By David A Kieft, Howard Christensen Nature Center
I suppose the fox eats whatever he wants to eat, when it’s available. But that is indeed just the simple answer. As a child I was always outdoors, something I know my own daughter cannot say nearly enough. As I spent time outdoors, I learned things that aren’t often “well known” facts about our wildlife, habitats, plants and the multiple ecosystems we have in Michigan.
I grew up in Jenison with gravel pits (and an abundance of wild nature) right in my backyard. It was here, in my adolescent traipsing, that I learned such useless facts as: groundhogs can climb trees; Blandings turtles use their yellow necks to attract insects for lunch; goldfish can survive in Michigan’s waters; I can’t swim against the current of the Grand River; and the Eastern Hognose snake backs down when you call his bluff. At the family cottage near Baldwin, I continued learning about animals like Purple Martins, Red Head Woodpeckers and yep, more snakes. I would spend every waking minute outdoors (or reading about it when Mom wouldn’t let me out) and to this day my favorite thing to do when I’m not cooking or sitting at my HCNC desk is to get outside and continue learning (mostly about snakes because they are awesome).
But it also saddens me that in today’s day in age, less than 35 years from my good ol’ days, we have seen a shift in the characteristics of youth; liability seems to be a hot topic for businesses like gravel pits; and parents guard their children ever more. One can no longer roam the gravel mines; after hours problems have shut parks down earlier; funding has closed some of the greatest places we’ve known as kids ourselves; and parents feel safer with their kids at home more (even I can attest to that). But, that is where Howard Christensen Nature Center comes in.
Now, I may be biased, but hear me out. HCNC has been no exception to the current times, as a not for profit, we too struggle with funding and after hours problems. But our first priority is to get people outdoors more, to learn, to teach and enjoy. Did you know that our weekly Wild Wednesday programs offer-learning experiences that will enhance your child’s senses, interest and knowledge of the wild world around us? Were you aware that once a month we host family friendly programs that aren’t always “nature oriented” but are still designed to get you out? Have you heard that a walk in the woods can ease anxiety and stress? Did you know that even though I keep bees I am deathly afraid of insects in general? If you answered no to any of the above, the answers await you at HCNC. If you think you are too old for Wild Wednesdays, check out “Mom’s Night Out” where we make a few premade frozen meals to lighten your schedule at home or simply stop in and take a walk on some of our dozen miles of trails, visit me during the day and ask to see my bees! There are so many things to do at Howard Christensen that I cannot share them all here, but I urge you, beg you even, to come out and visit; buy a membership and visit often or bring your young ones to a day camp.
Here are some pictures from a couple of our recent day camps that show the joy on the faces of those who get out to learn and enjoy nature at HCNC. Ask them, I’ll bet they know what the fox eats!