Nighttime can be a scary notion for children. Many books, movies and television shows play on children's fear of the dark. A simple sound like the rustling of leaves can make you think of the worst possible scenario. Heck-I even need a light on if I am going to watch a scary movie. Why is it that the dark scares us so much? Is it the media, the fear of the unknown or another reason why so many people seem to be intimidated by it?
Nighttime in nature is a whole different world than that of the daytime. Nocturnal animals wake up and start their day; lakes and rivers become peacefully calm and still, and on clear nights, a blanket of stars coats the sky.
Sounds relaxing if you ask me far from the feared nighttime of my childhood and the mysterious "dun dun dun" music of the movies.
To me, there is nothing better than a cool summer night on the lake staring up into the star-filled sky. We live in such an amazing natural area where we can experience all of these wonderful phenomena together. If you have a smartphone I encourage you to try the free Google Sky Map app. After it is downloaded you point your phone towards the sky, it pinpoints your location and will show you which constellations, stars and planets you are able to see.
A few weeks ago, under the full moon, I took my kayak out on Kinzua and was completely amazed at the breathtaking beauty of the water at nighttime. Area kayak and canoe rental companies lead full moon and night paddles, which I think everyone should try.
With a little encouragement, kids' fear of the dark can be abolished. Take them outside to star gaze. Take them for evening hikes through the woods. Listen for the owl's hoots and the flapping of the bat's wings. Go on a night paddle, and show them the beauty of water in the dark. Eliminating fear of the dark is as easy as confronting it and realizing the splendor.
During the first weekend in October, Audubon will once again host its annual Enchanted Forest event. Taking place at night, kids and their families walk the Audubon's trails to meet fascinating animal characters that speak to them and teach them about themselves and their habits and homes. Some of the animals are nocturnal and wide awake, but others are getting ready to sleep.
This event, one of Audubon's most popular, is guaranteed a great time for the whole family. The trails are lit with luminaries, and trail guides, armed with lanterns, act as fireflies to take you along the journey. Enjoy refreshments and crafts after your trail walk. Enchanted Forest is a wonderful way to ease kids into not fearing the dark and have fun all at the same time.
This year's event takes place on Friday night, Oct. 5, and Saturday night, Oct. 6. The event fills quickly, so be sure to call the center today to make your pre-paid reservations. With its proximity to Halloween, both children and their parents are encouraged to wear costumes.
New this year are two costumes, a great-horned owl and a pileated woodpecker, created by local artist, Pam Moran, and funded in part by the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Regrant Program administered by the Cattaraugus County Arts Council. In addition, we are grateful to these sponsors: Wanda Lucariello, Therapeutic Massage; Kings' Heating & Sheet Metal, Inc.; Carroll Rod & Gun Club; Stanton's Garage, Inc.; Huber Blacktop Company; Zahm & Matson; Busti Cider Mill; and Whittier Farms.
Forget the ghouls and goblins of Halloween, the monster under the bed and the eerie noises that seem to be heightened as soon as the sun goes down. The dark can be a magnificent time to learn about the natural world and just to enjoy its beauty.
Brenna Reed is events and marketing intern at Jamestown Audubon, which is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren. For more information, call 569-2345 or visit jamestownaudubon.org.