Visit a nature center this winter for nature study and exhilarating fun.
Embrace the season
Kathryn A. Kahler
Just like our furred and feathered friends that make their home in Wisconsin, we humans have three basic ways to deal with winter – we hibernate, migrate or adapt.
Some of us grouse about the weather, hunker down, stay indoors and count the days until warm weather returns. Some of us lock up the house, forward the mail and take flight to someplace warm. Traveler isnít passing judgment, if thatís what you prefer. Weíre just suggesting you take this winter to adapt and embrace the season, start a new family tradition and get some fresh air and exercise while youíre at it.
Nature centers across the state will welcome you with open, parka-clad arms and may pass out hot cocoa as an extra incentive. Here are a few suggestions. For more, check out the UW-Extension winter catalog of events at ENVIRONMENT Catalog. Many have registration fees and deadlines, so call ahead.
Learn Winter Survival by taking a look at ways animals adapt to survive Wisconsinís winters on Saturday, December 10, 12:30 to 3 p.m., at Mosquito Hill Nature Center (N3880 Rogers Rd., New London, 920-779-6433). Find out ways to stay warm, start a fire and build shelter.
Put on an extra layer of clothes and head to the Pringle Nature Center (9800 160th Ave., Bristol, 262-857-8008) on Sunday, December 11, 9 to 11 p.m., for the Geminids Meteor Shower Viewing. A $5 fee will get you a naturalist-led event, complete with hot chocolate and a warming fire.
The Friends of Retzer Nature Center (S14W28167 Madison St., Waukesha, 262-896-8007) will host a Winter Jan-Boree on Sunday, January 22, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., where you'll learn about winter tracking, animal signs and bird feeding tips, or participate in hiking, snowshoeing and children's activities.
Let the Winter Games begin! On Saturday, January 28, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., Riveredge Nature Center [4458 County Hwy Y (Hawthorne Drive), Saukville, 800-287-8098] has scheduled creative winter activities, games, team and individual events, with hot cocoa and popcorn provided.
Snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy a crisp walk in new-fallen snow while studying nature. Most events have small fees ($5 to $10 per person) that include snowshoe rental so you can try out the sport before investing in your own equipment. Check out the Candlelight Snowshoe Walk at Mosquito Hill Nature Center (N3880 Rogers Rd, New London, 920-779-6433) on Saturday, January 28 from 7 to 9 p.m. (register by January 21); Guided Snowshoe Hikes at Ledge View Nature Center [W2348 Short Rd., Chilton, 920-849-7094 (click on Departments:Parks:Ledge View)] every Sunday in January (except January 1) and February at 1 p.m.; Winter Walk/Intro to Snowshoeing (Saturday, January 7, 9 a.m.), Candlelight Ski-Snowshoe Hike (Friday, January 27, 5:30- 7:30 p.m.) and Snowshoeing Navarino (Saturday, January 28, 9 a.m.), all three at the Navarino Nature Center, W5646 Lindsten Rd., Shiocton, (715) 758-6999; Family Holiday Snowshoe Hike at Riveredge Nature Center [4458 County Hwy Y (Hawthorne Drive), Saukville, 800-287-8098] on Tuesday, December 27, 1 to 3 p.m.; and Snowshoe Candlelight Hike at Beaver Creek Reserve (S1 CTH K, Fall Creek, 715-877-2212) on Friday, January 13 from 6 to 7:30 or 7:30 to 9 p.m.
If you'd rather venture out on your own, try one of the designated snowshoe trails at many Wisconsin state parks. Visit Snowshoe Trails for a complete listing.
Finally, start a new family tradition and volunteer to help count birds for the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Nature centers and birding organizations across the country help with this Audubon Society-sponsored one-day bird tally that celebrates its 112th anniversary this year. Counts will take place between December 14 and January 5. Visit Get Involved in the Christmas Bird Count, or check out these special events: Shiocton Area CBC at Mosquito Hill Nature Center (N3880 Rogers Rd, New London, 920-779-6433) on Friday, December 16, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Riveredge Nature Center Annual CBC [4458 County Hwy Y (Hawthorne Drive), Saukville, 800-287-8098] on Saturday, December 17, 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Wehr Nature Center Annual CBC (9701 W. College Ave., Franklin, 414-425-8550) on Saturday, December 17, 8 a.m. to noon. All these events welcome first-time and experienced birders and include a potluck or chili lunch.
Kathryn A. Kahler is a staff writer for Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.