|  Home  |   About us  |   Programs & Projects  |   Calendar  |   Birding  |   Blog  |   Get Involved  |

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


 "Shrike! Shrike!! SHRIKE!!!"  Chip hollered from his office, jolting us out of our e-mail writing, computer screen glow enhanced trances. After a quick scramble for binoculars and cameras, we all went stampeding into his office and crowded around to see a Northern Shrike no more than 10 feet from the window!

Just as I raised the camera to take a picture, the shrike flew to the left and so did we, stumbling over to the next office for a closer view.  It sat there, tail flicking, for no more than 10 seconds before flying down to the feeders in the lilacs.

Still unable to even attempt a photo, we raced downstairs and into the conference room just in time to see the bird flit past a second feeder and around the back of the building.  To the kitchen we migrated but the windows were too dirty for a clear photo so I raced back upstairs to my own office window where I saw the shrike perched atop the burr oak near the kiosk.  There it sat for a solid 60 seconds, turning its head every which way, presumably looking for the next feeder to surprise attack.  After finally being able to snap off a couple quick shots, my racing heart hit another gear as it left its perch and flew directly toward the house and alighted on a branch in the small sugar maple directly outside the office window.

 The stunning black and white patterning on the gray body caught me off guard at this close range as I zoomed out to fit it in the frame.  It looked down at the feeder, then to the barn and then to the right across the road... and off it flew, vanishing around the corner and across the road.


It had only spent a total of 3 minutes zipping around the house but its energy continued to buzz throughout the office the rest of the morning.  I am always amazed at how birds can command our attention so completely and am grateful to work at a place where the staff will drop everything they are doing at the call of "SHRIKE!"

Friday, January 16, 2015

Winter Whispers Begins!

This Thursday was the first day of our new winter drop-off program for preschoolers, Winter Whispers. With the weather at a chilly -4° at 9 am, we started indoors: making natural sun catchers and experimenting with what happens when you bring snow inside and how it looks under magnifying glasses. There was also plenty of time during our morning free play (known as “loose parts play”) to pretend to be animals. We practiced our hopping from lily pad to lily pad as frogs, our flying as snowy owls, and using our sneaky feet as foxes.

After our morning circle, some songs, and a snack, everyone worked to figure out layers and zippers and what outdoor gear goes on first to get ready to go on a snowy adventure outside. It may seem mundane, or even a chore for us teachers, to help get several 3.5-5 year olds dressed adequately to be outside for an hour or more on a cold day, but, for me, this process is a total highlight. When we work with preschoolers at NBNC, one of our major aims is to help them learn to care for themselves and their belongings. This is so much spatial and sequential reasoning to be learned from the process of dressing in layers. As the session progresses, it is a total gift to watch the kids become more confident and need less coaching in this process as they work out these new skills.

Grandfather sun came out and warmed the world a bit so we ventured out into the wild world of winter. Once outside, we hunted for “jewels” (frozen ice cubes tinted with food coloring) in the snow and other treasures that Mother Nature had left us. Eventually the majority of our time was taken up by several children working cooperatively to open an imaginary candy store (where the jewels were re-imagined as colored chocolates!) and by lots of sliding on sleds on our new fluffy snow. It is safe to say that the preschoolers, Mary, and I all had an equally joyous and exciting day to begin this new program in beautiful winter. We can’t wait until next week when we turn our focus to birds and what winter is like for them.

Winter Whispers is a drop-off program for preschoolers 3.5-5 on Thursdays from 9am-noon until February 19th. There are still a few spots open in the program! For more information visit our website at: http://www.northbranchnaturecenter.org/programs.html#winterwhispers