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Friday, September 13, 2013

The Blue Backpack Chronicles: Beavers and Birds in Huntington

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 10:27 AM

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Theo Novak at Green Mountain Audubon Center and Birds of Vermont Museum

“I feel like a real adventurer now,” my son Theo announced as I secured the straps of a beat-up blue backpack around his shoulders.

The pack, a mini nylon one from L.L. Bean, was mine from the 1980s — it accompanied me on many childhood adventures. On this crisp, early fall day, it was packed with snacks, a water bottle and a pair of plastic binoculars.

We were ready for an outdoor excursion in Huntington.

Our first stop was the Green Mountain Audubon Center. We drove up the steep, unpaved Sherman Hollow Road and parked near the main office to find out what parts of the five miles of trails would be fun for a 3-year-old.

A staffer gave us a map and suggested we explore the Peeper Pond, Hemlock Swamp and Beaver Ponds, accessible from a trailhead across the road.

We descended a woodsy path, stopping along the way to marvel at a spiky black-and-yellow caterpillar, and ended up in a sunny meadow by the Peeper Pond. We didn’t see any peepers there, but had fun dissecting a milkweed pod and discovering the silky strands and seeds inside.

After traversing the wet, mossy Hemlock Swamp, snacks beckoned. We settled down on a wooden observation structure overlooking the Beaver Pond. Even though a trail marker told us that beavers are nocturnal, we hoped we might see some action. We had to settle for frogs. As soon as we started looking closely at the bank, we spotted about half a dozen.

Noticing that some of the trees were just beginning to adopt their autumn colors, Theo suggested that “the beavers can jump in leaf piles.” I smiled, imagining that scenario.

Birds of Vermont Museum is just a short drive up the road from the Audubon Center, so we stopped there before heading home. The museum houses more than 500 wooden birds carved by naturalist Bob Spear.

A helpful employee — a bird watcher for 75 years, he told us — gave us a bar-code scanner which we could swipe over some of the wooden birds’ descriptive labels to hear their sounds. Gadget-happy Theo loved that.

Most impressive, though, was the carved male turkey that took Spear 1300 hours to complete. Pictures on a nearby poster showed how he transformed a hunk of wood into this incredibly lifelike carving.

There’s also a large window for observing real birds. Theo loved peering through all the different binoculars provided. Within 10 minutes, we’d spotted morning doves, two woodpeckers and six large wild turkeys that emerged from the woods to peck at food on the ground.

If you go:

Green Mountain Audubon Center
is located at 255 Sherman Hollow Road in Huntington. Trails are open daily from dawn to dusk. Admission is free; donations are appreciated. The center also offers programs for preschoolers once a month on Wednesday mornings. For more information, visit vt.audubon.org.

Birds of Vermont Museum is located at 900 Sherman Hollow Road in Huntington. It is open daily from May 1 through October 31, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children 3 and up. For more information, visit birdsofvermont.org.

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This post was written by Kids VT contributor Alison Novak, who lives in Shelburne with her husband and two kids. Every week this fall, she and her 3-year-old son, Theo, will embark on an inexpensive excursion to someplace they’ve never been. The Blue Backpack Chronicles — named for Theo’s trusty travel backpack — is a blog series about their adventures.

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