Read an Excerpt
Take A Winter Nature Walk
By Jane Kirkland, Rob Kirkland, Dorothy Burke, Melanie Palaisa
Stillwater PublishingCopyright © 2012 Stillwater Publishing
All rights reserved.
Are You Ready to Discover ...
You're about to set out on a real adventure. Not only will you make discoveries and see things you haven't noticed before, you're going to complete this unfinished book — and only you can finish it! You are going to take a winter nature walk and discover nature and the many surprises it holds.
One of my favorite winter nature discoveries happened to me when I wasn't even interested in nature and it happened in an unusual place — my grocery store parking lot!
It was a chilly winter day. I had just finished my shopping and was loading my groceries into the back of my van. I reached up to close the back door and there, above my head, I saw a Bald Eagle.
It was soaring in circles. I gasped at the sight. I couldn't believe my eyes! A Bald Eagle — right there in the sky above my neighborhood! WOW!
I rushed to the state park next to my house to tell the rangers about my exciting discovery. But the rangers weren't excited — or surprised.
What Was I Thinking?
Before I wrote Take a Walk® books, I wrote more than 40 books about computer software. I spent my life at my desk, in front of the computer, day in and day out. When I started to take nature breaks every day, my life changed! I discovered and fell in love with nature. And now, years later, I still see new things every day.
One ranger said, "Jane, Bald Eagles have been soaring over this neighborhood for twenty years. They visit mostly in the winter because a part of our lake is so deep it doesn't freeze over like the other nearby lakes. They come for the food — the fish and the waterfowl. I'm surprised you haven't seen one before".
It was exciting to see the Bald Eagle. But it was a shock to learn that Bald Eagles had been around my neighborhood for a long time and I was too busy doing other things to notice. I made a promise to myself that day that I would take a nature break every day — and look to the sky, at the ground, and all around me, just to notice what's nearby and what's happening in nature. I'm so glad I made that promise!
... Nature in the Winter?
Are you ready to explore nature in the winter? Are you ready to see what you've been missing? This book will help you to learn how to find and safely observe nature.
There are three sections to this book: Ready, Set, and Go! Here in the eady section you'll learn how to prepare for your winter nature walk.
In the Set section, I'll explain why some birds leave for the winter and why some animals sleep. You'll learn about the advantages of white fur and white feathers.
In the Go section you'll learn how to find and identify animals and the tracks they leave in the snow. This section also contains a page for you to take field notes, one to draw a map, and another to record your observations. There are even photos to help you identify the wildlife you find.
Throughout this book you'll see artwork and poetry by other kids — just like you — and fun and interesting sidebars. You can read this book in any order you wish. Just remember it isn't finished until you go outside to explore.
Once you know where to look and what to look for, you'll see just how exciting a winter nature walk can be! There is nature around us, above us, and under our feet all year long. Nature is everywhere and to see it you only need to look! Are you ready to discover nature in winter?
Dress properly. Wear shoes that will keep your feet warm and dry. Wear layers of clothing because layering is good insulation and if you get too warm, you can remove an outer layer to cool off. A hat will not only keep your head warm. It will help to keep your body warm too because heat escapes through our heads. Wear gloves or mittens, too. Face it, if you're too cold, your feet are wet, or your hands hurt from the cold, you won't enjoy being outdoors. But dressing properly can help you to tolerate winter weather much more comfortably.
Take this book. This book will help you to find and observe nature.
Leave only footprints. The only thing you should leave behind you is your footprints in the snow.
Get Ready! What Makes ...
Winter is cool! Seriously. I realize that some people think that winter is a slow and boring time of year. They are simply uninformed. Sure, the days are short — and cold. But that's because the earth is tilted on its axis. In the winter months North America is tilted away from the sun and we have fewer hours of sunlight. In fact, in winter we experience the shortest day of our year (see the sidebar, right).
The short, cold days are exactly what make winter exciting. They set the scene for a life or death battle for plants and animals. Because there is less sunlight, everything gets colder. Less sunlight and colder temperatures mean plants can't grow as fast.
Cold-blooded animals, such as worms, insects, amphibians, and reptiles, can't move around as fast. Warm-blooded animals, such as birds and mammals, have to work harder to stay warm.
If the temperature gets cold enough for water to freeze, living things are in great danger of dying. Plants and animals have water inside them. If the water inside their cells freezes, those cells will die. If enough cells die, the whole plant or animal may die. So plants and animals have many ways of surviving winter weather.
What Can You See Below?
Look at the winter scene below, painted by my friend Bradley Smith. See if you can find a groundhog, a deer, three Chickadees, and two Cardinals. Look carefully and you can even see a butterfly! The Mourning Cloak butterfly is one of the few butterflies that winters over in cold areas as an adult! It is in the pile of dirt and leaves.
