Nature preserve bugs out for campers

July 10, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - It's buggy at the Yankauer Nature Preserve, and that's just fine with the kids and camp staff.

The more bugs the better as a group of kids ages 6 through 11 settle into the preserve for a close-up examination of everything that crawls.

Some days it's setting up insect traps; other days the kids use string to craft their own spider webs in trees.

One day, two kids dressed up in costumes - one in a spider costume and the other in an insect outfit - which allowed the group to more closely examine the difference between the two types of critters, said Kristin Alexander, director of the preserve.


In the morning when it is cool, the youngsters and staff hit the trails that wind throughout the 104-acre preserve, looking for and examining every bug they can find.

"They hike, and hike and hike," Alexander said.

For the first time this year, the Yankauer Nature Preserve offered a summer camp to area youngsters to help them learn about nature.

Divided into four, one-week segments, the summer camp gives children a chance to learn about birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians.

Participants can enroll for any of the weeks or participate in all four, Alexander said.

The Yankauer Nature Preserve is between Martinsburg, W.Va., and Shepherdstown, off Whitings Neck Road.

The preserve is made up of oak forests surrounded by glades of red cedar and dense thickets of fast-growing shrubs and trees. The property extends to the Potomac River, where bluffs along the river stand about 75 feet high.

The mix of habitat makes the preserve not only a good place to see bugs, but to observe a variety of birds, including prairie warblers, woodpeckers and barred owls.

Although Yankauer Nature Preserve has existed since the 1960s, it has been only within the last several years that there has been a push to develop the area more fully and inform the public about the existence of the property.

The 39 youngsters participating or expecting to participate in this summer's Audubon Discovery Camp got things started on the week of June 16 with the "Birds of a Feather" program, Alexander said.

The next week's camp was called "Mammal Mania" and this week, it's "Incredible Insects; Splendid Spiders." Next week, the kids will examine reptiles and amphibians in the "Scales and Tails" class.

The kids have come across a variety of insects in their walks this week, from daddy longlegs to bees and crickets to spittlebugs, Alexander said.

A spittlebug is an insect that creates a bubbly substance which resembles a "spit wad" and deposits it on plants, Alexander said.

Inside the foam is a spittlebug nymph, Alexander said.

"We take off the foam and show what the nymph looks like," Alexander said.

After a morning on the trail, the day often takes on a more relaxed approach as the hot temperatures set in, Alexander said.

On Wednesday afternoon, the seven kids participating in this week's camp colored lightning bugs under two large canopies erected for the group.

But this wasn't just any coloring project.

They used glow-in-the dark colors so they could take the pictures home Wednesday night and watch them light up in their homes, Alexander said.

Emma Dyke, a 7-year-old from Shepherdstown, said she liked the craft projects the most. She proudly held up a dragon fly she made out of parts of an egg carton.

When Adam Benjamin, 7, was asked what he like the most about the camp, he said "lunch."

And the rufus-sided towhee bird was neat, too, particularly for its song, which sounds like it's saying "drink your tea," Benjamin said.

Each week of the camp costs $70 per child and $60 for children whose families are members of Potomac Valley Audubon, which helps manage the preserve, Alexander said.

Last week, youngsters from the Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson County spent three days at the camp for free, Alexander said. The cost was covered by a grant obtained by the preserve, Alexander said.

Alexander said it was good to see children from the club come to the camp because they do not get a chance to enjoy wooded areas a lot.

Looking ahead, Alexander said she will be working on a curriculum with local public school teachers to bring students to the preserve for field trips when school resumes.

For more information about the camp, go to or call 304-676-3397.

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