To kick off our second session of the Wee Naturalist program, my elder son and I headed to Russell Woods Forest Preserve on Groundhog’s Day to listen about, you guessed it, woodchucks.
We learned that the Delaware Indians called the ground squirrel “wuchak” or “wojak” (didn’t get the spelling) and that they were important to the tribe as ancestral grandparents. The animal was also referred to as “dirt ham” as well as “whistle pig”.
Groundhog’s Day is precisely in the middle of the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Whether or not shadows are seen, this is a great time to consider a few more winter hikes while longing for spring time.
The word of the day was herbaceous and we discussed the differences of herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. The class size was perfect and the instruction an excellent balance of science and entertainment, geared towards budding naturalists ages 5 and 6 (or a bit older).
With deep snow in the woods, the nature center’s bird feeders were bustling and we watched several common species: Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black Capped Chickadee, Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-throated Sparrow and more.
We also had fun watching the resident tortoise, who was wandering around, and fox snake who was not.
We took a short hike to the bridge to look for tracks in the snow, but the main nature trail was covered in deep snow. We are already excited about next month’s program!