Winter is everywhere.
Ice covers the water.
Nights are long and cold.
Tracks of animals as they go.
Evergreens covered with snow.
Resting for spring.
By Ryan Evanko, age 11, Port Matilda, PA.
... Winter So Cool?
Plants have three ways of surviving cold. One: produce a lot of seeds, then die (like sunflowers). The seeds survive the winter and sprout in the spring.
Two: die back to the root system (like tulips, which have bulbs). The roots survive the winter underground and sprout in the spring.
And three: reduce the amount of water in their cells (like trees and shrubs). The water between the cells may freeze, but the cells, with hardly any water in them, won't freeze. In spring, when the ice between the cells melts, the cells absorb the water again.
Animals have five ways of surviving winter. One: lay eggs and die. Two: find a warm place and sleep. Three: reduce the water in their cells (like plants do). Four: leave — go someplace else for the winter. And five (which only the warm-blooded animals can do): stay active and tough it out. Some frogs go underground. Some bats sleep. Some butterflies lay eggs. Some birds fly south. Some squirrels rob bird feeders all winter long.
Winter is not a slow and boring time in nature — it's exciting! Nature in the winter is beautiful — and totally cool!
The shortest day of the year in North America happens in December and is called the winter solstice (SOUL-stiss). On that day there are about 10 hours of daylight in the southern U.S., 9 hours in the northern U.S., and 6 in Alaska.
The longest day of the year is in June and it's called the summer solstice. On that day there are about 14 hours of daylight in the southern U.S., 15 in the northern U.S., and 19 in Alaska.
One day each spring and fall, daylight and darkness both last about 12 hours everywhere. Those days are known as the vernal (spring) and autumnal (fall) equinoxes (EE-kwuh-nok-ses).
See some good earth orbit animations on the Web by searching for "animation earth sun".
Get Set! Meet ...
Different animals do different things to survive the winter. Some sleep, some move away, and others stay and winter over. Those that sleep are dormant; hearts, breathing, and brain activity slow down.
Perhaps the most famous winter sleepers are the bears. And here's a secret: bears don't hibernate (HIGH-ber-nate), not exactly. Bears enter a state of torpor (TOR-por) in the winter. You and I use the word "hibernate" to mean winter sleep. But there are different kinds of winter sleep for animals. One of those kinds of sleep is torpor.
During torpor, an animal's body temperature drops slightly and its heart rate and breathing slow down. But it can be easily awakened. Some animals enter a state of torpor for days or weeks, some just during very cold nights. Torpor is a kind of light hibernation. And hibernation is a sort of uber torpor!
During true hibernation, the body temperature, heartbeat, and breathing drop to a near-death state. Animals live off their body fat. It takes about 18 hours for an animal to enter a state of hibernation and about 3 hours for it to wake up. Most hibernators are mid-sized mammals and rodents.
Unlike bears, hibernating animals won't awaken if you walk near them or make noises. In fact, hibernating animals won't wake up until it is time for them to wake up. Bats, woodchucks, and some ground squirrels hibernate.
Asleep or inactive. In a state of rest.
The ultimate, most powerful, and best.
From the German word über.
I remember this riddle from when I was about six years old. I still think it's clever. Ready? Who brings toys to bears at Christmas? See the answer below.
... Some Serious Winter Sleepers
Reptiles and amphibians have a state of long-term sleep, too. They are cold blooded animals and their body temperature drops as it gets colder outside. To survive the cold, they enter a state similar to hibernation called brumation (brew-MAY-shun). Some brumate under water. Others gather close together in in aves, under leaves, or between rocks to help keep their dormant bodies from freezing. The gathering place is called a hibernaculum (high-ber-NAK-you-lum).
Some insects become dormant by entering a state called diapause (DIE-a-paws). In diapause all growth stops, allowing insects to overwinter as larvae or eggs, as in the case of butterflies and dragonflies. Diapause is triggered by days becoming shorter, temperatures lower, or changes in the quantity or quality of food. Diapause can occur at times other than winter.
Hibernation, torpor, diapause, and brumation are all states of dormancy and all ways to survive the winter. Sometimes I feel dormant. If the weather is too cold or wet to comfortably take a nature walk, I stay cuddled up by the fireplace in my pj's and watch the birds at my feeder outside. That counts as my official nature break for the day. Why not? Observing nature should be fun — you don't have to freeze to do it.
More Wintering Animals
Fish survive winter by moving into deeper water that (hopefully) won't freeze. Raccoons and skunks enter a state of torpor during the coldest of the winter weather. Chipmunks sleep a lot but come up from their dens for food during the winter. Beavers stay in their lodges but come out for food they store nearby. Squirrels often build nests in tree trunks and stay inside a lot to keep warm. Turtles and frogs burrow into the mud and go to sleep. I spend a lot of time in my office but emerge to take a nature walk when the sun shines or the snow falls!
