Winter is a time for resting and conserving energy for most animals, including humans! Because of animals’ need to seek shelter and use resources sparingly, we don’t see as much animal activity going on as we do during other times of the year. That being said, there are still animals who venture out into the cold when they can and even a couple of critters who aren’t really affected by cooler temperatures and snow-covered landscapes at all! Even though we may not see as much animal activity, there is definitely still a lot going on in the forests and other habitats throughout the winter. We know this because we can looks for signs that animals have been present in certain areas. One sign, that we have mentioned before in our blogs, is animal tracks, but there are all sorts of other clues and indicators that animals might be frequenting or just passing through a particular area during the winter.
As you are exploring this area, look for as many possible signs of animal activity as you can find! You can look for animal scat, broken branches, places where animals might have been eating, bark on tree that looks like it is scratched or rubbed, etc. While investigating, start to think about what kinds of animals might be the cause of what you are seeing. A good place to begin is to determine what animals are most likely to be active in the winter in the area you are exploring. There are many great resources online for determining which animals migrate, which animals stick around, and which animals go into deep sleeps for the season. You may need to do a little bit of investigating, but knowing which animals could be seen will definitely help to narrow down who the culprit of your winter animal activity signs could be.
Some signs to look for while out exploring are:
Snapped branches low to the ground
Possible feeding sites
There are all sorts of other signs that help us to determine what type of animal activity is happening in an area when we aren’t around, so do your best to note any oddities in your journals and try to make connections between your recordings. How you keep track of your findings is completely up to you! You can draw pictures of your observations, or keep detailed notes! Once you are done with your investigation, try to figure out what the signs are telling you about which types of animals are in the area. As always, happy journaling!
Sheep are sheep are sheep, right? Not quite! It’s pretty easy to assume that all sheep are the same, especially if you live in a place where sheep are few and far between. Even in Easton, there aren’t too many sites you can head to locally to check out these radiant ruminants.
Sheep have some characteristics that are common among all species like the fact that they all have hooves that are split into two separate toes. Sheep are also all cud-chewing ruminants (along with cows, goats and other mammals who eat a lot of greens), meaning that they have four compartments in their stomach: the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum! From the reticulum of a sheep’s stomach, their food is regurgitated in the form of cud where it is chewed for a second time before moving into the omasum! This is why whenever observing sheep, it often looks like they are chewing on bubblegum! Not only are they re-chewing their food, but sheep also don’t have any teeth on the front of their upper jaw, so they are grinding down all that cud with very flat, back molars, which just makes the whole process even more noticeable!
All that being said, there are over 10,000 species of domestic sheep in the world all with unique traits and characteristics! Funnily enough, there are only six species of wild sheep roaming the world, two of which can be found in the U.S. along with a couple of subspecies. At the NRT’s Sheep Pasture, we are lucky enough to have two different species of domestic sheep, the Cheviot Sheep and the Jacob Sheep!
The Jacob Sheep
There are quite a few characteristics of Jacob Sheep that make them unique, including their four horns. Both of the NRT’s Jacob Sheep have four horns. One of which has them all growing in spirals together that make it look like it has two, massive horns. There is variability among the number of horns that Jacob Sheep can have, but they are always an even number between two and six. You may think that because our two Jacob Sheep are horned that they must be males, but Jacob Sheep is a species in which both the males and females will be horned! It just so happens that both of our sheep are, in fact, male…
Another important trait of the Jacob Sheep is their black spots, which is also how they got their name! According to the Livestock Conservancy, Jacob Sheep are named for Jacob from the Bible who was known for breeding spotted sheep!
We love our Jacob Sheep not only for their good looks and preservation importance, but also because of their friendly and curious demeanors! Both Four-Horn and Big-Horn (see if you can guess who is who in the photos of our Jacob Sheep) love to welcome visitors, especially before breakfast! We currently have two Jacob Sheep living with us at Sheep Pasture.
The Cheviot Sheep
We love watching our four independent Cheviots go about their business each day with confidence! There’s no feeling quite like being stared down across the pasture by a cud-chewing Cheviot. For more information on Cheviots, check out the American Cheviot Sheep Society!
Next time you're at the Sheep Pasture property, be sure to stop by and say "hi!" to our Jacob and Cheviot sheep! They love the attention!
Getting out in harsh weather conditions to do nature journaling can be difficult! Thankfully, there are lots of awesome ways to keep up with nature journaling right from the comfort of our homes. Below are a few ways to continue journaling even when the motivation to get outside is lost. Journal entries written from home create opportunities to spend time practicing skills that we sometimes don’t have time to focus on when journaling out in nature!
The first activity you can do while journaling from inside is to find anything in your home that is connected to nature. Whether it be a pet, a plant, a fruit, a nut, or even an egg, and start making observations! If the thing you found to observe is something that will stay still, spend some time trying to get as much detail as possible! For instance, if you are observing something like an egg, are you able to capture the texture of the egg? Is it smooth or a little bit bumpy?
The final journaling suggestion is to do a deep dive into a plant, animal, or something in nature that interests you that isn’t found locally. One great way to practice our sketching and coloring skills is to copy from photographs. After picking something that interests you, do as much research as possible to record some of the details of the plant or animals life! You can start by scouring your home for any books that might be helpful, and then, of course, you can turn to the internet for help.
If you are researching an animal, try to determine where it is native to, what it eats, when it is most active, what type of animal it is, and anything else you feel may be relevant, or that you just want to include! If you are researching a plant, you can look up what type of plant it is, where it is native to, in what weather conditions does it thrive, if anything eats it, and anything else interesting!
Nature journaling from home can be an extremely cozy activity and offers a great break from the normal snow day activities. Be creative in your journaling and definitely don’t feel stuck to follow these guidelines. As always, the best part about our nature journals is that what we put in them and how we make entries is completely up to us!
NRT's dedicated staff are responsible for the content of the NatureTalk blog. Questions? For more information on any blog post, please contact us at any time.