On Saturday, April 11th - one of of the first nice days of spring - four kids and two "coaches" from Let's Get Movin', along with ICO leader, Liz and new ICO volunteer, Melissa left East Boston for a day of exploring the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield, MA. It was everyone's first visit, and the group was excited for the opportunity to get outside. Once at the sanctuary, Liz lead the opening circle with introductions and ground rules for the day. We learned that there were a few new hikers in the group, along with everyone's favorite animals, which ranged from snakes to horses.
Upon hitting the trail, we immediately encountered mud...a lot of mud! We went as far as we could trying to get to The Rockery, a well-known and favorite spot made up of caves and passages, but were forced to turn around. However, there were plenty more trails to explore, and it provided a good reason for everyone to return! The next stop was to check out some of the boardwalks over the marsh on the way to The Stone Bridge. We watched a pair of mallard ducks before a family of fellow hikers offered our group some birdseed to feed the chickadees. The kids were so thankful (and excited) by this nice gesture...which would later be re-paid...as they had heard that the birds would feed right out of a person's hand! Unfortunately, we didn't have too much success feeding the birds on The Stone Bridge, so everyone put the birdseed in their pockets for a later time and we continued on the trail.
Along the trail everyone learned hiking skills and new terms like esker (a ridge formed by glaciers) when we walked along the North Esker Trail looking down upon the surrounding marshes. Everyone was surprised by the piles of snow we encountered in the woods - some still 6" deep!
After a healthy lunch at the picnic tables, and a few minutes of kicking the soccer ball and throwing a Frisbee, we set off again, this time in the other direction toward the Observation Tower. As we approached the tower, the bare branches of small trees and vines appeared to be a popular hangout for many chickadee birds. So, everyone got their birdseed out of their pockets, spread out along the trail and tried to be as still and as quiet as possible...a very challenging task. Like magic, birds came from everywhere, and everyone became human bird feeders!. Most were chickadees, but we also had a few nuthatches that were fun to watch as they approached since they hop head first down trees. It was an amazing experience for everyone and nobody wanted to leave! We eventually made it to the tower and took in nice views of the flooded Ipswich River. We then walked back through the magical trail to feed the birds for a few more minutes. When our time was coming to a close, one of the kids gave his birdseed to a passing boy and taught him what to do in order to get the birds to land in his hand. It was such a great "paying it forward" moment!
After our day of hiking everyone was exhausted, but also sad to leave. To wrap up the day, Melissa lead the closing circle and everyone talked about their favorite experience. Feeding the birds was an obvious highlight, but everyone appreciated the opportunity that the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary provided. Final calculations were 4.6 miles walked and bird visits that topped 30 for at least two of the kids!