Inside Out | Having fun with nature within the winter | Parks-recreation


There are many things I remember when I was a kid in winter, but my favorite things to do were spend hours outside building snow forts, making snowmen, and looking for animal tracks.

I could stand outside in the cold for hours and not be bothered.

My parents often had to drag me and my brothers into the house.

Did you experience that too?

Today, my favorite way to experience nature in winter is to take a walk in nature.

Getting outside in winter is so much calmer and more peaceful – especially out in the woods.

It’s important to remember to dress in layers before heading outside.

I like to keep an eye out for winter birds.

Some of the most commonly found birds are the American goldfinch, northern cardinal, white-breasted nuthatch, blue jay and downy woodpecker.

Depending on the year, you may also find Pinepoll, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Silver Birchtusk.

I also listen for owl calls.

Wintertime is mating season for owls.

The best time to listen for owl calls is around dawn and dusk, although they are also territorial and use their calls to warn other owls.

Each species of owl has a unique reputation.

The screech owl’s calls sound like a horse’s whinny, the great horned owl produces a howl that sounds like “Who’s awake, so am I”, and the pygmy owl’s cry sounds like “Who’s cooking for you, who’s cooking for you all ?“.

While you may want to stay indoors and “hibernate” because the days are shorter and the temperatures are much colder, getting outside is important to us.

Research shows that “too little sunlight is stressful and affects our emotional and physical well-being, leaving us vulnerable to pessimism and fatigue,” says Dr. John Sharp, clinical psychiatrist at Beth-Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Getting outside is good for our mental and physical health.

Not spending enough time outdoors can also mess up our circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle.

Research has shown that getting outside, even in small amounts, can improve memory, boost our immune system, increase serotonin, and reduce cortisol, the stress hormone.

So get out into nature and enjoy nature this winter.

Explore one of Champaign County’s forest preserves or your own backyard.

You can sign up for one of our Owl Prowls or other outdoor activities through Champaign County Forest Preserves by visiting

Be sure to visit the nature reserves for our snowflake hunts from January 19th to February 2nd. 28

We’ve hidden creative snowflakes and fun winter facts in the nature reserves for you to find.

For more information, see

Stacey Clementz is the Educational Programs Specialist for the Champaign County Forest Preserve District. She is responsible for environmental education school programs and summer camps. She can be reached at [email protected]