Parent Express

Below you’ll find excerpts from articles written by our staff, that are published each month in the Parent Express.

Delicate Survivors, January 2017Chickadee in Winter

A first look at an over-wintering bird seems to present a fragile-bodied waif, vulnerable to the cruel winds, ices and freezing temperatures of the season. How do they hop around bare-footed without losing their claws to frostbite? How can their metabolism muster heat enough to counter bitter chills, especially with so little food around?  View the full article HERE!

parentexpress_20161130_p19Following the Moon, December 2016

“Is the moon following me?” We have all heard questions like this from our little ones, who are naturally curious about the moon. With the longest nights of the year here, this is the time for moon watching, so let’s bundle up and head outside after dark!  View the full article HERE!

Observing Winter Foragers, November 2016pe-second-nature-16-11-observing-winter-foragers

The harvests are in, our bounty is put up and a season of feasting is planned to reassure us as the sun slips low in the sky. In the winter animal kingdom, however, some intrepid souls persist in foraging for food throughout winter, mano-a-mano with this lean season.  View the full article HERE!

leaf-sun-print

Wonder of the Leaf, October 2016

For deciduous trees, summer is a rush against time; between their first bursting out of lime-green leaflets to their bright, dying embers of fall color, these trees pack-in all the growth allotted per year.  This October, as we take time to observe our jeweled foliage, let’s go deeper into appreciating the leaf’s particular wonder… View the full article HERE!

Welcome Opossum!, September 2016welcome

The Virginia opossum seems designed for life on a different sort of planet, one on which life happens slowly, where temperatures are warm and predators few.  Still, somehow opossums not only survive on our planet but they have been slowly expanding their range northward. They first arrived in Vermont about 30 years ago. The opossum has many distinctive features… View the full article HERE!

Unicorn, Caterpillar, Moth – Oh My!, August 2016

August 16 mystOn a recent afternoon as I was climbing an apple tree in my orchard, I encountered an unusual creature that I had never before seen.  It had a mottled brown head and various shades of tan-brown along its entire body – except for a bright green band just below its head. And to make matters even more unusual, between its head and green collar it had a single horn, with a second horn near the tip of the tail.  Have you ever seen such a thing?  View the full article HERE!

Exploring the Creepy Crawlies Down Under, July 2016

wormsThis time of year is very exciting for the naturalists amongst us.  There is a world that comes alive at this time of year, full of excitement, and wonder.  The world I am talking about is the ground below our feet.  The soil, which provides anchorage and nutrients for all the plants we see, is also a world unto its own.  View the full article HERE!

Watching Fireflies, June 2016

1fireflyJune is the month when our meadows begin to twinkle with the magic of fireflies.  Who among us does not have childhood memories of watching and catching these mysterious beetles?  This summer, we encourage you to plan some special firefly evenings with your children.  View the full article HERE!

Wanted: Field Biologists for the Future, May 2016

field biologistThe title “field biologist” may sound daunting, and “the future” may seem far away, but in reality they are both close at hand. The key skills possessed by a field biologist – one who studies plants and/or animals, and the ecosystems in which they live – is astonishingly similar to the innate skills and interests of many young children. And, tomorrow is never as far away as it feels in the present moment.  View the full article HERE!

Celebrate the Vernal Equinox, April 2016

stargazing diarySpring has sprung! Spring is the season of new beginnings and one of four seasonal changes. Animals awaken from their burrows, flowers begin to show their first signs of buds and the earth starts to liven once again. But what causes this seasonal change?  The changing of the seasons is a wonderful time to learn about the relationship between the Earth and the Sun. View the full article HERE!

Sweetness Rising, March 2016bare branches

The days are getting longer and the sun is getting stronger. With the fluctuating temperatures of spring the sap within trees begins to flow again. The starch stored in tree roots over the winter is converted into sugars and flows up in the sap. Yes, March is the time of wonderful sweet maple syrup. We’re not the only ones who enjoy the flowing sap of spring. View the full article HERE!

Animals in Wintertime, February 2016

foxBaby, it’s cold outside, and with no snow cover on the ground – brrr! What are you doing to stay warm? Do you wonder what chickadees, shrews and groundhogs are doing on winter nights? For non-migrating animals, this temperature, coupled with the lack of a blanket of snow, makes for a cold night indeed. Animals that overwinter in Vermont must cope with not only the cold, but also the limited supply of food.  View the full article HERE!

