New! Nature School

Isn’t it time to start connecting more with Nature? Here is your opportunity to get closer to nature.

Our tenth lesson is on Whales. These remarkable animals have evolved on the Earth over millions of years, and include the largest animals we’ve ever found! Be sure and do the wonderful activities regarding whale sizes, feeding, and more!

To explore previous lessons, click on the “Nature School” pull down menu up above.

Some of the activities you can do indoors, but most will be out in nature.

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature School, Resources, Student Resources | 2 Comments

Mind in the Waters

Some of us would rather spend our lives underwater. The welcome arms of nature allows us to become part of something that is greater than ourselves.

Editor note: Click the photo to get a full screen view.

Bluegill School
Photo by Lawrence Wade

 

Eye to Eye with a Northern Pike
Photo by Lawrence Wade

 

Poetry by Cynthia Eyden

Sacred
Liminal 
Layers
I take in the surface of the stream –
    weeds and lily pads rising above
    ducks and fishing bobbers skim
    clouds, trees and sun reflect

Black Crappie
Angel of the waters
Photo by Lawrence Wade

 

Lying on the water, masked and snorkeled
     aquatic realms and rooms divided by the plants and rocks that were inferred at the surface
     Crappies and sunnies, muskies and carp, northern and bass find me curious or frightful
I grasp a branch or a rock to stay as still as the fish do without struggle

    To watch in awe and delight, and then follow through ribbons of plants.

Mixed school of bluegill and bass.
Photo by Jane Ball

To the shadowed spaces beneath a thick mat of algae.
     The bigger fish seek this out, sitting at the edge of light and dark
     They move into and out of this mystery with ease, appearing and receding 
     It is their domain to know and for me to ponder what riches reside there.

Northern Pike
Beautifully Camouflaged
Photo by Lawrence Wade

 

The silty water of mid summer allows clear awareness of only the closest myopic view.    
     A few fish glide into this layer of clarity
     More are softened and less and less defined as the distance grows
     Reminding me of my own limited consciousness.

Carp School
Finding Beauty in an invasive Species
Photo by Lawrence Wade

 

Rupturing the surface I return to the air and earth. 
    With its familiar breath and vision
     I drip with evidence of the liminal sacred layers beneath
     My heart and mind open, grateful, elated by this venture across boundaries of awareness.
Poetry by Cynthia Eyden

Carp
Water Color
Cynthia Eyden

The bowfin or dogfish is snake-like. It is a primitive fish that was around during the time of the dinosaurs.
Photo by Jeff Saslow

Poetry by Jeff Saslow

Under surface of air, trees and grass
Underwater, creek water
My insides open up to a fluid world
That has a different pulse
My frenetic stiff awkwardness slaps the weeds, rocks and tadpoles
Until I settle, watch and wait
Using my flippers to gently move
I then drift in and out of currents
As my land thoughts recede I am lulled by the undulating movement of water, plants and creatures.

Bluegill
Photo by Jeff Saslow

 

It is not until later that I am aware that my heart is open
My body has become electric
I am two feet away from a bluegill
She is staring at me for a long while
Her gills are moving water in and out
Mesmerized, my sides gently ache
As we breathe together

Jeff Saslow

Blueglll
Photo by Jane Ball

 

Minnow schools were everywhere.
Photo by Jane Ball

 

 

Have you ever had a walleye swim right up to you and look you in the eye? It changes you.
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Restless Poetry by Jeff Saslow

Restless
I hear the loon call out
On the humid summer evening
Restless
I miss crowds of people
While the fish school under water
Restless
The performance has stopped
Or viewed at a distance from parked cars

The big bass swam right past me and the light danced off its back.
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Paranoia has stepped in where
Covid has left off
No one gets away free
Even though we posture the charade of control
It is today, tomorrow or next week or . . ?
We don’t know

Restless
The news announcer’s mouth
Bites through our security blanket

Restless
When November comes
Will the blanket keep us warm?
How about in January?

The rock bass is in the sunfish family. It can be identified by its reddish eye.
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Restless
The mother duck with her little ones
Moves close to the sandy shore
I kayak and swim
Fish gather
And the loon cries through the night 
Poetry by Jeff Saslow

Muskie
Photo by Lawrence Wade

We saw this fish several times during the summer. It had sores on its mouth from being “caught and released”. Its left gill flap was torn off. The fish was roughly 4 feet in length. A lion in the water – A top predator.

