Week of December 25, 2022 – December 31, 2022
by Bridget Jones, Environmental Educator
This holiday season, I’m looking forward to spending some time in an ecosystem very different from that of Central New York. I’ll be spending the holidays with my family on the coast of New Jersey, where I grew up. Although I love Central New York, visiting the coast always renews my appreciation for the beauty and variety of nature.
As I drive south, snowy forests and rolling hills are traded for tidal marshes and sandy shorelines. The beach contains a whole new community of life to become reacquainted with. Clam shells, moon snail shells, and mussels lie along the shore, clues to life under the water’s surface. Above the waves, loons float with their heads underwater to look for fish. Sandpipers dart along the water’s edge, advancing and retreating alongside the waves. Summer beaches in New Jersey are known for their crowds, but the quiet winter beaches provide a rare opportunity to focus on coastal wildlife.
Visiting a different ecosystem also helps me see the place I currently call home with new eyes. Returning to Central New York brings a new appreciation for the snow-covered hills, icy streams, and waterfalls. I’m more curious about the animals that leave tracks in the snow and how they survive the intense winter. I can approach familiar places as if I were a visitor, seeing them for the first time.
If you’re traveling for the holidays, take a moment to get to know nature in the place you’re visiting. How is the environment similar to, and different from, the place that you live? If you’re staying local, try seeing nature through a visitor’s eyes. If you were new to this place, what would you notice, be intrigued by, or have questions about?