Page 6 - January 24, 2024
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{ 6 }  SNJ Today  |  JANUARY 24, 2024                                                                                                                                                                                                                        JANUARY 24, 2024  |  { 7 }
             THE GREA              T OUTDOORS

                                          Be a Winter Explorer
                                          Be a Winter Explorer

                                            Don’t count winter out when it comes to enjoying the outdoors.
                                                Snow transforms our landscapes in a most magical way.

      NATURE AROUND US                                                                                        by  J. Morton Galetto, CU Maurice River
          TURE AROUND US
                                          ken by a tree’s branch, heavily laden in
                                          snow, breaking free from the trunk with                                               Who doesn’t love
                                          a mighty cracking sound. Frequently, you                                              making a snowman?
                                          hear sounds of a distant snowplow scrap-                                              PHOTO: K. ROSSINI
                                          ing the surface of the road. Even the roar                                            FAR LEFT: Animal tracks
                                          of the plow brings back memories of my                                                like those of passerine birds
                                          childhood; how wonderful it would be to                                               left on the snow’s surface
                                          capture that youth again. How wonderful                                               leave clues about what
           s winter weather settles in, I sup-  it would be to get more than a few more                                         animals frequent an area.
           pose many of us just want to curl   snowfalls, even another significant one,                                         PHOTO: TONY KLOCK
     Aup with a good book somewhere       this winter. Climate change is undeniable.
     inside, possibly by a cozy fire. Or some may   Ice houses used to be stacked with blocks                                   BELOW: Capturing dark
     choose to binge-watch a TV series that they   cut from Union Lake. For years the surface                                   skies against a white
     have never seen. I understand.       hasn’t even supported skating.                                                        landscape can be striking.
        But there are great benefits to exploring   It’s fun to see objects cloaked in snow,                                    Delaware Bayshore, Sayer’s
                                                                                                                                Neck Road, Lawrence
     the outdoors in winter, especially in south-  leaving marshmallow-like sculptural                                          Township. PHOTO:
     ern New Jersey. For one thing, the usual   outlines of themselves. Sharp edges are                                         TONY KLOCK
     insect pests—gnats, mosquitoes, greenhead   smoothed and the world takes on a soft
     flies, deer flies and to some extent ticks—  appearance.
     are sequestered for winter, giving us a brief   I recall mornings seated by the radio
     respite from their attacks. Female mosqui-  listening and hoping to hear my school
     toes overwinter, asleep, in hollow logs and   announce a snow day: “Hooray!” I remi-
     protected spaces like building foundations.   nisce about making snow angels, igloos,
     Greenhead and deer flies are in a larval   snowmen, the fun of catching snowflakes
     state beneath the ground. Ticks stay under   in my mouth, and the joys of sledding. I
     leaf litter and woody debris, although on   envision groups of children, over-dressed
     warmer days they will emerge. Therefore,   Weebles, clinging to the ropes of their sleds
     one must be vigilant year-round about   and heading for the closest slope.
     checking for ticks after being outdoors.   I think of our young dogs who had
     Nevertheless, we are largely free from their   never seen snow before, yet know it is to
     pesky presence in winter.            be embraced. They frolic in it, revel in the
        Snowfall affords a magical opportu-  experience, racing about with joyous and
     nity to explore for signs of nature. For the   reckless abandon, as if they have always
     moment, set aside its negative aspects and   known snow would arrive. They bite at the
     instead see the beauty in the sparkle of   surface of the snow and capture a thrown   all common tracks in our region. Note how   horned owl was exercising its preference
     a freshly fallen snow. Prior to a shovel, a   snowball, only to be confused by its disinte-  a fox’s tracks are in a straight line and a   for only specific blood-rich organs.
     footprint, or a plow, only a bird track skims   grating in their mouths.  domestic dog’s tracks are more variable.   Take time to discuss snowflakes and
     the perfectly unmarred surface. Songbirds   While frolicking in the snow may chal-  One of my favorite stories of a snowfall   how no two are identical. You can hold a
     tread lightly on the surface and leave nearly   lenge my physical abilities today, the next   reveal occurred back in 1985. A park in   sheet of black paper, catch some flakes, and
     imperceptible trails.                best thing is to accompany a young person   Teaneck was finding rabbit carcasses lined   examine them with a magnifying glass. I’ve
        In the wee hours of morning, a blanket   on a snowy experience. Don’t forget a   up with only the heart and lungs removed.   not done this but I surely hope to try it out
     of snow seems to mute the hustle-bustle   camera to capture those beautiful wintery   A fund for animals posted a $1,000 reward,   upon our next snowfall. Teachers recom-
     of the world, and we are left to see it   moments.                       with the thought that some bizarre cult   mend the book Snowflake Bentley for study-
     momentarily free of the human clutter of   Look for animal tracks with a youngster.   might be to blame. But when state patholo-  ing these natural wonders.
     traffic and noise. Often, our outdoor pos-  A good snowfall often reveals evidence   gist Doug Roscoe was called to investigate,   A snowy full moon night often offers
     sessions are hidden from view and we have   of many animals that you were not aware   he found no footprints near the carcasses,   enough illumination to navigate a woods
     a moment to visualize the earth in a seem-  of being even present in the area. Foxes,   simply wing prints in the snow. Evidently,   path. Listen for night sounds. Great horned
     ingly pristine state.                coyotes, rabbits, turkeys, deer, raccoons are   food was plentiful enough that a great   owls are early nesters and you may hear
        Sometimes the magical silence is bro-
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