EcoBlitz returns to nature center

A year after a tornado canceled the event last year, it would have taken more than rain to keep people from the return EcoBlitz at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

“The whole event is for families to get out and discover nature,” said Julie Champlin, a nature center assistant.

More than 20 families signed up for the second EcoBlitz at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. EcoBlitz started in 2008, but was canceled last year due to the June 17 tornado. The event is done in conjunction with National Get Outdoors Days, a day dedicated to getting people outside.

However, many of the participants were forced indoors early Saturday morning due to rain and lightening.

With rain falling shortly after 9 a.m., people were still able to experience nature through a nature talk with naturalist David Stokes, whose program is largely geared toward children. Stokes incorporates a number of animals, like turtles and snakes.

Nature center director Larry Dolphin said the events are designed to be interactive and to appeal to entire families, especially children.

“The more interactive it is, the more they’re doing something, the more the kids are going to remember it and learn from it,” Dolphin said.

The free event was funded by the Friends of the Jay C. Hormel Nature. Along with EcoBlitz, the nature center also was part of the First Family Fun Day.

Participants could scoop the bottom of the pond to find the many different aquatic critters living in the pond, like dragonfly nymphs (babies), frogs, toads, water bugs, tad poles, etc. After scooping the critters from the pond, there’s a chance to figure out what the animal is.

This gives people a chance to explore the ecosystem in a pond.

“It’s not just what’s on top or around it, but it’s very exciting to find out what kind of ecosystem lives inside the pond in the water,” Champlin said. “A lot of people are unaware that there’s that much life in a pond.”

People could also see what it’s like to be a migrating bird by mimicking the migration process by going to different stations on the trails. By picking cards and asking questions, people could see if they survived migration. At one station, people stop to drink by getting punch, and at another the bird is tagged by a human.

“Bird migration is a real difficult journey, and many birds don’t survive,” Champlin said. “We really show that in this one.”

Members of the Audubon Society volunteered to take participants bird watching.

Another event was a canoe race, which served as an introduction to canoeing.

“The whole idea of the event is just to get people outdoors and enjoying the outdoors,” Dolphin said. “It’s good for you mentally, physically and spiritually.”