Spring is an exciting time to enjoy the natural world with all five senses, for children and adults alike. Whether you stay in your own backyard or hike through one of the area’s wildlife refuges or green spaces, there are plenty of opportunities to see, hear, smell, touch and taste nature. who wakes up from winter.
Here are some Earth Month activities that can help the whole family discover the rhythms of the planet and its inhabitants while reflecting on ways to live in better balance with other forms of life.
See and hear the migration of birds
Rochester has already had its share of blackbirds, cardinals and blue jays – themselves a colorful signal that spring has arrived – seeking locations to build nests in neighborhood trees and peck worms in backyards. But there are plenty of other bird species to watch and listen to, if you know the right spots.
North America has more than 2,000 species of birds, of which about 350 are migratory birds, according to the National Audubon Society. If you live near lots of trees or water, chances are you’ll spot a greater diversity of birds visiting their spring and summer grounds. But you can also take matters into your own hands by visiting some of the established migratory bird stopover points in the area.
New York is located along the Atlantic Flyway, one of four air routes used by migrating birds. Our region abounds with lakes and rivers that attract weary winged travelers during spring migration, which peaks in late April.
The marshes are prime birding sites and locally they include Braddock Bay Park and the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. Braddock Bay Park on Lake Ontario (199 E. Manitou Road, Greece, 585-225-2000) is home to migratory waterfowl, hawks and eagles. Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge (3395 Auburn Road, Seneca Falls, 315-568-5987) is a 7,000-acre wetland with trails and lookouts at the north end of Cayuga Lake, nationally renowned for its number of aquatic birds.
At each location, you can spot massive flocks of snow geese resting and feeding together, for example, which is a sight to see (and hear) when they fly away together. But be careful not to disturb them or send them flying – the birds make these stops so they can rest for the next leg of their long journeys.
Pack a lunch and dress in layers, and bring spotting scopes if you have them. Before you go, brush up on the birdsong on audubon.org and see how many calls you can identify in the field.
Pro tip: Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab also provides information about birds and bird identification at allaboutbirds.org, which additionally directs visitors to a smartphone app for bird identification.
Nature near you
There are plenty of ways to observe nature near you, whether you’re embarking on a hands-on project or becoming more familiar with the plants and animals around you.
One way to try to attract wild birds to your garden is to build a safe birdhouse.
There are plenty of tutorials online, or you can get one locally as part of a Rochester Museum & Science Center Backyard Adventure Kit, which includes five days of guided activities and supplies. The Backyard Birder kit is good for all seasons and includes a bird field guide and field journal, two different types of bird feeders, seeds and suet, a DIY birdhouse kit, materials for a birding activity bird kite and a program. RMSC also offers a kit for fairies and gnomes, which is more based on imagination and craftsmanship, but still allows children to explore nature in their backyard. Each kit is $60, $70 if you have it shipped.
A fundamental way to increase a child’s interest in the environment – or anyone for that matter – is to introduce it to them, by name. Learning to identify common trees and plants on walks can fuel children’s interest in the natural world. How many native trees can you identify together? Oaks and maples are easy if you look at their leaves, and sycamores are some of the easiest to spot by their bark, which is a pale, wavy pattern of white, gray, green, and yellow. And the pungent scent of bright yellow, spidery witch hazel flowers is hard to forget.
As part of its Earth Month programming, Impact Earth is offering a free virtual class, “Learn About Local Trees,” at 6 p.m. on April 29. Attendees can learn about tree anatomy and which ones are common to Monroe County. They will also receive a free tree guide. Registration is required at eventbrite.com/cc/impact-earth-month-2022-188109.
And the first spring flowers? White snowdrops appear in clusters with drooping, bulbous flowers on short stems. Winter aconite grows in carpets of brilliant golden flowers and crocuses appear in purple, white and yellow hues. All are well on their way to pushing stems and flowers through the land recently cleared of a few inches of snow.
earth day in the kitchen
In preparation for the planting season, Fruition Seeds (7921 Hickory Bottom Road, Naples, is hosting a Seed and Plant Swap on April 8 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. People are encouraged to bring seeds to share and empty envelopes to Houseplant cuttings and divided, pest-free perennials are also welcome.
A great way to foster children’s appreciation for nature’s bounty is to involve them in preparing a meal, from the garden to the kitchen. If you have a garden, involving children in growing produce, identifying maturity, harvesting, washing and preparing can instill a sense of capability, in addition to an appreciation for what goes into growing food. .
If you don’t have a garden, head to the farmer’s market and let the kids have their say on something they’d like to try. Choose a healthy recipe together and let them help you prepare a salad, for example. Let them smell and taste the ingredients as you prepare them and ask questions about what they like.
Complete the cycle by composting food scraps together. Impact Earth is offering a free virtual course at 6 p.m. on April 12 called “How to Use Compost in the Spring,” which explores how compost can benefit plants and how best to use it early in the growing season. Register at eventbrite.com/cc/impact-earth-month-2022-188109.
Rebecca Rafferty is the editor of CITY. She can be reached at [email protected]