13 Rays of Hope for Our Future

A workshop developed by ArtStart director, Carol Sirrine, challenged 13 students to create an “Earthly Shrine” that honored the wonders of nature and addressed the impact that humans have had on the Earth. The artists/naturalists ranged in age from 14-17 years old. At the celebration marking the end of the workshop, artists had a chance to share their finished work, their process and their caring for the Earth.

Anissa Wallingford


Songwriter, Anissa Wallingford sang her song, “Quicksand”.


Maeve Murphy


With the use of clay, glass, rocks and many more earthly objects, I hoped to show that we are meant to create a world that complements natural life instead of using its resources for selfish consumeristic actions. I have used recycled plastics and metals to display the reality that we do live in a universe that is plagued with pollution created by man. I hope to demonstrate that there can be beauty in both the natural and unnatural world as long as we continue to love and care for the earth with which we have been granted.
Maeve Murphy

Flannery McGreevey


I wanted to portray the story of an animal living in our present world. I chose to create a chicken that embodies the chaos in our universe. By using many bright busy colors it shows the turmoil that many beings experience. The different textures represent the complexity of the issue we are facing. Although at times the problems of climate change seem overwhelming, there are still things you can do!
Flannery McGreevy

Serena Raths

I wanted to create a piece which literally jumped off of my canvas. I was inspired by our days spent walking beside the Mississippi River. I tried to add as much detail as possible, to demonstrate all of the intricacies which reside within nature. By making the diorama scene out of recycled materials, I wanted to represent the ways in which humans can strip nature of its most beautiful elements and leave it barren.
Serena Raths

Justine Anderson

For my first foray into stained glass, I chose to depict a great blue heron. We saw many of these birds at the refuge and along the Mississippi River, where I first saw the giant trees where the birds nest. Their stately and graceful movements inspire the kind of reverence I wanted to capture. I thought that stained glass was a fitting medium for a piece meant to honor the sacredness of nature. 
Justine Anderson

Adi Banks

My piece represents the commodification of animals and nature by humans. Some humans go hunting and kill creatures just for their heads so they can be displayed as trophies. It is detrimental to the populations of the creatures and to the ecosystems that they’re a part of. I was inspired by the topic of “Earthly Shrines” and thought this was a fitting expression.
Adi Banks

Hajar Ahmed

I write poetry to change your perspective
I write poetry to raise awarenesses
I run to the battlefield with my pen in hand
I raise my arms to the sky and feel the breeze running through my fingers

All this imagery wouldn’t have been possible without experience.
The Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge provided a safe  haven where
you can be one with nature and escape a world of urbanization that’s
too familiar. Taking a moment to take in other life forms unifies the
living with the dead and the empty with the full.

It’s an accurate representation of life.
Hajar Ahmed

Haley Larson

My piece was inspired when we went out into the woods, and we connected with the biggest tree we could find. While doing this, we were given a chance to feel how the life in the forest communicated with each other. Looking around, I was really inspired by the layered feeling the forest has when you’re in the center of it: trees and plants and bushes stack together to create one big picture that one tree could never establish on its own. The leaves are organized in a mosaic fashion to evoke the feeling of a stained glass window, allowing light to flow through freely. The frame is made of styrofoam to symbolize the restricting effect synthetic goods have on nature.
Haley Larson

Adi Banks, Haley Larson
Serena Raths

We took inspiration from the Minnesota prairie lands: the colors, as well as the specific species that reside there. Our goal was to demonstrate the ways in which humans will need to work with nature to maintain environmental sustainability in our modern world. By using recycled materials, we show how humanity must design their urban spaces and consumer goods to work with the environment instead of against it.
Adi Banks, Haley Larson, Serena Raths

