TRAIL REPORT: Trails very Icy! Not enough snow.
This Friday, first grade students from Sawyer School will travel to Crossroads to participate in their “Night Tree” celebration.
This Crossroads tradition started six or seven years ago when teacher Jane Bumgardner read the charming children’s book Night Tree by Eve Bunting to her class. It is the story of a family which makes an annual pilgrimage to the forest to decorate a favorite evergreen with food for the forest creatures. The children at Sawyer School wanted to feed the animals too.
Since then, each year, the children make edible tree decorations for the birds and mammals and bring them to Crossroads to deck their favorite tree. But first, gathered around fireplace and under the giant tree in the Collins Learning Center, Ms. Bumgardner re-reads the story (which most of the kids can recite from memory) one more time. After singing a song (to make me happy), w all head off to the woods.
This year, we are adding a new tradition to the “Night Tree” celebration. The children also will be feeding butterflies, birds and mammals in years to come, because on the trail to the evergreen forest, they will be “snow sowing” wildflowers. The native seeds were collected and donated by members of Wild Ones of Door County.
December may seem an odd time to plant flowers, but actually, the snow sowing technique best imitates nature. Natural seeding happens every day blows here in Door County, which essentially means, every day. The wilted flowers of last summer have developed into seed heads, and each gust spreads seeds on the surface of the snow. Understand that the seeds of native plants are genetically programmed to germinate only after going through a significant period of cold. During winter, ice can weaken or crack open hard seed coats. Wildflower seeds won’t start to grow unless they are moist.
When enthusiastic children broadcast seeds (which are mixed with sawdust) on the snow surface, the seeds, being dark, will absorb heat from the Sun so they sink through the snow, melting all the way down to the ground. Little barbs on many of the seeds will actually pull the seeds underground during the freeze/thaw cycles of winter and early spring. Consequently, by spring, the seeds are planted and appropriately moist by the time increasing daylight and spring temperatures trigger germination.
We know that winter birds are opportunists and they will consume some of the seeds. Let’s hope lots of seed eating birds find this unexpected bounty on Saturday, December 20 because this is the day for the Annual Christmas Bird County. Crossroads staff will participate the whole day, but for novice birders who have never done a count, or for people who can’t commit to a whole day and yet want to participate this valuable citizen science project, we will sponsor two hour-long field trips to various parts of the preserve. The group hikes will begin at 10:00 and 2:00 Those wanting to continue to count are welcome to do so. Participants should dress warmly, and bring binoculars if they have a good pair. Otherwise, Crossroads has loaner binoculars. Each field trip will be followed by a hot chocolate or coffee break by the welcoming fire in the Collins Learning Center.
Saturday activities will not end at sundown. At 6:30 the Door County Astronomical Society will hold a Viewing Night at StarGarden and Leif Everson Observatory at the Crossroads Astronomy Campus. It’s easy to find. Just drive up Utah Street until you see the “Exoplanet X” sculpture at the gate to Star Gazer Trail. Members of the DPAS will be on hand to help you explore the beautiful night sky of Door County…..if the night sky is beautiful. Otherwise, they will offer an indoor program.
The Winter Solstice will occur on December 21 at 5:03 p.m. CST. That’s 23:03 Universal time on Sunday, December 21. The word solstice means “the sun stands still”. It doesn’t, but it does mean (thank goodness) that from this day on, the days will be getting longer. Join the naturalist for a night hike at 5:03 —it will be dark —lasting about 45 minutes and enjoy Crossroads during the longest night of the year. Dress warmly and meet at the Collins Learning Center.
Crossroads is a donor-supported preserve welcoming learners of all ages to programs in science, history and the environment.
The Collins Learning Center, located at 2041 Michigan, will be closed this week, but will be open to the public 2:00-4:30 beginning December 19. Trails are open, but while snow is on the ground, designated Ski Trails are reserved for skiers only. Walking, biking and snowshoeing should be done on designated trails.
Saturday, December 20
10:00 and/or 2:00 Christmas Bird County Hikes
Those wishing to help count birds for an hour should meet at the Collins Learning Center. Loaner binoculars available. Coffee and hot chocolate will be served after the hike by the welcoming fire in the Collins Learning Center. Free and open to the public.
6:30 Night Sky Viewing at the Astronomy Campus
The Door County Astronomical Society will hold a Viewing Night at StarGarden and Leif Everson Observatory at the Crossroads Astronomy Campus. It’s easy to find. Just drive up Utah Street until you see the “Exoplanet X” sculpture at the gate to Star Gazer Trail. Members of the DPAS will be on hand to help you explore the beautiful night sky of Door County…..if the night sky is beautiful. Otherwise, they will offer an indoor program. Free and open to the public
Sunday, December 21
5:30 pm. Winter Solstice Night Hike
To celebrate the Winter Solstice, join the naturalist for a night hike —it will be dark —lasting about 45 minutes and enjoy Crossroads during the longest night of the year. Dress warmly and meet at the Collins Learning Center.