Category Archives: Nature

Denny

April 10, 2021

The woods have come alive with a carpet of small white, pink and purple wildflowers.

False Rue Anemone
Dutchman’s Breeches
Spring Beauty

Learning to walk in the woods

So, file this under “Living here for most of the past 10 years and still get to see something new!” On my trail walk a couple days ago I had my first extended viewing of an owl. I’ve caught sight of them several times while walking but usually it’s when they leave one tree and fly to another and are then out of sight. But on this particular walk I saw one fly and it landed in a tree further down in the direction I was headed. I kept an eye on it and found it in the tree as I got closer. I was able to look for a full minute or so. I could have stayed longer as it didn’t fly away but it was up high enough that I couldn’t see details without binoculars. But still, had a good look. My immediate thoughts were that I need to remember to look up more often rather than my usual focus on the path in front of me.

Yesterday while walking after a lot of rain I was stopping often to photograph and video the streams and little water falls. It got me into a more observational mode. While I had to watch the path for slippery spots I was walking more slowly and just generally being in a more observational mode rather than walking for exercise mode. I stopped and just stood still looking off through the woods. With the trees and lower level foliage still bare it’s possible to see a much longer distance. Within just a minute of stopping and looking deeper into the woods, at about the limit of my eyesight, I caught sight of a fox. I should note that I’m not 100% certain given the distance but given the size, shape and movement of the animal I’m fairly certain it was a fox. It was only a glimpse but still, exciting!

Again, I was reminded what a poor observer I often am. My habit when walking is to be walking. Even if I do rememer to look up I’m usually still moving. So, another lesson learned is that not only do I need to look up more often but that I need to stop and stand still more often. I think that act, of being still for at least a few minutes is what will really allow for much deeper observation of the landscape and what is happening around me. Not only that but were I to carry a small sitting stool or be willing to stop and sit on the ground for say, ten or twenty minutes, that extended stillness would also allow for my becoming less visible to other animals, notably those I rarely see such as fox.

Really it’s an obvious thing I’m stating here but I suspect it’s also something others might forget to do while in the woods. It’s an easy thing to forget to do, especially when provided nice walking paths, to just stop and hold. Also, I’ll note that when I go for walks it is for the purpose of exercise. To walk for observation is a different thing and I’ll need to remember that and find a balance between the two.

Spring is here and all around green buds are popping. In the next few weeks the open understory of the woods will fill with foliage and the long view I’m enjoying now will shrink to a much smaller distance. I plan to practice a more active observation with more frequent stopping and suspect that will be beneficial but it will likely be in the winter months that such a practice will really prove helpful both in terms of wildlife observation as well as developing a better understanding of the topography of the land.

In the woods

I’ve been living in the cabin for most of the past 12 years. The first four were spent mostly outside gardening and clearing the area of tornado-downed trees.The fifth was a lot of time outside at night looking through the telescope and then I left for two years. When I returned in the fall of 2015 I never quite got back into the rhythm of gardening or my time at the telescope. I was still outside a lot but not in the steady, mission-driven way that I had been before. My time outside became more casual and meandering.

This spring I’ve been back outside far more. First on the bike, riding around the county. Then, in mid April, my sister and niece began an extended stay in their cabin which prompted me to cut my rides short. From 36 miles I dropped to 26 miles or less and my ride time from 3 hours to 2 hours. And then, almost accidentally, I started the trail building project in mid April. Three weeks later and we’ve now got about 2 miles of completed trail. I feel like I’ve spent most of my days either working on the trails or walking on them or riding on them. It’s been a wonderful, rewarding process.

The simple act of just getting out into the quiet woods during the springtime has been a privilege I wish more people had access to especially in these times of the Covid virus. I’m used to having outside time and space so it’s not really new for me but a lot of people are struggling with what to do with themselves.

Wood Betony, a favorite spring food source for bumble bees

Whether walking, biking or trail building, time spent in the woods is good for the mind and the body. Obviously, increased movement and exercise is always good but the time spent hearing birds and frogs sing, observing the daily emergence of spring wild flowers and the flight of insects amongst those flowers is a constant source of bliss.