Ana Kirshner

My original idea was very vague, and it was supposed to be paintings of human activity that resulted in global warming and environmental damage, like deforestation, factories, pollution, etc., as well as paintings of natural disasters. Eventually I moved on to the slightly more subtle, like flooding from rising sea levels or floods that are occurring from human actions and making them more devastating and irregular. Originally the paintings were just arranged in a cluster, but then I settled on a tree-like arrangement to represent connectivity and a symbol of nature. The main point of this piece is to prompt self reflection. Are you going to help preserve and protect the environment, or not? Will you carry a shovel to plant a tree or an axe to cut a tree down?
Ana Kirshner

Greta Shore


In making this piece, I sought to represent that the epidemic of plastic pollution can be partially attributed to multi-national corporations whose products are either not biodegradable or are not easily disposed of effectively, which in turn relates to ideals of convenience and profitability upheld by these corporations. The general population also neglects their responsibility in preserving the earth and dealing with waste effectively.

The artwork contains a hand-drawn and cut map of the world affixed onto blue paper, which is then disrupted by shards of broken glass, highlighting areas that produce the most pollution. The unaltered map appears more balanced and visually appealing, as it fits our idea of what our world looks like, while the impact of corporations and the ignorance and wastefulness of the general population disrupts this. This is done to redefine our default view of our planet and shine a light on humanity’s wastefulness and disregard.
Greta Shore

Get ready world! It won’t be business as usual with this group.
Photograph by Michael Croswell

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Honoring the Earth Through Art

ArtStart director, Carol Sirrine and the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge sponsored 13 serious artist/naturalists. Their charge was to create art through the lens of nature using various mediums.

Flooded Long Meadow Trail
Photo by Anissa Wallingford

The Minnesota River flooded trails in the refuge. A serendipitous hiking experience…

Skyholes at the Bass Ponds Photo by Michael Croswell


 Carter Antin worked with Michael Croswell capturing field recordings of nature sounds at the Bass Ponds and then mixed in some synthesized tones to create an ambient music composition using Garage Band.

Trail less traveled, Bass Ponds, Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge.
Photography by Michael Croswell.

We could feel the wildness of nature at the Bass Ponds, even though the Mall of America was less than a half mile away.

Adi Banks – Woodland meditation.


Storm sewer trash from the Mall of America

After heavy rains, the storm sewer from the Mall of America showed us that we were not far from humans.

Garter snake feeding on grasshoppers. Slithering through the grape vines.

Anissa with a toad friend.

Anissa Wallingford is an accomplished song writer and she composed and performed the song “Quicksand” at Youth Express studios in Saint Paul.   Many thanks to Michael Croswell for generously sharing the sound recordings from the studio.

Monarch Caterpillar
Photograph by Anissa Wallingford.

Temporary Art Sculptures using clay from the Minnesota River.

Flannery McGreevey


Leo Anderson/Carter Antin

Ana Kirshner

Art from Plant Pigments

Maeve Murphy

Ana Kirshner

Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary – Olivine Sand
Photo through 30x scope
Haley Larson

Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary. The internal organs of a leech. 30X.
Photo by Justine Anderson.


Prairie Nature Notes

Greta Shore – Sketches made on hand-made paper

Adi Banks

Serena Raths

Haley Larson

My Inner Spirit

Anissa Wallingford


Flannery McGreevey

Greta Shore

Maeve Murphy


SoundScape experience with Michael Croswell. Flannery McGreevey (L), Serena Raths (C), and Adi Banks.
Photo by Julie Boada

Studio Time

Hajar Ahmed working on some of her poetry.
photo by Julie Boada

Adi Banks incorporated deer antlers to create his work.
Photo by Justine Anderson.

Ana Kirshner created a whole series of nature-based art.
Photo by Justine Anderson

To create her sculpture, Maeve Murphy use recycled materials.
Photograph by Justine Anderson.


Maeve Murphy cut-out leaf shapes from recycled materials.Then painted each one in a unique way. The leaves will be placed on her tree (see above).
Photo by Justine Anderson

Haley Larson working on her group prairie flower installation using recyled materials. Photo by Julie Boada

Adi Banks, Serena Raths, and Haley Larson created a prairie installation using recycled materials.
Photo by Julie Boada.


