Tim McMonagle opened the eyes of many of the participants of the Fall Walk in the Woods at Rice Creek on Saturday. Participants learned first-hand about nature and the distinct culture of the Native American people.
McMonagle, the guide for the hike, shocked participants when he revealed that Native Americans used moss for their diapers because of its ability to absorb liquid. McMonagle also explained some important facts that hikers need to know, such as the lesser-known qualities of poison ivy, such as its ability to stay on trees year-round.
In addition, McMonagle taught the group various things about Rice Creek’s surrounding environment as he led them through one of Rice Creek’s many trails.
The four participants walked over wooden bridges made by Rice Creek members and came across an abandoned beaver dam. At one point, the group stopped to search for an owl, which can usually be seen in a tree cleaning itself or relaxing.
Various species make Rice Creek their home and participants saw this personally as they stopped along the trail to look for the remains of turtle eggs, which a mother snapping turtle would have left after laying her eggs near the trail not long ago.
The group also saw Rice Creek’s environmental scientist tag different varieties of birds in what is known as “bird banding.” While holding a robin with one hand, the scientist put a small medal band around the bird’s leg with the other hand.
Rice Creek’s environmental scientist explained that the birds tagged will migrate to Mexico and the tags will help scientists track them. Bird banding helps scientists to record the sex and color of the birds and eventually understand their migration pattern.
One participant of the fall walk, Karinna Okkonen, an Oswego State student, was able to hold an adult robin before it was set free after being tagged.
“It was an interesting experience. It was so cool to actually touch its feathers,” Okkonen said. “I actually thought I killed it because it didn’t move when I went to release it, but it ended up being OK.”
At first Okkonen was not excited about the hike, because she is not a person who enjoys the outdoors. Through the walk, however, she learned how appealing nature can be. “It was nice being in a different atmosphere other than campus,” she said.
“My favorite part was seeing all the scenery. Our guide was so friendly and I learned a lot of new things,” Okkonen said.
A couple from Boston attended the fall walk and said they discovered a lot about biodiversity. They added that they enjoyed being in a natural environment while learning many new things, such as the characteristics of poison ivy.
The Bostonians came to Oswego State for parent’s weekend and heard about Rice Creek’s Fall Walk in the Woods. Though the couple lives five hours away, they said they would definitely be coming back to Rice Creek.
McMonagle has been teaching environmental science for 15 years and now teaches earth science to sixth graders.
He told a story about how he caught a bunch of frogs near his home and brought them into school to show his students. When he brought them into the classroom, all of the students immediately screamed; they had never seen a frog up close. He explained that it is because only a small portion of kids are exposed to the outdoors nowadays.
“When I was a kid I used to come home from school and go explore in the woods,” McMonagle said. “My dad used to always take us on hikes but now parents don’t expose their kids to nature.”
McMonagle was asked about his favorite part of the fall season. “It’s a coming of change, the precursor to the next big event,” he said.
He talked about how the fall season shows how similar humans and animals are. Animals are gathering their food and hunkering down and we are doing the same by stocking up on our firewood and staying indoors more.
Rice Creek Field Station exists to provide research opportunities for students and help them learn more about natural history, according to the Oswego State website. The station is five minutes from the Oswego State campus.