As seasons go, Fall is definitely my favorite. Crisp, cool air makes for perfect hiking weather and the colors! The changing colors I just can’t seem to get enough of. But if one thing is for certain, Fall goes by fast, and before we know it those vibrant leaves are all in piles on the ground. Here’s a great DIY to preserve those Fall feels a little longer.
We brought a basket along on our morning nature walk one day, and collected leaves of as many colors as we could find!
We pressed our leaves in books for a couple days, but I’ve also heard of people dipping them fresh.
This is a simple, seasonal project that is fun for all ages. Find the materials & instructions below!
A double boiler/crockpot or microwave-proof bowl, wax is not easy to clean so a good suggestion is picking up something cheap to use solely for this purpose (I used an old double boiler I got from Goodwill)
Something to hang the leaves while they dry. Truth be told, the 1st time around we just put them back on the silicone and it smeared a bit. We used clothespins and string the second time.
Start by melting the beeswax in a double boiler over medium-low heat. I used about 1/2 cup of pellets to start. Alternately, you could melt the beeswax on low in a crockpot or in a microwave-safe bowl at 30-second increments. Stir until melted but keep an eye on it.
Once completely melted, move the pot somewhere accessible for the kids to dip their leaves. Let them know they need to be mindful of the hot pot!
Dip both sides of the leaf until lightly coated. Then hang or place on parchment paper to dry. Once completely dry, you can string your leaves into a garland (we used a sewing needle and fishing line) or use them for some other fun fall craft! The beeswax leaves the leaves smelling delicious and the color will last all season long.
Lately, the nights have been loud with katydids and I’ve been grabbing a sweatshirt for my morning walks. Fall is definitely in the air. The geese flocks in our nearby ponds are getting restless, somehow sensing the southward journey. As the days become shorter, instinctively they’ll know it’s time to migrate.
We’re all familiar with the breathtaking sight of a flock of geese winging overhead in that “V” formation but did you know that it is a pretty perfect example of teamwork?
Scroll through for a complete look.
Go out to an area where geese are present. Typically a wide-open space near a body of water. Observe the geese and their behavior. When you see a flock flying in the “V” formation, think of these lessons and the questions you can ask your kids as you watch and observe.
As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the other birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock creates 70% less drag than if each bird flew alone.
By working together at a problem or towards a goal we can pool our energies and talents and accomplish more than if we were on our own. Ask your child about an activity they could get done faster when working as a team.
When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow down to help protect it. They stay with the goose until it is able to fly again, or dies. Then together they find another formation, or they catch up with their flock.
It is important to stand by and support one another in both good and difficult times. Ask your child about a time they helped someone else who was having a tough time.
When the goose in the front position gets tired, it rotates all the way to the back of the formation and another goose flies to the front to lead the flock.
It helps when we all share the position of leading. We all have different skills and attributes and taking turns is the best way to highlight every person’s unique qualities. Ask your child what qualities they possess that are unique to them.
A flock of geese can be a noisy bunch. They all honk to encourage the geese ahead of them to keep up their speed. They are constantly supporting one another by their calls.
Everyone can benefit from a little encouragement! It feels good to hear someone say, “nice job” or “keep it up” when we’re working hard at something. Ask your child about a time they felt proud of something they accomplished and if someone recognized their hard work.
The bird world is full of some wacky stuff. From Anting to Drumming, there are so many things to discover when you take a moment and observe.
Read a bit about some of these behaviors and then take it outside! Print out the Bird Behavior Bingo worksheet and see how many of these behaviors you can spot on a walk around your neighborhood, local park, or wildlife sanctuary.
Flocking – Many species find safety in numbers in a flock. A flock can consist of one species, like Canada geese, or several; birds like grackle will tolerate many other species in their group. In a flock, many eyes and ears keep the group aware of any dangers present, as well as where to find food. Sometimes a flock will even band together to scare away predators.
Alarm Call – Birds also sound alarm calls to warn the flock. Most calls are short and simple, and are usually similar from species to species
Bathing – Whether it’s courtin’ time or not, almost all birds try to keep themselves clean. Most do so by bathing in water, while others roll around in dirt for a dust bath.
Foraging – This includes scratching at the dirt to loosen up seeds, bugs or other food or gleaning/picking food from a surface like a tree, branch, or leaves.
