December 17, 2008
- Winter Survival
- More Winter Survival Photos
- Family Fun
- Upcoming DEC Events
Living in the Northeast can mean cold, snowy winters. We can look in our closet to find clothes to match the weather outside. But what do animals that live here need to survive?
Some animals hibernate, or sleep through the winter to avoid being out in the cold weather and conserve their energy. Hibernating animals like woodchucks and bats eat more food than usual during the fall so that during the winter, they can rely on their body fat to keep them nourished. Their breathing and heart rate usually slow down as well, and their body temperature drops. Other animals such as bears and raccoons will sleep very heavily during the winter, but may awaken if disturbed. Unlike true hibernators, their body temperature and heart rate do not drop as low. Frogs dig holes in the dirt, find a crack in a log or rocky area or under water, usually laying on top of the mud. Bears may gain as much as 30 pounds per week before winter arrives. They may gather leaves, grass and twigs to curl up with in their den-- usually in a small crevice in rocks, logs or roots or in a hollow tree or log.
Other animals adapt to the winter weather. Deer, squirrels and foxes all adjust to the changing climate by eating enough food and nutrients to survive the season. Some animals like deer grow thicker coats to keep them warm. Deer feed during the day to conserve their energy for nighttime and when colder temperatures arrive. Some animals eat different kinds of food as the seasons change. The red fox eats fruit and insects during the warmer weather but survives on small rodents during the winter when its usual food source is not available.
Geese and many other birds, butterflies and whales are examples of animals that migrate; that is, they travel to warmer places where they can find food or more comfortable breeding grounds. Mostly, birds migrate in the fall, sometimes traveling thousands of miles to their destination. But what tells the birds and other animals when it is time to leave? Scientists believe that it is a cycle controlled by changes in the amount of daylight and weather.
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Fattening Up for Winter
Many animals that remain in the Northeast during the winter build up an extra layer of fat to keep them warm. Birds eat suet, a high-energy formulation of animal fat and other ingredients. Suet is a quick source of heat and energy for birds and is a good substitute for the insects that birds usually feed upon but are not plentiful in cold weather. To make a log suet feeder, find a thick tree branch with shorter branches attached. With an adult, cut the shorter branches to about three inches long to serve as the bird's perch. Have an adult drill one-inch holes above the "perch" branches. Fill the holes with suet, and hang your log suet feeder from a pole or tree (you will have to attach an eye-hook to the top of the branch). You also can spread some stale bagels with peanut butter or shortening, roll them in bird seed and hang them from a branch.
Down and Out
Have you ever wondered how birds keep warm in the winter? They have a layer of down-fine, fluffy feathers found under their tough, spiny quills. Down provides insulation against the cold. Wrap yourself in a down jacket or bedspread (get permission first) and head outside during a cold winter day. Remain outside for a few minutes. Now go inside and change into a regular jacket, or wrap yourself in an ordinary cotton blanket. Feel the difference?
It's Cold Out There!
Even downy feathers or thicker winter coats cannot keep animals completely warm during a stormy winter night. They must find shelter that is warm enough for them to survive. Try this experiment: get four glass jars and thermometers and various insulating materials such as leaves, dirt (or potting soil if you can't get to the dirt) and dry grass or twigs. Fill the jars with warm water. Record the temperature of the air, and put a thermometer in each jar to record the water temperature. Now pile dry leaves around one jar, twigs or grass around another and dirt or potting soil around the third. Leave one jar uninsulated. Every five minutes, record the temperature in each of the jars until all the jars drop to the same temperature as the air. Which jars had the fastest drop in temperature? Which material would you choose to make a bed or nest in if you were an animal?
Check out Conservationist for Kids for more information and activities!
Upcoming DEC Events
Saturday, December 20 at 2:00 PM
Join us in a celebration of the winter solstice. Learn about the astronomical, cultural and ecological significance of this turning point in the natural year, and make your own sundial to take home.
Saturday, December 27 at 2:00 PM
Burn off some of those holiday calories with an invigorating hike on one of Stony Kill's more challenging trails.
