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Trail Mix: Nature events in our area

“Perched” Swamp Tree Exploration June 29

The Pioneer Valley Institute will present its final program of the spring with a hike in and around a portion of the Great Swamp in Whately on Saturday, June 29. The walk, which will be led by naturalist Nancy Goodman, begins at 10 a.m. and will last about four hours. Participants should meet Goodman in the parking lot of the Nasami Farm at 128 North St. in Whately. (She will have an orange traffic cone on the trunk of her car.) General admission is $5 but current PVI members and kids are free. Nasami Farm, owned by the New England Wildflower Society, is home to a unique habitat, a Black Gum/Pin Oak/Swamp White Oak “perched” swamp, which is a swamp not directly connected to the water table, but perched above it on layers that prevent draining usually associated with old glacial lake beds. The Great Swamp, of which this property is a part, is one of the largest and best examples of a perched swamp left in Massachusetts. Hikers will be looking mostly at the trees and their bark, but also wildflowers found along the way. The trail is level and the distance covered about 2 to 3 miles at an easy pace.

Please bring along comfortable water-resistant boots and raingear (depending on the weather), plenty of water, lunch, binoculars, bug spray and, if possible, a copy of the book “Bark” by Michael Wojtech. You must register by emailing Nancy Goodman at wildeyes@rcn.com or leave your name and number at 413-775-1671. Directions will be sent upon request atregistration. Please do not use the Map Quest driving directions; currently they take you to North Street in South Deerfield.

Free concerts celebrate New England Scenic Trail

The Massachusetts Walking Tour is an annual bipedal concert tour in support of arts and culture in towns throughout the state. Musicians Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards have chosen a route for 2013 based on the New England Scenic Trail. Franklin County tour dates include an outdoor concert at Hidden Valley, inside Wendell State Forest, and a show at Montague’s Red Fire Farm.

For the Hidden Valley Concert, meet at Wendell State Forest at 392 Montague Road, Wendell on Thursday, June 20, at 6 p.m. for a shuttle ride or hike (your choice) to Hidden Valley. The Red Fire Farm concert begins at 7 p.m. at the farm at 172 Meadow Road, Montague on Friday, June 21.

You may RSVP or get more information about either show by calling 978-248-2043 or emailing landtrust@mountgrace.org, or online at www.mountgrace.org.

Great Falls Discovery Center

2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, 413-863-3676, www.greatfallsdiscoverycenter.org. Open to the public Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Starting May 19, it will be open 7 days a week from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. All programs are free to the public unless otherwise noted. Facilities are accessible.

■ Sunday, June 30, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Canal-side Nature Walk. Meet outside the main entrance to the Discovery Center at 8:30 a.m. We will leisurely explore level, paved bike trails and village sidewalks to learn about plants, animals, and mill town history. Topics may include birds, fish, invasive species, wildflowers, and cultural or industrial history. Please wear appropriate footwear, bring water, bug repellent and sunscreen.

■ Thursday, June 20, 6:45 p.m. Museum Tour with Mural Painter Frank Gregory & Friends of the Great Falls Discovery Center Annual Meeting. Meet the Friends of the Great Falls Discovery Center and learn how you can become a friend too. Then join us for a special museum tour with Frank Gregory at 7 p.m., the artist who painted all of the amazing murals in the Great Falls Discovery Center exhibits. Light refreshments provided.

■ Friday, June 21, Summer Evening Hours Start Today on the Solstice. The center will be open every Friday and Saturday until 8 p.m. until September.

■ Friday, June 21, 6 to 7 p.m. Watershed History: The Grand Trunk Hotel. What was so grand about the Grand Trunk Hotel in Turners Falls? Right next to where the center is today, the hotel was built in 1872 and taken down in 1968. We’ll use our imaginations, old photographs, and testimonials to piece together the story of grand old days in Turners Falls.

■ Saturday, June 22, 10:30 a.m. to noon. Watershed Investigators: Creepy, Crawly, Insect Investigation “Watershed Investigators” is a monthly kid-oriented program that focuses on hands-on discovery of local nature. Join refuge staff as we explore different ways to look at the natural world around us. Methods of discovery may include crafts, games, stories and exploration. This program is geared toward grades 2-5, but everyone is welcome.

