Look for Animal Tracks in the Snow

Northern Wisconsin Animal Tracks In The Snow

Tracks are often well defined in shallow snow, so after examining your own tracks look for those made by other animals that are winter-active in your area. You may only find prints left by neighborhood dogs and cats, but check for those made by birds and, in areas that support these animals, those left by squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, and deer, to mention just a few. Follow any tracks you come across, and try to piece together something about the animal’s activities. You may find evidence … [Read more...]

Make a Snow Gauge

Wisconsin Home Made Snow Gauge

Did you know that ten inches of snow are roughly equal to one inch or rain? You can measure the amount of snowfall with a homemade gauge made from any container that you can mark off in inches or centimeters. A simple but effective gauge can be made from the bottom half of a clear plastic soda bottle, marked with an indelible laundry marker on the outside. Although less reliable because of the way snow drifts, you can also measure snowfall with a yardstick. Put several gauges outdoors - - … [Read more...]

Catching Snowflakes

Snow Flakes On A Fence In Wisconsin

The Inuit language has more than 50 words for snow, from ganik (means: snow that is still falling) to pukaq (means: crusty snow) and masak (means: mushy snow). When the temperature at cloud level is at freezing or below, and the moisture-filled clouds can hold back no longer, be on the lookout for snow. If the air close to the ground is warm enough, the precipitation that started out as snow may turn to rain by the time you see it falling. (snow, however, is not frozen rain, which is … [Read more...]

Staying Warm in Winter: People, Animals & Plants

Baby Albino Deer Keeping Warm

We humans have come up with some ingenious ways of dealing with the cold, often by changing our surroundings to suit us rather than adapting to the environment as most other animals do. While we have borrowed many ideas from nature, we have gone one step farther in many cases. We insulate our homes, just like squirrels do their nests, but we also heat them artificially. Place thermometers both inside and out to see what a difference this makes. We also dress for the weather, since we have … [Read more...]

Display Nature’s Treasures

Bond Falls just across the Wisconsin state line in Michigan

Start by setting aside a spot to house and show off your nature treasures and projects. This needn’t be elaborate. While a table that can remain set up with your collections would be nice, a windowsill can easily be turned into an ever-changing exhibit space. A bulletin board is ideal for tacking up pictures and information, but the refrigerator works just as well with a good supply of strong magnets. Explore the possibilities of using pegboard or a free-standing oversized box to tape things … [Read more...]

Plant Dye and Wool Yarn

Hand Woven Yarn

Dyeing with natural dyes is fun and easy to do. Wool takes dyes more readily than cotton or other fibers, so why not dye some yarn that you (or your mother) can make into something? Knit up a handsome scarf, or some mittens. Stitch a needlepoint pillow or a wallhanging for your room. You need to boil up some leaves, bark, or nutshells to extract your dye. In general, you need two pounds of fresh materials, and one pound of nutshells, barks, or berries in order to dye a pound of … [Read more...]

Can Crickets Tell the Temperature?

Narrow Winged Tree Cricket

Have you ever noticed how crickets chirp more when it's warm? They are very sensitive to temperature. A scientist named A.E. Dolbear also noticed this and came up with a way to guess the temperature by counting the number of times a cricket chirps in one minute. He based his figures on Snowy Tree Cricket chirps, but you can count the chirps any crickets make. Other crickets are not as reliable, but it's still fun to do. Listen carefully, because it's sometimes hard to tell when one chirp ends … [Read more...]

Watch for Leaves Turning Color

Northern Wisconsin Fall

Sometime in late September or early October, the leaves on the deciduous trees in the northern parts of Wisconsin begin to turn colors. And what a display it is! Some leaves turn brilliant red; others fiery orange. Some turn a shimmering gold. There's even a rich purply-red. Why do leaves turn color? These color are actually always present in the different leaves, but are masked by chlorophyll which our eyes perceive as green. Once the chlorophyll (which is the substance trees use to make … [Read more...]

Collect Birds’ Nests

Northern Wisconsin Bird Nest

Once the leaves have fallen from the trees, you can see where many birds have cleverly positioned their nests. Most birds construct new nests every spring, so you are free to take down any you find. Just be careful high up in trees! It is best to wear leather gloves when handling abandoned birds' nests. They will guard against the bites of any insects which may be living in the nest. You may also discover that a larger animal, such as a mouse, has moved in! (In that case, leave the nest … [Read more...]

Pick Dried Grasses and Seed Heads

Allium Seed Head in Wisconsin

Many plants look very different once the growing season is over. Have you ever seen blacked-eyed Susans without their petals? Before the seeds disperse, the seed heads look like fuzzy brown gumdrops stuck on the ends of sticks! You can gather these and a number of other plants in the fall to be used in dried arrangements and other craft projects. Poppies and teasels both have interesting seed heads. Milkweed pods are very distinctive, too. Tall grasses are especially beautiful. Many … [Read more...]