Celebrating Snowflakes, January 2016

snowflake photo by Alexey Kljatov

Winter is such a beautiful season, with the sparkle of frost and snow. This January, BEEC invites you to celebrate snowflakes! With luck, this month with bring the cold temperatures that grow the biggest and most beautiful snowflakes – temperatures in the single digits.  If there is moisture in the air on such cold days you are mostly likely to see the classic snowflakes, called stellar dendrites (stars with tree-like branching). On such days, be sure to bundle your kids up and head outside for a snowflake safari.  View the full article HERE!

Winter Detective Walk, December 2015

winter walkA winter walk at this time of year might seem like a silly (or cold) idea without the brightly colored leaves or seeds scattered all over the ground, but I can assure you, nature is still ready to excite you! Winter walks are a great way for you and your child to explore and get familiarized with the changing seasons at their own pace.  Even though snow is the main topic of winter, there are plenty of other things to observe if snow has yet to arrive.  View the full article HERE!

Lie Down and Look, November 2015 tree

November is a transitional month of cold, wet gray. The colorful leaves are gone, the warmth of the sun is waning and we are waiting for the snow. It is easy to feel blue, so maybe what we need is a change in our point of view. Let’s embrace the world of gray and see what is has to offer us. Let’s step outside and lie down and look.  View the full article HERE!

tickThe Tick Patrol, October 2015

This is the time of the year to be outdoors enjoying all that nature and autumn have to offer. Yet recently there has become more awareness of the dangers of Lyme disease. It has nothing to do with limes, but it does have to do with those creepy, tiny bugs called ticks that like to drink human blood… View the full article HERE!

Milkweed and Monarch, September 2015

caterpillarParents will remember that not so many years ago, monarch butterflies were a beautiful and common sight during September. Over the past few years, however, these big orange butterflies have become very rare. There are a number of reasons for this decline, but the most important is the loss of the plant that these caterpillars depend upon: milkweed. View the full article HERE!

Eco-friendly Gardening, August 2015toad house

As you enjoy your garden in all its glory and bounty this month, we’d like to share with you an eco-friendly gardening technique. Let’s create and celebrate an ecosystem in your garden!  This approach will provide you with opportunities for observations of the beauty and mystery of nature. For a happy garden you want a healthy ecosystem.  View the full article HERE!

It’s a Bat, July 2015

Bat

If you’re out on warm summer evenings, just as the sun sets, you may be lucky enough to see something flying in the sky. Most likely it’s not a bird, but a bat out for a nightly feeding.  Bats are mammals, not birds. They have fur, not feathers, give birth to live young and feed their young milk. However, bats are very special mammals as they are the only mammals that can fly.  View the full article HERE!

mushroomLetters for the Creatures, June 2015

In the February issue we showed ways for developing awareness of nature, and a perfect addition is to develop feelings of connection with nature. There are many ways to do this, but one we’ve discovered here at BEEC is to write nature a letter. When expressing ourselves in a letter, the feelings that come with our passing thoughts last longer than usual so that we can feel connected to nature on a more regular basis. View the full article HERE!

For the Birds, May 2015 nest

May is the month for nesting, at least if you are a bird. We hear about it each dawn as the birds announce their place in the world with enthusiastic chorus. More quietly, and throughout the day, they go about the serious business of finding a place to make a nest, and then beginning construction. View the full article HERE!

artCreate Art in Nature, April 2015

Our emotions are inherently tied to the seasons and the spring is the perfect time to be creative, coming forth from our winter shell to explore new possibilities. A family-friendly outdoor activity that is perfect for the season and appropriate for all ages is making nature art. Using the earth as your canvas, rocks, leaves, bark and feathers can be transformed intentionally into spirals, animals, towers and abstract shapes. The possibilities are endless. Anyone, regardless of age, can tap into their artistic side to make natural art. View the full article HERE!

Animal Awareness, March 2015owl eyes

Exploring our senses can foster our connection to the world around us. The more aware we are when outside, the more we will notice the presence of other creatures around us. If your senses are really alert maybe you’ll notice those hiding animals that are watching you. Are you ready to turn on your animal senses? View the full article HERE!

snowhikeTake a Hike, February 2015

“Baby, it’s cold outside.” This is a phrase we’ve been hearing a lot of recently. Unfortunately, the cold keeps many folks indoors in the winter, watching TV or playing computer games, when they could be in the great out-of-doors enjoying the wonders that are found in the wintertime cold.  The winter months are a wonderful time to explore the woods for families.  View the full article HERE!

