Nature Notes from Common Ground

Week of January 4, 2021

happy new year!

Animals adapting for winter

Wood Frogsicles

In colder weather, both animals and humans tend to slow down and turn inward. This winter, Tim is slowing down and reading a lot of sci-fi, particularly books set in deep space. In sci-fi interstellar travel, voyagers are sometimes put into a cryogenic freeze -- preserving their bodies in suspended animation for the years-long flights between galaxies. While for humans, this technology only exists in the world of science fiction, for the wood frog, cryogenic freezing happens every year!

Wood frogs spend the winter buried under leaf litter or logs. As the cold of winter deepens, the frogs actually freeze! As much as 60% of the frog's body can turn to ice, and while frozen, the frog’s heart and brain stop. They can remain frozen for months, thawing out and restarting their heart as the warmer spring days arrive. Wood frogs are able to do this because, as temperatures lower, their livers pump massive amounts of sugar into their bloodstreams. This sugar acts as an antifreeze, lowering the freezing temperature of water inside their cells. While water in body cavities may freeze, the water in the cells does not (remember what happens to plants when the water in their cells freezes during a hard frost?). This prevents damage to the cells so the frog’s body is still in fine shape when it thaws out in the spring. We're still left with a mystery, though: how do frogs stop and restart their hearts and brains?!?

For more detailed information, check out this link:

What about other animals? Here’s how deer adapt for winter, courtesy of our friends at the Regional Water Authority:

Big picture


Nature activity of the week

What to do outside this winter?

Some people love getting outdoors in the winter - sledding, ice skating, snowshoeing, winter hiking, you name it. Others enjoy outdoor activities in warmer weather, but struggle with what to do in winter. Childhood by Nature offers some of their favorite winter activities for families. (Like looking for animal tracks in the snow - check out that deer track in the picture above!) Best of all, they’re all inexpensive or free. Try some of them out - I’d love to hear which are your favorites!


Hike of the Week

Southford Falls State Park

Each week we share a kid-friendly hike or other outdoor adventure.

Click here for waterfalls and a covered bridge at Southford Falls State Park!


Weekly Videos

Chicken Check-in 3/23/20



If you walk or drive around a residential neighborhood this week, you’ll see plenty of Christmas trees out at the curb, waiting for garbage day. Some go to landfills, some are chipped for mulch. Here’s a different idea: If you had a Christmas tree this year, AND you have a yard, the Nature Conservancy of Canada suggests simply leaving your old tree in the yard, to provide habitat for local wildlife. Let's take care of our wild friends!


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.