Just down the hill from the LNC is a weedy meadow that’s become an arena for sparring bucks. Yesterday in the rain, my approach interrupted this old guy’s shoving match with a younger deer. You can still see a clump of his opponent’s hair on the tip of one antler prong. As fascinating as it is to watch the show, I can’t help but think it’s bizarre that urban forests have become (mostly) unchecked deer population increase zones. We really wake up to this fact during the rut, when bucks and does rush across busy streets and venture fearlessly into nearby neighborhoods.
A few years ago, wandering around online, I found one of the writers that inspired me to start this blog. Scotty Westphal blogs at https://retrieverman.net/ and at first I thought his blog was mainly about dogs, for which he has a passion. But what kept me reading was his unique viewpoint, a combination of political liberalism, a strong conservation ethic, and a love of hunting. Hailing from West Virginia, his opinions are likely at odds with much of rural Appalachia, but his writing is steeped in a deep feeling for the natural and human history of his beloved hill country.
It’s good to hear a voice that can bridge the cultures of hunting and environmentalism, so often at odds with each other. I’m reminded of another nature writer from the early 20th century, Aldo Leopold. His most well-known book, “Sand County Almanac”, helped shape the growth of environmental ethics (it certainly had a great impact on me when I first read it as a twenty-something). Leopold was also a hunter, forester, and one of the founders of the science of wildlife management.
Here are some of my favorite posts from Scotty’s blog “Natural History”. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have. A lot of the work on his site is about dogs and canids, but not being a dog person, I was most drawn to his nature writing. Scotty is currently completing an MFA in creative writing, and like most artists is seeking a wider audience for his work. Please share your comments to his blog.
It already seems like a distant memory, those humid bug-ruled days of (very) late summer that ended so abruptly. I was in the jewelweed patch that last miserable day, but from what I could see it was a good day for the orthopteran inhabitants. One last chance to live and eat before the cold set in.
If you’re a migrating hummer looking for a place to refuel, the value of good habitat is immeasurable. Hummingbirds can travel about 20 miles a day, so our little forest is a haven in the midst of urban sprawl. An abundance of Spotted Jewelweed is the main draw during fall migration – hummers can both nectar and forage for insects before moving on. Read More
It’s been rough the past few weeks. Unlike the creatures that live in this forest, I’m not well adapted to coping with the three H’s – Heat, Humidity, and Hordes of mosquitos. But after my first trail building adventure, I felt empowered to take on another much needed reroute. This one turned out to be considerably more of a challenge. Steep terrain, invasive plants, drainage problems, and miserable working conditions all conspired to make it harder than expected. And as more and more soil was gouged out of the trailbed by heavy rains, it was apparent the trail needed to be moved soon. Read More
…To take a hike with oneforestfragment this Saturday.
Habitat Restoration in an Urban Forest Fragment Saturday 9/15 1:00 – 2:30
Join naturalist and forest steward Rosemary Bauman on this 1.5 hour hike, to learn what’s being done to revive native plant populations. Expect to see ripe Spicebush berries, hummingbirds in the jewelweed, and maybe a few last pawpaw fruits. $10/ $7 for members. Please call 458-1328 to register.
What’s it like to be a hummer in a Jewelweed patch? Buzzing-twittering through a jungle of bright orange nectar horns big as your head… whizzing in pursuit of companions… hanging in space as your tongue curls around sweetness….
Lately, some images have been jiggling around in my mind, trying to make a connection. It started last week when I looked into the red eyes of the male Box turtle in the pic above, and was reminded of something…. As a visual artist, I never stop marveling at the Box turtle’s immensely varied, seemingly random patterns. But male turtles alone have bright red eyes and the deepest orange pigments (usually). There’s only one other class of land animals that regularly sports such brilliant pigments, red eyes, and sexual dichromatism. Read More
Last year I would have said this was one of the luckiest Box turtles around. He’s large, bright colored and outgoing. And though he lives in a small nature preserve in the city, he has an excellent territory with many female turtles around. In my post from 10/16, “Tale of Two Turtles”, I contrasted him with a poor captive boxie that appeared to have been dumped at the LNC. But life has no guarantees, and wild animals have no health care. This past spring, I happened to spot him just emerging from his winter sleep – and it was obvious that something was not right. Read More
One of the biggest impacts we make on a forest for the sake of enjoying it, is to build a trail through it. Of course other animals make trails too, but they’re intentional, utilitarian. Deer trails gently meander the contours of the landscape, to accomodate much stopping to browse along the way. Recreational trails, on the other hand, are like freeways through the forest, encouraging the hiker or biker to keep moving and effectively notice nothing but the trail itself. Unlike freeways or animal trails, recreational trails often don’t go anywhere in particular (except maybe to a waterfall or a view). Worse, they can damage the very landscape they allow us to appreciate.