Paw Paw Nature Trail
For nature lovers of all ages, an easy-to-navigate trail alive with native flora and fauna
Each season brings new adventures and ways to connect with nature at the Museum, and it’s an especially fun place to warm-up as the weather turns cold.
Cooler weather means some animal friends are packing to head south for the winter, but those who stay also have a lot of work to do. This makes for an awesome visitor experience as many Paw Paw Nature Trail residents start to prepare for winter.
Chipmunks and squirrels are a regular sight busily collecting falling nuts from the oaks, hickories, and walnut trees. Did you know mast is the term used to collectively define the ‘fruit of forest trees’ like acorns and other nuts that accumulate on the ground?
Also falling with the temperature and nuts are leaves. You’ll be able to observe many animals making use of the dead leaves on the forest floor for nesting materials that will help them stay warm and survive the cold nights.
Keep an eye out for the dark green, heart-shaped leaves of the arrow-leafed ginger, sometimes also called little brown jugs (Hexastylis arifolia) in clusters on the ground. This plant is very aromatic, smells like sassafras and stays a dark shiny green year-round.
Winter Sightings on Paw Paw Nature Trail
Consider timing your visit with a guided Nature Walk on the fourth Saturday of each month, or a guided Bird Walk on the first Saturday of each month (both experiences are included with Museum admission) and are unique in the winter.
Winter brings changes inside the Museum, too. The animals on exhibit are affected by the shortened days. Their sleep cycle and appetite change, so you may see them sleep more, which equals an exceptional opportunity to make new observations. Engaging for all ages, join a guided Animal Encounter on Wednesday, Friday or Sunday in Creature Cavern for a more in-depth experience about the wonder that winter brings the natural world.
Don’t Hibernate – Stay Up Late
Just as some animal behavior changes in winter, yours can too with a nighttime visit to the Museum. Every Tuesday the Museum is open until 8:00 p.m.; the animals move at a different pace after dark, and it’s a wonderful time to do some winter sky gazing from the deck.
If you can’t make it late, make sure to catch a daily Seasonal Stargazing show in the planetarium. It’s a 15-minute guided tour of the night sky and is particularly spectacular this time of year. Tickets are included with Museum admission but make sure to reserve them at the Admissions desk.
And, there’s always cool fun in Peetie’s Place which provides a warm refuge to read, do puzzles and sensory-based activities, or put on your own puppet show.
Research Your Own Winter Backyard
Take what you learn with you and make some observations in your own backyard. With more leaves on the ground animals scurrying from burrow-to-burrow or foraging for food are much more noticeable.
Journal what you see as you look for more birds at bird feeders, increased activity from squirrels, and you may even be lucky enough to see a gray or red fox who are more active during winter and always on the move looking for food.
Make sure to bring in your notes, journal or pictures to the Museum’s naturalists, they love to hear about your field research and are happy to answer any questions.
|10:00 a.m.||Lars the Little Polar Bear||Planetarium|
|11:00 a.m.||Puppet Show: The Shadow Knows||N/A|
|11:00 a.m.||Story Time||Dragonfly Theatre|
|12:30 p.m.||Lost in the Woods||Dragonfly Theatre|
|12:30 p.m.||Sherwin the Box Turtle||Wildlife Lab|
|1:00 p.m.||Seasonal Stargazing||Planetarium|
|2:00 p.m.||Live Animal Encounter||Dragonfly Theatre|
|3:00 p.m.||Seasonal Stargazing||Planetarium|
|Jan 23||Lost in the Woods|
|Jan 23||Sherwin the Box Turtle|
|Jan 25||Star Party|
|Jan 26||Guided Nature Walk|
|Jan 30||Leaf Rubbings|
|Feb 02||Groundhog Day|
|Feb 06||Cosmic Journey|
|Feb 09||Wild Valentines|
|Feb 16||Winter Animals|
|Feb 23||Merit Badge Workshop: Environmental Science|
|Mar 11||Senior Science Days: Wildlife of North Carolina|
|Mar 19||Merit Badge Workshop: Interpreting the Sky|
|Apr 06||Merit Badge Workshop: Environmental Science|
|Apr 23||Merit Badge Workshop: Flora & Fauna of the Carolinas|
|May 03||Discovery Place Nature Exploration Weekend|
|Jun 01||Merit Badge Workshop: Environmental Science|