The muskie slowly swam away.
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Reader and contributor, Paul Gagner shared: “When we lived on Gray’s Bay (Lake Minnetonka),  12 years ago, there was a “friendly” muskie that I could feed and pet it’s head! It also had a scar on the top of it’s back. It may have been attacked by another fish or hit by a small prop.”
Paul also added, “Did you know that the grooves that emanate outward along the snout is a sight line for lining up prey?  Amazing creatures, eh?” (click on photo to enlarge.)

“friendly”Muskie.
Photo Paul Gagner

 

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Poetry, Photography/Art, Summer | Leave a comment

A Quarter Century at the Friends of the Trail Prairie

For the past 25  years, a few of us have transformed an abandoned lot into a native prairie.

The prairie is right beside a bike path and walkers often look at us in disbelief. One of our favorite quotes is: “What are you doing down there, do you know?”.  When we first started it was one acre of European spurge, Canada thistle, ragweed, and brome grass.

We have created a booklet about planting a vacant lot:

One Vacant Lot

If you live in the Minneapolis, please visit the prairie. It is across the street from “The Marsh” health club. at 15000 Minnetonka Blvd, Minnetonka 55345

Native Big Bluestem
In the early going, we planted over a hundred grasses and flowers a year. We used the burlap to control weeds so the plants could get established. We have never used any herbicide or pesticide on the land.

 

Lessons learned at the prairie:
“The land knows us and gives so much as we work among the plants.”

Garter Snake – Over the years the diversity of life at the prairie has increased.

Lessons learned at the prairie: 
” Nature can balance the rough places inside you.”

Cup Plant
The leaves of the plant form a “cup” that birds and insects drink from.

 Lessons  learned at the Prairie:
“Let the beauty go deep into your bones”.

Pale Coneflower

Lessons learned at the Prairie:
” Every living thing has a unique vibration. Share your vibration with the plant.”

Mountain Mint
An August favorite of many pollinators.

Lessons learned at the Prairie:
“Be appreciative of the life that is around you”.

Queen of the Prairie
A wetland plant in the rose family with beautifully scented flowers.

Lessons learned at the Prairie:
” Life is so much better when your hands are digging in the Earth.”

Rattlesnake Master
A favorite of pollinators in July. The plant is a a northern type of agave .

Lessons learned at the Prairie:
Respect the weeds, they are teachers too.
(vetch, thistle, canada anemone, and European Spurge).

wild rose

Lessons learned at the prairie:
“Say “good morning” to the plants and to the people walking by on the trail”.

Butterflyweed

Lessons learned at the Prairie ( from reader Dale Antonsen)
A true guardian is one who finds their encouragement (and benefit) from a simple flower, the flutter of wings and the buzz of happy bees.

Ironweed
Blooms in late July to early August

Lessons learned at the Prairie:  “Work with others whom you care about.”

Friends of the Prairie
25 years later

Posted in Nature Guardians, Photography/Art | 1 Comment

Was Tinker Bell a Firefly?

Photo: Angeli Wright/awright@citizen-times.com

For the past three nights (mid June) I have watched as many as a  hundred fireflies blinking in my yard. This is so hopeful because for years I have rarely seen them. Twenty-five years ago, I remember walking out at night with my kids on a warm summer night. In the field below were hundreds of fireflies with blinking lights. The kids ran down in the field shrieking with joy.

Yes, they are magical, but they don’t come from pixie dust.

Adult Firefly
drawing by Jeanette Dickinson

The greenish glow or “bioluminescence’ of adult fireflies comes from a light-producing organ in its abdomen. The light is produced by a chemical reaction in its body and the reaction is triggered by oxygen from the breath of the firefly. So a firefly can control its flashing pattern with its breath. Each species of firefly has a specific flashing pattern that helps it locate a mate. In observing fireflies you may see the male flash once and then flash again 5 to 10 seconds later. Typically a male will fly just above the grass flashing for a female of its species. It will continue this flashing until a female hiding in the grass, flashes back to it. There are also species that flash twice instead of once.

Firefly underside showing the bioluminescent organ. photo by Heather Holm.

