#bioPGH Blog: Five Ways to Explore Nature in December
Dec 07

#bioPGH Blog: Five Ways to Explore Nature in December

By Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas, Research and Science Education Outreach Coordinator

Biophilia NetworkA resource of Biophilia: Pittsburgh, #bioPGH is a weekly blog and social media series that aims to encourage both children and adults to reconnect with nature and enjoy what each of our distinctive seasons has to offer. 

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The temperature may be dropping, but that doesn’t mean the great outdoors are any less exciting. Nature is still bustling with activity and has something for everyone…you just have to look for it. To save you some digging, here are a few of the best ways you can get outside and connect to nature this December, even in the middle of the holiday rush. All of these events and activities are fun for adults or whole families, and the best part of the outdoors is it that it works for any budget. If you do make your way outdoors for a wintery adventure, be sure to share pictures of your plant and wildlife discoveries using the hashtag #bioPGH!

City and County Parks
Maybe you’re interested a dark and spooky full moon hike. Perhaps your junior naturalist is eager to try out her new binoculars and birding guide. Or maybe you’re particularly intrigued by the tiny creatures that call streams and rivers home even during the coldest weather! The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy regularly hosts themed guided hikes through their different parks around the city, even in the winter. The hikes are often free to the public, and all you need besides a coat is a spirit of adventure and curiosity!  Also, any of Allegheny County’s parks can offer you a respite from the rush of city and suburb life, but some of the parks also offer educational experiences and activities. This December, for example, North Park is hosting everything from stargazing nights to bird feeder mornings. Many of their events take place at their Latodami Nature Center and they are organized by naturalists and experts ready to answer any question you might have. 

Western PA Mushroom Club
Have you ever gone on a walk through the woods and found yourself wondering about different mushrooms growing along the ground and on the trees? Did you know you can still find fungi growing even in the cold? The Pittsburgh area has a uniquely knowledgeable group of fun-guys and gals in the Western PA Mushroom Club! Check out their website, and contact one of the members if you’re interested in one of their guided hikes.

Allegheny Observatory
If you’re interested in celestial events such as meteor showers, passing comets, or this weekend’s supermoon, you should definitely check out the Allegheny Observatory. A resource of the University of Pittsburgh, the observatory hosts monthly free lectures and tours throughout the year, and from April to October they host full tours of the observatory along with the chance to use the telescope. 

Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC)
The king of citizen science projects, the Audubon’s nationwide volunteer bird counts every December provide an in-depth look at wintering behavior of North American birds. The count began in 1901 as a response to a holiday tradition of hunting as many birds as possible on Christmas Day. The Audubon Society reasoned that instead of killing as many birds as possible, why not count as many birds as possible? Thus, a tradition of bird counts within the last two weeks of December was born. Over the decades, the CBC has expanded across North America, and has become a seasonal staple and a landmark citizen-science project. The data from the bird counts have been used in everything from federal reports to nonprofit studies. The best part, you don’t even have to be a birder to participate! The bird counts are conducted in groups led by a local expert, and they are a fantastic way to get to know the birds in your area. To get involved in a count, check out the Western PA Chapter of the Audubon Society.

Three Rivers Birding Club
Can’t make it to an Audubon count but want to get more involved in area birding? Check out the Three Rivers Birding Club. Most importantly, they organize birding outings in a variety of different habitat types, but they also feature invited speakers and host photo displays as well.

Connecting to the Outdoors Tip: Take a nature journal on your outdoor adventures. If you see something you can’t identify, you can jot down a few notes or sketches; or, if you’re like me, you might have questions about random things you encounter, and you just have to ask someone later!

Continue the Conversation: Share your nature discoveries with our community by posting to Twitter and Instagram with hashtag #bioPGH, and R.S.V.P. to attend our next Biophilia: Pittsburgh meeting.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia user Michael Hunter, CC-BY-SA-4.0 and Pexels CC0.