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Home Sweet Home: Build or install a nest box this spring! Here’s a great spring activity to try at home or at school. Nest
Soaring Towards 10,000!
Pathway Explorers have been busy logging Landmarks and we’ve reached a record number, soaring towards our goal of 10,000 Landmarks! The winter provided so many new and exciting activities for our community and photos have warmed our hearts. We’re already at 3,216 – incredible work!
We’ve had some super ideas from families and other groups this winter proving – rain, snow or shine – it’s great to be outdoors. Some of our favourites include:
- The Chickadees celebrated the winter season and made garlands out of edible items for their wintering friends in the woods. They decorated with Cheerios, raisins, raisins, peanuts, air-popped popcorn, oranges, and pomegranate peel shaped with cookie cutters. Such a creative way to explore Landmark 11 – Celebrate Each Season
- The Myles Family took advantage of a cold snap and when Rogers Cove was transformed into a giant outdoor rink. They went skating on the open ice, feeling the effects of the wind and listening to the deep sounds of the ice. It was so much fun they went back the next day!
- Children at the Compass Early Learning and Care-Home Childcare Program built a snowman this season! They used snowballs, stacked them, and added a face and a “unicorn horn”. They wondering if any animals might come nibble on the carrot nose and horn.
- After a beautiful dump of perfect snow early in the week, the grade 5s and 6s from Mrs. Monti and Mrs. Belk’s classes from Millbrook South Cavan Public School explored Medd’sMountain on snowshoes as part of the Think Outside program with Nature Nancy. The snow was deep enough to see how effective snowshoes really are. The Millbrook trail system is a close walk from the school and has amazing trees to walk through, marvel at, and use for hiding during a game of “Reggie the Squirrel”.
- Camp Kawartha worked with the Grade 8s at Highland Heights! They engaged in a variety of team-building activities that the students absolutely loved! They completed activities aimed at working together to balance a ball while traveling. They amped up the challenge by placing the stand that the ball had to sit on, on top of a snowbank!
- Immaculate Conception made suncatchers from collected materials and positioned them in the pan. Despite a warm spell, they were so happy when the temperature dropped and they saw their sun catchers come to life!
Home Sweet Home:
Build or install a nest box this spring!
Here’s a great spring activity to try at home or at school. Nest boxes provide wonderful habitat for many kinds of birds, and having avian families in your yard gives hours of enjoyment watching these feathered miracles.
In nature, holes in trees are prime real estate for wildlife. In fact, many kinds of birds need these holes, called ‘cavities’ for building their nests and raising their young. Especially in urban areas, dead or dying trees are usually removed, leaving a scarcity of nesting sites for our bird neighbours.
Luckily, nest boxes are quite easy to build with a few simple tools and some understanding of what birds need for protection from weather and predators. While there are many specialized types of nest boxes for specific species, a good basic design is suitable for many small birds such as chickadees, wrens, and nuthatches.
Here are some basic guidelines:
- nest boxes need enough space for a nest full of baby birds and access for parents
- the correct size of the entrance hole is important; it should be near the top of the box;
- nest boxes must be cleaned out every year, so make sure you can open up the box, and reseal it safely
- don’t put a perch on your box; birds don’t need it, but perches can help predators reach the young birds
- don’t paint or put a finish on your box; birds prefer untreated, natural wood
- provide ventilation and drainage; a few small holes near the top provide ventilation, and small holes in the floor allow moisture to drain
- use a predator guard to protect the entrance hole from being chewed by squirrels or other mammals who would destroy the eggs or young birds; a metal plate or piece of thick wood are effective (see examples)
- install securely at least 6 feet from the ground; avoid nailing into trees – a pole or post are ideal
Here are some plans for a simple nest box you can build from a 4 ft. piece of 1 X 6″ lumber
Chickadee Nest Box Plans from Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Note: Entrance hold diameter is 1″ for House Wrens; Use 1 1/8″ diameter for Black-Capped Chickadees; 1 1/4″ for White-Breasted and Red-Breasted Nuthatches
Join the Pathway #LandmarkChallenge
Got screen fatigue? Need an excuse to get outdoors with the family, build memories and enjoy activities that encourage kids to love learning? Well, this Family Day, the Pathway to Stewardship and Kinship is challenging every family to log ONE Landmark activity between Feb 15 and Feb 21. Discover all 30 Landmarks here.
For residents of Ontario, there is a daily prize draw for a $50 gift certificate to a local business. Simply REGISTER AND REPORT your Landmark at pathwayproject.ca or tag us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the #LandmarkChallenge.
Our goal is 10,000 Landmark activities. Let’s do it together! Thanks for helping make this the best Family Week ever, by joining the Pathway #LandmarkChallenge!