Early Summer Firefly watching:

  1. Track a firefly and make a map of where you see the firefly go.
  2. Try to find female flashers in the grass.
  3. Keep track of the number of flashes a firefly makes and the amount of time between flashes. How many different flashing patterns (species) can you find?
  4. What is the most common type of firefly? Make a chart of the different types:
    One Flash – Two Flash – Other Patterns
  5. Catch some fireflies in a jar, enjoy them for a few minutes and then release them, so they can mate and complete their life cycle.

There is danger in the weeds!

It all sound so simple, a male firefly flashes and a female waiting in the weeds flashes back. Some female fireflies are predatory and mimic the blinking pattern of another species, to draw the male to her. Imagine a male locating its mate and just when the male thinks it is going to mate, the “female mimic” kills and eats the male.

Firefly life cycle

firefly larva
illustration by Jeanette Dickinson

Fireflies are not flies or bugs but actually a type of beetle. The adults live only long enough to mate and lay eggs (usually 1-2 weeks). Mated females lay up to 100 eggs under leaves and the larvae hatch in about a month. Surprisingly the eggs of some species of firefly glow dimly in the soil. Most of a firefly’s life is spent underground as a larva. In fact, some firefly larvae live underground for almost two years. They are found under leaves and mulch in moist soil. The larvae are predatory and feed on earthworms, slugs and snails. Many species of larval fireflies have “lights” and have been called “glowworms”. In late spring or early summer of the next year, the larvae makes a mud chamber and forms its pupae. While in the mud chamber, the larvae metamorphoses into an adult flying beetle in 2-3 weeks.

September firefly watching:

  1. Look in your moist leaf pile for firefly larvae.
  2. Once you find one, look at its light-producing organ with a magnifier.

Mating fireflies. Notice the large size of the female.
photo by Heather Holm

Where have all the fireflies gone?

Alert! Have you noticed that you don’t see as many fireflies as you used to? This is not happening just in your yard, but researchers are seeing firefly populations disappearing around the country. It is not really clear what is causing the drop in firefly numbers, but there are several things you can do to create a friendlier environment for fireflies and other invertebrates in your neighborhood.

  1. Don’t use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Keep your yard friendly to fireflies and pollinators by using natural fertilizers. Chemical fertilizer may harm the ground-dwelling firefly larvae. Spraying pesticides or herbicides in your yard may kill adult fireflies and adversely effect ground-dwelling creatures like slugs which are food for firefly larvae.
  2. Don’t over-mow your lawn. Frequent mowing may disturb local adult firefly populations. Leave an area of your yard un-mowed from mid June through July because adult fireflies like to hide in tall grass for protection.
  3. Build a small pond. Fireflies like standing water and moist areas and tend to congregate in these areas.
  4. Keep a leaf pile . Firefly larvae live underground and feed on creatures that live in the leaf litter. Rotting logs and leaf piles are also excellent microhabitats for fireflies.
  5. Turn off outside lights Too much light pollution can disrupt the mating behavior of fireflies. If they are unable to find mates, then they will not be able to complete their life cycle and lay eggs.
  6. Catch and Release – If you are going to catch fireflies in a jar make sure you release them so they can find a mate.
  7. Make a brochure about fireflies – Give it to your neighbors and alert them about the plight of fireflies. Tell them some interesting facts about fireflies and let them know what they can to do make their property better for fireflies.
  8. Join Firefly Watch Citizen Science and participate in a firefly study near your home:
    https://www.massaudubon.org/get-involved/citizen-science/firefly-watch

 

 

Posted in Insects | Leave a comment

Isn’t Nature Amazing!

The Short Life of an Early Spring Bee.
Look at this barren hillside. Who would guess that beneath the ground is a whole colony of bees awaiting the warmth of the sun, so they can emerge. Known as the cellophane bees, they are the first bees to appear in the spring. Their adult lives are short (one month) and they depend upon the weather to cooperate. Anyone who lives in Minnesota knows that our weather patterns tend to fluctuate (e.g., sunny and warm one day and cold and snowy the next).

Nest entrance of a female cellophane bee.

 

 

This is where Heather Holm picks up the story. Heather is a biologist, as well as a nationally known bee researcher and author. She has studied not only the life cycle of many dozens of bee species, but also the plants they need to pollinate for their survival.

