. The leaves are waking up...

Beavers Mobilize
April 16, 2014
To begin our Wednesday ECO days outdoors each week at Waitsfield Elementary, kindergartners hike down a field in town to...

April 10, 2014
In my mind, spring mud is synonymous with sap buckets and sugaring season...

Marching into Spring at Forest Preschool; Snow Paints the Picture
March 31, 2014
I am always excited to flip the calendar page from February to March. The days lengthen and the sun climbs higher in the sky... 

Kindergartners Track Mammals Into their Classroom 
March 20, 2014
Tomorrow is Spring Equinox. The lengthening daylight hours tell a different story than the two feet of snow on the ground...

What We Do After School 
February 17, 2014
Almost everyone has at least one thing that they look forward to every week, be it a yoga class, pizza night, or that one morning that you get to sleep in...

Snow, Glorious Snow! 
February 16, 2014
After a frigid and nearly snowless January, a freshly laid blanket of white was a welcome addition to winter at Forest School last Friday... 

Students Welcome Snowy Owls to Vermont
January 3, 2014
Right before the end of the 2013 school year, students at Moretown Elementary School spent the day learning about Snowy Owls...

Learning beyond the classroom...in a bakery!
November 27, 2013
The Forest Schoolers had been showing real interest in baking and cooking projects...

Discovering Animal Homes
November 25, 2013
As the temperature dips down and the snow piles up, it is a good time to be thankful for having a warm and cozy home.  We celebrated animal homes a few weeks ago with Forest School, seeking out where animals lived...

More Sticks! More Math Outdoors! 
November 7, 2013
This autumn I have spent hours cutting 2 foot long sticks in the forest behind my home. I also have a collection of sticks that are just a foot long and then a random assortment of sticks with twists and curves, just to shake it up a bit....

Loose parts magic
November 1, 2013
I've been looking for ways to enhance my students creativity and problem-solving skills in my outdoor-based preschool and kindergarden.  In my research amongst other blogs and educators, the hot way to do just that is through loose parts play...

Becoming bears 
October 14, 2013
In preschool, the best way to learn about something is to pretend to be it.  The changing leaves and the slight crispness to the air are a sign for bears to begin their hibernation process, so we became bears for the day...

Quiet in the Forest
October 4, 2013

It's the beginning of all our ECO (Educating Children Outdoors) programs in surrounding schools and the students have fallen back into our outdoor learning routines beautifully...

Building our play-spaces
September 17, 2013
The Forest Preschoolers are active, imaginative, and LOVE to build. They love to create their worlds, and will craft pretty much anything they can get their hands on into elaborate scenes...

First week of Forest Preschool!
September 6, 2013

I noticed two major signs of fall this week:  the temps were crisp and cool in the morning, and eager 3, 4, and 5 year olds started their first week of Forest Preschool!  Being outside the whole time, the children used their imaginations and took advantage of the forest to have a grand old time...

Back to (Forest) School
August 28, 2013
Being a teacher, the end of the summer usually means sprucing up your classroom for the coming year.  At Forest School and Forest Preschool, we use the outdoor surroundings as our classroom.  Like here...

Caterpillars in the Classroom 
August 21, 2013There are many rituals that teachers perform as they prepare to return to the classroom, and this year, one of those rituals is going to be especially challenging: searching the local milkweed patch for Monarch caterpillars...

Build an Adventure in Your Forest
May 29, 2013
This spring students at East Montpelier Elementary School launched the beginning of our most popular ECO lesson to date.  These kindergarten and first graders at EMES were really looking to put their big creative energy to use...

Forest School farm field trip
May 21, 2013
We were lucky enough to visit a Forest Schooler's family's farm today!  Located just up the road from the NBNC, we spent the morning exploring forests, ponds and streams, helping with farm chores and enjoying the humid spring weather...

Poems by the river 
May 8, 2013
Poems are big these days.  Montpelier's annual Poem City just wrapped up its amazing score of events, readings and poems in almost every storefront.  Recently, Vermont Public Radio highlighted poetry's ability to help kids learn to read.

Amphibian Monitoring & Education
April 10, 2013
You wouldn’t think many people would be out walking at midnight on a Wednesday, but the amphibian crossing site at Shelburne Pond was busy with people escorting amphibians as they migrated.  A group of UVM students enrolled in a Herpetology course made careful counts of the critters they saw.  And a family moved from frog to frog...

