The change of the season from summer to autumn is noticed by the changing of the air and the bursting forth of colors in the deciduous trees. You can’t help but revel in the oranges, burgundies, and yellows of autumn leaves!
Did you get outside and take note of your neighborhood trees?
Our road is lined by mostly evergreens but a few of us are lucky enough to have aspens on our property to enjoy. We’ve been watching our trees, anticipating a change in color as the nights have turned colder, hoping the cold snap will give us a colorful display.
Our winter continues to be warmer than normal…even record-breaking temperatures. As much as I love the warm afternoons and sunshine, I am concerned for the drying up reservoirs and the very dry forest conditions. I know I have no power to bring on the rain and snow so I am trying to make the best of it.
I took an image of the page with my phone and we used that during our hike to remember the things we were looking for as we went.
Here are our results:
Buds on a tree
We decided this duck weed was more interesting than moss.
Trees that have lost all their leaves – aspens
a bird – Steller’s Jay
We didn’t find any berries but this rose hip was certainly colorful.
Something with thorns
Pinecones – The squirrels had lunch on the picnic table!
One last image from our hike at Taylor Creek. The beavers have been clear cutting a lot of the trees along the water. They have quite a few trees that are ready to fall as well. The dam is getting huge! Amazing creatures with incredible strength.
We are still waiting for some real snow here and I will keep the snow study in the back of my mind for a future time. I hope some of you were more successful with this challenge or you took advantage of the scavenger hunt instead.
When I posted on Facebook yesterday that we were going to head out to snowshoe, the weather forecast said something like “partly cloudy, high of 52 degrees, and 10% chance of precipitation”. Sounded good to me. Well no one told us that between our house and our hiking spot that there was going to be dense fog, drizzle, and the temperatures were falling into the 30’s.
I knew Mr. B was anxious to test out his new snowshoes so I didn’t want to disappoint him and we kept going up over the mountain. Once over the mountain it cleared up and we had lots of clouds but no rain.
Needless to say, we kept our eyes on the sky, checking for signs we were going to get rained or snowed. We had the snow to ourselves, not counting the many animal tracks that were visible. So many tracks going so many directions…there must be a whole forest full of animals out there.
Isn’t this a surprising sight of brilliant blue on this winter day? Steller’s jays are common and this one was posing for my camera. I love the blue feathers on the nose. My field guide says that these jays are “inquisitive, intelligent, and noisy”. Yep, that totally describes this bird.
We couldn’t resist seeing if we could lure the jay closer and Mr. B had a pocket full of pretzels. One little bit of pretzel and that Steller’s jay came swooping down for a tasty treat, making his shook-shook-shook sound as he flew.
We had to go the long way around since the beavers have now completely dammed up the water in the creek and the resulting pond has spread over the normal trail. This is where we saw the salmon spawning last fall and the mama bear with cubs. No signs of them now, although it smells rather fishy around this bend in the creek from all the dead fish remains.
We hiked along the creek a little way and we noticed that there are places where the creek mud is piled up onto the banks. We could see lots of little animal tracks around the mud but I’m still not sure what kind of animal did this and what they were doing. Winter hikes can lead to lots of questions. You can see the muddy sludge…it is the black stuff there along the edge.
I never get tired of looking at the landscape here at Taylor Creek. The patterns of the tree trunks against the Sierra sky in the winter is amazing and beautiful. Some people get to look out their living room windows and view a similar scene and I wonder if they stop seeing the awesomeness of it. I come here a dozen times a year and I never tire of this place.
When you are on snowshoes, you can follow tracks as much as you want but I am always a little afraid of getting out into the forest too far….I have a terrible sense of direction. This area is easy to navigate because I can hear the highway in the distance and I generally know which direction I need to head to get back to the trailhead. Here is an example of a nice clear print in the snow.
We did a little preliminary winter weed study while we were out traipsing around the woods. There were plenty of subjects even with snow on the ground. I just liked the way this one looked. I think it is a corn lily. Next week we plan on doing a whole winter weed study so we will revisit these images then.
So our first real snowshoe of the year is over and we didn’t get rained or snowed on. We were bundled up warmly so it was really a delight to be outdoors exploring just the two of us. Mr. B decided his snowshoes were perfect and now we will be able to explore the woods in winter as part of our Outdoor Hour Challenges.
You can read more about hiking in winter on my Squidoo page for tips on how to make it fun: Winter Nature Walks
The mountains and forest had been calling for us to come and explore the season before the winter sets in any time now. The forecast was for partly cloudy skies and perhaps a few snow flurries so we didn’t plan too long of a hike just in case we needed to move quickly to shelter. The sun actually poked through the clouds a few times and that was a welcome treat.
Right near where we parked the car and started on the trail we noticed that a beaver had gnawed this tree down…can you believe how strong that beaver must be? We weren’t sure if he was going to come back for the log but we marveled at his ability to bring down a rather large tree.
