Register now for our Brave Bears summer camps for ages 6-9!

Plan now for their summer fun! Camp registration is open for our Brave Bears one day adventures, as well as our two week long sessions in July. 

Time in nature increases health, happiness, and well-being in kids. Unplug from electronics and reconnect with nature! Our Brave Bear camps include educational, hands-on experiences that bring children outside to exercise their minds and bodies. We build confidence and independence by teaching nature wilderness skills in a safe and fun group environment. Youth will cultivate a deeper relationship with the natural world with The Nature Museum. 

Learn more and register today:

Brave Bears Camp: Highlights from 2016

March for Climate Recap, Montpelier

On Saturday, April 29th, The Nature Museum joined students, workers, faith communities, Indigenous Nations, community organizations, and other environmental groups to make it clear that we honor the Earth and recognize climate change is a real and dangerous threat to the natural world. Here is a photo from our Nature Museum crew representing on the steps of the capitol in Montpelier, VT; you can read more about the Montpelier march in the Burlington Free Press

As a non-profit entity dedicated to nature, science and environmental education, the march was a beautiful, hopeful moment. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the next generation of climate justice leaders gives lots of hope for the future. Pictured below are three youth that are committed to stewardship of our natural world and working toward an energy and agricultural economy that works for people and the planet.

(left to right) Matt Powers, senior at Springfield HS, Laurel King, freshman, Grace Johnson, sophomore at Green Mountain Union High School. Photo taken by Carrie King.

Twigs & Stems // May 2017

Here are a few links from around the web that caught our attention in recent weeks. Have you seen something that stuck with you that you'd like to share? Post it in the comments! Love what you see here? Follow us on Facebook, as we often post these goodies as we find them. 

How Prisons Are Helping to Save Bees  Shauna Bittle / Huffington Post

How Prisons Are Helping to Save Bees
 Shauna Bittle / Huffington Post

Collaborating with Grafton Elementary School Students

A scene from a habitat program we led with Grafton Elementary School's 6th grade class. 

The Nature Museum is doing many "GREEN" events with our local elementary school in May.

The Nature Museum and The Grafton Elementary School are coming together on Green Up Day on May 4th to remove litter from Grafton's roadsides and public spaces. The day will begin with our environmental educators leading a school-wide assembly to learn more about stewardship of our natural landscape and waterways. We hope to raise student awareness of the benefits of a litter-free environment, and the significance of recycling. Following this program, students and staff will foray throughout Grafton and Athens for a spring clean-up of litter.

The Nature Museum is also providing the school with stellar hands-on environmental education throughout the spring. For a six week session, our Environmental Educators will give in-depth science and environmental education to kids as part of an after-school enrichment option. Their presentations will focus on how to have a sustainable relationship with our natural world. Our after-school programs work to show kids that being outdoors is free and fun entertainment. Nature is ready for exploration 24/7!

As well, The Nature Museum will host a second all-school assembly at the school featuring live Vermont wildlife from The Southern Vermont Natural History Museum. Museum staff will bring furs, skulls and other artifacts for an exploration of our local fauna. We will also run programs and field trips personalized to individual classrooms that are fun, educational, and get students outdoors. We connect local students to the wonders of nature and spark interests that last a lifetime. 

A Successful Earth Day Party at Phelps Barn

We are big fans of Earth Day at the Nature Museum. This beautiful planet deserves recognition each day, but all the same we will readily spend this particular day celebrating the earth. On Saturday, April 15th we enjoyed a special program for youth and families in honor of Earth Day.

In partnership with the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum and The Grafton Inn, we proudly presented “Vermont Wildlife: The Working Landscape Edition” in honor of the special day.  Mike Clough gave an overview of the ways in which Vermont's landscape has evolved since the time glaciers covered our state. He explained how the animals that call Vermont home have managed to adapt to humans' huge impact on our shared landscape. 

