QUECHEE – From birds to bugs, turtles to trails, the Vermont Institute of Natural Science Nature Center in Quechee has something for everyone. Through hands-on exploration and learning opportunities, the VINS Nature Center offers an idyllic snapshot of Vermont’s nature and wildlife. A day at VINS leaves visitors with a greater understanding of and appreciation for New England’s unique natural qualities.
Certainly, the highlight of any visit to the VINS Nature Center, located on U.S.
Route 4 just east of Quechee Gorge, is the chance to get up close and personal with raptors-birds of prey that hunt their food. State of the art enclosures house more than 30 of these awesome creatures, including Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles and a variety of owls, hawks and falcons. Each of the birds that reside at VINS has a permanent injury or condition that would prevent their survival in the wild. Having been successfully rehabilitated either at VINS or another facility, these raptors serve as avian ambassadors, helping humans learn more about nature and wildlife.
Visitors get a peek at what avian rehabilitation is all about through Rehab in Action, a one-way viewing window connected to VINS’ Wildlife Services Department. For much of the summer season, Wildlife Services is home to hundreds to ill or orphaned wild baby birds of all species. These tiniest of patients require feeding and attention every half-hour for 16 hours each day, making Rehab in Action one of the most popular exhibits on site. Birds are not the only creatures to visit at VINS however.
Last fall, VINS opened a new exhibit on arthropods, complete with scorpions, spiders, preying mantises and a variety of other bugs and insects. Additionally, Fledgling Corner introduces younger nature lovers to fish, snakes, turtles and frogs. Live animal programs highlight every visit to the VINS Nature Center. Programs are offered daily and focus on exploring the natural world through the eyes of native wildlife. Bird programs, for example, include topics such as the mechanics of flight, seasonal migration and breeding, and avian conservation issues. Lead by VINS’ trained educator naturalists, programs are appropriate for visitors of all ages.
In between presentations, visitors can take advantage of other amenities on the 47-acre Quechee campus. Interpretative nature trails lead to the scenic Ottauquechee River and the breathtaking Quechee Gorge. The VINS Nature Quest is a place-based treasure hunt that uses ten clues to guide visitors in exploring the natural environment around the site. The VINS Nature Store gift shop offers a variety of nature-themed gifts and souvenirs for everyone. From one-of-a-kind Danforth Pewter bird key chains and stuffed owl plush toys to special birdhouses and VINS apparel, visitors will find surely find something to commemorate their visit.
The VINS Nature Center, which welcomes more than 30,000 visitors each year, also serves as the headquarters for VINS’ extensive environmental education offerings and avian wildlife rehabilitation services. In addition to its popular public programs on site, VINS delivers environmental education programs through direct classroom instruction, teacher professional development, community outreach programs, and week-long summer nature camps. VINS’ programs combine environmental science concepts with hands-on exploration to build empathy and empower individuals to care for local natural ecosystems.
The VINS Nature Center is open from 10am to 5pm daily from May through October. To find out about daily programs and exhibits, call 802-359-5000 or visit online at www.vinsweb.org.