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Audubon Society: Day of learning for young naturalists

It is almost impossible to cross a lake covered in fresh snow and not make snow angels, as seasonal naturalist Dan Bera learned Tuesday afternoon. Bera, a naturalist with the Mississippi Headwaters Audubon Society, led six Young Naturalist participants across Spearhead Lake. From left are Israel Landes, Chris Armstrong, Jared Winge, Matthew Winge, Sophie Warrick and Jey Shua. They spent the day learning winter survival skills, plant identification and animal tracks at the MHAS's Neilson Spearhead Center....1 / 2
Dan Bera, right, shows Sophie Warrick a porcupine home in the bottom of an old oak tree. This was part of winter young naturalist program held Tuesday afternoon at the Spearhead Center. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper2 / 2

Taking Tuesday afternoon to play in powdery snow beneath a canopy of conifer trees, six young naturalists joined seasoned naturalist Dan Bera at the Neilson Spearhead Center.

The public event was a follow-up program of the Young Naturalist Program, a weekly summer camp hosted by the Mississippi Headwaters Audubon Society and held at the NSC, a 460-acre nature preserve located 11 miles southwest of Bemidji.

Bera took the participants on a hearty walk down trails lined with trees cascading with snow. The youth discovered signs of a deer bed and otter tracks sliding along the snow. The highlight of the day was checking the home of a porcupine, catching it sunning itself and listening as it crawled inside an old oak tree. Bera informed the group that porcupines can have up to 30,000 quills and their tips actually carry a natural antibiotic in them.

The hike through a bog area turned into a quizzing session on how to identify plants in the winter, and how to properly collect seeds from various trees and disperse them for natural regeneration.

Trekking across Spearhead Lake, the naturalists learned the winter survival skills of using snow to keep warm and noticing signs of weather, such as high pressure clouds.

The group made snow angels, played a friendly game of sliding snow snakes and learning how to "puff" cattails. The day culminated with everyone sipping hot chocolate sitting around a toasty bonfire.

For more information about the MHAS's summer Young Naturalist Program or about the MHAS, contact George-Ann Maxson at 586-3414 or by e-mail at