We gratefully acknowledge the support of
Looking for a fun winter activity for all ages? Here is a free winter Bingo game cards from the Pathway!
Visit a special place, explore your senses, discover winter themed words and most of all, have fun!
This winter bingo helps with Landmarks 1,3,4 and 7.
Landmark 1. Explore outdoors together at least an hour a wee.
Landmark 3. Exercise the senses daily.
Landmark 4. Visit a favourite outdoor place each week throughout all seasons.
Landmark 7Share a nature-based picture book, song, poem or game each week.
Winter Wonderland: The Night Sky
Winter is a perfect season for an often overlooked family activity – exploring the sky at night. With winter’s early darkness and often crisp, clear weather, the stars take on a special brightness that is nothing short of breathtaking.
January and February are perfect months to view one of the most striking and unforgettable of all the constellations – Orion, the Hunter. Rising in the southeastern sky in early evening, Orion travels (like the sun) from east to west across the winter sky as the earth turns and night progresses, to finally set in the west before morning. Orion is easy to find, by facing south and looking for the three stars in a row that make up his belt. His shoulder and knee are two of our brightest stars, Betelgeuse and Rigel. Just below and beside him is Sirius, the dog star – Orion’s faithful friend.
Indigenous storytellers also saw a human-like figure in this unique combination of stars. The Ojibwe know him as Biboonkeonini – the Wintermaker. Wintermaker stretches out his long arms to beckon the cold and winds of winter. He also ushers in the traditional storytelling season of winter.
Early on a crisp, cloudless winter night, pack up the family, bring a thermos of hot chocolate and go out stargazing. Turn out the house and yard lights for better viewing, or travel to a park or open area with few lights. Look for patterns in the stars and make your own stories. If you’re lucky, you may even see a shooting star! What an awesome reminder of the wonders around us every day.
Star watching connects with Landmarks 1, 3, 6, 11, 14, 17, 25.
Summer Report Highlights
We’ve had some super ideas from families and other groups this summer. Some of our favourites include:
- The James family learned how to geocache with their 10-year old boys
- The Nature Ninjas tried lots of new outdoor activities! They built an obstacle course in their backyard, and the kids challenged the parents to see who was fastest completing the course; they tried making paints using soil and crushed plants, and made pictures with all-natural materials
- Babbling Brook Daycare visited Jackson Park, and in one day, they saw a monarch butterfly, a grasshopper, a cardinal, as well as fish and geese in the pond and creek; they also made beautiful corn husk dolls when the corn was ripe
- The Warrens visit their favourite donkey on weekends, and feed her delicious treats
- The Chickadees researched edible plants in their own yard and created their own field guide; they also created clothes made from flower petals to dress up sketches of people
So many great ideas! Why not send us yours?
Bird of the Month: Black-capped Chickadee
While so many birds are flying to warmer places to spend the winter, the hardy little Black-capped Chickadee is preparing to stay with us all winter.
Chickadees are cheerful little birds that travel in flocks and seem to be always on the move. They have a black cap and bib, with white cheeks. They’re one of the easiest birds to attract to a winter bird feeder – a feast of black oil sunflower seeds will keep them happily visiting you all winter. You can hear their ‘chick-a-dee-dee-dee’ call all year ‘round, but on warmer days in winter, their slower ‘Dee dee’ song sounds like they’re saying ‘Honey!’ or ‘Hey, sweetie!’ That call shows that they’re feeling frisky, and thinking of warmer days and the breeding season.
Black-capped Chickadees are very friendly, curious little birds, and with a bit of patience and standing very still, you can often entice them to come and take a seed from your outstretched hand. What a memorable moment, especially for children, to be visited by these lighter-than-air feathered friends! If you’re working on Landmark 12 with young children (learn 5 birds in your neighbourhood), the Black-capped Chickadee is sure to be one of your neighbours.
Squirrel Nest Game
Eastern Grey Squirrels are the common tree squirrels found in many areas of southern Ontario, and are more often black than grey. What do they do in winter? They need to construct a well-insulated nest in tree branches or tree cavities for protection from the harsh weather.
Can you build a nest that will keep a tiny squirrel warm? This game is a great fall activity for families or school groups.
For this game, every player will need a small container with lid that will be their ‘squirrel.’ Pill bottles, old film canisters or baby food jars are all ideal. Just be sure that every player’s container is the same size (kids can work in teams for larger groups). Everyone can decorate their ‘squirrel’ if they like – just make sure you can still remove and reseal the lid. You will also need a small thermometer and some warm water – set all these aside while you prepare your nest.
