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Winter Wonderlands Offer More Than Meets the Eye

Five activities to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature

While peering outside do you experience howling wind, bare skeletal trees, or desolate lands devoid of life? It may feel like you’re in a post-apocalyptic world, but never fear! The beautiful nature parks of the Urban Woods and Prairies Initiative are here to cure your winter woes. There are many activities to try in the crisp winter air to lift your spirits as the temperatures plummet.

Birding: Freezing temperatures got you down? Well, look up – at birds! Sure, you won’t be racking up the species lists, but winter is still a great time to head to your favorite UWP nature park for some birding! At Forest River in South Fargo, you’ll likely see bald eagles and waterfowl enjoying the native habitat. Special appreciation is warranted for the birds that remain to weather a northern winter. Their physical adaptations for survival are amazing, especially considering I’m often shuddering in my semi-drafty living room. So, grab your binoculars, bundle up, and prepare for the ultimate admiration of scrappy black-capped chickadees, daring downy woodpeckers, and blazing bright cardinals.

Cross Country Skiing: Did you know that many of the UWP nature parks have groomed skiing trails in the Fargo-Moorhead area? Check out the beauty of Heritage Hills as you swoop through the woods boarding the Red River, enjoying the serenity of woodland winter life. Watchful deer, sneaky squirrels, and wild turkeys are sure to be rooting you on from the sidelines.

Snowshoeing: If you’re looking for a slower paced activity and interested in a deeper exploration of the UWP parks, then snowshoeing may be right for you. This low impact exercise can take you closer to nature while allowing easy navigation, even in 3-feet of snow! Enjoy the stillness that the snowshoes retain and allow yourself to immerse into the sounds of the wintry woodland creatures - bring your inner Snow White to life.

Photography: Immortalize the beauty that winter brings through photography. The opportunities for the perfect picture are limitless as bountiful habitats, wildlife, and landscapes exist at the UWP nature parks, perfect for capturing the wonders of the season. Who knows, maybe you’ll take a once in a lifetime shot of a dark-eyed junco and worthy of a submission to the Audubon Photography Awards!

Tracking: Don’t dwell on the fact that we received another snowfall, instead find delight that fresh critter tracks now can be easily seen at your favorite nature park! Try your hand at identifying wildlife, big and small, through their freshly made prints, and gain insight into their worlds. Sparrows often forage for food along the ground, so keep your eyes peeled for tiny claw prints along the base of a tree.

Whether you’re a novice birder, an adventure seeker, or prefer more leisurely activities, getting outside in winter can by enjoyed by everyone of all ages and abilities. Connecting with nature can improve your physical and mental wellbeing during these long winter days, while also increasing empathy toward the creatures thriving in sub-zero temperatures. A priority for Audubon is to encourage and nurture people’s relationship with the outdoors by enhancing nature parks in communities and by providing educational outreach opportunities. Our Urban Woods and Prairies Initiative is currently found in seven bird-friendly communities across North Dakota and continues to grow each year. Find a park near you!

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