What is there to notice in nature?

It can be hard to get out during this time of year, this transition time between fall and winter.  It’s cold and things look brown and bare. What is there to do and see outside right now anyway? Well… plenty! Read through the list of nature to explore around Topsham Public Library (and anywhere else) and then bundle up and get outside.



With branches exposed it’s the perfect time of year to look for nests. Check trees for bird and squirrel nests and shrubs for abandoned wasp nests (there’s one in a lilac shrub here at the library) as well as bird nests. You may also notice signs of mice constructing their winter shelters. If you’re able, spend a few moments investigating a nest. They are amazing structures!

Resources to inspire:


Marcescent Plants

Most plants shed their leaves in the fall but there are a few that hold on to them (or most of them anyway). This phenomenon is called marcescence: the trait of retaining plant parts after they are dead and dry. Some trees in our area that exhibit this are oaks,  and Witch Hazels (leaves & flower corollas) and the most common – American Beech. If you’re driving or walking and notice trees with pale tan or copper leaves when all others trees are bare, they are most likely beech.


Branches, Bark & Buds

When was the last time you took a good look at a tree? I mean really observe it. Notice the branching pattern. Is it opposite or alternate? What does the bark look like? How would you describe the texture (smooth, furrowed, scaly, papery, etc) and color? Some bark even has a distinctive scent. Scratch the bark of a Yellow Birch and you’ll get a whiff of wintergreen. Crush some bark or twigs of Sassafras and you’ll notice a spicy odor. Then move on to the buds. You should see the same growth pattern as the branches. Characteristics to notice are color, shape, texture, and scale arrangement. You might be amazed at the variety.

Resources to inspire:


Ice & Frost Formations

Not everyone loves seeing frost on windows, appreciates icy spots or admires tiny flakes but you may learn to after noticing their interesting features. Be intentional about slowing down to notice these fascinating structures.

Resources to inspire:

Now you have some ideas to keep in mind. Next time you are outside be intentional about slowing down to notice nature. Come back here anytime and let us know what you are seeing!

Until next time, stay curious & get outside to notice nature!