Chocolate Pudding Pond and Other Squishy Places
During the summer there is a field ecology program at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge. It’s open to kids in grades two to six and allows young nature lovers the perfect opportunity to get down and dirty in the swamps, trails and ponds of the beautiful refuge. And I mean down and dirty.
The first day of camp the kids explore the ponds and trails around the refuge. They swim with the slippery fish, pick wild blueberries and gather in the Secret Clubhouse to listen to tales of the wild. The second day is a swimming trip in the aptly named Chocolate Pudding Pond and fishing for whatever you can catch with strainers. On Wednesday they travel through a super- secret pipe to the super- Secret Mud Trail where, according to my seven-year-old, “It’s very, very mucky and deep.” He should know just how mucky it is since one of his shoes is still there, sucked right off his foot only to disappear forever! They returned from the Secret Mud Trail (location has still not been disclosed) covered from head to foot in black muck. Somewhere under all that mud was my son. Even though word on the street is that the mud trail is a little less muddy this year because of the lack of rain, you could have fooled me. They sure looked super muddy to me. My son sat on a plastic garbage bag for the drive home after camp (car windows open since it smelled like low tide in the car) and the garden hose got most of the muck off of his clothes and his one remaining shoe.
Thursday’s plan was a trip over to the bay for exploring and net seining. The kids caught crabs, fish, shrimp, a giant horseshoe crab and other saltwater dwellers which they put in a bucket to study before releasing them back into their natural habitat. It was fascinating for them to have the hand’s-on marine ecology education. Then it was over to the ocean for a nature treasure hunt and a swim in the sea. Friday, the last day of the program, was a time for studying insects and making crafts and reminiscing about the week’s highlights. The children learned so much and came away with a greater respect for the earth. They made new friends and got plenty of fresh air! It was a wet, muddy, slippery, squishy amazing week.
Friday night the kids and families were invited back to the Nature Center for a slide show of the week’s events and refreshments. Photos of the kids taken during the week revealed many happy faces and many funny moments. Kids and bugs and mud and animals is a perfect recipe for happiness. Add in some snapping turtles, a resident bald eagle, a porcupine who dances for treats (she eats flowers) and there you have it: A perfect summer experience! Thank you, QWF!
The Quogue Wildlife Refuge, located on Old Country Road in the Village of Quogue, is open to the public year round. You can walk or jog on the soft, pine-needled trails from sunrise to sunset. You can visit the Nature Center and visit the animals, some of which had been injured but now are safe and well cared-for at the Refuge. This summer marked the 46th anniversary of the Summer Ecology Program, which is a gem of a program taking place in a gem of a place.
May Casey’s water shoe, and all the other shoes lost on the Secret Mud Trail in the past 46 years, rest in peace.