Helping children and families connect with the natural world

"In a Nut Shell" Blog

Penny Folsom shares her thoughts on a monthly basis with those interested in helping children and families connect with the natural world.

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Welcome to winter!

Here in West Michigan January has been colder than average. February’s long-range forecast does not appear that it will be much different. I do hope that, when temperatures allow, you bundle up and head outside.

I check daily to make sure that my bird feeders are full. I also have a heated bird bath that many birds frequent to drink. While I am outside, I wander around the yard to see what footprints I can spot in the snow. I haven’t been disappointed. There are very small foot prints coming out from under my deck. I assume they belong to a mouse or meadow vole, both of which can be active in the winter months. Try to follow any tracks that you find to see if you can figure out which direction they are headed.

Today there are many rabbit tracks around. They are coming from the deep grass of my field, and they go underneath the bird feeding station. Gait patterns are one of the best tools to ID tracks in the snow. Rabbit tracks are one of the most commonly seen after a snow. Look for the repeating bound patterns. Rabbits have small round toes and fur covered feet. When observing rabbit tracks you will notice that the hind feet marks are at the top and the fronts are at the bottom. Can your children make similar marks in the snow??

Make use of your local library to explore the many books related to animals. Check out a track book and see what the next snow will reveal!

Photo: Gary Beemer

Photo: Gary Beemer