Our favorite Southwest groundhog, Tinicum Tim, popped out of his make-believe burrow at Heinz Wildlife Refuge on schedule last Saturday morning. The good news is that with the dense fog around him and low clouds scudding overhead, he didn’t see a shadow to frighten him! Accordingly, he remained outside and greeted hundreds of fellow residents who visited Heinz to enjoy the day’s wonderful educational games and activities – and forecasted an early spring for us!
The annual celebration of coming of Spring was held at the newly renovated Cusano Environmental Education Center. It was jointly sponsored by the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum and the Friends of Heinz Refuge (FOHR). As usual, FOHR volunteers provided delicious cider and cookies to refresh the visitors and led a pair of nature walks.
One of the highlights of the morning was storytelling by Mother Earth (Southwest’s own Daisy Century). Mother Earth was clothed in a coat of nature’s spring colors, topped off by her stunning green hair. Her animated reading from Don Freeman’s delightful book Gregory’s Shadow kept a circle of youngsters spellbound. Gregory, a shy groundhog, becomes separated from his friend Shadow who makes him feel brave. After a series of adventures, the two find each other just in time for Groundhog Day! At the end of her tale, Mrs. Earth led the children in a spirited Groundhog Dance clawing themselves in and out of their burrow home.
A team of Heinz naturalists helped the young people color in groundhog puppets which helped them participate in storytelling time. Interviewed during the creation of their puppet artwork were Southwest resident Carla and her children. “I’m learning a lot about birds,” indicated Sage, a 3rd grader. “The most beautiful was a green heron which was sitting on a branch right by the boardwalk – until we frightened it away.”
Hans, a kindergarten student added that he likes to watch the turkey families walk around. “We saw one just this morning and if there’s one you know the rest of the family is nearby. Their sister Avi who is not
in school yet was too busy coloring her groundhog puppet to add to the conversation.
“It is wonderful to have the Heinz Refuge so close by,” Carla reflected. “It provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city life around us!” Carla suggested that the refuge is a “constant reminder of our natural environment and our responsibility for sustaining and protecting it. I hope we can continue to support it and put it to good use.”