Friday, January 20, 2012

Take Advantage of State Park Programs to Explore Winter in Massachusetts

Frank Grindrod (left) provides tracking
expertise for a Universal Access outing.
 Now that there is a little snow on the ground, animal tracks and trails are visible! Last weekend I found signs of coyote, gray fox, fisher, snowshoe hare, deer, mink and weasel on a hike in the woods, along with small birds, squirrels, mice and voles. Its a great time to get in touch with local wildlife, which often can be found not far from areas of human habitation. Our Universal Access Program yesterday at the D.A.R. State Forest in the Berkshires gave winter adventurers a good look at coyote and red fox tracks along the the trail.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation offers education programs year round in state parks. Park programs offer a wonderful chance to learn about nature and the outdoors for people of all ages and abilities. Here's a few of the most noteworthy and relatively accessible opportunities coming up - featuring wildlife in eastern Massachusetts and a taste of culture in the Berkshires!

Boston Area:
Even dog tracks (left) provide an opportunity
to study how animals move and how tracks
change as snow ages. Human boot
print on right.

Breakheart Reservation, Saugus

January 28 and February 18 - Nature's Mysteries - 10-11am and 1-2pm. Join ranger Matt Nash in the fully accessible Christopher P. Dunne Visitor Center for a children's learning experience about the lives of animals. Pre-registration required - contact or call 781-485-2804 extension 105 to sign up.

January 29 - Winter Tracking Hike - 1:30-3:30pm. Join expert tracker naturalist David Brown in search of wildlife signs. We may discover the trails of the coyote, fisher, deer, otter, and other animals normally associated with distant wilderness. Two miles or less will be covered at a slow pace. Please dress for the weather and wear sturdy footwear. Please call 781-233-0834 to pre-register and inquire about access. The visitor center is fully accessible but this hike is probably best for those who are ambulatory.

Belle Isle Marsh Reservation, East Boston

February 11 - Winter Tracking Hike - 9-10:30am. Join reservation staff for a walk in search of animal tracks and signs in this wetland environment. No visitor center or restrooms on site, but the trails are quite accessible depending on winter conditions. Call 781-485-2804 to pre-register and for specific info.

Wompatuck State Park, Hingham

February 21 - Tracks, Scats and Nests - 9-10:30am. See listing for Borderland State Park below - and be aware that there is a 2" dip in the concrete near the front door of the visitor center at Wompatuck State Park, otherwise the center is wheelchair accessible. Please call (508) 866-2580 x 163 for more information.

Southeast & Cape Cod:

Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Waquoit

February 4 - Coyote/Coywolf Ecology and Behavior - 2-3:30pm. Jonathan Way, Ph.D., is the leader of the Eastern Coyote/Coywolf Project in Massachusetts. Hes part of a team that has recently investigated the eastern coyote's genetics, finding that the animals are coyote and red wolf hybrids, and proposes to call them coywolves due to their mixed species origin. His talk will focus on his team's genetic findings as well as the ecology and behavior of coywolves in urban/suburban settings. Meet at Reserve Visitor Center, 149 Waquoit Highway (Rt.28), Waquoit, MA. Reasonable accommodations are available upon request. Co-sponsored by the Friends of the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge. For information, call (508) 457-0495.

Borderland State Park, N. Easton

February 21 - Tracks, Scats and Nests - 1-2:30pm. Animal signs tell stories if we know how to read them. Watch a 45 minute interactive slide show in the Visitor Center and guess who made the signs. Afterwards, we will enjoy a short excursion outdoors at a gentle pace searching for wildlife and the signs they left behind for us to discover. Please dress in warm clothes and winter boots. Program meets at the Visitor Center at 259 Massapoag Street in N. Easton. Rain, snow storm, or very icy conditions will cancel the hiking portion of the program. Please call (508) 866-2580 x 163 for more information. Program is free; there is a $2.00 per car parking fee, unless you have a handicapped placard.


Western Gateway Heritage State Park, North Adams

Winter Global Theatre - Global theatre venues from around the world, for all ages. All performances at 10am. For more info, call 413-663-6312.

January 14 - Kamishibai - Japanese Paper Theatre
January 21 - Shadow Theatre
January 28 - Noh Puppet Theatre

Click here for other intriguing programs in the Visitor Center in the month of January.

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