Monday, July 24, 2017

High up in the Clouds

Our group of three adults, four boys ages 6-11, and one excited Aussie, could not wait to begin our assent to to the summit of Mount Wachusett located in Princeton, MA. Mount Wachusett and the surrounding forest did not disappoint, we climbed high into the sky to reach a height of 2006 feet. Once at the summit we were greeted with vast views and a Ranger who showed talked with us about the different wildlife found around the Mount Wachusett mountain. He let the kids feel pelts and look at skeletons. 

From the summit on a clear day, you can take in views of Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire, the Berkshires to the west, and the Boston skyline to the east. The 3,000-acre Wachusett Mountain State Reservation surrounds the summit and offers many opportunities to explore. The Reservation's natural resources include forests, alpine meadows, ponds, streams, fields, and even a perched bog. Recreational opportunities abound at the reservation including hiking, nature study, hawk watching, picnicking, and skiing. The Reservation offers 17 miles of hiking and walking trails, including 3.9 miles of the Midstate Trail, which runs from Ashburnham to the Rhode Island border. Mountain Road stretches to the John Hitchcock Visitor's Center at the summit, a short distance from the Wachusett Mountain Ski Area, which is the largest in eastern Massachusetts.

We parked at the visitor center, it is important to note that the parking lot at the visitor center is limited to 28 spaces, available on a first come first serve basis. If the lotus full, you will be redirected to another trail head around the perimeter of the mountain.

Road to the Summit:
The road to the summit will open for the season on Saturday May 23, 2015 at 1:00pm. It will then be open daily from 9:00am to sunset through the last weekend in October. There is a $5.00 fee to access parking along the summit road and for the parking lots.

Trail Maps:
Suggested Hikes
A hike up this beautiful mountain is a great day, adults, kids and Aussies all agree!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Hike Up a Not So Sleepy Giant

Named for its resemblance to a sleeping giant, Sleeping Giant State Park located in Hamden, CT offers both challenging and leisure trails for adults and their canine companions alike.

In addition to a great hike, there are opportunities to fish and picnic. A great place to spend the day.

As you approach the parking lot for Sleeping Gian State Park, you will see Quinnipiac College directly across the street. You can park further down the road and avoid paying a fee to enter. We chose to park right in the lot as we wanted to make a donation to the park. There is a higher fee for out of state cars so check the web site before you go.

We hiked to the top of the mountain and we were rewarded with views of
Long Island Sound and the New Haven area. Visit the DEEP site to learn more about Sleeping Giant and to plan your visit.

As we competed our hike to the top, we were excited to happen upon an Australian Shepherd club!

If you live in the CT area and own an Australian Shepherd, check out the Australian Shepherd Club we bumped into, they were super friendly and look like they are up for a lot of fun.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Great Brook Farm State Park

On your way to visit Great Brook Farm Sate Park in Carlisle, MA, you wind through a woodland oasis and begin to feel the excitement of what will be a very special day. Once you arrive at this gem of a park, you recognize that an amazing hike awaits you but the cherry on the cupcake is the farm complete with an ice cream stand.

The park consists of approximately 1000 acres and has over 20 miles of trails available for walkers, hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. If you visit during the winter months, cross-country skiing awaits. Visit the Great Brook Farm State Park website for directions and parking information. 

As you hike through Great Brook Farm, you will stroll around ponds, hike through forests and enter into swamp areas all teaming with a variety of wildlife, we were able to observe tadpoles. 

Home to the first robotic milking system in Massachusetts and a state-of-the-art smart barn, a tour of the farm is a must. The cows line up to be milked on demand and wander over for an afternoon back scratch. You can't help but to think that if you were born a cow, this would be 
an ideal place to call home.

The Duffy family maintains the dairy farm and has raised the same Holstein herd for 30 years. The milk from the cows is turned into Cabot products. There is also a petting/feeding area home to rabbits, sheep and goats. You can purchase animal feed for tweet-five cents. 
The ice cream stand is open mid-April to mid-October. For dog owners, you can walk right up to the window and place your order. The ice cream stand is open mid-April to Halloween and with fun flavors such as chocolate caramel pretzel, cotton candy, bubble gum and they offer varieties in yogurt, sherbet and sorbet. 

Great Brook Farm State Park is very dog friendly andAussie approved. All dogs need to be on leash in parking lots, the pavilion and the ice cream stand. If dogs are in voice command there are areas for them to be permitted off leash. For specifics, refer to the dogs in Mass parks.

A visit to Great Brook Farm State Park makes for a wonderful day for hikers and their furry companions alike. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Science by the Sea

Nestled right next to the sea in Rye, New Hampshire, an interesting Science Center sits amongst a rocky coast, woodlands, WWII fortifications, a pond and a salt marsh. In the distance four light houses can be seen creating the quintessential New England backdrop. The Seacoast Science Center resides in the Odiorne Point State Park. A treasure just waiting to be explored.