- Take all the players outside to find natural materials for building a nest. These could be leaves, branches, shreds of bark or paper, ‘fluff’ from seeds like milkweed, or anything you can find that you think would make a good home for your squirrel.
- Each player builds their squirrel nest in a protected place that they can find again.
- A teacher or parent heats a pot of water to body temperature (warm water from the tap is fine too). Tip for teachers: having warm water ready in a thermos can be handy for larger groups.
- Everyone checks the temperature of the water in the pot (or thermos). Write down or remember the starting temperature!
- Find your own squirrel and bring it to the pot of water. Quickly fill your ‘squirrel’ with the warm water, put the lid on snugly, and take the squirrel to the nest you have built. Carefully place it in the nest, and snuggle the nest materials around it.
- Leave your ‘squirrel’ in its nest for 30 minutes. This is a good time for a nature walk, or an autumn scavenger hunt, while you’re waiting for your ‘squirrel’ to settle in its nest.
- After 30 minutes, come back to each nest with the thermometer. Carefully remove each lid, and take the temperature of the water inside. Whose squirrel stayed the warmest? Which cooled down the most? What kinds of materials were best for keeping the squirrels warm?
- You can play this game as often as you like, trying different decorations on your ‘squirrels’, making the most creative nest, and using different materials to keep the squirrel warm.
Hope you stay warm this winter too! Staying cozy outdoors in cold weather depends on having several layers of insulation and a good windbreak. Squirrels use the same tricks!
Family Cycling Adventures
Here’s a great idea for being active and spending time with those you love, even during social distancing in the pandemic.
The Ernsting family meet up for family cycling adventures on nearby trails. Kids, parents and grandparents can all join in. Pack a delicious lunch or snack as an added enticement for the trip! Make sure everyone brings water to drink, uses sunscreen and wears a helmet.
Going exploring on bikes relates to several of the Pathway Landmarks:
- LANDMARK 4 – Visit a favourite outdoor place every week (Age 4-5 years)
- LANDMARK 9 – Visit an outdoor place that is special to you (Age 6-7 years)
- LANDMARK 13 – Travel by yourself or with a friend on a familiar route (Age 8-9 years); Let the children help plan the route if you’re working on Landmark 13
- LANDMARK 14 – Try several kinds of outdoor recreation that don’t need gasoline or electricity (Age 8-9 years)
If you live in the Peterborough region, we’re blessed with wonderful trail systems, both in town and in the county. We also have great cycling support services. Get started close to home with the City of Peterborough Trails Map. Peterborough and the Kawarthas also have some great cycling route maps and other info for keen cyclists.
Keep trips short if you’re travelling with young children, and lengthen the trip as kids build strength and confidence. Try cycling to a place where kids can explore and play, to break up the trip and give kids a rest. Sharpen your eyes and ears while you’re travelling to listen for new sounds or look for interesting bugs, birds or animals along the way.
If you need help with repairing or finding a bike, or some guidance on how to cycle safely, contact BIKE, Peterborough’s community bike shop.
BIKE and GreenUP have changed-up their Pedal Power program, normally offered to schools in June. This year, it’s Pedal Power from Home and is available to families online. While the available prizes wrap up at the end of June, the excellent cycling workshops are available throughout the summer. They’re filled with fun activities, bike drills and information focused on road safety and bike handling skills that families can do from home.
Bird of the Month:
Meet the Yellow Warbler!
Summer is a perfect time to go searching for new feathered friends. This perky ray of sunshine is quite common in our area in spring and summer. Incredibly, the tiny Yellow Warbler flies all the way from South and Central America every spring to find places to breed in North America. Look for reddish streaks on the breast (males), a black beak and sweet black eyes in an unmarked face. Listen for its song – it sounds like it’s saying “Sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet…”
Yellow warblers feed mostly on insects, and can be found around woodland edges, streamsides and brushy areas. Look for them in late spring and early summer, as they often start their long migration south during the month of August. To learn the yellow warbler’s song, check out the Cornell birding website, ‘All About Birds.’ Getting to know the birds around you is part of LANDMARK 12 (Who Else Lives in Your Neighbourhood?).
Don’t be fooled by another common yellow bird – the American Goldfinch. Male goldfinches are also bright yellow in the summer, but they have a black cap and black wings. Goldfinches stay here for the winter, and are commonly seen all year at bird feeders.
For a bigger challenge for older children and youth, try reporting your bird sightings to eBird to help track trends in bird populations worldwide. This is LANDMARK 22 (Become a Citizen Scientist). Check out the Merlin website to help you learn to identify the birds you see. Watching birds is great fun, and a good focus for walks outdoors.
Photo by Kyle Dueck