Holiday Open House
Tuesday, December 30 from Noon to 4:00 PM
Bring the whole family for a festive day at Stony Kill. Learn how DEC Bureau of Wildlife staff track and locate coyotes. Join a Stony Kill naturalist for an animal-tracks walk. Make your own wildlife-track cast or holiday craft to take home. Visit the animals in the barn. Listen to live holiday music in the Manor House, and enjoy refreshments and decorations by the Verplanck Garden Club.
Guided Nature Walks
10:00 AM every Saturday
Join a Stony Kill naturalist and explore trails and habitats together. Meet at the Manor House for this family-friendly program. Walks generally take one to one-and-one-half hours. Hikes will be on snowshoes if there is enough snow cover.
The Natural History of Christmas Trees
Saturday, December 27 at 10:00 AM
Join us as we go over the meadow and through the woods to explore our conifer stands for tracks, dens, chewed cones and other signs of wildlife activity.
Not a Creature Was Stirring
Saturday, December 27 at 2:00 PM
Animals have but one problem going into winter--how to survive it. Happily, critters can cope with the season in many different ways. Join us on an outdoor study of winter survival strategies and see how various animals manage to get by.
Winter Solstice Night Hike
Saturday, December 20 from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Daylight has waned to a minimum on the shortest days of the year. What better time for a night hike through the Albany Pine Bush Preserve? Walk with us along the trails without light and test your senses at night. Our hike will conclude with hot cocoa around a campfire. Cost: $2 per person/$5 per family. Please call 518-456-0655 to register.
CSI Pine Bush: Critter Scene Investigation
Tuesday, December 30 from 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
How are your detective skills? Do you have what it takes to be on a team of nature investigators, solving Pine Bush mysteries, by examining evidence? Our trek will be on snowshoes if enough snow is available. Cost: $2 per person/$5 per family. Please call 518-456-0655 to register.
Central New York
109th Annual Christmas Bird Count
Saturday, December 20 throughout the day
Count the birds in the Sherburne area with Rogers staff and the Chenango Bird Club for some or all of the day. Remember to bring binoculars if you have them. Call to register, 607-674-4017.
Guided Nature Walk
Saturday, December 20 at 1:30 PM
Breathe in fresh air and stretch your legs on a trail walk with Rogers Center staff. Then, enjoy hot chocolate back at our winter ski lodge. Hikes will be on snowshoes if snowcover is at least eight-inches deep.
Decorate a Tree for the Birds
Wednesday, December 24 from 1:00 to 4:00 PM
Stop by the center to decorate a tree for the birds. We'll make peanut butter pinecones that you can bring home or place in our bird-feeding area. It is a great opportunity to observe birds and other wildlife from the warmth of your own kitchen window or ours.
Signs of Animals Trail Walk
Friday, December 26 at 10:00 AM
Walk the trails with us to search for tracks and traces of animal activity. If there is enough snow, we will snowshoe. Call to register, 607-674-4017.
Recycled Card Crafts
Saturday, December 27 at 1:30 PM
Got lots of leftover holiday cards and wrap? You can recycle them by turning them into boxes and folded paper crafts using the Japanese art of origami. The boxes and other items can then be used for storage, as gift tags or for decoration.
Snowshoe the Boundary Trail
Saturday, December 27 at 10:00 AM
Winter is a great time to get out and explore nature. Birds are easier to see in leafless trees, and snow creates a blank page for natural mysteries to be discovered. Grab some snowshoes or use ours and explore the Boundary Trail with us. If there is not enough snow, we will walk the trail instead. Call to register, 607-674-4017.
Western New York
Advance registration is required. Call 716-683-5959.
Saturday, December 20 at 6:00 PM
Come celebrate the winter solstice, which signifies the return of increasing daylight. On an evening walk in the woods, learn why we experience this earthly phenomenon.
Family Snowshoe Walk
Tuesday, December 30 at 10:00 AM
Had your fill of holiday celebrations? Get outside and try our snowshoes! Snowshoe rental of $2/pair; free for FORNP members.
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