The Audubon Nature Center’s 2016 “Small Wonders” Calendar features close-up photos of natural events by local photographers, as well as things to look for and learn about each month.
The wonderful thing about working with children is that they are short and curious. This amazing combination can lead to amazing discoveries. Children are less inclined to walk past something without looking at it. They notice low to the ground things that taller people walk past. More importantly, they ask questions, often horrifically unanswerable questions, about the things they are seeing.
Sometimes it can be hard to walk with kids, since they alternate between running like a cheetah and poking along slower than any slug. When they are poking and exploring, they find things that are stunning: an alien landscape of gray towers, a stunningly beautiful mushroom, a tiny bird hopping in a bush or an animal that is lying unexplainably deceased in the forest. My daughter found green blobs on a log last week that resist identification and understanding.
It is in honor of the excitement and curiosity with which children take in the little things that we created the 2016 Small Wonders calendar. This natural history calendar features close up views of things that are common in the area, but easily overlooked, especially by tall people walking with purpose through the woods.
The Small Wonders calendar is dedicated to the tens of thousands of children who have made us stop and take a closer look at things over the years.
A variety of naturalists and photographers have contributed to this year’s calendar. Audubon naturalists, who all spend time outside exploring and looking at new things, all have photos in the calendar. Photos by Jennifer Schlick, Jeff Tome, Sarah Hatfield, Katie Finch, and Kim Turner are spread through the calendar in full size photos and smaller photos about what is happening each month. Other photographers include Laurie Dirkx, a Rochester photographer renowned for her stunning nature shots, and Alex Shipherd, a local college student whose steady hand, patience, and eye for a good shot have made him quickly stand out as an excellent photographer.
The calendar not only tells you days and dates, it is also full of information about what is happening outside each month. For example, this month, thousands of birds are flying over our heads as we sleep each night. They fly from points north to points south. Some stop and spend the winter here, others fly overhead and we never know it.
Other things migrate too. Large dragonflies and bats move south in the fall and return in the spring, sometimes in huge numbers. I have seen over 1,000 bats at a time flying through the sanctuary, some with 17 inch wingspans. One dragonfly, the Green Darner, has even achieved celebrity status in a children’s book where it migrates from Sherman, NY to Florida. (The book is “A Dragon in the Sky”, if you wish to read it.)
The featured May photo in the Small Wonders calendar is Jennifer Schlick’s Painted Trillium, which is one of four local trilliums blooming in May.
Some natural events happen without fanfare or notice. The first spring rains drive many people inside, but it draws out many cartoonish salamanders who walk up to a mile through the rain to mate and lay eggs in pools of snow-melted water. Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs make the same trip, creating pockets of noise and activity in the spring night.
Many things that make it into the calendar are brought on by questions people have had. When do I put out my hummingbird feeder? When should I take it down? What time of year should I start feeding the birds if I don’t feed them all summer? When do the fireflies start to flash?
The 2016 Small Wonders calendar is not only beautiful, but full of fascinating nature that is happening right outside. The calendar costs $20 each, but is discounted to $18 for Friends of the Nature Center members. The calendar is designed and printed locally. Proceeds from the calendar benefit the education programs at the Audubon Nature Center.
The Audubon Nature Center does educational program in schools throughout the region. This time of year the naturalists visit schools from Sheffield, Pennsylvania in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest to Forestville, New York near the shores of Lake Erie. Last year, those programs connected with over 16,000 students at their schools. Many students had visits from naturalists two, three, or four times, where they learned more about how the world around them works. Naturalists teach age appropriate topics ranging from the seasons to what animals do in winter to food chains and watersheds.
The calendar is available at the Audubon Nature Center at 1600 Riverside Road, just off Route 62 near Jamestown, NY. It can also be purchased online at https://jamestownaudubon.org, where there is additional information on programs and events at the nature center.
Jeff Tome is a naturalist at the Audubon Nature Center.