Butterflies in Winter?
The Mourning Cloak Butterfly winters over as an adult butterfly, buried under leaves, in tree holes, or under loose bark on a tree trunk. On sunny, warm February days it might awaken and fly for a few hours. A butterfly in winter. Who knew?
Get Set! Meet ...
Different animals do different things to survive the winter. Some sleep, some move away, and others stay and winter over. Those that move away migrate — which means they move with the seasons food source.
Caribou, whales, and some butterflies, dragonflies, and even bats migrate. Animals often migrate in very large groups and sometimes mixed species travel together. There is safety in numbers. There are also more pairs of eyes to look for food and spot predators.
Migrating birds head south in the autumn to their winter grounds and north in the spring to their breeding grounds. Some people don't realize that their backyards are the wintering grounds for species that nest farther north of them.
I live in Southeast Pennsylvania. The Darkeyed Junco is a species of bird that winters here. I see them at my feeders as I look out my office window every winter. When they arrive, I know winter has arrived.
A certain kind, variety, or type of living creature.
Birds in Winter
Eating more food
Eating more often
Footprints in the snow
Fluffed up feathers
By Kelsey Leach, age 7, of Menomonie, WI.
... Some Magnificent Migrators
Animals that migrate have a difficult fight for survival — especially the birds. It is estimated that only 30 percent of wild birds survive their first migration. Weather plays a big factor in migration survival. So do cars, people, cell towers, hi-rises, housing developments, pollution, and habitat and native plant destruction.
Animals need to eat, drink, and rest along their migratory paths and every year that becomes more and more difficult for them. As we continue to strip our landscape, we remove food sources and shelter for animals. Our highways make it difficult for animals to cross without crashing into windshields or getting run over. We destroy our natural world faster than animals can adapt to the changes we make. Many species of plants and animals are going extinct because of loss of habitat.
We can help. Even the small things we do can make a difference. We can supply food by hanging feeders and planting native plants. We can provide water sources. We can be aware of the animals that migrate and the seasons in which they move and keep a protective eye and ear out for them. These things will help the animals that migrate and those that winter over too.
Alaska to New Zealand
Some species of birds travel thousands of miles every year to and from their nesting and winter territories. In 2007, scientists tracked a female Bar-tailed Godwit (a shorebird) that flew 7,145 miles (11,500 kilometers) from Alaska to New Zealand. It never stopped to take a break for food or drink. That was the longest migration ever measured. WOW. I once flew to New Zealand — in a plane, of course — and it took 12 hours. I ate, drank, slept, and watched two movies. I also complained about the long flight. What a wuss!
Winter wind is whirling.
Snowflakes are swirling.
Squirrels settle in their nests.
Birds fly south for the winter.
Bears hibernate in their caves.
Trees lose leaves.
The grass is covered with snow.
Winter is here!
By Anna Mullane, age 7, of N. Chelmsford, MA.
Swallowed by Swallows!
One fall day I was taking a walk in Cape May NJ. The path where I walked was lined with Bayberry bushes. Suddenly, hundreds (maybe thousands) of migrating Tree Swallows swooped down from the sky into the bushes. In about five minutes flat they stripped those bushes of all the berries. What a sight that was!
et Set! Meet ...
Some species of animals stay active all winter long. To survive they have developed adaptations that help them to find food and stay warm.
Food can be scarce in the winter. Some animals adapt to winter's lack of food by changing their diet. Some store food for the winter. Some fatten themselves up by eating as much as possible in the fall before winter or even during winter whenever they do find food.
Staying warm can be a problem even for mammals. Although mammals' fur has two layers of hair year-round, their winter coat is different. For some species, a winter coat is simply more hair (fur) than their summer coat. For others the winter hairs are actually thicker. Some grow longer hair. Some grow a coat of a different color. Some do it all.
Another way to stay warm is to stay under the snow. Snowflakes trap air and trapped air is good insulation. Some rodents, such as mice and voles, tunnel under the snow for the entire winter. Why not? A blanket of snow can even insulate plants for the winter.
This Eastern Gray Squirrel, a winter-adapted mammal, has two layers of fur. The outer layer has coarse, long hairs that protect the inner layer, or under hair. The under hair is shorter and finer. In winter, his coat gets thicker and helps him survive the cold.
Excerpted from Take A Winter Nature Walk by Jane Kirkland, Rob Kirkland, Dorothy Burke, Melanie Palaisa. Copyright © 2012 Stillwater Publishing. Excerpted by permission of Stillwater Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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