Nature’s Hidden Surprises: Following Animal Tracks through Tacony Creek Park

Julie Slavet
Dec 23, 2015

By TFF Volunteer Mike Stretton

I am a MONTCO/Albright student and needed to volunteer for my BIO 115 course.  I was looking for volunteer opportunities and found TTF through online research. I have experience in general construction, landscaping, and tree removal, and will have completed a 4 year degree in accounting in 2016. I spent a day interning with TTF and joined them on the December Nature’s Hidden Surprises — here’s my report.

Judith and group cr1

raccoon skull cr1Early this month, Judith Gratz led nearly twenty energetic students and their parents through Tacony Creek Park as part of Nature’s Hidden Surprises, TTF’s monthly morning nature series. Winter provided us with a crisp morning walk as we followed the many tracks left behind on the Tacony Creek Trail.  At the park entrance there were adult and juvenile white tail deer tracks. The stream banks we peppered with blue heron tracks, raccoon tracks were left from the night before, and chipmunks had recently scurried by. In fact, there was an abundance of life out on the trail despite being it being located in the middle of urban development and the cold of winter.

girl with leaf cr1With the official trail cat, Buttons, leading the way, Judith explained how plants and animals prepare for and survive the harsh winter months.  Birds like the red crested woodpecker gather seeds from various plants including poison ivy vines and lungwort. Trees like the pin oak and river birch hold on to their leaves all winter, finally dropping them in the spring.  While blue bird, ladybugs, and many other species snuggle out the long season in a state of aestivation.

salamander cr1While education was a key aspect, the animals we encountered brought the trail alive. Entire herds of deer and flocks of geese invaded the adjacent golf course, while doves, Baltimore orioles, and cardinals chirped about the trail. We rolled over a dead tree and caught a glimpse of white mushrooms and a red-backed salamander. The group also unearthed anthracite coal, rough garnets, and calcite specimens. The unexpected find of a tombstone and raccoon skull gave an eerie yet exciting tone to the hike.

The trail itself may not look like much at first glance…but it is packed with all the elements of a pristine wilderness.  The Tacony Creek trail offers a great reason to get your kids off the couch for a great winter walk! Be sure to share any photos with us using the hashtag #DiscoverTCP!

We have an exciting schedule for Nature’s Hidden Surprises for 2016, kicking off with maple sugaring in March. Sign up for our newsletter and check out our Upcoming Events to learn more!

 fungus cr1

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