After our visit to the science center, we could not stop talking about our experience which included meeting a blue lobster, viewing marine life in their natural substrate, exploring a touch tank full of sea stars, hermit crabs and other interesting sea creatures.

The size of the science center is perfect for learning about specific marine life. The exhibits are very detailed and we left with new facts about lobsters (Did you know that lobsters actually become stronger as they age?), boating (a great hands on exhibit), and we were awestruck over their collection of marine life skeletons.

Each exhibit  within the center provided a window into the world of marine life. We had the treat of watching the sea anemones being fed. We also saw fascinating marine life such as a Sea Dragon.

After touring the science center, we stepped outside and found ourselves an endless natural habitat, a playground that delighted all of our senses. Walking along the rocky coast, the kids were fascinating by the different types of rocks and marine life that were tiding up on shore. It is an easy one-mile walk from the Seacoast Science Ceter to Frost point on the trails and long the way there are many opportunities of nature exploration.

What we found unique about the Seacoast Science Center is that it provides both an opportunity to learn within the center and then experience what you learned about right outside the door in its natural setting.

The Seacoast Science Center is a must do
marine science experience.

Additional information and directions to the Seacoast Science Center:

Monday, September 8, 2014

Unique Cedar Bog Featuring Carnivorous Plants in Massachusetts

Sign at beginning of trail. 
Planks on the trail.
Captivated by carnivorous plants, I never had an opportunity to see them growing in nature. I was amazed to find them along with elephant ears thriving in Canton, Massachusetts. Ponkapoag Bog Trail is a must visit if you live in or are traveling to Massachusetts. Part of the Blue Hills Reservation, Ponkapoag Bog is a white cedar bog, which is a bog rarely found in Massachusetts. The bog has a boardwalk trail which is made up of single layer planks. We traveled all the way through the bog's edge which is in the middle of the pond. It ends with an amazing view of the pond. We were able to see sundews, and pitcher plants. Blatteworts are also in residence however we were not lucky enough to find them. I was also excited to see elephant ears, I over winter our elephant ears, it is amazing to see them thriving in the harsh New England climate.

I read that the boardwalk can be difficult if the water level is high so plan your hike accordingly.

Ponkapoag Pond
In addition to the Ponkapoag Bog Trail, you can hike a scenic 4.2 mile hike around the Ponkapoag pond.

After researching the best way to access the trail, I found that parking at the Ponkapoag Golf Course on Washington Street in Canton, at the intersection with Turnpike Street, provided the best access. There is a map of Blue Hill Reservation at the entrance to Maple Avenue, a tree lined paved path that goes through the heart of the golf course. We took the path to the end and turned left, following the dirt path through the golf course. Ponkapoag Pond will be on the right.  There will be a path that intersects in the woods. Take the  path to the bog boardwalk entrance, you will find a sign and a marker indicating it is the Ponkapoag Bog Trail.
Pitcher plants were flowering!
Elephant Ears

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Finding an Injured Bird

A robin rasing her young under the
table umbrella in our yard.
It is spring in New England and our feathered friends are busy, busy, busy! With all the activity it is easy to stumble upon what may appear to be an injured bird. During this time of year, I am happy to say that usually the bird in question is most likely a fledgeling. A fledgeling is a bird that has just left its nest and is learning to fly. It is important to know that many fledgelings spend quite a bit of time hoping around on the ground. Do not worry, their parents are close by, they are always under a watchful eye. I learned this lesson one day when I was trying to capture a fledging cardinal. It is important to take a moment, observe and learn the difference between typical and not so typical bird behavior. 

Spring is also a great time to observe the birds in your yard. One spring we had a robin create a nest under our table umbrella, it provided a wonderful learning experience for the whole family. I also learned the difference between nestlings and fledgelings as I tried to put back the fledgelings that were hopping from the nest. When they are ready, they are ready to leave! 

Before you find yourself face to face with an injured bird, it is best to know what to look for and who to call. If you stumbled upon this blog because you are in an emergency situation, call your town animal control. Otherwise, familiarize yourself with the steps to take in rescuing an injured bird.

Following the steps below will ensure the safety and future for the injured bird. Never under any circumstance should you attempt to keep an injured bird and care for it yourself. There are laws that protect birds so finding out who to call is the best option for everyone involved.

Assess the Bird
Most likely if you found an injured bird it is either a bird of prey or a song bird. 
During the late spring and summer baby birds may have left the nest prematurely and are referred to as nestlings. Nestlings if small enough can be placed back in the nest. If the bird appears to be larger and moving around freely it is most likely a fledgling. Observe the bird for a couple of hours. If it can walk, hop, and flap its wings, or if adult birds are nearby, leave the bird alone. The parents will continue to care for it. 

