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...]

Look for Owl Pellets

Owl Pellet

Owls are among the birds that are permanent residents in much of the United States. They are nocturnal, but even if you've never seen one, you've probably heard one. "Hoo, hoo-hoo, hoo" hoots the great horned owl (whose "horns" are really tufts of feathers). "Who cooks for you all?" cries the barred owl. You can find where owls live by looking for their pellets. Because birds have no teeth, they swallow their food whole. For owls (and other birds of prey) this means bones and all! What these … [Read more...]

Art with Leaves

Scattered Leaves in Wisconsin

Leaves come in all shapes and sizes -- some are squat, some are long and skinny. Each has its unique design of veins and lobes. Most leaves are simple (this means there is one blade). Some are compound (each blade is divided into three or more leaflets). Leaf Prints You can really see these differences in leaves when you make leaf prints. You can make prints from the leaves that are turning, as well as the leaves from houseplants and other garden plants. (Just make sure you ask before you … [Read more...]

Make Some Walnut Shell Boats

Wisconsin Walnut

Want to command your own fleet of ships? Make some boats from walnut shells! You can make simple boats from walnut shell halves, modeling clay, toothpicks and small squares of paper. Press a little clay into each shell half, stick in the toothpick masts, and add the paper sails. Make different designs (or numbers) on each sail, and you'll be able to race the boats and know who's won. Launch the boats on a moving stream, and watch them go! With your parents' permission and help, outfit your … [Read more...]

Make a Maple Leaf Crown

Northern Wisconsin Mapple Leaf

And regal you shall feel, sporting a crown made from the richly colored leaves of the maple tree! You don't have to use maple leaves, of course. Any pretty, flat leaves will do. What kinds can you find? Make a long chain of leaves by piercing the stem of one leaf into another. Pull the stem through as far as it will go. (The knobby ends of the stems will help keep them from pulling out of the slits in the leaves). The next one you add to the chain will hide the stem. Continue in this way … [Read more...]

Watch for Queen Bees and Wasps

Red-belted Queen Bumble Bee in Wisconsin

In the autumn, you might come across some solitary bees and wasps flying around. Maybe a lone bald-faced hornet, or a yellowjacket. Or even a fuzzy bumblebee. These are the queen bees and wasps, the only members of their colonies to live through the winter. While you are watching, the queens are searching for a place to hibernate. Can you find where they finally settle? What has happened to all the other bees and wasps? The details vary somewhat from species to species, but generally the … [Read more...]