Enjoy the winter season in our parks! The winter season is a time for tranquility and stillness, but the winter can also be a perfect time to get outside and enjoy the landscape. Sidney's Park system offers a place for a vast array of activities and wintertime recreation.
Some of the things to do include looking at winter wildlife at Legion Park. The Park is home to many different species of wildlife, such as:
Eastern Cotton Tail Rabbit
Eastern Cottontails share habitats with seven other cottontails and six species of hares. They have been transplanted to areas outside their historically widespread range, which included swamps, prairies, woodlands, and forests. They have two ways of escaping danger: a zig-zag dash or a slink, in which they creep along, low to the ground, with their ears back. Eastern Cottontails are among the most prolific lagomorphs. Females can have seven litters a year, producing as many as 35 young. Females are larger than males.
The ubiquitous Canada goose is one of the best known birds in North America. It is found in every contiguous U.S. state and Canadian province at one time of the year or another.
Canada geese are adaptable to many habitats and may thrive wherever grasses, grains, or berries are available. Because of changing weather, settlement, and farming patterns, many Canada (not "Canadian") geese have begun to alter their migrations. Typically, the birds summered in northern North America and flew south when cold weather arrived. This cycle endures, but some northern populations have shortened their flight to traditional wintering grounds in the southern U.S. and Mexico. Other Canada geese have become permanent residents of parks, golf courses, suburban subdevelopments.
Red Bellied Woodpecker
A sleek, round-headed woodpecker, about the same size as a Hairy Woodpecker but without the blocky outlines. Often appears pale overall, even the boldly black-and-white striped back, with flashing red cap and nape. Look for white patches near the wingtips as this bird flies. Look for Red-bellied Woodpeckers hitching along branches and trunks of medium to large trees, picking at the bark surface more often than drilling into it. Like most woodpeckers, these birds have a characteristic undulating flight pattern.
A common small hawk of the West. This species was named after William Swainson, a British naturalist. Often found in open country such as grassland, shrub land, and agricultural areas. During breeding season, eats mammals, birds, and reptiles. The rest of the year it eats insects, especially grasshoppers and dragonflies. Locates food from exposed perches or while soaring. Calls a high-pitched, long drawn out raspy "kreeeee."
With a flash of white tail feathers and a flurry of dark-tipped wings, the Eurasian Collared-Dove settles onto power wires and fence posts to give its rhythmic three-parted coo. This chunky relative of the Mourning Dove gets its name from the black half-collar at the nape of the neck. A few Eurasian Collared-Doves were introduced to the Bahamas in the 1970s. They made their way to Florida by the 1980s and then rapidly colonized most of North America.
If someone at a park is feeding bread to ducks, chances are there are Mallards in the fray. Perhaps the most familiar of all ducks, Mallards occur throughout North America and Eurasia in ponds and parks as well as wilder wetlands and estuaries. The male’s gleaming green head, gray flanks, and black tail-curl arguably make it the most easily identified duck. Mallards are large ducks with hefty bodies, rounded heads, and wide, flat bills. Like many “dabbling ducks” the body is long and the tail rides high out of the water, giving a blunt shape. In flight their wings are broad and set back toward the rear.
Male Mallards have a dark, iridescent-green head and bright yellow bill. The gray body is sandwiched between a brown breast and black rear. Females and juveniles are mottled brown with orange-and-brown bills. Both sexes have a white-bordered, blue “speculum” patch in the wing.
Mallards are “dabbling ducks”-they feed in the water by tipping forward and grazing on underwater plants. They almost never dive. They can be very tame ducks especially in city ponds, and often group together with other Mallards and other species of dabbling ducks.
Red Squirrels are very vocal. They bark at intruders, including humans, and can bark continuously for more than an hour if they are annoyed. They also chatter, especially to stake out a territory and protect their stored food supply (conifer cones, which they harvest in great numbers) from other squirrels. They are especially noisy during the breeding season, when they chase each other through tree branches making a distinctive call that sounds almost like the buzz of cicadas.
Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel
Look for them in late winter. Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel is often seen standing on their hind legs on roadsides or other places where grass is mowed, such as lawns, golf courses, or cemeteries. The squirrels probably once lived in short-grass prairie, and some human habitats suit them well. They dig a variety of burrows, from short ones used for escape to deeper, longer ones with nesting chambers. Like most ground squirrels, they hibernate. In hibernation, their heartbeat slows from more than 200 beats per minute to no more than five. How long they spend in hibernation annually depends on where they live, and at what elevation. Day length seems to determine when they enter hibernation in the fall, and some sort of internal clock prompts them to emerge in the spring. The Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel's coat pattern is unique, with 13 dark and pale stripes running the length of the back; the dark stripes are patterned with small white spots.
The Sidney Deadwood Trail
Are you an avid year-round cyclist? The Sidney Deadwood Trail offers 4 miles of paved surface, and has a maximum elevation of 4,088 ft. Along with challenging curves, inclines, and descents. Please see trail rules signs for trail etiquette.)
- Some of the loose gravel road surfaces in Legion Park, make an ideal off-road environment for mountain biking.
Love playing in the snow? The hilly slopes in Legion Park are outstanding for sledding and tubing.
- From flat terrain, to more challenging hilly climbs: Sidney's Parks and Trail system also make an ideal spot for snowshoe enthusiasts. Many of the "Snow-park" areas in some states charge a fee for parking. You can park at Legion Park for free!
Snowshoeing extends your hiking season into winter, and offers low-impact, aerobic exercise that helps you stay in shape during the winter. Plus, you can snowshoe many areas that you can't ski due to trees or low-snow conditions.
Snowshoeing is Easy
As the saying goes, "If you can walk, you can snowshoe." The learning curve is much shorter than that of skiing or snowboarding. A few techniques do need to be practiced, such as widening your stance (to avoid stepping on the snowshoe frames), going up and down hills, traversing and switchbacking, and pole usage.
Snowshoeing is Inexpensive
Required gear includes the snowshoes themselves, appropriate footwear and clothing, and a pair of poles. That's it! No lift ticket required!
Snowshoes are believed to be an invention somewhere between 4,000 - 6,000 years old. Early Native American Indians were the innovators in snowshoe technology. Made from woven webs of rawhide tied to wood frames; snowshoes were an absolute necessity for allowing Indians to foot travel in the harsh North American winters. It was not until many years later that skis were introduced by immigrants coming from Sweden and Norway. Interestingly, Eskimos living in Polar Regions did not find snowshoes essential, as they traveled mostly over sea ice or on wind packed snow of the tundra.
For safe snowshoeing, stay within the limits set by your physical abilities, the environment and your equipment, be aware of your surroundings.
Stay hydrated! It's as important to drink during cold-weather exercise as it is in summer. Keep your water from freezing by using an insulating cover for your water bottle. A vacuum bottle with hot drinks will keep you hydrated and warm.
Have a safe and enjoyable winter season!