DINGMANS FERRY, Pa. - As birds, beavers, and other local creatures and plants head into winter in their own ways, the curious can observe their strategies on a winter ecology hike at Pocono Environmental Education Center from 10 a.m.- noon Sunday.
“Water fowl have already moved on, but we can see how juncos, black capped chickadees, goldfinches, and many species of woodpecker prepare for winter,” said George Johnson, PEEC weekend manager and volunteer coordinator.
Beavers and their shelter creations will also be visible, he said, as hikers walk a mile and a half of “relatively flat” terrain that includes two ponds.
Juncos tend to linger low in the brush, which blocks the wind, while chickadees and goldfinches take shelter higher up in the trees, Johnson said.
“In cold weather, pickings are slim. They secure their nests and conserve energy,” he said. They may “colonize,” with 10 to 20 birds huddling together in a hole made by a woodpecker or pile of brush.
“Woodpeckers are more solitary,” Johnson said. “You’ll see woodpeckers in trees looking for food.” However, their diet changes in winter, shifting from insects to seeds and plant life, he said.
Meanwhile, beavers’ preparations are visible around the beaver pond. Chewed-off trees border the pond, and they leave branches lying in mud on the pond’s edge, to be nibbled on all winter when they emerge from their floating “lodge” nearby to eat. They make a mud and twig shelter in the shape of an upside-down bowl, about 20 feet in diameter, that rests on a floating mass of more mud and twigs, says Johnson.
Two to five beavers inhabit the lodge, which is about two years old, he said. A new lodge is built when a beaver family or a single male is “expelled” from a lodge elsewhere after they deplete the resources there. Inhabitants of the PEEC beaver lodge likely came from a lodge elsewhere in the park, Johnson said.
“They don’t like to get far from a pond. They continue down the stream to another outflow,” he said. “They only trek on land if they’re desperate.”
In the lodge they spend most of their time sleeping, he said.
He advises dressing for the weather and wearing sturdy shoes. Hikers can bring binoculars, or PEEC will provide them.
Hikers will meet at the PEEC main building, 538 Emery Road, Dingmans Ferry, Pa. The fee is $5. For information and reservations, call 570-828-2319 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.