The sound of water floats through the air, the sun is warm and comforting, and small birds flit back and forth between budding branches. Spring has arrived, bits of life are waking up all around, and the sight of cars speeding by on the nearby overpass cannot do much to detract from this beautiful day.
That’s right! This wonderful area I am describing is not a vast forest or national park, but rather a small natural area hidden between converging highways.
Here you can see the small creek that runs along the back of a coffee shop where I spent my early evening. There is a walking path along the far side, and then the highways. In this picture you can see a UPS truck going by:
This place is what the ‘Backyard Safari’ is all about. I encourage going deeper into the wild whenever you can, but areas like this small stream are important as well. The more time we can spend near these places the better, and they need our protection just like larger nature areas do. This is especially true with regards to our children. There are plenty of parents who don’t feel comfortable going far out into the woods, and therefore will not take their children out doors the way my parents did with me. These small nature areas might be one of the main places a child can go to experience the wonder the world has to offer! The proximity to a road does not mean that life isn’t thriving here!
Here you can see some bird tracks in the mud along the creek. I would be willing to bet that there are also plenty of macroinvertebrate critters calling the stream rocks home!
We should encourage kids to go out exploring as much as we can, and there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of these small places. As long as children are safe from traffic and deep water, these can be great areas to explore!
These can also be great places to start keeping a field journal like we talked about in the last post. Just go out and sit along the bank and see what you can see! What kind of evidence are animals leaving behind–foot prints, egg cases, scat, etc.? How does the area change over time? What animals might you expect to live there based on the type of habitat?
There is so much to see and do outside! It doesn’t matter where you start, just get out there!