SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Lifestyle

November 15, 2012

Over the river and through the Big Woods

Sunday's annual hike at wildlife sanctuary designed for all ages

(Continued)

“We are seeing a good number of winter finches this week at Ipswich River,” Santino said. “We have had white-winged crossbills and an evening grosbeak. They’re not here every winter.”

Santino thinks that poor food crops in Canadian forests have forced these birds south in search of “suitable food resources.”

But most of the mammals who live in the sanctuary are nocturnal, Santino said, and Audubon staffers and docents leading the hikes will detect their presence from what they have left behind.

“We point out evidence of animals’ scat, or animal browse (where they have been eating),” Santino said.

Hike leaders will also discuss how creatures like squirrels and beavers are preparing for the cold months ahead.

But in addition to describing the wildlife in the sanctuary, hike leaders will discuss the land itself and the humans who have lived there.

“What makes this trip fun and engaging and good for lots of audiences is that it isn’t only a natural history walk, but also a cultural history walk,” Santino said.

“We talk about the building on the hill that dates back to 1700, (about) who were the past landowners and where did the stone walls come from.”

They will also consider geological features of the property, especially where these have been shaped by glaciers. Such features will be pointed out on the return trip from Averill’s Island, when the trail passes Hassocky Meadow.

“It’s what we call our esker trail,” Santino said, referring to a ridge of sedimented earth that is shaped like a railway embankment.

There are also drumlins, or small hills, and kames, which Santino defined as “sediment that dropped out between two chunks of ice — flat, finer sediment areas.”

Birders are welcome to bring binoculars, but hike leaders will tailor their talks for a general audience of all ages.

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