Nature Notes from Common Ground

Week of March 15, 2021

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Nesting

While pruning the blueberries, Tim heard a sound coming from the forest. It was the call of a red-bellied woodpecker, which some describe as a rolling churr sound (listen here!). He looked around and saw a male red-bellied woodpecker high up on a dead tree. At first, Tim thought the woodpecker was foraging for food, as he seemed to be pecking all around in the dead wood. Looking more carefully, however, Tim realized that the woodpecker was making many almost perfectly round holes. The woodpecker was preparing potential nesting sites!

Take a look at the photo of the tree:

How many holes do you see? Why does the woodpecker make so many different holes if it only needs one for a nest? Well, the male woodpecker will begin several holes, and then his female mate will choose the best one to fully excavate for the nest. She’ll lay eggs sometime in April, and they’ll hatch about 2 weeks later.

To distinguish a male red-bellied woodpecker from a female, check out their “hairstyle”. The female has red at the nape of her neck, with white feathers on top, while the male has a full red band from his neck all the way to his beak. Very quietly, Tim snapped a photo of the woodpecker at work. Did he get a picture of the male or the female?

photo credit: Roy W. Knight, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Nature activity of the week

In honor of the beginning of daylight savings time yesterday, this week’s activities are about the sun!

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Activity 1: Shadow Drawing

Use the sun to learn a new way to make art!

Step 1: Gather Materials

Find a flat surface outdoors in the morning or late afternoon. You’ll also need a blank piece of paper, a pencil, and a couple pieces of tape. Finally, you’ll need something to cast a shadow on your blank page. The example above shows an elephant and a giraffe action figure. You could also use a small potted plant, a medium-sized toy car or truck, or a lego structure. Be creative with what you would like to draw!

Step 2: Set Up

Locate the direction that the sun light is coming from. You’ll want to place your toy or object between the sun and the page, and sit behind the page as shown in the picture above, so that you’re not blocking your source of sunlight. You can use your pieces of tape to tape down the page where you’d like to draw. This way, your page doesn’t move around once you begin drawing. Make sure the shadow of your object or toy fits on the blank page before you begin tracing by moving the object or toy into position.

Step 3: Trace, Draw, Decorate!

When you think you have it centered on the page where you’d like to draw it, leave the object or toy in place and begin to trace its shadow!

When you have the shape of the shadow traced, you can decorate, color, pattern, or texture your drawing however you see fit.

Pro tip: If it’s not a very sunny morning or afternoon, you can recreate this effect indoors using a reading lamp to replace the sunlight!

Activity 2: Sun Prints

Did you know the sun can create its own art? You can purchase special sun print paper, but you can also use standard construction paper. In either case, place some objects you find in nature (or in your house) on the paper, and set it out in the sun. The sun will change the color of the paper wherever it hits, and not where the light is blocked by your objects.

Check out instructions here.


Hike of the Week

Westwoods Loop #2

Each week we share a family-friendly hike or outdoor adventure. Click here to explore the rocky ridges and crevices at Westwoods in Guilford!


Weekly Video

A Look into the Sugar Shack



Summer Camp

Interested in summer camp at Common Ground? Registration opens April 1. Click here for more information!


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Rock to Rock

Will you join the incredible team of cyclists, hikers and fundraisers supporting Common Ground through Rock to Rock Earth Day Ride/Hike 2021? Together, we can RISE UP in support of our planet, community and youth leaders. Common Ground has found innovative ways to keep our work going strong throughout the pandemic. But, like so many others, we have lost several of the essential revenue streams that fuel our mission. You have the power to help us reach our $20,000 goal. JOIN OUR TEAM OF FUNDRAISERS OR MAKE A DONATION TODAY! Reach out to Team Captain Audrey Nefores if you'd like to get involved here:!



Would you like some chickens for your backyard? Or to learn more about them? Order chicks or join us for a virtual workshop!
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About this series

Our programs for children at Common Ground are place based, hands on, and focus on community, friendship, and nature-based learning and play.

In this time of virtual learning and social distancing, we seek to support teachers and families in getting outside in safe and healthy ways. We hope this series provides content and activities to help your students or your family engage in nature-based learning, whether you are learning in person or virtually.

Some of the funding we rely on to keep Nature Notes free comes from the Robert F. Schumann Foundation and The Claire C. Bennitt Watershed Fund, established by the South Central CT Regional Water Authority.