Hudson Valley Parent

HVP April 2017

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Page 26 of 39 n Hudson Valley Parent 27 By SUSAN HURD T here is much evidence, both anecdotal and academic, that spending time exploring and appreciating the outdoors greatly benefits a child's development. Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Chil- dren from Nature-Deficit Disorder," talks about families getting enough 'Vitamin N,' or what is more com- monly experienced as spending time outdoors in nature. He points to the growing empiri- cal evidence showing that exposure to 'green' exercise is a tonic for enhancing mood and self-esteem, while reducing feelings of anger, confusion, depression, and tension. Physical benefits include burning calories, reducing blood pressure and increased oxygenation. Then there are the social benefits of walking with a friend observing together the natural environment, the foliage, wildflowers, and land- scape views. I, myself, have wonderful mem- ories of when I was younger and being encouraged to get outside and appreciate the wonders of nature. It is 5 a.m. and my mother wakes up my cousins and I for an early morning bird-watching walk after all of us had spent the night camping at Lake Pleasant in the Adirondack Mountains. Of course, as a teenager my wild- est idea of a great time wasn't get- ting up at the crack of dawn to listen for quirky bird songs, but having my girl cousins along on the walk made the idea more palatable. An outdoor enthusiast, my moth- er's obvious joy buoyed us along, got us out the cabin door, and into the beckoning forest at dawn. "Walk quietly and see what you can see," she would say to us. The first bird we heard was the white-throated sparrow's melodious, long and distinctive whistle. Next, we "saw by hearing" - an expression used by my mother - the call of an oven bird. Then we first heard, then spotted, a pileated woodpecker the size of a crow sit- ting on the limb of a dead tree and making a very loud drumming sound with its chisel-like bill. We observed a huge oblong hole being formed as the woodpecker chiseled away at the bark of the tree. The pileated woodpecker is the largest in North America, mostly black with distinct white and red markings. By rapping its bill against vari- ous parts of a tree, the woodpecker determines if there is an established Getting your family's dose of 'Vitamin N' (Continued on Page 28) A cluster of purple wild owers is just one of the natural surprises that can be found along the nature trails at the Hurd's Family Farm in Ulster County.

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