Nature Notes from Common Ground

Week of January 11, 2021

Pileated Woodpecker Feeding Sites

Even though the winter woods seem quieter, there is still plenty of activity if you know where to look. Pileated woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in North America, but they can be hard to spot! However, they do leave signs when they have visited a tree in search of food.

The diet of the pileated woodpecker shifts throughout the year, and one of their winter foods is carpenter ants. Pileated woodpeckers search for these ants in the soft, rotten wood of dead and dying trees. The holes they make in trees are quite large and obvious. If you come across one of these holes as you are out walking, stop and take a closer look.

On the ground at the base of the tree, you might see a pile of wood shavings dropped by the woodpecker. The larger the pile, the more likely the woodpecker found a good source of food, and you might find some woodpecker poop as well!

Check out this page of photos from someone who takes a really close look at woodpecker poop (and loves their dog)!

Fascinating, yes? But perhaps that’s got you wondering, “Why is bird poop white?” (video)

Or perhaps, you’re more focused on the burning question of “Why don’t woodpeckers get concussions when they peck?” (video)

And for more general information on woodpeckers:


Nature activity of the week

Plant Parts

What parts of plants do you eat? You probably know that an apple is a fruit and a lettuce is a vegetable, but what about potatoes and bread? Do you eat any stems or roots?

Here are some plant parts we often eat:

  • Seeds: nuts, wheat and other grains, beans
  • Fruits: apples and oranges, but also tomatoes and peppers
  • Flowers: Broccoli, cauliflower
  • Stems: asparagus, celery
  • Leaves: lettuce, spinach, cabbage
  • Roots: carrots, radishes

(Some of the “root vegetables” are more complicated - a potato is technically an underground stem and an onion is technically underground leaves - with young children I tend to opt for the simplicity of “roots” for all of them; with older ones you can get into details)

At your next meal, try to identify which parts of plants you are eating!

For example, your PB&J sandwich contains:

  • Bread - wheat - seed

  • Peanut butter - peanuts - seed

  • Jelly - grapes - fruit

  • Jelly - sugar - stem


Or, check out this activity and make a salad using all the different plant parts!


Hike of the Week

White Memorial Conservation Center

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

Click here to visit White Memorial Conservation Center!


Weekly Videos




Farm & Garden Workshop Winter/Spring Series

Our Winter/Spring Series is fast approaching - we have lots of wonderful gardening, cooking, food justice and animal focused workshops for youth and adults in the works.

First up January 30th: Preserving Food Preserving Culture: Sauerkraut Join CG's Farm Manager in experimenting with the ancient art of wild fermentation. We will meet virtually in our kitchens and exchange cultural connections, all while making (or watching others make!) sauerkraut together. No experience necessary!

Rebelde Monthly Coffee Subscription

Drink great coffee from a local business and support the CG Farm. Carissa and Muriel (CG Community Programs Parents) have started a coffee company dedicated to making a social impact. Their coffee and teas are Fair Trade, single-origin and sustainably grown. It is aromatic, fresh & full of flavor from the land where it was grown. They feature coffee from Nicaragua, Mexico & Peru. 5% of all coffee subscriptions through CG will go to the CG Farm.

Food Box Update: Food Drive!

Spread the Word! Yale New Haven Hospital and #GiveHealthy have selected the CG Food Box Program as part of their food drive between 12/14 and 2/14. We are trying to figure out the best way to keep sending healthy groceries to 73 CG families through May, and this is a great way to do it! Click “Donate” and you can select to sponsor a grocery item. In February, CG will receive a portion of the groceries sponsored by the drive.


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.