Preening – When they bathe, birds often get rid of feather parasites. By preening their feathers with their beaks and feet, they remove more parasites, arrange feathers, and remove dirt.
Flying – Some birds, like vultures, can catch air currents with their wings outspread and travel by soaring. Others fly by flapping their wings.
Anting – Birds sometimes sit atop an anthill and let the ants crawl over their wings, or pick them up in their beaks, crush them and rub them over their feathers. See this post for more info: Bird Brains – Anting Antics Activity
Feeding – Common feeding behaviors include ground feeding, canopy feeding, bark feeding, predatorial feeding, and aerial feeding.
Singing – Bird songs are often very complex, and are so distinct a number of species can be identified from their songs. Normally, only adult males sing, and typically only during mating season.
Go on a bird behavior walk in your neighborhood or at a local park. Look for birds foraging, preening, moving in a flock, or sounding the alarm for predators.
For a free printable bingo sheet, click here or the image below!
Bird behaviors can be curious and fascinating when we take the time to watch and observe them.
One of the stranger behaviors our feathered friends get up to is called “Anting.”
Basically, anting occurs when a bird rubs ants on themselves. Pretty self-explanatory right? Methods vary, some birds sit directly on an anthill and let the ant colony swarm all over their bodies ::shudder:: Others pick them up in their beaks and rub them over each of their feathers.
Regardless of the method, over 200 different species of birds have been observed engaging in these “anting” antics.
So what gives? Why do they do this?
Since the 1930’s, scientists have been trying to figure out the why behind this wacky behavior, and it’s still unknown! There are many theories, and the most popular hypothesis has to do with formic acid, a substance contained by most ants. When an ant is crushed, it secretes formic acid. Once in contact with a bird’s skin, the acid kills the mites and other parasites that have taken up host on the bird’s body. Formic acid may also soothe irritated skin that occurs during molting. Other scientists think that maybe it just feels good!
The best time to try and catch sight of “anting” behavior is during hot and humid weather, when parasitic pests are most bothersome. This is also the time when molting happens, so although “anting” can be tough to observe out in nature, you’ll have a better opportunity during the summer months. Keep your eyes peeled for Blue Jays and Crows, as they are common birds who practice “anting.”
Bird beaks are perfect for nabbing ants, crushing them and rubbing them on their wings. Investigate how this adaptation works with this fun activity you can do at home:
Put a few different dried foods (we used sunflower seeds), in a bowl and gather some common items to mimic a beak. Dried pasta and cereals also work great!
Tweezers, Straws, Chopsticks, and Pliers can act like a bird beak in action.
Experiment with moving the items from one bowl to another.
Ask questions like, “How easy/difficult is it to pick up?”, “Can you crush the item like a bird would with an ant?”, “Why do you think birds need sharp beaks?”, “Can they eat a little or a lot with this type of mouth?”
Next time you head out for a walk, keep a sharp eye out for birds and their “anting” antics!
Share your Bird-Brained activities with us on Facebook and Instagram! Tag @berkshirefamilyhikes and use the hashtags #berkshirebirds #berkshirefamilyhikes and #berkshirebirdbrains
Man, homeschooling has got me feeling all types of ways. Stressed ✔️ scared ✔️ overwhelmed ✔️✔️ but I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little excited (like the eensiest, let’s not go overboard here) 😬
This is a unique opportunity to be involved in the kid’s learning at a deeper level, including more choice over the how, the where, and the when. For me, that means adding in more nature, outdoor, and place-based learning. One of the resources I’m excited to use this fall is the WildMath Curriculum.
From Kindergarten to Grade 5, WildMath integrates the outdoors and natural materials in math education! Math and I have never been friends, (full disclosure: I hate it.), so it was important for me to find a way to teach that didn’t feel like a dreaded task.
It was so simple to add this Array Hunt to our afternoon walk! Not only was the walk more fun, but it introduced a new math concept to my soon-to-be 2nd grader!
Today my Iphone photos reminded me that we did this hike April 13, 2019.
And here I sit, one year to the day wondering why I never put this review down on paper. It’s a rainy day, much like the one that brought us to Kennedy in search of the red-spotted newts. But like Olaf keeps reminding me, “…the wind blows a little bit colder / And we’re all getting older…” and we decided to stay in and watch Frozen 2, again, instead of venturing out. So I dusted off the files and got to writing. Timing is a funny thing.
