Escape to the Woods!

Actually, going to and being in the woods has been an escape for me for decades! So, of course I said “yes” over the weekend when a friend asked me to join her on an adventure at the Waubay National Wildlife Refuge. It’s “up in The Hills” about 40 miles from Sisseton, up near Enemy Swim Lake.

It’s “up in The Hills” but not very hilly. It’s a swamp, actually, and part of an international snow goose migration route. In Dakota, “waubay” translates to “Place where many birds gather to roost and rest.”

It was a perfect day for the woods, too. It helped that it was 40 degrees (above zero, Fahrenheit) and about 1/3 of the trail was actually a boardwalk, so easily accessible. The other 2/3 of the trail were a bit more challenging… but hey, I always have liked a good “off road” adventure! Mud? He he…what’s a little mud?? (Sorry, no Patrice-coated-in-mud pictures.)

We saw deer, fox, coyote or fox scat, and various quick-flying winter birds. We also enjoyed an overflight of nearly 500 snow geese! There were a few Canadian geese mixed in- it’s common for them to fly together, though the two species actually fly in different formations. No, I don’t know how they work that out among themselves.

Did you know that those formations for migrating birds are called “echelons?” Keep that in mind the next time you hear the term “upper echelon!” 

Canadian geese tend to fly in that classic “V” echelon. Snow geese? More in long waving lines and sometimes a “J” formation that still capitalizes on the aerodynamics.  

Would you like another fowl fact that you can nonchalantly drop into your next Zoom conversation? Scientists have finally determined the truth of the long-debated theory: Yes, indeed, migrating birds DO and CAN sleep while flying. (And, for the science buffs among us, here’s the citation link:

I am fairly sure you will be equally fascinated with this other older (2008) scientific study, which was no doubt funded by a massive academic grant of some sort. It determined whether or not geese poop when they fly. Yes, this is an important factor in how (much) one enjoys the thrill of a 500+ goose fly-over. 

Here’s the link. I know you’re just curious enough to click it and learn. I did… but then again, I teach third and fourth grade science… we spent last week learning how astronauts poop in space. (No worries, defecation is actually NOT the main topic of my lessons…. but hey, we have an astronaut simulation going this semester in my classroom, so these bits of information are pertinent to 8-10 year olds!)

Back to the woods…. it was a perfect day for time in the woods and while I didn’t get any GREAT photos, it was fun and relaxing to play with shadows and sunlight in the winter woods. No snow pictures this time… those will be in vogue relatively soon, I am sure!

Enjoy the pics. 

Sneak out to the woods if you can. It tends to balance the cabin-fever aspect of CDC’s COVID safety recommendations. You don’t even have to HIKE. You can just go and sit for a while and let the space, and the shadows, and the light, and the smells soak in….