Even after the Christmas season, it is still possible to walk in a "Winter Wonderland."
The soft, fluffy, new snow is almost impossible to resist. Sometimes you are the first one to make a human footprint in the newly fallen snow. Your footprints may be near the footprints of the animals that live in this beautiful snow covered landscape.
What Track Is That?
The next time it snows, try to figure out what other animals have been in the area. One of the ways to do this is to look for tracks. Perhaps you can find your pet dog's footprints, the prints from your brother or sister, or even a bird. Which tracks can you identify? Keep walking and look for more tracks and see what else you can discover. Check out this website for a quiz to identify the tracks of six common wild mammals in our area: http://dnr.wi. gov/org/caer/ce/eek/ cool/trackQuizLVLOne.htm
In the wintertime it is sometimes easier to spot some of the birds that may be hidden by the leaves of trees and bushes in summer. One of the most easily recognizable birds is the Northern cardinal. The cardinal is West Virginia's and Ohio's state bird. Male cardinals have a black throat and are a bright red color. The female cardinal's color is a brownish red. The photograph by local naturalist Dr. Scott Shalaway is of a male cardinal.
What Bird Is That?
Try to find other birds as you walk outdoors in the winter. Keep a log of the birds you see. Which birds do you not see in the winter? Why do you think you do not see these birds? Here is a wonderful website to help you identify winter birds you may see and what kinds of food they like to eat so you can keep your bird feeders properly filled: www.wvu.edu/ ~agexten/wildlife/winterbrd.PDF
What Tree Is That?
Most trees look much different in the wintertime. If you have a tree near your home or in an area where you and your family walk during the winter, notice how your favorite tree looks during the winter. Does your favorite tree have leaves or needles on it? Does it have berries or other fruit on it? What does its bark look like? Do you notice any evidence of animals that are living in or on the tree? Here is a great website for identifying local trees by their leaves and bark. www.wvforestry.com/Tree%20ID.pdf
Even if it isn't snowing, a crisp winter walk is a great idea. You may observe something new and get some exercise at the same time. Be sure to invite your family to walk with you and bundle up against the cold and wind! The cold temperature is one of the most notable differences between a winter walk and warm walks of spring and summer.