Heather has located and examined the cellophane bee’s nesting areas for the past four years. Below is her video of male cellophane bees patrolling the colony looking for a female to mate with. Most people would run the other way if they saw hundreds of bees buzzing around. But not Heather, for she is what we call an “Earth Guardian,” a person who cares about the small things on our planet.

 

Male cellophane bee emerging from its winter home (photo by Heather Holm).

Cellophane bees remain in their underground homes for eleven months. First as larvae eating the food provided for them by their mother (who died the previous spring). Then in late summer, they pupate (similar to a butterfly) and eventually turn into an adult. If the soil temperature gets above 50°F and it is sunny outside, the adult males will emerge from their underground home for the first time. They will fly around the surface looking for a female to mate with (see Heather’s video above) .

Apparently, the male’s main purpose in life is to mate with a female. Their adult life is very brief (less than a month) and they will die shortly after mating with the female.

Cellophane Bee Ground nest.
(illustration by Heather Holm)

After emerging from the ground and mating with a male, the female begins digging her nest for her larvae. The hole can be up to 10 inches deep, with side branches where she builds oval cells to place the pollen and nectar she collects.

Once she has enough food for her larvae in the cell, the female starts laying eggs at the bottom of her nest and uses the sperm to fertilize those eggs ( they will become females). When there is no more sperm, she lays unfertilized eggs (they become males) closer to the surface. The following spring, the males, who are closer to the surface, dig their way out first and then later the females emerge.

 

 

Female Cellophane bee gathering pollen from a willow flower. (photo by Heather Holm).

The females have only four weeks to accomplish the following tasks: mate; dig their ground nest, gather pollen from nearby willow or red maple trees; stock the nest with pollen for their larva and lay their eggs.

Minnesota is not an ideal place for cellophane bees to flourish. They can encounter several challenges, such as the changing weather conditions, predators digging out their nests, and humans disturbing their nests. It is a tough life, but many are able to survive. By the first of May, all of the males and most of the females will have completed their life cycle and will die. It is nature’s way.

See Heather’s video of a female cellophane bee gathering pollen and nectar from a red maple tree.


Questions about Cellophane bees

1. Do cellophane bees sting?
The male does not have a stinger, but the female does. Heather walked right in the middle of the colony and they did not react to her. She said the only way someone could be stung is to pick up a female in your hand.

Cellophane-like lining of that protects the larva and its food. Photo courtesy of Max McCarthy and Nick Dorian, bee researchers From MA.

 

2. How did cellophane bee get their name?
The female lines the nest with a blend of her saliva and a glandular secretion from her abdomen. When these two materials combine, they form a waterproof cellophane-like lining that protects the larva from flooding during heavy rains.

3. In Heather’s video I saw hundreds of bees in one area. Are they like a yellow jacket wasp and have a central nest?
No, each female cellophane bee builds her own nest.

 

 

4. Where can I go to see a cellophane bee colony?
Cellophane bees like south facing, flat ground that gets plenty of sunlight. They like the ground to be bare and the soil to be sandy.

Many thanks to Heather Holm for sharing her wisdom with Nature School. To see her website go to: https://www.pollinatorsnativeplants.com/

Thanks to Janine Pung, Kathy Adams and Cindy Eyden for their suggestions on improving the text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Insects, Spring | 4 Comments

How I Feel About Nature

All photos  by Alex Munoz
Alex Munoz is an accomplished photographer and this is his second posting at Old Naturalist.  His first post was titled Raw Beauty Unleashed and was published in Dec. 2017. Alex Munoz is from my home town of Fillmore California. Alex currently lives in Prescott Valley, Arizona.
Note: Click on each photo to see it full screen.

For as long as I can remember,
Nature has been
A source of solace, inspiration, adventure and delight.
A home, a teacher, a companion.

I’m just happy to capture what I see. I go out with my friends for the simple purpose of taking photos and nothing else. At 77  years of age, I have taken some great photos  and I and wonder why I like them so much.  That’s why, I began carrying my camera more, seeing more opportunities to take a photo.

Granite Dells

Granite Dells
The Granite Dells is a geological feature near Prescott AZ. The rocks consist of bedrock and large boulders of granite. The granite has been dated  to be 1.4 billion years old. Erosion has caused the rocks to have an unusual rounded appearance.

