Posted by: csdailyblog | May 15, 2012

Conserve School Students and Staff Enjoy After-School Nature Walks

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Through after-school nature walks, Fran McReynolds, Coordinator of the Conserve School/University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Graduate Fellowship, has been sharing her expertise in plant identification with staff and students. Fran worked for many years as a nature center educational director and has an undergrad degree in Biology (with an emphasis in Botany) and a master’s degree in Natural Resources, so she has a lot of detailed knowledge about the natural environment to share. Fran is also an Audubon Master Birder, so as we walked, in addition to identifying plants for us, she also pointed out a variety of birds both by sight and by sound.

Fran led two afternoon walks in the Conserve School woods last week, locating and identifying woodland ephemerals for staff and students. Spring ephemerals are the delicate and usually tiny wildflowers that bloom for a brief period of time in the spring and then disappear, often leaves and all, until the following spring. Ephemerals are fascinating for a variety of reasons: they are hard to find because they are so small and bloom for such a short period of time; their fragile flowers are often exquisitely beautiful, but you have to get down on your knees to appreciate the show; many are becoming endangered due to habitat and climate change as well as deer over-browsing; and they provide important clues about soil and habitat type.

Plants we saw on our walks (not all of which are considered ephemerals) included goldthread, northern woodland violet, Canada mayflower (a.k.a. wild lily of the valley), sweet-scented bedstraw, twinflower, pussytoes, wild strawberries, partridgeberry, wood anemone, bluebead lily, and Jack-in-the-pulpit.

Birds we saw or heard included winter wren, palm warbler, black-throated green warbler, white-throated sparrow, American robin, hermit thrush, hairy woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker (we also saw the holes he drilled in the tree), oven bird, song sparrow, American goldfinch, pine siskin, chickadee, red-breasted nuthatch, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker, and, of course, loon.

Fran is leading another group today after school, and no doubt we will see some new blooms.

You can see from the photos that a wide variety of staff members, students, and Conserve residents (family members of staff who live on campus) took part in the walks. One of the many positive aspects of the Conserve community is that people of all ages mix and mingle here, sharing their interest in and enjoyment of Lowenwood and the natural world.

– Mary Anna Thornton, Assistant Head of School

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