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Not only is winter the ideal season for tracking because of the blank canvas that snow provides, the cold temperatures help to open up access to habitats that cannot be explored during the rest of the year. In particular, winter is an excellent time to learn about beaver habitat!

Once ponds have iced over for the season, beaver habitat is easily accessible on foot or with the help of skis or snowshoes. If the ice is safe, go visit your local beaver pond. Find the beavers’ lodge and inspect it up close to see how it’s built. Search for evidence of warmth, like steam or melting snow atop the lodge.

Across the pond, visit the beavers’ dam. Since the dam is holding back water above a river or stream, the ice around the dam is often thin and unsafe for walking on. From a safe distance, examine the dam’s construction and observe the types of trees used and the size of the trunks that were felled.

Don’t be fooled by misconceptions – beavers don’t hibernate during the winter! Be sure to walk around the pond to search for evidence of recent forays into the snowy landscape. In places where the entire water surface has frozen over, beavers may maintain an open hole in the ice for coming and going. They may also chew on young branches, leaving behind the inner twig wood.

Eager to go learn about beavers? Download our free Nature Guide, “Tips for Exploring Beaver Habitat: Lodges, Dams, Caches, and Adaptations,” to learn more about beaver lodges and dams, as well as the food coaches and special adaptations that help them get through the winter!

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new Learning Landscape, which aims to inspire learning along with a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. The hope is to bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. September has brought a nature table filled by the hands of young amateur scientists. As we work to build our… Read More


Every month, Hilltown Families features a new Learning Landscape, which aims to inspire learning along with a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. The hope is to bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. Download this month’s Learning Landscape to help open up children’s eyes to the unique attributes of each season, and to help them learn how to see these things in nature for themselves.

The June Landscape

After spring’s landscape revival, June is paradise – leaves and lawns are a thick green, the air is warm, and every single living thing around is thoroughly enjoying being alive. The start of summer is an explosion of life so great that it’s nearly impossible to notice the individual phenomena taking place – it comes in one beautifully orchestrated burst!

Of note in late spring and early summer is the appearance of dandelions. Taraxicum officinale, as its scientifically known, is generally considered a weed. Though not the most incredible of flowers, dandelions are some of the first blooms to dot the landscape once the weather warms, and they provide essential food to pollinators – particularly bees. In fact, intentionally leaving lawns un-mowed to allow dandelions to flourish can be essential to the survival of bee populations.

Learning Landscape for April: Spring’s Big Night & Vernal Pool Habitat The April Landscape April is a month of massive transition here in New England. March’s maple sugaring season often runs into the month’s earliest days, while the tail end of April is filled with new life and much green. Spring emerges on its own time, and its arrival varies from year to year. Regardless, the pattern of melting, emergence, and growth… Read More

Whether the winter has been harsh or mild, late winter is the toughest time of year for wildlife to find food. Knowing a few easy-to-spot and heavily relied on food sources in your local landscape can help to illuminate the habits of local creatures, as they’ll be frequenting their most reliable late winter food sources this time of year!

Learn more and find the downloadable education resource in this month’s Learning Landscape!

While projecting our human view of nature onto the natural world makes it seem dead and lifeless, it’s actually full of life that’s well-adapted to winter’s ways. By learning basic animal tracking, even the most amateur naturalists can begin to learn about the ways of creatures who are active during the wintertime. This month’s guide highlights the tracks and habits of small mammals, deer, and birds.

While the suddenly-bleak landscape of December may not seem like an ideal context in which to begin to connect more deeply with nature, it truly is! The snowy backdrop brings to light some of the natural world’s most everyday occurrences that go unnoticed in a landscape filled with lush color and detail. The new snowy landscape provides ample opportunity to begin to search for and notice bark, lichen, hardy mushrooms, tracks, scat, and middens!

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