■ Sunday, June 23, 2 to 3 p.m. Habitat Highlights Museum Tour. Explore the center’s Connecticut River watershed dioramas in a guided tour of the special habitats along the river. Each habitat plays a vital role in creating a home or rest stop for the thousands of animals and plants that depend on the watershed. From bogs to estuaries to floodplains and more, we will explore the different types of homes that rivers create.

■ Tuesday, June 25, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Kidleidoscope, a kid-friendly, environmental experience for very young children. Each topic is based on the theme “we share our home” and includes a story, interactive game, and craft activity to help you and your child understand the natural world around us. Recommended for ages from 3-6 years who must be accompanied by an adult.

■ Friday, June 28, 6 to 7 p.m. Watershed Poets. Join us to take a new look at the natural world around you. Watershed Poets explores the plants and animals of the Connecticut River watershed as seen through the eyes of local poets. We will investigate birds, wildflowers, trees, the poetry of field guides, and the wonders of the watershed. Enjoy a lively discussion of works by poets such as Emily Dickinson, Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, Wallace Stevens, and more!

■ Saturday, June 29, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Water Under the Bridge Bike Tour. Join us for a leisurely two-hour bike tour along the Turners Falls Bike Path that highlights the history of the bridges in Turners Falls and Montague City. Come learn about the many challenges associated with getting over the Connecticut River historically in our villages. Bring your bike, water, bug spray, helmet and sun block.

Northfield Mountain

99 Millers Falls Road (Route 63), Northfield. 413-659-3714 or 800-859-2960. Owned and operated by FirstLight Power Resources. www.firstlightpower.com/

■ Summer Solstice Sunset — Moonrise Kayak. Celebrate the beginning of summer with Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center staff on Friday, June 21, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. for a sunset — moonrise kayak. During this evening paddle, we’ll share poems about the turning of the seasons and observe how plants and animals of the cove may view the day. Two nights before the Full Strawberry Moon, we also hope to paddle in both sunlight and moonlight as we immerse ourselves in the longest day of the year. This program is appropriate for both beginning and experienced paddlers, aged 16 and older, and tandem kayaks are available. Register by calling Northfield Mountain at 1-800-859-2960.

■ Astronomy Conjunction. Friday, July 12, and Saturday, July 13, Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center will host the 30th Annual Connecticut River Valley Astronomer’s Conjunction. Enjoy the camaraderie of amateur astronomers learning and observing together at Northfield Mountain. Held during the dark of the moon, the weekend will be jam-packed full of slide presentations, talks, and Friday and Saturday night sky viewing through telescopes of all shapes and sizes. Check out the conjunction website at: http://www.philharrington.net/astroconjunction/. Registration forms available from Richard Sanderson at RSanderson@springfieldmuseums.org or by writing Jack Megas, Astronomy Conjunction, 311 Surrey Road, Springfield, MA 01118. For ages 12 and older.

■ Demon Chaser and Quaker Rouge; Plant Lore Ramble. Come ramble across the lower slopes of Northfield Mountain and explore the fields and forests. Join Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center naturalist Kim Noyes on Saturday, July 13, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and learn to identify common wildflowers, shrubs and trees. Hear stories about how they have been used by Native Americans, Colonial Americans and modern-day folk. Which shrub was called “magic water,” which tree was featured on a 1600s Massachusetts coin, which flower was called Demon Chaser? Plant lore will abound on this summer morning walk as we look for plants with beautiful flowers, wonderful aromas and fascinating legends. Plant-loving children ages 10 and older are welcome to join us. This is a free event. Register by calling 1-800-859-2960.

■ Simple Machines: Water Turbines with Rachel Roberts. Join educator Rachel Roberts at Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center on Saturday, July 20, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. for an program about simple machines focusing on water turbines. Together we will do a variety of hands-on science activities connected to the general concept of transforming the power of moving water into electricity. This class will reinforce participants’ understanding of simple machines, generating power and how electricity is made. The Northfield Mountain facility uses a water turbine (a rotary engine that takes energy from moving water) to generate electrical power on-site and will provide exhibits and models of their station for participants’ observation of a local water turbine in action. This workshop is free and intended for families. Call Northfield Mountain to register at 1-800-859-2960.

