Nature at Night

Nightly backyard excursions with my new pup have lent a unique perspective to nature. Twice now I’ve watched a large rabbit stand guard over a grassy nest that went unnoticed during daylight. Beneath a full moon, trees cast shadows across the lawn. And the birds! I must have known they sang all night in springtime, yet their midnight song still came as a surprise.

Experiencing the outdoors in different circumstances heightens our senses and offers new insight into the natural world. This spring, challenge your own nature awareness by following an unfamiliar path, visiting a new park, or even venturing into the dark.

I’ll be grateful when the latest addition to my household is sleeping through the night. I’ll also be grateful for the experiences I’ve gained from my nightly outings. Whether it be frog song, a drift of stars, or the passage of geese overhead, sometimes we see most clearly when we can hardly see at all.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Director

 

 

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Adkins Arboretum: A Wellness Hot-Spot

During your visits to Adkins Arboretum, or any natural setting, for that matter, have you 01c24b6_IMG_8189noticed that being in nature clears your mind, relaxes your body and recharges your batteries? Well, there is science to back it up!

Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese name for Forest Therapy, which means “taking in the forest atmosphere.” It was developed in the 1980s to encourage urbanites to engage with nature and has become a common practice in Japanese preventative health care and healing; it’s even covered by insurance! Simply stated, visiting a natural area and walking in a relaxed way promotes physiological and psychological health.

Those of us who enjoy nature on a regular basis seem to know intuitively that we feel better and are more calm and rejuvenated. But science has proven the health benefits are real and include a boost in immune system functioning, reduced blood pressure and stress, improved mood and sleep benefits, an increased energy level and a boost in memory and learning capacity. Creative people such as painters and writers improve their creativity by as much as 50% by retreating to the woods.

Forest therapy is not a hike or excursion where the object is getting to a certain destination or gaining information from guides or research activities. It simply involves walking in a forest quietly, slowly and deliberately. Open all of your senses, taking in the sounds, smells, colors, forms and “energy” or “vibes” of nature.

This concept is certainly not new. Historically, ancient cultures have had an intimate relationship with the environment. These cultures have honored the sun, the moon, mountains, rivers, trees and the other living creatures that we share the planet with. These ancient peoples had an innate instinct to connect emotionally with nature.

On your next visit, leave the phone in the car and leave the Fitbit home! Walk,  sit, or meander slowly and quietly amongst the trees. Tap into the healing power of nature and soothe your spirit.

You can practice Shinrin-yoku for yourself on Saturday, June 17, right here at Adkins Arboretum. Click here to learn more and to register. 

by Lisa Winters
Maryland Master Naturalist

Snow (geese) in the forecast

Snow (Geese) in the Forecast

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” website includes this sentence: “Watching huge flocks of Snow Geese swirl down from the sky, amid a cacophony of honking, is a little like standing inside a snow globe.” In winter, those of us living on Maryland’s Eastern Shore are right there in that snow globe. My drive to the Arboretum passes by numerous farm fields, and each winter I’m freshly amazed at the blizzard of geese on all sides.

During the summer months, snow geese breed in the Canadian and North Alaskan tundra. Females build shallow scrape nests that they line with their own downy feathers. Social to the extreme, these medium-sized geese with thick necks and pink bills can form flocks of up to several hundred thousand. They migrate along all four of North America’s largest flyways, wintering on fields and in wetlands, where they forage for grasses, sedges, rushes, roots, tubers, and other vegetation. Female snow geese will spend up to eighteen hours a day foraging, which may explain the astonishing six to fifteen droppings they produce each hour.

In 1916, the hunting of snow geese was prohibited due to low population levels. Hunting was reintroduced in the 1970s following a significant increase in the population levels, which continued to rise in the years that followed. This is a good thing for cold weather lovers like myself: snow or no snow, we can count on the geese to bring some winter white to the landscape.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Director

Master Naturalist training…exploring nature

mmn-three-logos

Maryland Master Naturalist training is in its fourth month. So far, we have explored the worlds of botany, ecology, interpretation, and ornithology. Our training has taken us to Adkins Arboretum, Phillips Wharf, and Pickering Creek, partnered host sites that provide a unique outdoor classroom experience. Our next class will focus on insects, integrated pest management, and natural science.

A new class will begin in October 2017 and meet on the third Wednesday of each month cqrol oysterthrough July 2018. Please consider joining us. The Master Naturalist program began in 2011 as a pilot program focusing on the Coastal Plain. We have graduated four classes: 2011, 2013, 2015-16, and 2016-17. For more information, please e-mail me at raffron@adkinsarboretum.org

Robyn Affron
Master Naturalist Facilitator

Woodpeckers & winter birds

Looking for a flash of red this season? The downy woodpecker provides color in backyard

bird feeders throughout winter, feeding on suet when its usual diet of insects, seeds, and berries is restricted by cold weather. In addition to the slow drumming sound made by pecking trees, this species of woodpecker is characterized by a short “pik” call. Downy woodpeckers roost in tree cavities to shelter from winter’s chill.

Downy woodpeckers are the smallest of North America’s woodpeckers, with a length of between 5 and 7 inches and a weight of around one ounce. Downies are mostly black, with a white back, throat, and belly. They have white spots on their wings and white bars above and below their eyes. Juveniles sport red caps, and adult males have a red patch on the back of their heads.

Backyard birders can lure downy woodpeckers to their yards with suet feeders. Different birds prefer different food: goldfinches and song sparrows are partial to nyjer seed, while nuthatches, jays, chickadees, and purple finches prefer black oil sunflower. Millet attracts Eastern towhees and dark-eyed juncos, and cardinals enjoy dining on safflower. Robins, bluebirds, and cedar waxwings are fond of fruit: add a handful of raisins to the feeder to attract these birds.

To enjoy winter birds in the wild, visit the Arboretum in the weeks ahead. Some birds have migrated, but many are still active in the Arboretum’s thickets, meadows, and woodlands. If you’re lucky, you might even hear the “pik” of the downy or see a spot of red through the trees.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Director