We still have a few days of school vacation left, and the weather looks pretty favorable for an outdoor adventure. Check out a few ways you can get outside and enjoy some fresh air on Nantucket before the year’s end.
Although the days are getting longer, Nantucket is a great place to explore in the dark. Until mid-January, the Quadrantid meteor shower will light up the skies with shooting stars. On a clear night, find an open space (any beach will do) and look up. You might be able to make out some notable stars and constellations. As you take in the blanket of stars, keep an eye out for a flash of light darting across the sky. That’s a rocky, icy piece of space debris hitting Earth’s atmosphere- a meteor! Nantucket is an excellent place for stargazing, so make Maria Mitchell proud and take advantage of this unique opportunity.
If you’re out and about around dusk, you might see an owl. Barn Owls spend the winter on island and can be seen hunting around fields, dunes, roadsides and other open habitats. Barn Owls often sit atop fenceposts, scanning the area for small rodents. These owls are quite large (a bit bigger than a crow), and their light color stands out even on dark nights. Owls fly silently and are easily spooked, so a Barn Owl sighting is often a brief encounter that mostly consists of a flash of white disappearing into the dark. These birds are a treat to see, and a rare experience- Barn Owl populations are declining, and Nantucket’s climate is at the very edge of what they can tolerate.
Along with the Barn Owl, other birds like Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Cardinals, nuthatches and Blue Jays stick around for the winter. A bird feeder is a surefire way to attract these birds to your yard. On your next nature walk, scan the ground for pinecones- a biodegradable and free bird feeder. Take one home, spread peanut butter or Crisco on it and roll it in bird seed. You can place the pine cone on a railing, nestle it in a bush, or hang it from a string to offer a tasty treat to the birds. Now you can enjoy nature while tucked inside and cozy. Set up the feeder where you can see it out the window for live entertainment!
Stay tuned for more editions of Current Nature, a bi-weekly column featuring seasonal topics, natural history information, and advice on the outdoors from the staff at the Linda Loring Nature Foundation.