Since The Nature Museum is dedicated to supporting the continued growth of children's innate affinity and wonder for nature,  all kids got in free at this amazing wildlife event. Guests concluded their morning with an exploration of our museum. Thank you to the “grown ups” for supporting our work and the next generation of nature lovers. Thanks also go to our friends at the Grafton Inn for collaborating with us to transform Phelps Barn into a festive Earth Day Party complete with an interesting program and delicious Earth Day cake. Will Danforth performed a set of songs as well! Many thanks go to Wayne LeFevre for volunteering his time and skills to capture the photographs of this event. So much gratitude also for Erin Hennessy for donating her time and ingredients to bake the most beautiful and delicious Earth Day cake!

March for Science, Boston

We had our Earth Day celebration a week earlier than usual this year. We wanted to give our staff members a chance to honor this special holiday in whatever way rejuvenated their spirits and strengthened their commitment to continue to steward the planet. On Earth Day, several board members represented The Nature Museum at the March for Science in Boston and Washington, DC while others took long hikes and forest baths and lovingly toiled in their gardens.

Have you heard of the pledge of allegiance to Earth? We think it's worth repeating and sharing!


Zero for Two

By Bob Engel
Marlboro College Professor Emeritus of Biology and Environmental Science

I was trying to decide whether to feed the birds today.  If I could see some insects, so could my feathered buddies.  Who would want to beat on a black-oil sunflower achene to get the seed inside when insects were buzzing around?

sharp-shinned hawk eating it's prey

sharp-shinned hawk eating it's prey

But because I’m a softy, I had put out the feeder and was sitting on the porch watching a lot of nothing.  Maybe six or seven juncos were hunting on the ground nearby.  No chicks, titmice, or nuthatches, and no thieving red squirrels.  I started out into the yard to bring in the feeder.  And WHOOSH — for the second time in two days, the noise of wing and tail feathers controlling very sharp turns stopped me.  It was a male Sharp-shinned Hawk in full attack.  The juncos panicked and scattered.  They all made it to cover in the privet hedge.

Sharp-shinned Hawks are the smallest and most common species of the three species of so-called Accipiters — specialized, bird-eating hawks — that breed here.  All three species are built to chase birds, and all have relatively short, round wings and long tails.  Between the constantly beating wings and the long tail, they can turn on a dime and rigidly steer through those turns.  

The Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, and Northern Goshawk all look pretty much alike, but they increase in size from about 11 inches, to 16 inches, and then to 21 inches.  The Goshawk, the largest is also a bit stockier.  The size of these bird eaters also determines what they attack.  

“Sharpies” are after typical little brown birds: chickadees, juncos, sparrows, maybe a nuthatch. Cooper’s Hawks take jays, woodpeckers, and maybe robins.  I saw one in Arizona that had eaten so much of its unlucky prey that the hawk’s crop stuck out as it a balloon had been inflated in the hawk’s crop.  A Goshawk hunts a little differently and takes some mammals in addition to larger birds.  A couple of years ago, I saw one perch in a big pine tree in front of our house.  It was a very pale gray bird, and, therefore a male.  He sat quietly.  Five minutes later, a Mourning Dove flew into the field and the sit-and-wait Goshawk leapt into pursuit.  He was immediately outflown by the dove.  The lesson?  If you’re a larger hawk that waits to surprise a bird, the prey has to be pretty slow, clueless, or maybe a grouse paying too much attention to berries.  

So back to my bird.  It was also a male (substantially smaller and with a brighter breast than a female), and because of its intense, focused attack, it had not seen me.  I froze and the hawk landed on a small branch maybe eight feet away.  He seemed to be composing himself…a bit of preening of some primary wing feathers, a little fussing with the scapularies (feathers at the shoulder) and some bill wiping.  Bill wiping shows up after all sorts of behavior, some of it aggressive, and seems to “redirect the mind.”  Off he went, and finally saw me at about three feet.  He had failed here and was going to try somewhere else (no sightings since).  At this point, I am not certain whether he was the same bird that our feeder birds, mostly chickadees, escaped yesterday.  Today, three chickadees perched near the hawk in the still naked tree and scolded him vigorously.  He looked up at them, and I was tempted to imagine that he considered the whole event degrading.  I would have.

