We are so fortunate to have a National Fish and Wildlife Refuge so nearby to enjoy just for a walk or canoeing, and the chance to be outside away from the din of human activities to recharge our batteries.
Whether you are a child or an adult, there is so much to learn about the wonders of our natural world. If you are curious and want to see, smell, hear or feel our natural environment and be immersed in how it all works, give us a call.
We will be glad to arrange walk-abouts either for a single person or groups. This includes school groups of all ages. All are welcome.
The National Wildlife Refuge system has begun construction of a pavilion located on Hospital Road in Shirley. This is in the northern part of the Oxbow Refuge. Once completed, this building will be an excellent place for groups to meet and enjoy programs and presentations. The trail system in the area will also be extended. We hope to eventually have a canoe launching site as well, since the Nashua River is right there.
Contact Rona Balco at 978 779-2259 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Saturday, October 24, 2015, starting around 2:15, naturalist/teacher Stephen DeFlorio will lead an ethnobotany walk. (See the Home Page)
Stephen DeFlorio- Teacher Naturalist
Stephen has a BS in Elementary Education from Lesley University. He has been teaching in the field of outdoor environmental education for 30 years. For the last 12 years, he has been teaching at two local Montessori schools. Before that, he was an Education Coordinator at Mass Audubon for 14 years coordinating outreach programs, directing and teaching summer camps, teaching public programs, teaching on-site guided walks, and directing and teaching vacation camps. Stephen has also been involved in turtle nesting surveys for 10 years in Concord and has integrated this field research into public programs. Stephen is an accomplished designer of curricula and materials, integrating local sites to meet these ends. He brings the outside in and the inside out in highly engaging hands-on methods.
Stephen is a certified permaculture designer, facilitator of many national curriculums, and developer of a 24 hour naturalist program for Friends of Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge.
In Stephen’s “spare time” he enjoys camping, gardening, collecting wild edibles, crafting, and most passionately, primitive skills or what is sometimes calls ancestral or aboriginal skills such as gourd crafting, cordage, friction fire, primitive pottery, natural dyeing, flint knapping, work with birch bark, coal burning etc.
White-tailed Deer in Winter
Deer shed their beautiful reddish-brown coat in the fall to replace it with a grayish-brown one which provides good camouflage. The winter coat is dense, and has longer and hollow hairs on top with a soft, downy layer underneath. Together these provide excellent insulation. Muscles in the skin enable the hairs to stand up to trap more body heat during cold weather or lay down as the temperature rises. Bucks, does and fawns seek out locations where they are sheltered from severe cold or high winds, often under stands of coniferous trees like pine, hemlock and other dense cover. Staying together conserves body heat and keeps predators at bay.
White-tailed deer are ruminants and thus have a four-chambered stomach. This and the variety of bacteria it contains, enables them to eat various foods and to eat it quickly. Later, in a safe spot, they will digest their meal. During the fall when food is plenty, they eat a lot and are able to accumulate fat under their skin and around their internal organs. During the cold winter season the food that is available is less nutritious. Consequently, they need to conserve energy so as not lose too much weight. They accomplish this by remaining in small groups and foraging nearby. Using trails created by a number of deer conserves calories also. Their fat reserve carries them through the difficult months. Deer are able to digest the woody plants they eat when there is a lot of snow on the ground, because the complex set of bacteria necessary for digestion changes as their diet changes during that season. These bacteria are not able to digest other types of food than the ones normally encountered during that time of year.
Winters are hard on white-tailed deer as well as on most animals. The food supply in the wild is limited. Each area can feed only a certain number. This is one of nature's ways of keeping a balance in animal populations and hence protect the ecosystems, and humans too.The deer population in the northeast has greatly increased in many areas because of the disappearance of most of the natural predators coupled with the increase in forested areas. The U.S. Forest Service found that when a region has more than 20 deer per square mile, the population of a variety of birds is greatly reduced. A dense deer population also affects our eastern forests and our native woody and herbaceous plants. Deer prefer to browse on native species. The increase has resulted in a smaller number of native plants and a rising number of invasive ones like oriental bittersweet, autumn olive, Japanese barberry, multiflora rose, winged euonymus, garlic mustard and spotted knapweed, to name but a few, A larger percentage of deer also increases the number of northern deer ticks, plus the number of deer/car collisions. For these and other reasons, feeding deer during the winter is discouraged by most scientists.
Plants that the white-tailed deer mainly browse on after snow has covered the ground are white cedar, birch, aspen, American yew, hemlock, maple, ash, white pine, mountain ash, scarlet elder, sumac, hobblebush and high bush cranberry. Also, as we know, deer will come into our gardens and nibble on our rhododendrons and other bushes. Beech, balsam fir, spruce, and larch are either unpalatable, indigestible, or both.
Despite the cold, the first signs of spring are already here. Soon the deer will disperse again. If we are lucky, in May we might get a glimpse of a mother and her small, well-camouflaged fawn at the Oxbow. We hope you'll send us a picture.
(The content of this article is totally the responsibility of the author. Information obtained from a variety of sources. For comments and corrections, send an email to ada@FriendsoftheOxbowNWR.org)
Many people ask when to put out their bird feeders and when to stop feeding the birds. The answer depends in part on where you live. In most places, you can feed the birds year-round if you wish. In some areas people have to be concerned about bears. When the weather turns cold, the bears begin their hibernation period. Their den might be in a cave, if such a home is available. It might also be under a pile of branches. Your feeders will not be raided when the bears are asleep. If they are up and around, the feeders are not safe. Who can resist such tasty food especially after a long period of fasting?