Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Gerry Beetham
If you were looking for the sunshine on Tuesday morning, you would have discovered radiant rays of light in the form of our curious and inquisitive Preschool Explorers at the D. Isabel Smith Monomoy River Conservation Lands. Cheerful smiles and brilliant yellow rain jackets brightened the otherwise gray day with a 90% chance of rain. Meeting at the trailhead, I shared our morning’s itinerary.
We started off sitting on a fallen log to listen to our first story of the day, If You Find A Leaf by Aimee Sicuro. This exquisite picture book celebrates autumn and encourages readers to see the colorful leaves around us in an entirely new way. The artist uses real leaves in an array of vibrant hues to make her oh-so-very charming illustrations. This rhythmic celebration of the season invites young imaginations to transform a leaf into a hat, a mask, a hammock, a superhero cape, or a sail of a boat.
This wonderful story inspired us to walk along the path and fill our paper bags with colorful leaves for puppet-making! While wandering, we identified our art project treasures: yellow catbrier leaves, brown and red oak leaves, and light green lichen. I handed each Explorer a magnifying lens so we could take a better look at nature’s gifts including the tiny brown mushrooms sprouting up from logs on the forest floor, bright green mosses, red capped mushrooms, the gray bark of the trees, and we even took a closer look into each other’s eyes. We also took a pause to pretend to ride a train on a large fallen tree. All aboard to Imagination Station!
One Explorer’s grandpa spied a spider among the leaf litter. It appeared to be a wolf spider, which can be found in almost any habitat. Interestingly, wolf spiders do not make webs to catch their prey and instead wait for an insect to walk by and then chase it down. They also have incredible eyesight with retroreflective tissue in the eyes, which glow if you flash light at their faces!
Our search saunter continued as we admired the forest floor decorated with the patterned leaves of the striped wintergreen and tie-dye swirls of color from fallen oak leaves. One mama discovered a camouflaged garter snake so we all paused to watch as it silently slithered under and over the leaves until it disappeared from view.
We brought our forest floor collections to a bench and sat down for a couple more stories before our arts and crafts session. I read parts of Owling: Enter the World of the Mysterious Birds of the Night by Mark Wilson and shared some general facts about these nocturnal raptors as we perused photos of barred, great-horned, screech, and saw-whet owls. After learning about their calls, we practiced hooting the great horned owl’s “whoo whoo who who”, the barred owl’s “who cooks for you”, and the saw-whet owl’s “beep beep beep”.
The final reading of the day for our cozy Explorers huddled on the bench was Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan, a sweet story about a little owl’s lovely night in the forest visiting his friend raccoon, listening to crickets, watching fog overhead, and admiring the stars.
Finally, out came the glue and markers so we could create our leaf and forest puppets. Once completed, our puppet masterpieces hooted back down the path like the owls we learned about. It was incredibly precious to hear preschoolers with their mothers and their grandparents hooting while walking together.
Then it was time to say goodbye until next week just as it started to rain.
Thank you for sharing a saunter with me this morning at another beautiful HCT property. I am already very much looking forward to next week’s adventures together.