The changing water levels over time has created interesting patterns on the rocks.

 

Rock design and Reflection

Watson Lake level 2012

Watson and Willow Lakes are reservoirs that were build in the early 1900’s. The area is used by sportsman for fishing,  paddling, climbing and camping.

 

Riparian Preserve
Riparian plant communities are found along edges of rivers and wetlands. Watson Woods Riparian Preserve is 126 acres. The area was once  a 1,000 acre  of riparian  forest consisting of cottonwood and willow trees. Concerned citizens were able to protected this land which  has now become an oasis for wildlife and humans alike.

 

Cattail Reflection

Great Egret

Red-tail Hawk

 

Pictographs at Devil’s Bridge
I am not a archaeologist, but I was there to photograph these pictographs shown  below at Devil’s Bridge where you may see rock art in red sandstone. These symbols have lasted, while those people who made them  have not. I travel extensively, visiting sites, it does require permits and a fee.

Devil’s Bridge

 

Granite Mountain Alligator Juniper Tree
Granite Mountain is outside of Prescott, AZ and if you hike to the top of it, you’ll find one of the oldest alligator juniper trees of its kind. It is thought to be over 2,000 years old. This juniper has been designated as an Arizona Champion Tree.

In 2013, the tree was saved from a wildfire by an elite group of wild land firefighters called the “Granite Mountain Hot Shots”. A week after the juniper was saved, all but one of the crew were killed by another fire in the area.

View from the top of Granite Mountain (7,000 ft high). Photo by Alex Munoz

Bark on the alligator juniper

 

Desert Wildflowers
In the spring,there can be all kinds of blooms out here. These are stunning landscapes to visit anytime of the year.While you may be able to enjoy wildflowers from the roadsides, finding the truly impressive displays usually requires some degree of hiking and off road vehicles. These photos were taken in the lower areas of Arizona deserts.

 

Spring Cactus bloom

Ocotillos live up to a hundred years and get to be 20 feet tall. They usually bloom after a rainstorm

Alex Munoz beneath a huge cottonwood that is said to be 1000 years old

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Photography/Art, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Winter Animal Tracking

Below is an excerpt from an expert tracker,  Jonathan Poppele. He wrote the book Animal Tracks: Midwest Edition:

Tracking is the study and interpretation of the footprints and other signs left behind by animals as they go about their lives. Tracking does not necessarily mean following a string of footprints to locate the animal that made them. It means understanding the footprints, scrapes, chews, digs, and scat that we inevitably run across when we are out in nature. Tracking begins with identifying the animal that left the tracks and signs behind for us to see, and grows into an understanding of the intimate details of that animal’s life.”

Animal Tracks Gallery

fox walking pattern. The animal is registering – meaning that the hind foot steps in the front foot track. Animals who register are trying to conserve their energy.

 

River Otter plunge hole and slide
Photograph by Lawrence Wade

Two  river otters – body Slide – push off – body slide        Photo by Lawrence Wade

 

Owl making an attempted to kill a mouse. The left wing is on the left – tail is below and head is above. photo by Lawrence Wade

 

Crow Wing prints in the snow. The bird must have been flying low, but did not land.
photo by Lawrence Wade

Opossum Tracks w/ tail drag
photograph by Faith Frankel, Boonton, NJ.
Faith said that she lives in town and the opossum lives somewhere in her yard.

Animal Tracking Tutorial 101

In winter, studying animal tracks will give you a lot of information about who is active in your area. The best snow depth to read animal tracks is 1-4 inches. When there is more snow, it is difficult to see the patterns that each animal leaves. Tracking is all about looking at patterns and knowing where an animal is most likely to be found.

There are three basic groups of track patterns to learn.

Mouse tracks show the drag of the tail
Photo by Cindy Eyden

Rabbit Bounding Track
“F” is the smaller front foot. They hit the ground first.
“H” is the larger hind foot which jumps over the front feet.
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Squirrel Tracks – often end at a tree
“F” is the front foot which hits the ground first
“H” is the larger hind foot which hops over the front foot.