Quite a few years ago, a couple of ornithologists published an interesting paper in the evolutionary and ecological journal American Naturalist.  Am. Nat., as it’s called by the cognoscenti, prints papers that include both some new data and a resulting, novel idea.  The authors looked at a variety of mammal-eating hawks like Red-tailed Hawks (they eat a few snakes, too) and the three bird-eaters we’ve talked about here.  The data they found (mostly in a variety of papers) showed that bird-eating hawks are much less successful per prey strike than are mostly mammal eaters or fish eaters.  

They mused that if food is hard to get, evolution might generate substantial size dimorphism amount the sexes of all three of the bird eaters.  Why?  Because they would hunt differently sized birds, thereby reducing competition within each accipiter species.  Among hawks and eagles, the Accipiter males are significantly smaller than the females. This is all interesting, but pretty theoretical.

What I had seen were two failed attacks by male “sharpies.”  How do you note a successful attack?  When you find a pile of feathers.  I have seen lots of feather piles, and I have seen lots of chases, but I have never seen an Accipiter actually catch its meal.

The Bird Diva, Bridget Butler on VPR...and soon to be in Chester

Did you happen to catch The Bird Diva Bridget Butler on Vermont Public Radio's annual spring migration show? It aired today at noon, and it is now available for streaming on VPR's website.

We loved listening to Bridget and Jane dish on birds; it really jumpstarted our enthusiasm for getting back into the swing of things with our birding lives.

LISTEN: "In for a Landing: The Spring Bird Show, Vermont Public Radio, 5.24.17"

We have a great diversity of birds here in Vermont. I encourage folks to get out; even if it’s just during your morning cup of coffee. Step outside in your backyard. It’s really amazing this time of year what’s moving through.
— Bridget Butler, speaking on VPR

Want to improve your birding skills so that you can identify what exactly is moving through? This Thursday you'll have your chance in Chester! 

We are beyond excited to welcome Butler this Thursday night at 7pm at Chester's NewsBank Conference center for "Bird is a Verb". She'll answer your questions and share her insights on the birds we'll likely to see in our backyards and nearby woods. Tickets will be available at the door; doors open at 6:30pm and we'll be serving cookies from Grafton Village Bakery. Come on out!

A Thought-Provoking Night With Dr. Alan K. Betts

Dr. Alan K. Betts was on hand at Chester's NewsBank Conference Center on Wednesday night as part of our adult speaker series. A well-known atmospheric scientist, Betts explained how global climate change is ushering in more extreme weather and shorter winters to New England. Scientists have predicted that by the end of this century the weather in Vermont will resemble the climate that is now in northern Georgia.

He stressed that there are actions we can take now to make a difference, including conserving the natural resources we have. He emphasized that significant strides have been made over the last 10 years to increase the energy efficiency of appliances, cars, heating systems, and lighting for our homes. Earth’s dwindling supply of non-renewable resources—along with the harmful gases they produce—makes conservation so important.

Betts went on to describe how the consumption of fossil fuels has steadily increased since last century and has contributed much to the degradation of our environment. Climate change, global warming, extinction of several endangered species, depletion of the ozone layer, increase in air pollution are just a few of the effects from which our environment is suffering. Many European countries have taken steps to move toward clean and green energy sources like solar energy, wind energy and geothermal energy to save energy and leave fossil fuels behind.

Canada's government site includes a useful checklist that outlines ten things you can do now to help mitigate climate change. How many items have you tried? >

We want to send a big thank you to Alan for sharing his passion for the environment and science; and we are grateful of course to the community of folks who came out to learn from him! 

We welcome The Bird Diva, Bridget Butler on Thursday, April 27th. Tickets are available now!