January 12, 2013 - Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary with St Peters
This past Saturday, Jan. 12th, a group of 14 kids from St. Peters and their agency chaperone, Placido, joined 4 ICO volunteers for a trip to the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary for an animal tracking adventure. Jeff, Allison, Breezy, and Saurabh from ICO, along with Andrew Prazar (an educator at the Sanctuary) led the kids through the woods and wetlands for an afternoon of hiking and tracking of the native wildlife.
After a 45 min. drive from St. Peters on a warm but wet morning, the kids piled in to the wonderful heated barn on site and made their own sandwiches for lunch. Meanwhile Andrew gave us an introduction about the wildlife that exist in the 2,000 acre Sanctuary, and passed around tons of cool stuff for the kids to look at and touch, including owl pellets, stuffed fishers and owls, and pelts of raccoons, coyotes, and skunks. He also offered some great tips about how to best find animals and what to be on the lookout for.
After the presentation, Andrew led the group on a 2-hour hike through some great (but slippery!) trails through the sanctuary, where the kids kept an eye out for wildlife. Some of the highlights included a quiet moment where each child put birdseed in their outstretched hand and mimicked the sounds of a chickadee to have them fly into their hand to eat. Staying perfectly still and quiet proved to be a challenge, but eventually we had plenty of birds eating out of our hands. Another highlight was when Andrew instructed us to look out for the white paint-like droppings of owls, which the kids spotted throughout the trip, where they discovered numerous owl pellets, including a few that had a whole mouse and shrew skeletons inside! There was also some sightings of a family of deer, and a great flyby of a swooping hawk by the birdhouses near the barn.
Some great fun facts the kids learned throughout the day and from the presentation:
- -Coyotes were once extinct in Massachusetts, but have moved back from the Western US (including to the Sanctuary) in the past century
- -Weasels often bite just the heads off mice and squirrels to eat the brains, the most nutritious part!
- -Beavers leave large "scent mounds" outside of their lodges that they rub their scent glands on to mark their territory and advertise for potential mates - In Andrew's words, it is "Nature's Match.com".
- -Owls eat small prey animals whole, and each day regurgitate an owl pellet that has the hair and bones of the animal that they can't digest
- -Fishers, large ferret-like mammals in the Sanctuary, are vicious predators that can eat prey animals more than twice their size, and store excess food that they can't immediately eat
Afterwards we circled up for a quick impromptu game of soccer/skating on some of the ice in the parking lot, and everyone shared their favorite moments of the day before heading back to St. Peters. A fun time was had by all, and a special thanks goes out to the staff at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, especially Andrew, for providing us the space and leading us on a great adventure on the North Shore.