 

2. Walkers – “big foot” and “little foot”
In identifying the three species below, the important things to look for is the size of the track and the position of the front foot and the hind foot. Also, the beaver and muskrat are only found in wetland areas, whereas raccoons are found in many different habitats     including wetlands.In all cases the hind foot is larger than the smaller front foot.

 

Raccoon tracks
The arrow shows the direction of travel
“H” shows the larger hind foot
“F” shows the smaller front foot

muskrat Tracks
Muskrats rarely leave their huts in the winter, unless they run out of food or the population is too high.  Photo by Lawrence Wade

3. Straight-line walkers

Both deer and fox step with the hind foot falling exactly in the track of the front foot. Thus, the pattern in the snow appears that the animals are two-legged. This behavior is called “registering”and it helps the animal to conserve energy when walking in deep snow.

Fox Tracks crossing the creek.

deer tracks showing the hoofs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After you determine whether it is a hopper, straight line walker, or a “big foot-little foot”, Look at the pattern closely and notice how many inches there are between tracks or clumps of tracks. Also, think about the habitat you are seeing the tracks. Some animals are restricted to certain habitats (ie beaver, mink, and muskrat are found in wetlands).

 

 

fox tracks

Dog Tracks

Foxes leave a neat pattern in the snow because the hind foot steps in the front foot track (registering). Registering helps a fox to conserve energy, when walking in deep snow. It’s cousin, the dog,  does not register and leaves a much sloppier track. Deer also register, with the hind foot walking in the front foot track. Also, a deer hoof is easy to see when the snow is packed, and they usually drag their hooves. However, in deep snow, the hooves are more spread out and the dew claw is visible in the back of the track.

Mink Tracks along Minnehaha Creek
One foot is slightly ahead of another
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Expert tracker and author, Linda Spielman, made the following comment about mink:

Larry, I see that you have put the mustelids (weasel family) in the section with the straight-line walkers, but they don’t belong there. Sometimes mink are more like the hoppers but at other times they lope or gallop like deer and dogs. Mink are known to walk, but not very often. Maybe you need a fourth category. 

Resources

A Field Guide to Tracking Mammals in the Northeast
by Linda J. Spielman
Paperback, published by Countryman Press, released July 4, 2017     192 pages, 6 X 9 inches
ISBN-13: 978-1682680643

My book contains between 6 and 12 drawings for each of 40 species, each drawing meticulously and accurately copied from one or several photographs.

Each species treatment also includes written sections that discuss important details and point out differences and similarities between different species. Gait patterns can be as important as individual tracks for identification, so the typical gaits for each species are illustrated with diagrams and explained in written discussions. Measurements are given for tracks and gaits, and there is also a short section on habitat, sign, and scat.

By focusing on the tracks themselves and limiting other topics I was able to produce a book that is easily carried in a day pack and yet remarkably comprehensive. My book arises out of my own experience tracking northeastern mammals, but the approach will be beneficial for trackers in any region. A Field Guide to Tracking Mammals in the Northeast is available from major booksellers. I can also ship it directly to you. You can send a check for $15.66 ($13.00 + $2.66 media mail) to Linda Spielman, PO Box 955, Dryden, NY 13053. I welcome your comments; visit www.lindajspielman.com, or contact me at lindajspielman@gmail.com.

 

Animal Tracks: Midwest Edition
by Jonathan Poppele.
Published by Adventure Publications

$14.95

Animal Tracks: Midwest Edition is a pocket sized guide to the tracks and sign of Midwestern mammals. Excellent illustrations and quick identification tips help you get started. Track pattern illustrations, scat photos and descriptions of other signs that animals leave behind provide more clues to help to with identification. The information is easy enough for beginners yet detailed enough for experienced trackers.

Praise for Animal Tracks: Midwest Edition
“There are many great guides to identifying animal tracks. A few are truly excellent and some others are surprisingly misleading. Animal Tracks: Midwest Edition by Jonathan Poppele is a book that surprised me. It has fantastic track drawings, accurate information, and a very smart organization method. This book is inexpensive and worth adding to your library.”–Jonah Evans, tracking expert and State Mammalogist for Texas Parks and Wildlife.
The book is widely available at State Parks, Wildlife Refuges, major book sellers, and online book sellers. The Second Edition is scheduled for release by January 2021. Readers can order directly from the publisher, Adventure Publications 1-800-678-7006.