Enjoying Nature in Unlikely Times, January 2015mouse

Nature is a place of beauty and wonder. Below our feet, in the sky and everywhere we look there are unique living and nonliving things. Through our senses we can tap into nature at any time: we can hear the sweet sounds of birds in the trees; follow the tracks of animals imagining their secret lives; look at strange forms of life such as insects and fungi; or simply feel a cool breeze blowing on our faces. View the full article HERE!

paper waspBee-autiful Paper, December 2014

Do you ever find yourself marveling at the intricate, sophisticated constructions made by tiny creatures? Think about it! Spiders’ webs, ants’ tunnel systems – and how about those wasps and their amazing paper houses?  Yes, wasps have been making paper for millions of years, and are believed to have inspired the first human paper makers. View the full article HERE!

Nature in Miniature, November 2014terrarium

November can be a relatively drab month in the forest; it is a month that demands you look more closely to find beauty. A fun way to do that with kids is to make a terrarium. A terrarium can keep green things growing through the winter with very little effort, and creates a miniature world that children can inhabit in their imagination.  View the full article HERE!

seedsTraveling Seeds, October 2014

Are you ready for the coming winter?  Plants are getting ready!  Deciduous trees are dropping their leaves and herbaceous plants are sending forth seeds to wait for next spring.  It’s the perfect time for a seed safari… View the full article HERE!

The Dirt on Worm Composting, September 2014worm

Decomposers come in all shapes and sizes: They can be as small as tiny bacteria that we can’t see with our eyes, or as large as an earthworm – or bigger. September is a great month to build a compost bin so you can watch this process continue on throughout the long winter months… View the full article HERE! 

bee buzzing verticalProtecting Pollinators, August 2014

It’s a season of bounty from the earth – blueberries, tomatoes, asters, sunflowers… and a good time to celebrate the insects that make this bounty possible: the pollinators.  Did you know that there are hundreds of bee species that pollinate the flowering plants of our region?  The well-known honeybees and bumblebees live in colonies, but many of our native bees are solitary bees… View the full article HERE!

Salamander Safari, July 2014Picture4

One of the easiest animals for children to observe is the red-spotted newt.  These little creatures have an amazing life cycle.  In their adult phase, they are the olive-colored salamander (newts are a kind of salamander) that are abundant in nearly any pond…  View the full article HERE!

nestAvian Engineers, June 2014

Birds are capable of grand engineering feats, just look at the variety of their nests.  But are they engineers?  Not in the way you might think. Just as birds know how to fly, they know how to build a nest without instructions or apprenticeship. It’s a matter of instinct. Caring for nestlings also comes naturally to birds, but can be much harder for people who find them.  View the full article HERE!

Blooms Buzzzzz, May 2014trillium erectum (red trillium) pittsburg nh (may 2007) 2 small

The warmth of May is drawing us all outside to bask in the sunshine.  Are you surrounded by blossoms?  We hope so!  Hopefully those frigid winter temperatures didn’t hurt the tree buds waiting to burst and the herbaceous roots waiting to sprout.  After a gray and white world our eyes get to feast on a rainbow of blooms…  View the full article HERE!

spotted salamanderThe Big Night, April 2014

Are you ready for the ‘Big Night’?  “How can I be ready if I don’t know what the ‘Big Night’ is?” you may ask. The story of the big night goes back to the question: Why did the salamander cross the road?  View the full article HERE!

Pond-ering Early Spring, March 2014017

March is a month of change and extremes here in New England.  We may have snow or rain, continued hibernation or flowers!  The beginning of March can certainly look much different from the last days that take us into April.  One element we see a lot of is water… View the full article HERE!

Subnivean Safari, February 2014vole pilesm

Did you ever wish you were just as inch tall?  Think of the places you could explore! If you were just an inch tall, for example, you could visit subnivea, a realm that is created anew each winter, as big as winter itself – the realm beneath the snow…  View the full article HERE!

A Magical Frozen World, January 2014  Hole - quinzee Ava Alina Sam Liana

Forecast: Winter storm, Shovel handy, Boots by door, 
Let It Snow, Snow, Snow ~ Haiku by Nancy Chambers

Opportunities for fun abound when the world is white and the magic of this frozen world beckons us outdoors. While each of these adventures can be enjoyed in woods or fields anywhere, they are especially fun when shared with friends — new and old… View the full article HERE!