■ Wildlife on Board the Quinnetukut ll. On Saturday, July 20, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., bring your binoculars and interest in wildlife on board the Quinnetukut Riverboat for this special cruise. Ralph Taylor, Mass Wildlife’s Connecticut Valley district manager, will be on board to answer questions and share an update on the status of bald eagles and other species of interest. How is the river important as a migratory corridor for waterfowl and fish? What kinds of fish inhabit this stretch of the river? What is happening to wildlife populations both in the river and along its shores? Learn about the success of the Bald Eagle Restoration Project, evident in restored breeding populations along the river, in Massachusetts and in surrounding states. Taylor will also give an update on populations of Connecticut Valley residents such as black bear, deer and moose. Bring your questions and sign up for this special cruise along a scenic six-mile stretch of the Connecticut, as we explore the French King Gorge, the “narrows” and Barton Cove. Free with a Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center Quinnetukut ll Riverboat ticket ($6 child, $12 adult, $11 senior). Reserve your seat by calling Northfield Mountain at 1-800-859-2960.

■ Sunset Moonrise Paddle. On Sunday, July 21, from 6:30 to 8:45 p.m., enjoy an evening paddle with Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center’s naturalist Kim Noyes as we explore Barton Cove and the narrows of the Connecticut River. We’ll watch the moon rise and the sun set accompanied by the sounds of the river at twilight. The program, appropriate for both beginning and experienced paddlers, will include moon lore, wildlife sightings and river stories from days gone by. Bring dinner or snacks to eat and a flashlight. Single and tandem kayak rentals available. For ages 16 and older. Free with own kayak, $25 with rental. Register by calling Northfield Mountain at 1-800-859-2960.

Hitchcock Center for the Environment

525 South Pleasant St., Amherst.

∎ Ants! with Elizabeth Farnsworth and Aaron Ellison, ecologists. Saturday, June 22,(rain date June 23), noon to 2:30 p.m. Anyone can recognize an ant when they see one, but who knew that there were more than 130 different species of ants in New England? How many of these can we find around the Hitchcock Center? Ellison and Farnsworth, co-authors of the new “Field Guide to the Ants of New England” on an exploration into the world of ants at the Hitchcock Center. We’ll spend time walking the trails at the center, learning how to find and collect ants, how to identify them, and what they do in our fields and forests. Copies of the new field guide will be available for purchase. Ellison is a senior researcher at the Harvard Forest in Petersham. Farnsworth is senior ecologist at the New England Wild Flower Society, and a former member of the Hitchcock Center’s Board of Directors. Free. Donations appreciated.

Holyoke Range State Park

The Notch Visitor Center, Route 116, Amherst. These programs are sponsored by the Department of Conservation and Recreation and are free and open to the public. All Holyoke Range State Park programs begin at the center. For more information, call 413-586-0350.

∎ Saturday, June 29, 10:30 a.m. Beginning birding. Everyone who wants to learn the basics of birding is welcome to join in on this beginner’s program. We will learn about binoculars, bird guides and bird lists as we go out and test our newly acquired skills.

∎ Saturday, June 29, 1 p.m., Let’s Explore Nature. This family geared program will explore different topics of nature every week. This week’s program is titled “The Great Tree Scavenger Hunt.” Learn about the benefits of trees and then go on a scavenger hunt for tree products.

∎ Sunday, June 30, 11 a.m. Lost Trails of Holyoke Range. This guided hike will explore one of the trails less traveled in the park. Along the way we will keep our eyes and ears open for wildlife. This is a great way to explore a new area of the park. Bring water and bug spray.

∎ Sunday, June 30, 2 p.m. Family Hike: Nature Bingo. This program will bring families into the forest for a hike and bingo game. Families will be given bingo sheets with objects and wildlife they may see on their hike. The park interpreter will take families on a guided hike as they keep their eyes open for objects on their bingo sheet and race to be the first to get five in a row.

∎ Monday, June 20, 2 p.m. Explorer’s Club. Children ages 10 to 12 can increase their knowledge of natural history by attending this weekly hiking program. We will take a closer look at nature as we hike the different trails of the Holyoke Range.

∎ Tuesday, July 1, 10:30 a.m. Advanced Hike for Seniors. This program is geared toward the senior who has been a regular hiker and wants more of a challenge than regular senior hikes offer. We will travel on all the trails, from easy terrain to moderately strenuous while the pace will be slow to allow for individual abilities. Bring water and bug spray.

∎ Tuesday, July 1, 1 p.m. Senior Hike. Everyone age 55 and older is welcome to join us on this easy paced/ easy terrain hike. Along the way we will explore the wonders of nature. Bring water and bug spray. This program will have a duration of one hour.

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