Winter Backyard Bingo
Back by popular demand, we offer a winter edition of Backyard Bingo! This scavenger hunt bingo experience can get the whole family outside for an afternoon of learning and adventure. When you see one of the items on the board, check it off. Get five squares in a row in any direction, and you win Bingo!
If you can’t print out the bingo board, most smartphones allow you to draw on photos, so you can also fill out the board electronically. Share you board on social media by tagging #staygroundedVT.
A few tips: stay safe and help keep others safe while you play, including the animals and plants. Avoid tearing off parts of plants, including bark, and when you find animal tracks, if they seem fresh, make sure you follow them backwards so you don’t bother an animal who is already working hard to survive the winter!
While some things will be easy to find—who doesn’t have their snow shovel handy? – -others may be a little trickier, or even unfamiliar. Not sure where to look for snow fleas? Or what alpenglow is? We’ve offered some help below.
Snow fleas (also called Springtails). These mysterious, tiny creatures seem to materialize on snow on warmer or sunnier winter days. In fact, they have been living in the soil all along. On their snowy excursions, they might be feeding on pollen or particles of airborne algae. Learn more and see a video here.
Alpenglow is the phenomenon of the eastern horizon being lit by the sun immediately after sunset, when the sun sits right below the western horizon. When that eastern horizon contains a snowy mountain, the effect can illuminate the mountain with mesmerizing shades of pink, yellow, and purple, fading soon to a dusky blue.
This type of fungus includes many species, from hard, woody fungi that develop growth rings over many years to fungi with softer, more ‘mushroom-y’ shelves that decompose after a few weeks or months. In all cases, the fungus typically grows from the tree trunk parallel to the ground, with its spore-producing structures underneath. The fungus you see is only the reproductive part of a much larger fungus that may extend throughout the tree, into the ground, or even across multiple trees. If a tree is leaning, or fallen, the shelf will still grow parallel to the ground, and sometimes you can find trunks on the ground with fungi growing at different angles – some of these grew when the tree was upright, some when it was leaning, and others after the tree came down.
Murder of crows
A communal group of crows is called a ‘murder’ — one of the more unusual collective names for a group of animals. Other Vermont animals with collective names include ‘a raft of otters’ and ‘a hum of bees’. Naturalist and corvid (crow and raven) researcher Bernd Heinrich, in his book Ravens in Winter, describes how crows and ravens gather in communal roots during the winter months, presumably for protection and, he argues, for community for these highly intelligent birds. Individual birds may range far and wide during the day but return to the roost at night.
(photo courtesy of Stephen Mease Photography)
Bingo board created by Allaire Diamond, VLT staff ecologist.