WEASEL

Following the Moon, December 2013

Is the moon following me?  We have all heard questions like this from our little ones curious about the moon.  With the time change for winter it gets dark early!  These early nights provide the opportunity for us to bundle up and head outside with our kids to gaze at the moon and stars before bed.  View the full article  HERE! 

owl

Owls: Masters of Adaptation, November 2013

If you happen to be outside on a cool November night, listen carefully and you might hear a hooting sound in the woods. An owl you say… This is true, but what kind of owl are you listening to?  Chances are, if you live in this neck of the woods that you’re listening to a barred owl.  View the full article HERE!

Bats!

Bats!

Gone Batty!  October 2013

While autumn officially begins in September, October brings sights, smells, and feels of the season everywhere we go.  One animal commonly associated with October is the bat.  Perhaps because bats can look spooky, they are often connected to Halloween, we see them displayed as everything from hanging decorations to bat-shaped candy.  But October is actually the time when bats are leaving the area!  View the full article HERE!

Blooms are for Butterflies, July 2013

monarch milkweed

Few things say summer the same as a butterflies basking in the morning sun, fluttering brightly over a woodland stream or probing wildflowers for nectar. Butterflies offer a colorful and exciting way to share some of the intricacies of nature with children. They are easy to watch, exhibit interesting behaviors and are active during warm and sunny days. One of the easiest ways to learn more about butterflies with your kids is to welcome them right to your yard with butterfly garden.   View the full article HERE!

WeeNat Parker Charlotte decomposing log

Nature Detectives, June 2013

Now is a time of growth and change as new life fills the natural world.  There is a bounty of marvels for the young naturalist to discover, observe, wonder and investigate. As mentors of young naturalists we can encourage nature detective skills.  View the full article HERE!

 

The Buzz on Honey Bees, May 2013

The month of May always makes us think of flowers, and flowers makes us think of bees, and bees make us think of Honeybees.   Honeybees are social insects.  In the wild, they create elaborate nests called hives containing up to 20,000 individuals during the summer months.  They work together in a highly structured social order.  Each bee belongs to one of three specialized groups called castes.   The different castes are: queens, drones and workers.  View the full article HERE!

Who Goes There?  February 2013

rabbittracks

“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” – Sherlock Holmes

Make room, my dear Watson!  We, too, are eager to join our fearless leader – Sherlock Holmes – in unraveling the mysteries of elusive winter visitors.  For winter is the perfect season for playing sleuth.  Playing Sherlock in your backyard or nearby woods and fields is as easy as dressing warmly and putting on your detective eyes.  As Holmes would well advise, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”    View the full article HERE!

Winter20Fox20ATFA_Stumble_post-s580x388-177098Snow, Snow, Snow – January 2013

What will this winter bring?  Will we get a lot of snow this year or just a little?   The amount of snow and the character of the snow influences the activities and interactions of animals and plants each winter.  The first snowfall draws us outside to marvel at a quiet world being covered with a white blanket.  Snow provides us with a whole range of fun winter activities from sledding and skiing to tracking animals and snow crystal watching.     View the full article HERE!

Northern Lights, December 2013  northern lights

It’s December and the winter season is almost upon us. There are beautiful surprises associated with all seasons, but in the wintertime there are special events that you may be lucky enough to witness in the northern night sky. Northern lights as they are commonly called appear in the northern skies and look like a giant series of curtains hanging and waving in the sky.  View the full article HERE!

forest floorHide and Seek, November 2012

Let’s step out into our gray and brisk November weather and explore the forest floor.  The deciduous trees have shed their leaves in preparation for the coming snow. A carpet of leaves covers the earth again, creating a realm of hide and seek among the club mosses, tree roots, fallen branches and nuts.  Click here for more!

Acorns, Acorns, Everywhere! October 2012acorn family pic

October is in full swing here in Windham and Cheshire Counties, and we can all see the signs. The leaves have changed into their autumn attire and have begun to fall. The air is chilly and crisp, making it harder and harder to get out of our warm beds in the morning. This time of year is often thought of as the time when nature lays to rest for the winter months, but still so much is going on in our yards and forests! Click here for more!