(There are A LOT. We walked Cold Spring Trail, Woolsely Trail, Aspinwall & Bridges.) See map below
How Long it Took Us : We meandered. Spent about 3 hours wandering and hunting for newts!
Overview : The Aspinwall Hotel opened its doors in 1902 and immediately became the queen bee of Lenox resorts. Each of it’s 400 rooms featured a fireplace and boasted an in-residence orchestra. Perched high above the town at 1,460 feet above sea-level – the view was spectacular and it was the place to stay for nearly three decades.
On April 25, 1931, it would burn to the ground. A mile away, a policeman out on his front porch saw the flames and raised the alarm that would leave a 1 million dollar pile of rubble on a Lenox hillside.
“The hilltop seemed to be completely enveloped in flames — shooting upwards and licking the ebony heavens with their carmine tongues. The sparks flew in all directions, showering the town and threatening hundreds of homes,” an Eagle reporter on the scene wrote. “In the crowd who watched were noctambulists who had not gone to bed, out to parties and dances, they were homeward bound when attracted by the spectacular blaze.”
In the 1950’s, Lenox turned the abandoned land into a huge reserve of cross-country ski and hiking trails. Re-named John D. Kennedy Park after the man who was pivotal in it’s preservation. Today it occupies 500 acres of forest, ponds, and hillsides.
What We Dug : Much like the symphony of wood and peeper frogs, one of the most iconic signs of Spring in the Northeast is the appearance of the red efts or eastern newts.
(Please, if you see a newt on the move try not to touch it unless you are sure your hands are free from chemicals and you have the ability to wash afterwards. Especially, during this time of health uncertainty, it is best practice to let wildlife alone.)
Still not fully understood by scientists, at some point, a red eft will stop wandering about, mature into its adult phase and finish their life in a pond or lake. As a grown-up their skin changes to yellowish-brown but they maintain the telltale red spots!
On this soggy day in April we encountered so many along the paths that we turned it into a competition! Their bright orange bodies shone like a beacon on the muted forest floor.
We each kept a running tally and the person who spotted the most EFTS got the last snack!
(Not to brag…but I was the winner – with 26 spots – but I shared my snack with everyone.)
What We Could Do Without : The trails are constantly crisscrossing each other. Blazes are scarce. There are signs at some junctions. The paths are well-worn and easy to follow but it can be easy to get turned around on a multitude of switchbacks and intersecting trails. There are so many access points at Kennedy Park and a lot of trails. This is a wonderful thing in terms of space and access – allowing people the ability to spread out and try diverse trail – however it can easily get confusing for someone unfamiliar with the area. BRING A MAP.
A good entry point and the hike we did on this trip was from the parking area off of West Dugway Road. From there we take the Cold Spring Trail til it meets with the Woolsey Trail. Then we branched off for an abbreviated walk on the Aspinwall Trail, back down Woolsey Trail and returned by the Bridges Trail.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Red Efts, Wood Frogs, Peeper Frogs, Cold Spring, Ruins of Aspinwall Hotel, Old Stone Walls, Trillium, Columbine, White Oak, Red Oak, Ash, Beech, Balance Rock
Must Know Before You Go’s :, There are multiple access points: Adjacent to the Church-on-the-Hill in downtown Lenox – Parking Lot off of West Dugway Road, Reservoir Road, Lenox Shops entry point, and through the Arcadian Shop lot (Store is CURRENTLY CLOSED), Each of these access points is going to offer different portions of the trail. Because Kennedy Park has such a numerous amount of trails, it is important to have a map and an idea of your bearings. It can be an easy place to take a wrong trail and get turned around. No Facilities. Mountain Biking Allowed. No Motorized Vehicles or Hunting. Leashed Dogs OK
Directions : Many ways to access – To get to West Dugway Road Parking Lot, Follow ,Route 7 from Pittsfield into Lenox and turn right onto West Dugway Road. Parking is your first left.
The Arcadian and Lenox Shops are directly after West Dugway Road off of Route 7.
COVID-19 Hiking Best Practices
Check access before you go, many areas are closed during this time.
If you or anyone in your group is feeling sick, STAY HOME.
If parking areas are crowded, choose a different space to explore.
Give a wide berth to other hikers and allow for at least 6-feet for passing.
Practice Carry-In/Carry-Out & Leave No Trace rules. Trash receptacles should not be used.
Bathroom and office facilities will be closed to the public.