Denny

May 11, 2019

This. Yes, this says it well.

Alexandra Petri writing for the Washington Post about the recent UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’,

Just admit it! You don’t care about other species!

Look, let’s abandon this charade, all right?

I understand: You do not give a ringtailed lemur’s posterior about the majority of life on earth. I fully get it. Believe me, I barely give a carp about it, and some of it is my family. Just — respect me enough to admit it, okay?

For years I have come to you with news that the prairie chicken is not doing so well, and you have furrowed your brow and made concerned sounds. But — the prairie chicken does no better. I am sure you intend to do something about the prairie chicken, but “doing something about the prairie chicken” has slid somewhere on your priorities list below “doing nothing about the prairie chicken” and “forming strong, detailed opinions about the coffee cup that briefly appeared in a single shot of ‘Game of Thrones.’” And that’s fine! I mean, it’s not fine, but it’s between you and your God. Just, admit it, so we can stop wasting time.

I feel like the hardest part of my job right now as a scientist is how you pretend you care about other living beings (apart from dogs and cats, the dunking otter, the new dunking otter, or the occasional octopus who has on account of his exceptional gifts risen from straitened circumstances, pulling himself up by eight bootstraps). To save the rich and glorious tapestry of species that makes life possible on earth, there is nothing you would not do, except alter the way you live in even the slightest bit or be mildly inconvenienced for a very brief time. That is the sense I’m getting? I guess I understand why it is an important element of your self-image that you care about such things, but — look, you are not fooling anyone.

More on the report.

And more…

Denny

May 10, 2019

As is often the case I have a tendency to become less regular in my posting here. As I was writing up a description of a recent episode of the Discovery Podcast to share on a slack channel it occurred to me that this is exactly the sort of thing I should post here.

So, this was a fun podcast to listen to… about the perception of the passing of time in different animals. Basically, the perception of time is different based on sensory input, audio and visual, which varies. Flies, bats, and birds are discussed as examples of animals that have a higher frame rate of perception. In a sense, time seems slower for them or at least can be. For bats who can control their frame rate through clicks in the audio-echo based system, time can be slowed down as needed. So, when flying through an open space with little action they can conserve energy with fewer clicks but when hunting an insect they can speed it up from 1 click a second to 200 a second and slow their sense of time for accurate hunting. Kind of like increasing the resolution of what they hear/see as they need to.

Give it a listen!

Denny

December 19, 2018

Not the best photo in terms of quality due to cropping but I love it because, well, Snow Goose! Just one. So pretty.  Side note: Trying out some image processing with Darkroom on iPad and it’s pretty fantastic.

Sunset Time-lapse

Been having some very active weather lately. That may sound silly as the weather is often active.  Maybe more accurate to say that we’ve been having lots of windy days. Thankfully we had a slight let-up in the wind the other day at sunset and there were some very nice clouds rolling through which made for a very nice time-lapse.

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Of Monarchs and Birthdays

It’s Royal’s birthday so I’ll put on a happy face. But this. This. I’m having a real hard time imagining a summertime without Monarchs. What else will we kill off because we don’t know how to live within limits, don’t know how to live as species that recognizes the needs of other species. Every grass lawn, every golf course is a problem.
Prime example, I’ve just had a bit of a family kerfluffle because now that I’m not living at the lake they are making changes. Gone are the native wildflowers, including the butterfly milkweed I planted (the exact food source mentioned in this article), the coneflowers, etc…. replaced by? Grass. Every area we humans occupy (at least those of us I have come to know in my life) we insist upon wiping nature clean with a green lawn or concrete.
Of course I often hear “Oh what does this one little patch matter”? There’s more growing over there (wave hands in some direction). It is as though we each live in a bubble and unwilling to acknowledge that what we do matters because millions (in this nation) of others are doing it as well. The denial of collective behavior and collective effect is very intentional.
So, today Monarchs. Tomorrow?