If a bird on the ground is unable to flap its wings and appears to be alone it is probably injured. Slowly approach the bird, and if it doesn't fly away when you’re within 10 feet or so, there may be something wrong.
When a bird hits a window, swelling in the brain may temporarily incapacitate it. Countless times, I have run out of the house to find a poor birds lifeless on the ground, then all of a sudden it will shake  itself and fly away.  In some cases, it may take a while. If there are cats or other predators nearby, place the bird in an enclosed box or under a colander to keep it safe. Handle the bird as little as possible and do not attempt to give it food or water. As the swelling subsides and the bird becomes more active, you may release it. 
Know Who To Call
Now is the time to find out who to call in your area for emergency injured bird services. A google search for your state will provide you with specifics and laws around transporting and rescuing birds. Each state has a certified wildlife rehabilitator and though they may not be able to come to your location to physically pick up the injured bird, they can provide you with the protocol should the event happen to you.

List of wildlife rehabilitates by state:

Birds of Prey 
These birds need to be approached with extreme caution as they have talons and can really injure a human. Last year, an inured red tailed hawk appeared in our driveway. I called our local Audubon office, found out they do not come to rescue injured birds, they suggested
Injured juvenile red tailed hawk that arrived in our yard.
I call animal control in our town.  Interesting to note, in Massachusetts, 
 rehabilitates  are usually unable to respond to pick up injured wildlife, but they will provide advice on the best procedures for safely collecting the animal and will offer directions to their facility. This is a problem when it comes to birds of prey because unlike a song bird, they are dangerous to handle. The best thing to do is call your local wildlife rehabilitator  ahead of time and ask them who they recommend you contact in your area should you find an injured bird of prey.

Song Birds
Unlike birds of prey, it is easier to deal with the capture of an injured song bird. They are much smaller and it is far easier to place an object like a small box or colander over them. Like Birds of Prey, your local wildlife rehabilitator will be able to give you information on whom to call.

It is important to remember that mortality rates in wildlife is extremely high. Birds especially. It is natures way of maintaining balance. It is a different world from ours in that as harsh as it sounds, sometimes our well intentioned human acts often prolong suffering and distress for our feathered friends. Naturalists learn to accept that a sick or injured bird becomes prey for another animal thus ensuring that animals survival. 

There are some amazing wildlife sanctuaries and refugees who care for these injured animals once emergency medical care has been given and their fate is determined. Often times juvenile birds make wonderful additions to wildlife education centers. They are young enough to learn to be handled safely and brought about to classrooms or live comfortably in a sanctuary. Other birds are able to be released back into the wild. Check out some great  places I have visited that dedicate their time and efforts to these amazing birds!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Surprising Nature Treasures at the Roger Williams Zoo

During a recent New England January thaw, we set out to explore and found ourselves at Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. What impressed us most about this zoo was the incorporation of the native land. The zoo itself was home to some pretty impressive animal species.  We were able to observe unique wildlife from New Guinea, Indonesia, Australia and Africa. The elephants and giraffes were inside due to the weather however it gave us a unique opportunity to view them up close. It was also uncrowded so you could ask questions and really get to know these magnificent creatures.

The Marco Polo's Wild Journey was an adventure, we were able to view animals that he may have encountered during his travels. The red pandas were adorable. It is interesting to note that these animals are found in extreme environments and have extreme adaptations, seeing these wonderful creatures up close provided a unique window into what it may have been like taking a journey in Marco Polo's footsteps.

We walked on a 1/4 mile path through what was described as Rhode Island's most endangered habitat, the wetlands. It was an awesome experience, seeing it in winter and taking pictures we plan to compare it when we return in Spring, Summer and Fall. We were able to see Canada geese and vibrant native plants like dogwood and birch which always make an impressive New England backdrop especially in winter.

If you are planning a trip to this zoo during the colder months, you will be happy to find Tropical America, the zoo boasts it is home to Rhode Island's only rainforest. Once inside you are arms reach to tamarins, white-faced saki monkeys and dozens of other amazing creatures. The monkeys are free roaming and entertaining to say the least. Outside we were captivated by the flamingoes and giant anteaters.

One of the most impressive exhibits that I found at this zoo was in the North America section. Sitting on a perch were two majestic bald eagles. I was amazed how beautiful they were in their natural habitat, not behind bars out in the open. A must see.

Always in search of a nature themed playground, we were delighted to find "Hasbro's Our Big Backyard." Complete with a fascinating tree house, an indoor activity space which includes a Nature Swap. The nature swap is a place where you can trade items collected in nature. The nature trail and natural playground was fun for all ages to explore. There were lots of opportunities to be creative and enjoy the natural environment.

January and February admission is half-priced. In the spring of 2014, a barn and farmyard section will be opened. October - November is the zoo's famed Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, perfect to get you in the mood for Halloween.

Looking to get involved? The zoo is currently sponsoring a FrogWatch. They are looking for volunteer age 7 and up to participate.