The inexorable march of winter each year seems to bring a collective groan from WNYers, but winter need not be a season of discontent!
There are lots of fascinatiing things to do when the snow falls, all you really need is a little willpower and some warm clothing. A great way to experience the snowy landscape is on a pair of snowshoes ...Not only are they a great way to get around, but they provide a link to our past.
Scott Lembitz is a Naturalist with Earth Spirit Educational Services." If you put on a pair of traditional snowshoes, you can go backs hundreds upon hundreds of years , to the Native American people who've been walking on snowshoes for centuries here, really an essential to their survival in the winter. " Sandy Geffner is Earth Spirit's founder." It all begins with a willingness to go out and to be in nature, to be in winter, and to be open to the possibilities."
And those possibilities expand considerably when you're searching for them ! Once you're out on those snowshoes, take a look around you...there may be a wealth of knowledge lying just at your feet, as Lembitz explains."
We've got a width that seems to be approximately an inch and a half wide by about an inch and three quarters, that's for an individual footprint, showing claws, so we've got a canine. So in our neighborhood the only option is going to be the Red Fox, so the Red Fox decided to take a quick lope through the woods here, and who knows, if we follow this track line here maybe we can determine what had this animal moving so quickly ! Perhaps there's food close by, perhaps there's somebody else in the neighborhood...or perhaps she wast just in a hurry ! "
Winter is the perfect season to learn how to track wildlife! It's much easier to track in snow than in most other environments,and learning to track is simple and inexpensive. Other than a field guide to help identify the tracks, all you really need is some patience and a keen eye !
Geffner tells 2 The Outdoors how easy it can be." If you have a ruler or a measuring tape and charts like that, that's a wonderful way to begin the process. But really, it's a lesson in patience and perseverance, and continued exposure. That's how you become a decent tracker."
Following animal tracks doesn't necessarily end with the trail, either...sometimes it's just the beginning, says Lembitz." Your next step, depending on what you like to do, spend time there, get your binoculars out, watch the animals, learn of their behavior, that's when you get the intimate details."
And in a region that must face the yearly inevitabilty of being snowbound for a few months, what better way to make peace with the season, as well as learning about the world around us.
Says Lembitz." I don't think anybody's going to be disappointed who picks up a pair of snowshoes and gets out and has some fun." Geffner agrees. "Everything we do as Naturalists is really designed to encourage people to make friends with various aspects of Nature, and to find yourself through this educational process as a part of that nature, so that all of us can better take care of this world around us."
Earth Spirit offers a wide variety of outdoor programs throughout the year. For more information, visit their website at www.earthspiritedu.org