See Wildlife in a New Light this Winter
Written By: Emillie Rose, HNH Project Manager
As winter approaches and days begin to get shorter, it can be easy to lose the motivation to spend time outside. The chilly air keeps us bundled up inside with a cup of tea, longing for rays of sunshine and warm breezes. Gone are the days of waking up to birdsong and seeing foxes and weasels run and hunt in fields. Or are they? Usually, we associate the sounds of birdsong, and critters climbing through branches and undergrowth with springtime, but our favourite species of wildlife can be active all year long, and in different ways than we’re used to seeing. Maybe they’re out searching for food, or collecting bits of fur and debris for their nests, so they can be bundled up inside too.
Tracks in the Snow
While training as a Wildlife Technologist, I spent many cold winter days climbing through forests, identifying and following tracks to determine which species were present and what they were doing there. It’s truly amazing what kinds of stories you can unearth, just based on the tracks and signs left behind:
Picture this: You’re wandering through the snow when suddenly you see a small set of tracks. You think they look similar to a dog’s but not quite the same. Four toes, marks in the snow showing claws, an oval shape overall….it must be a fox! The stride seems pretty typical so it must have just been walking through. Suddenly, the tracks get closer together and sink deeper into the snow. Surely it must have been slowing down? They then shoot to the left, veering off of their original path. You speed up slightly, feeling as though you’re keeping pace with the animal. A second set of tracks appear. A jumble at first, the frantic animal then had straightened out. Getting down closer to the ground you take a look at this new set of tracks. The fox was hunting a rabbit! The tracks carry on through the undergrowth. You wind around bare bushes, small evergreen trees, and even almost climb under a spruce to see where they ended up (thankfully you saw the tracks coming out the other side first). The tracks seem to be getting more panicked and for a moment you even think you see a tuft of fur. Coming around a boulder, both tracks come to an abrupt stop outside a small hole in the ground. You lean forward to take a closer look. It’s definitely a burrow, and there’s no way the fox could have fit inside. Relieved for the rabbit but disappointed for the fox and their meal you stand back up straight and lean against the boulder. The sun is starting to set, you must have been out for a couple hours already. As you turn to follow your own set of tracks back, your eye catches on a bit of orange amongst the white. Vibrant as the sunset on the snow, you see him staring at you. He cocks his head slightly to the side, then turns and trots away. Probably going to get warm in his den, you turn away to go home to yours.
Winter Fun with Friends and Family
This fall/winter season, I challenge you to experience wildlife in a way you maybe haven’t before. Let’s educate ourselves on the species living around us and find new ways to enjoy their presence.
1. Learn Some Bird Calls
Another way to enjoy your time around wildlife is to learn to identify birds by their calls. You may already be familiar with the telling “dee-dee-dee” of the Black-capped Chickadee or the loud caw and click of the Blue Jay, but have you ever listened to “laughter” of the White-breasted Nuthatch, or the almost dinosaur-like rattle of the Sandhill Crane?
A great way to seek out these bird sounds is by using the Audubon Society website. It contains a guide with the calls of most birds in North America.
Many people also remember calls by writing it out as if the birds were speaking. The song of the Black-capped Chickadee is said to sound like “cheeseburger” while a Yellow Warbler says “sweet sweet sweet”. Have a bit of fun with friends or family by writing these out together!
2. Check a Local Bookstore or Library for ID/Tracking Books
It’s always important to support local businesses when we can, or take advantage of the variety of materials available to us at our libraries. Try having fun this winter by teaching yourself something new. You’ll be surprised by how many different ID books exist for the species you want to learn more about. Usually these books are regional, and contain some general information on each species, as well as the best ways to identify them correctly! You could learn about mammals, birds, waterfowl, animal tracks, or even how to identify trees and shrubs with no leaves if you want to find out what plants the wildlife are eating or living in!
3. Participate in a Citizen Science Project
You may or may not have heard of “citizen science” projects before. In short, it’s a way that anyone can be involved in research, regardless of experience or training. A couple examples of this are websites/phone apps called EBird (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology) and iNaturalist.
EBird allows you to make note of what species of bird you saw, where, and on what date. This data then goes into a large database. There are maps existing for each bird species, showing every sighting that was logged, and through this, we are able to see migration paths. The site also keeps a list for you of every different species you’ve seen. Try exploring the website and see which species are usually seen in your area at this time of year!
You’re also able to join or set up your own “Christmas Bird Count” with EBird! This event involves a group joining together on a chosen date in the month of December and spending the day exploring and keeping track of all the birds they see, to be uploaded to EBird at the end. This is often set up by local naturalist or birding groups, but anyone can do it.
iNaturalist allows you to upload pictures of any species at all (plant, bird, insect, etc.) and avid naturalists from around the world can identify them. This allows you to connect with other people who are also passionate about the environment, or lets you test out your own identification skills if you want to ID someone else’s photo.
You can also participate in these projects from the comfort of your own home. Set up a bird feeder near a window and sit back and enjoy!
Regardless of your specific interests or capabilities, there are ways for everyone to enjoy the outdoors during a season that often seems so bleak. Reach out to friends, go on walks, read a book, look online, or sit back and enjoy the view. Just remember: the best way to appreciate the environment is together!
Rosmarie Lohnes is offering three amazing workshops at Helping Nature Heal headquarters: 671 Lahave Street, Bridgewater. Please call the office for pricing and registration at 902-543-7416.
Paper Making Workshop
Wednesday, November 22 from 6 – 9 pm
Natural Decor Workshop
Wednesday, December 6 from 6 – 9 pm
Natural Gift Wrap Workshop
Wednesday, December 13 from 6 – 9 pm
Eco-Landscape Design Course
Our popular 6-week Ecological Landscape Design Course is for anyone interested in ecological landscape design whether for a particular site or in general, who also is interested in sustainable-low maintenance, organic, restorative , natural and/or food producing landscapes. No previous experience necessary! We have limited spaces available for our upcoming 2024 winter course, so contact us and sign up today!
Wednesday (1-4 PM), January 3th – February 7th 2024
Wednesday (1-4 PM), March 13th – April 17th 2024
- Pre-recorded course: $195+tax
- 6 week live sessions (with optional homework): $295+tax
- Live session + site visit (Lunenburg + Queens county): $395+tax
Interested? Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org | 902.543.7416
During the fall season we get many requests for landscape design services and consultations. Of course, any time of the year is the right time to get to know your property and create the landscape you’ve always wanted. However, the fall season can be the best time to get out in the crisp air, explore your landscape and start planning for the spring!
Our services (among many other things) include winter protection, landscape design services or collecting baseline data, monitoring changes as a result of storm and winter effects and creating data trends for your property.
If you have been thinking about booking a consultation with Helping Nature Heal, rest assured that it’s not too late! In fact, fall and winter are ideal seasons for a site visit.
During this time, we have a unique opportunity to create essential baseline data for your landscaping project. The cooler months provide a clearer view of your property’s existing conditions, helping us better understand its ecological dynamics. We can assess factors such as soil composition, drainage patterns, presence of native flora and fauna, percent land cover, shoreline location and land contours.
Moreover, fall and winter are the perfect seasons to initiate monitoring efforts. By starting now, we can establish a baseline for tracking changes in your landscape’s ecological health throughout the year. This data will guide our sustainable landscaping recommendations and ensure that your outdoor space thrives in harmony with the natural environment.
Click on the photo above to learn more!
To book a consultation today, click here for our booking form or call the Helping Nature Heal office at (902) 543-7416!