Preschool Explorers Search for Signs of Spring
Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Gerry Beetham
Bright blue skies and abundant sunshine greeted the Preschool Explorers for their first gathering of 2023! Temperatures in the 40s, breezes, and bird song invited us to search for signs of spring at the spectacular 66-acre Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve. As I was setting up for our program, two blue birds alighted on a branch right above me, offering such a cheerful sight as I eagerly awaited the company of our Explorers.
We began our outing with a reading of Spring for Sophie by Yael Werber, a precious book with lovely illustrations that explores how we can use our senses to notice nature’s transitions from winter to spring. What a treat to watch our HCT Explorers’ sweet and inquisitive faces as they listened with earnest and eager attention. I always find such delight when caregivers give shouts of “hooray” and clap after my readings.
One surefire sign of spring that Sophie noticed in the story was abundant bird song! Feeling inspired, we created red-winged blackbird wands for today’s art project. Black construction paper cutouts formed the body and our HCT Explorers glued red and yellow bands above the wings to create the male’s signature look. We used the field guide Birds of Massachusetts by Stan Tekiela as a reference when designing our Agelaius phonenieus. We attached our birds to stalks of phragmites by winding yarn around the reed to transform our art creations into wands.
We next listened to a recording of the red-winged blackbird’s call from The Little Book of Backyard Bird Songs by Andrea Pinnington & Caz Buckingham. Tweets of “Konk-a-ree… Konk-a-ree!” filled the Preserve as our toddlers practiced singing this song with me. We learned that these early migrators are found in marshes, wetlands, waterways, and farmland, where they feed on insects, seeds, fruit, and snails. Beautifully woven nests created by the females are found low in wetland vegetation. They lay 2-4 blue-green eggs speckled with brown flecks.
Time to head out for a saunter in search of signs of spring. Pausing on the path, we practiced our vegetation identification skills by pointing out poison ivy, button bush, sweet-pepper bush, cattails, and common reed. Further along, we stopped again to savor the babbling, bubbling sounds of Cold Brook. Earth stars, mosses, lichens, rocks, branches, leaves, fragrant wintergreen, and a wonderful variety of trees also decorated the trailside. There was a lot of animal sign to discover including deer tracks, an otter slide and scat, rabbit scat, and coyote scat and tracks! We kept calling out “Konk-a-ree…. Konk-a-ree” in the hopes of beckoning nearby birds we could hear off in the distance. We led our search saunter with our wands in hand and smiles stretched across our faces as we savored the sun kissing our faces and the breezes blowing our hair.
Thank you, Explorers, for sharing a glorious first day of March with me.
I look forward to seeing you next week as our adventures continue.