 

Posted in Nature Notes, Winter | 2 Comments

Nature Through the Eyes of an Artist

Sandra Cowing is a talented water color artist who expresses her love for nature through her creativity. She also gives us an intimate view into her process as an artist.

I had a vision in my mind of a foggy day and I took a risk and tried this new process of blending. I was just trying to get the feel of the forest on paper. This was an early painting and began to believe, “I can do this.” I am very inspired by old growth forests. The white pine is one of my favorites and there are several in my yard.

 

I love birds and house wrens are one of my favorites since they are so loud for being so small. When I go outside, I always know when they are nesting because they make all kinds of noise. House wrens are very dedicated parents going back and forth, feeding their young.


Last year, we had a female turkey that was at our bird feeder all winter long and we named her “Helen”. Helen disappeared in April and we never saw her again. She was a solo female, which is unusual. Solo females can be ostracized by the flock or the entire flock might have been killed. Also, she might have found a Tom in the spring and started her own flock. That is what I hope for. But we have coyotes around here, so she may have been eaten by a predator. At times “Helen” would come and peck at the window while I was painting.

This is my grandson, Ollie, who is four. We took a family vacation to the North Shore of Lake Superior and he is one of those kids who thrives in nature.

 

This was one of my first attempts at painting the North Shore of Lake Superior. I love the water and lighting in this painting. It is very difficult to paint light.
I have been only painting for a year and I am still learning.
I paint almost every day, at least an hour. But if I really get into something, I’ll work a half day. It gets so intense that I just need a break from that.

 

When I visited the Grand Canyon, the depth and immensity was overwhelming. I was somewhat successful expressing that in this painting. This is an early work, and I am learning skills with every piece I do: The water, the color, making greens that look natural.

 

The iris is from a photo that I took from my garden. It is an iris that I inherited with this property. This is a botanical accurate  painting. I like the elegance of an iris and they have so many complicated and lively petals.

Old Naturalist:  This painting feels like Sandra went into the physical form of the iris and brought it out to the paper.

 

The pumpkins were an assignment in a class and we were learning how to blend colors. We used only red, yellow, blue and yellow ochre. The shapes are basic, so I could concentrate on value (light and dark) which makes the painting seem more three dimensional.

 

My cow I tried to paint realistically. The process of sketching and painting might have taken as much as 24 hours.
Old Naturalist: Why would you paint a cow?
My last name is Cowing and that was my inspiration. I did the painting with Sonja Hutchinson, she is water color artist in the area. She helped me with composition and other techniques. I learn best by doing my own thing and then get support when I need help.

 

The heron was an interesting process that I did. I put color on the background and laid saran wrap over it. Went to bed and woke up the next morning, took off the Saran Wrap and I saw the head of an egret or heron. I asked myself, “How can I paint that?” I love this creative process and added in the details.

 

This piece with the egrets was an experiment I was doing of having very “loose paint” and dripped it down from the top of the page, then “masked” out the egrets using Frisket. It is a Chinese style of water color that I had read about.

 

This is another experimental piece in which I used salt. I wet the paper, added color, then put on the salt. Afterwards,  I saw these flowers and enhanced them with shadows.

 

This painting is of my Uncle Rex’s place. I am going to give this painting to him. I really like how the water turned out because it was a rainy/drizzly day. My uncle has lived on this land all of his life and it is as off-the-grid as you can get. They live off the land, stock the pond with fish and have a huge garden.

 


My work brings me such joy. I love the creativity of it and learning the chemistry of paints. All paints use different minerals, so they blend differently. Learning the science behind it is very interesting to me. Also, I enjoy working on skills, so that I can make the ideas I have in my head on paper. It is my passion and even before I retired, I said to myself, “I really want to do this”.  I am working with others who, also, have recently retired and I am finding “my people”.

Posted in Photography/Art | 4 Comments

Holiday Sale of Nature and Ocean Books

During the holidays, you can buy my books at a 60% discount off of the retail price. Each book is priced at $10 + $3.50 shipping = $13.50 I will sign all books. If you don’t like them, books can be returned for 100% refund.

