The magic of winter outdoors

There are so many things that happen in winter that cannot happen in other seasons. There is no other time of the year that you can glide down mountain and slide across the snow on skis. No other season beckons you to strap on oversized “feet” in the form of snowshoes to tromp through the woods. It is the season in which Redpolls appear at the feeder, you can track animals’ journeys by their footprints, and build wonderful, temporary art in your front yard. Winter is a unique time, and at Audubon we like to celebrate that.

Our celebration begins with the first snowfall, the naturalists head out to see tracks the prints belonging to the most secretive animals are the most exciting. Mink, mouse and shrew and their usually hidden forays are exposed with the first snow. Opossums, deer, and foxes make little effort to hide, their paths often follow the man-made trails on the sanctuary. Lives that go unnoticed most of the year are written like a story on the landscape.

As the snow gets deeper, we don our “winter feet.” For some it is a pair of freshly waxed cross-country skis to shush their way through the woods, engaging body and mind along the way. Others wait for the deep snow and tromp along on snowshoes, meandering off the path and indulging curiosities as they investigate whatever catches their eyes.

Winter creeps along, and we appreciate the things we come home to as well. Good food, warm soup, hot drinks, and a fire are a welcome sight. Time with friends, family, whether spent indoors or out, is a treat.

Audubon’s Snowflake Festival helps the naturalists, and anyone who attends, experience it all. Outdoors, indoors, food, warm hats and mittens, skis, snowshoes, friends of all species, and more are all wrapped up into this one day festival of winter and nature.

We have a mission to create connections between people and the natural world, and to create a community of environmentally responsible people. This festival pulls it all together. Most of the vendors are selling products that are natural, sustainable, or nature-themed. From recycled bird feeders to pottery these items are a bit of our mission made tangible.

Exhibitors demonstrate some earth-friendly processes, such as spinning wool into yarn and making cordage from natural material that way native peoples did. Others have live animals which are by their very nature natural! A host of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates are on hand to connect visitors with the animalistic side of nature. Gardeners from both Warren and Chautauqua counties will be connecting folks with the plants of the planet.

Outside there are demonstrations of winter camping and Siberian Huskie teams pulling sleds. These activities are in themselves a celebration of winter, since snow is essential to their existence! Horse-drawn wagon or sleigh rides take you through the winter landscape to better see what it is like away from all the hustle and bustle.

People can also help the natural world while they are connecting to it. Whether it is using a travel mug at our hot bar, or building a bluebird house in the shop, these actions have a positive impact on the planet. In addition to those two things, any food consumed through the Audubon kitchen is served on post-consumer recycled goods. That’s one way that we’re serving you and you are serving the earth! And you can attend the show at 2:30 p.m. to learn how to turn your yard in a wildlife sanctuary.

If you are a winter lover or a winter not-so-much lover, the Snowflake Festival at Audubon on February 2 has something that will make you smile. Listening to Wild Spirit Education teach about their birds of prey is always fascinating. Eating kettle corn and watching the sled dogs is wonderful. Making a craft while overlooking the entire sanctuary is time shared with those you love.

Please join in experiencing, understanding and being active in winter by attending Snowflake Festival. It is happening on Feb. 2 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. A complete list of activities and vendors and sponsors can be found on our website jamestownaudubon.org. The snow may or may not blanket the earth, but winter will find an enthusiastic audience at Audubon.

Sponsors include United Refining, Herbs R 4 U, Inc., Jim Smith, Randy Ordines, Klinginsmith Plumbing and Heating, Carroll Rod & Gun Club, Frantz and Russell, Lakeshore Savings Bank, Gary’s CARSTAR, Dun Roving Farms Alpacas, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, Second Season Mittens, Segel & Sons Metal Recycling, Franklin’s Honey and Apples, Kniti Griti Works, Chuck Telford, Acorn Naturalists, Stedman Corners, and Miller’s Grove.

Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Road, just off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn until dusk as is Liberty, the Bald Eagle, viewing. The Center is open Mondays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. More information can be found at jamestownaudubonn.org, or by calling (716) 569-2345.

Sarah Hatfield is a naturalist at Audubon.