We hiked through the mixed conifer and deciduous forest, noting that the aspens were all bare but still very beautiful. We listened to the bird sounds and a squirrel chattering too. We saw and heard Steller’s jays, common ravens, California gulls, mallard ducks, white-headed woodpeckers, Canada geese, and an osprey. It was a great day for birds.
We stopped along the trail to view the meadow and marsh. This spot is known to be an eagle habitat so I had my eyes open wide hoping to see one this day. And…..I was not disappointed. A bald eagle flew very majestically above the meadow from the pine forest and then out over the lake. I was very excited to see this graceful bird as he flew right overhead and then disappeared. It was a moment.
In the photo above you can see how it was snowing up on the mountain peak and we even at one point had soft flakes of snow coming down on us but it didn’t last long or stick to the ground at all. It was a perfect day for a hike.
Journal tip: It can be overwhelming when you have so many subjects to write about in your journal. It helps to focus on just one of the highlights like our encounter with the eagle and a list of birds. I don’t like to draw birds so I used a photo and then answered the three main questions: when, where, what.
When I take my creative daughter with me, we always find a way to do something fun. This time we settled on making an Andy Goldworthy style art piece using natural items. There were loads of pinecones on the ground so we decided to feature those in our sculpture.
While we were busy with our sculpture, my husband added this line of pinecones leading down the stairway to our artwork. It made me smile and feel appreciative of the support of a great guy for his nature-loving wife.
On the hike back we found a patch of thistles to admire. After studying them this autumn I have a new found appreciation for their features. So pretty even now.
We also saw where the beaver is attempting to build a dam across the creek. The creek is flooding part of the trail right now because of the water backed up behind the dam. We had to circle around to avoid needing to wade through the creek. This is exactly where we saw the mama and two baby bear cubs earlier this fall…no signs of them now.
As always, we were rewarded for our efforts to get outdoors and do some exploring. The informal nature study opportunities were everywhere and I made some mental notes on topics we were curious about as we hiked along. Some afternoon on a cold winter day I will pull out some field guides and we will research a few of the answers to our questions. Nature study truly is a life project.
What a wonderful afternoon drive we had yesterday! The fall colors were popping out all around us and we were pointing out the car windows, totally amazed at the colorful show we could see as we drove along.
The aspens were glorious and the sun even made a brief showing in the late afternoon.Walking along the path under the aspens, I remembered why I love this variety of tree.
Here is our regular stretch of beach at the lake. We indulged in a picnic dinner of roast chicken and salad and then realized that we were all alone at the beach for the first time ever. It was quiet except for the Stellar’s jays.
The three boys were erecting driftwood and rock sculptures while the rest of us took a walk out onto the dock. The sun was beginning to set and we very reluctantly started back to the car.
Earlier in the afternoon, we also went to see the Kokanee salmon spawning in the creek and these signs were something new in the last few weeks. Apparently there are three mama bears with cubs in this area and they are feasting on salmon during the spawning period.
While we were observing the salmon in the creek….a bear was spotted on the opposite side of the water. The bear was totally and completely uninterested in us humans and she went about its business of eating and foraging around in the bushes. We did get a really great view of the bear and I was too busy watching her to take a photo. I do not have a very good zoom on my little camera so it would probably not have turned out very well anyway. Take my word for it, this was not a scary encounter at all. There were a lot of salmon to occupy the bear and a lot of water inbetween us. We watched for a few minutes and then hiked along the path.
There is nothing mentioned in the Handbook of Nature Study about the salmon but I was surprised to find a section on goldfish. I read over the observation suggestions and they were quite good so we will be including a study of our goldfish when the weather is too yucky to go outside. There is always some way to fit nature study in if you are diligent.
We found a lot of interesting feathers on this hike. I love this polka dotted one the best. I am guessing it is a woodpecker feather but I am not sure.
“The color of feathers and often their shape make some birds more beautiful; while in others, the color of the feathers serves to protect them from the observation of their enemies.” Handbook of Nature Study, pages 31-32 about feathers as ornaments
What a great day for a family drive, hike, and picnic.
Here are some photos from our nature walk last weekend that I haven’t shared with you. The color of the aspens against the blue sky and greens of the evergreen forest make for a beautiful eyeful of complimentary color.
Would you ever get tired of seeing this view out your window? I would love to build a little cabin in the woods to retreat to when my life gets too stressful.
The Handbook of Nature Study has some wonderful ideas for tree study. From page 622: “During autumn the attention of the children should be attracted to the leaves by their gorgeous colors. It is well to use this interest to cultivate their knowledge of the forms of leaves of trees; but the teaching of the tree species to the young child should be done quite incidentally and guardedly. If the teacher says to the child bringing a leaf, ‘This is a white oak leaf,” the child will soon quite unconsciously learn that leaf by name. Thus, tree study may be begun in the kindergarten or the primary grades.”
Page 623-626 has activities to complete during each of the four seasons with your tree. I am anxious to apply these to the study of our tree that we are watching for a year.
I am finding so much to learn about nature in my own area of the world.
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