Nature Seeker Workbook

Wade Cover 020913_flt@300 copy 2Nature Seeker Workbook is the product of 20 years of work as a naturalist in the Upper Midwest. Over 900 books have been sold in four years. It is a unique personal field guide to the natural world in Upper Midwest.
More than 50 field-tested activities. Hundreds of detailed and original drawings.
Highlights natural history through all seasons
Entire units for forest and wetland ecology.
Includes Nature songs, poetry, weaving and more
For students  1st – 6th grade 157 pages  (2013)

To learn more about Nature Seeker Workbook go to:
www.oldnaturalist.com/nature-seeker-workbook/
or go to the pull down menu at this site  –  go to Publications. Click on Nature Seeker Workbook.

OceanographyOceanography includes challenging activities on physical oceanography, biological oceanography, interviews with oceanographers and a teacher’s key. For students 4th-7th grade. Over 10,000 copies of this book has been sold. This book is in its 6th revision (2015). 144 pgs. topics:
Plate Tectonics          Marine Communities
Geology of seafloor   Marine Plankton
Mapping the Seafloor   Marine Food Webs
Ocean currents               Food pyramids

To learn more about Oceanography and Getting to Know the Whales go to:  www.oldnaturalist.com/oceanographywhales/ or go to the pull down menu at this site and go to Publications. Click on Whales/oceanography.

This book had to be written because of the author and illustrator’s passion for whales. Whale biologists have readily contributed data to make whales come to life for children. For students 4th-7th grade. Over 10,000 copies of this book has been sold. This book is in its 5th revision (2015). 146 pages

 

Whale Biology Topics
Draw a whale   Prehistoric whales   Whale and dolphin key  Whale dissection
How Whales feed       Lunge-feeding flip book           How Whales Breathe
How long does a Whale dive?    A Day with a Blue Whale  Whale Speed
Whale Migration              Year in the life of a Humpback Whale

How to purchase:
1. Send a check for $13.50 to the address below.
2.  order by email:  larrywade16@gmail.com
3. call me to order:  (952) 288-5025
4. You can also pay by credit card through PayPal go to: /www.oldnaturalist.com/nature-seeker-workbook/  and scroll down  ( Nature Seeker only – $13.50 includes shipping)

Larry Wade
15524 Day Place
Minnetonka, MN 55345

Will ship within 24 hours. Send me your email address and I’ll get the tracking numbers to you. The last day for the sale is Dec. 25.

 

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Fish Whisperer

 

Muskie

Muskie

First snorkel
holding onto a rock in the rapids
A large muskie swam up and rested beside me
Ecstatic
wondered if I should be panicked.
Hoped that I was not wearing anything shiny
that looked tasty to a muskie.

Bullhead

Welcome to the underwater world.

a curious male bluegill

Be open to the unknown. Beauty and the mystery awaits you.

Bowfin or dogfish, a bottom feeder. Primitive, creepy and beautiful.

Bowfin or dogfish, a bottom feeder. Primitive, creepy, yet beautiful.

Life abounds,  a spiritual connection with the water beings.

This painted turtle swam right up to me. I thought it was going to bite my nose.

This painted turtle swam right up to me. I thought it was going to bite my nose.

The lake water  is part of you now.
The water inside your body
may have once been part of the lake.

How could anyone name such a magnificent creature “Crappie”?

A tip on photographing fish
Don’t be a predator and chase it
Become part of the water and the weeds
Wait for the fish to come to you.

Walleye swimming in deeper water

Light changes constantly
Depending upon the clouds and the wind.
It dances on the plants and the fish,
Creating a hypnotic connection.

Largemouth

Largemouth bass

Sometimes you see things that makes you thankful to be alive
And you stop breathing
Because you are afraid the experience might end.

Northern Pike

Northern Pike

My first large northern pike.
Inching my way slowly towards it.
Hoping it would stay just one more second.
Making promises that I could never keep.
Awed by its tremendous power and elegance.

 

Water Lily

Water lilies
magical living beings
Connected to all the elements of life.
Their roots are in the earth
Growing in both water and air.
The sun is needed for life

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth Bass

This bass sashayed past me and let me know me it was the king or queen of the neighborhood.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Muskie

Swimming out into the hinder lands
Turned to see a muskie following.
It circled once and then swam off.
Humbled to experience the raw wildness of nature
And how it feels to be something’s prey.

 

Posted in Animals, Connecting to Nature | 8 Comments