[more education posts will be added soon!]

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

November 28, 2006

Woolly Bear Caterpillars are Everywhere!

Chip with Wooly BearsBy Sandal Cate
NBNC Staff Educator

The staff at the North Branch Nature Center have reports from folks seeing lots of Woolly Bear caterpillars this autumn! The most recent sighting was one at the Nature Center on November 27. (That's Executive Director Chip Darmstadt in the photo welcoming a few.)

This seems to be a banner year for Woolly Bears, which are seeking good outdoor habitat for wintering over. Woolly Bears feed on plantain and other local vegetation, but they don't bother any valuable plants. So, even if there are a lot of them in your yard or fields, they won't cause any problems. Their biggest problem is getting from one side of a road to the other, so anything you can do safely to help them along is welcome!

Woolly Bear caterpillars will form a cocoon in the spring and then emerge from it as the Isabella Tiger Moth. Their life cycle starts all over at that point. Folklore hints that the amount of black banding will tell how hard the winter ahead may be. However, the black banding actually indicates the relative age of the caterpillar. Younger ones have more black than older ones.

Some insects like the Woolly Bear will often have a peak in their population. According to Dick Dearborn, a retired Maine Forest Service scientist, Woolly Bear numbers increase to a high point about every ten years. Perhaps warmer winters also help them survive into the spring. So if you continue to notice them, just realize they're headed for a protective log, leaf pile or building foundation to snuggle up for the winter. Don't we wish we could do that ourselves sometimes?

Meanwhile, with warm temperatures persisting, several plants are still in bloom at the Nature Center, including Fall Dandelion, Johnny Jump-ups and Scarlet Trumpet Honeysuckle (on the front porch).

Saturday, November 18, 2006

November 18, 2006

Painted Turtle

A relatively warm fall week kept a few noteworthy birds and bugs active at the Nature Center and around Montpelier. A few moth species were still flying at NBNC on November 17 (no butterflies). We also noticed a Painted Turtle!

On November 15, pre-schoolers visiting the Nature Center discovered a Short-winged Blister Beetle. (Very cool!) And on November 14, we noticed four Cedar Waxwings and three Common Grackles. We also had reports of a Carolina Wren on Elm Street in Montpelier and a Northern Cardinal from Culver Hill Road in Middlesex.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

November 14, 2006

November 14

Chip Darmstadt and Bryan Pfeiffer are back from guiding a group of teen birders to the coast of Maine -- a perfect retreat from stick season in Vermont. Highlights included Harlequin Duck (pictured here), Red-throated Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Northern Gannet, Snow Bunting and all the other usual coastal delights. Watch the NBNC web site for additional news about additional programs for teen naturalists.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

November 12-13, 2006

A lone Common Grackle lingered at the nature center on November 13. We also noticed Golden-crowned Kinglets as well as a White-tailed Deer on the North Branch trail (during deer season!). And, of course, a Wooly Bear Caterpillar was crossing the trail as well. It's a good fall for Wooly Bears! (So why does the Wooly Bear cross the trail, anyway?)

On November 12, Common Mergansers and Hooded Mergansers were on the Winooski River behind the Capitol Plaza and a bit farther upstream as well.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

November 1, 2006

November is off to a splendid start! In fact, it was so nice out that NBNC staff had lunch outdoors (for the last time this year?). A stroll around the property turned up some “last gasp” wildlife sightings.

Black-capped ChickadeeIn the avian department:

Black-capped Chickadees and American Goldfinches feeding on sunflowers in the community garden. A goldfinch was also looking for seeds in a Virgin’s Bower seed head.

Three female Wood Ducks cruised upstream, heading north.

Few other birds around – White-throated Sparrow, Common Raven, American Crow, Blue Jay, Golden-crowned Kinglet and a drumming Ruffed Grouse.

And a few entomological observations:

Two dragonfly species! A Yellow-legged Meadowhawk and a darner. There were quite a few meadowhawks sunning on the footbridge, the path, and logs in the beaver pond. The one Chip managed to catch was a female Yellow-legged Meadowhawk, with its distinctive spout-like ovipositor. The darner was just a silhouette in the distance. Perhaps a Common Green Darner?

A recently emerged adult caddisfly, species unknown.

And the last butterfly of the season? One Clouded Sulphur nectaring on Johnny Jump-ups in the community garden.