Autumn, September 2012

The month of September brings the beginning of a new school year, but also the continuation of our seasonal year. When we go back to school it is still summer, fall doesn’t begin until September 22nd, but already you can see signs from nature that the seasons are moving ahead. The beginning of autumn begins is determined by the sun, when night and day are nearly of the same length and the sun crosses the celestial equator moving southward into the southern hemisphere.  Click here to read more!

dandelion field

Sunshine on a Stem, May 2012

April showers bring May flowers. One of the early flowers of spring is the sunny dandelion. They give forth a welcome splash of yellow as they pop up in lawns and through cracks in the sidewalk. Farm fields transform into a marvelous carpet of gold before the grasses grow tall. May is the month to soak up the dandelion glow.  Click Here to Read More!

Glorious Mud, April 2012IM000453.JPG

April can be a very rainy month, so get out your raincoats and galoshes. It’s time to sing and dance in the rain celebrating spring. All the rain creates puddles to jump in and glorious mud to play with. Earth day is on April 22nd, and what better way to celebrate Earth day than to play in the mud….Click Here to Read More!

Animals in Wintertime, February 2012

As I write this, it is minus five degrees F outside, with no snow cover on the ground. Brrr! What are you doing to stay warm? Do you wonder what chickadees, shrews and groundhogs are doing on a night like this? For non-migrating animals this temperature, coupled with the lack of a blanket of snow, makes for a cold night indeed. Animals that overwinter in Vermont must cope with not only the cold but also the limited supply of food….Click here to read more! 

Music From A Minor Nation, August 2011

Each summer I attend a performance by a trio of very talented percussionists. The pieces they played, while not melodic, were thrilling to listen to, and the variety of sounds dazzled. I recall that concert as August arrives, for August marks a transition in our natural soundscape; as summer progresses the vocal music of the birds fades, and the buzzes, chirps and rattles of the insects begin their crescendo. While not melodic, these sounds are a part of the essence of the days and nights of mature summer….Click here to read more

Who Else is Fond of a Pond?, July 2011

The bright warmth of summer will hopefully find many of us enjoying the myriad waterways of our northern New England landscape. At first glance, you might note the light reflecting off the water, the blue skies and the sand or rocks that border a watery world beckoning us to swim and sunbathe. But don’t be fooled by the apparent tranquility of your first impression – as always, there is more to nature than meets the eye. If you are lucky enough to have a swimming pond nearby, take the time to get to know some of the inhabitants of this aquatic environment….Click here to read more.

The Joy of the Unexpected Encounter, May 2011

Just in case you are thinking that the “march of the salamanders” has passed, think again! Yes, all the mole salamanders: the spotted, the Jefferson, and the marbled salamanders have completed their spring migrations to the vernal pools. They are back in the burrows and tunnels of New England’s deciduous and mixed hardwood forests. But the woodland trails and dirt roadways of rural New England are the highways and byways of one our most endearing salamanders: the juvenile red-spotted newt. Otherwise known as a red eft….  Click here to read more

Have Seeds, Will Travel, September 2010

With the passing of summer’s long days, brilliant greens and showy flowers comes the season of soft browns, modest asters and the tiny world of seeds. On the surface, the world seems to be slowing down. Yet a careful look reveals a great deal of activity in both the animal and plant worlds. As animals scurry to set their stores for the winter, plants too are working to insure the survival of future generations. The abundance of seeds this season provides a valuable opportunity for families to mark the amazing life cycle of flowering plants…. Read Full Article

Earth Day, April 2010

With spring around the corner, Earth Day is the ideal opportunity for your family to celebrate all that the Earth means to us. The first seeds for the first Earth Day were planted back in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was president of the United States. It took seven years for the idea to take hold, and on April 22, 1970 more than 20 million people celebrated the first official Earth Day. Today, 40 years later, Earth Day is a great time to renew our commitment to protecting the environment or for our younger readers it’s the perfect time to learn more about our planet and how to take care of it… Read Full Article

March of the Salamanders, March 2010

Have you heard the squirrels and chickadees outside your window refueling on sunflower seeds?  Have you seen the early morning sunlight defrosting the earth?  Have you smelled the fresh, crisp air welcoming a new season?  This is the sure sign that March has arrived!  This is also the time of year when, beneath the snow and frozen soil, a host of amphibians snooze in yellow-polka dotted pajamas.  They await their big moment of the year… and if this year is like most, it is only a few weeks a way.  These black, eight-inch long spotted salamanders are called mole salamanders.  And when the first thawing rain reaches them, their big moment begins…. Read full article