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Wildllife Refuge's Winter Wonderland

Hosting two special events this week, the Quogue Wildlife Refuge offers up fun activities to break the winter doldrums.

For East Enders tired of being snowbound after Tueday night's storm, the Quogue Wildlife Refuge is hosting two winter hikes, offering the chance to get outdoors and explore the snow dusted landscape.

On Saturday, the Family Winter Hike will feature a two- mile walk through the Pine Barrens, with the refuge’s naturalists, who will be sharing information about the flora and fauna. With the 300-hundred acre preserve covered in snow, it will afford the perfect opportunity for the environmental educators to spot wildlife tracks, allowing visitors to learn more about the variety of animals inhabiting the area in winter.

With the Full Moon Night Hike on Jan. 19, visitors can enjoy the serenity of the refuge’s frozen acres after dark, taking time to stop and listen to the nocturnal sounds near the North Pond.

“A lot of people think of winter on Long Island and they want to stay indoors,” said Marisa Nelson, Quogue Wildlife Refuge’s assistant director, “but we are open 365 days a year and want people to get out and enjoy it.”

Started last spring, the Family Hike was met with a huge response, requiring two to three naturalist to be on hand to handle the large group. To foster a more intimate learning environment, groups are now limited to twenty people per environmental educator, so space is limited and reservations are required. During the morning walk, naturalist often use animal tracks found in the snow to provide clues in identifying the winter wildlife, without actually seeing it.

“You never know what you are going to see that day, but in the winter you will see lots of tracks.” said Nelson. “As for the animal viewing, the group may see rabbits, deer and a variety of waterfowl. We have been seeing a Coopers Hawks too,” she added.

Although offered every month at the refuge, the Full Moon Hike in winter conjures a feeling different than any other time of the year. Without the aid of flashlights or headlamps, hikers move through the frozen darkness listening for faint sounds across the snowy woods, intermittently stopping to enjoy to clear night sky.

Normally closed at sunset, full moon hikers get the unique perspective of walking the trails in the moonlight, with the naturalists noting different noises and calls in the dark.

“A winter night can be very quiet,” said Nelson, comparing springtime’s nocturnal insect orchestra  to the silence of the winter woods. “The hike will make four or five different stops where the group will do different vision activities. The hike starts at the nature center and moves into the Pine Barrens and then up to the North Pond. It’s a quiet walk which is good for listening for movement  in the dark, as well as learning how our night vision works”

The free Family Winter Hike starts at 10 a.m. and is open to children of all ages.

The Full Moon Night Hike starts at 5:30 p.m. and is limited to adults and children over 11-years-old. It is free to Quogue Wildlife Refuge members and $5 for non-members.

For more information, or to make a reservation, please contact Quogue Wildlife Refuge at (631) 653-4771.

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