Justine Anderson


Justine had never worked with stained glass and with the help of artist Jeanette Dickinson, she worked tirelessly on her Great Blue Heron.

Justine Anderson
Photo by Michael Croswell

Leo Anderson and Carter Antin created a mix  in the studio which they titled “Nature Gang”.


Leo Anderson (L) and Carter Antin (R).  Composer Michael Croswell is in the background.


Julie Boada, Our Fearless Leader
Photo by Anissa Wallingford

Get ready world! It won’t be business as usual with this group.
Photograph by Michael Croswell

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Photography/Art | 6 Comments

Touch the Sky

Photos and text by Julie, Jim, Curran Ikhaml, and the Old Naturalist.

The town of Luverne is in the Southwestern corner of Minnesota and is a very interesting areas for a naturalists, geologists, and historians.  The Ikhamls take us on a trip to Blue Mounds State Park, Touch the Sky Prairie and Jeffers Petroglyphs.

Blue Mounds State Park

Sioux Quartzite Cliffs at Blue Mounds State Park


Blue Mounds State Park is in Rock County, Minnesota near the town of Luverne. It got its name Blue Mound because the cliffs appeared “blue” to settlers going west in the 1860’s and 1870’s. 

Sioux Quartzite cliff


Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vultures are not early risers. They wait on cliff  tops until the first updraft allows them to take off . On days of no wind, a vulture may stay on the cliff all day – unable to leave because they are too heavy.

Blue Mounds Trail

When walking the trails at Blue Mound I felt like I was back in time. It made me want to be a full time plant witch. There were jumbles of rocks and many little caves.
Julie Ikhaml

Blue Mounds Trail


An ancient astronomical laboratory.Compliments McGhiever Gallery

This rock alignment is almost a quarter of a mile long. It was possibly built by the plains Indians and marks where the sun rises and sets on the Spring and Fall Equinox.

Great Horned Owlets

We could hear the owls calling at night. We were in the campground and I couldn’t sleep due some issues with other campers. The blessing was that the owls came flying in and I found where they roosted during the daytime.
Jim Ikhaml


Where the bison herd was, I  felt like I was on top of the entire world. Nothing else mattered. You could look out and see two different states (Iowa and South Dakota).
Curran Ikhaml

Fredrick Manfred House

The gift shop is now closed and was once author Frederick Manfred’s home. One of the walls of the home was part of the rock face. Staff had to run 10 dehumidifiers continuously because the rocks would sweat so much. Also, there was a stream that ran through the house. Not only that but each morning there might be snakes inside the “gift shop” that had to be removed.
Jim and Curran Ikhaml

Touch the Sky Prairie

Touch the Sky Prairie

The Touch the Sky Prairie was super rocky and had never been “under the plow” by white settlers,  but they ran cattle in there. Once the land was not grazed, many of the prairie plants came back after 100 years of being dormant.We also saw rocks  that humans had placed in a circular form. You really felt like you were on holy ground.
Jim Ikhaml

Sioux Quartzite rubbed by buffaloes

Buffaloes rubbed against the Sioux Quartzite making the rock smooth as glass. The rocks were ancient back-scratchers and helped the buffalo rub off its thick winter coat. The rocks remind us of a time when there were huge herds of buffalo on this land.



Jim Brandenberg, the famous photographer is from Luverne, MN and created a foundation to purchase the Touch the Sky Prairie. At the dedication of the land, Lakota elders pointed out where they would hold their vision quests. One of the elders said, “We wanted to be here to give the prairie our blessing. It is seldom that ‘white man’ gives anything back.” This was his ancestral land.


A storm blew in quickly  from the west. It got super windy and unfolded in front of me. I stayed to photograph the event, while everyone else ran for cover.
Julie Ikhaml

Mammatus Clouds. Indicators of unstable air in the atmosphere.


The storm blew through and cleared near sunset.

Jeffers Petroglyphs

Jeffers Petroglyph

Jeffers Petroglyphs is a living sacred site that has been used by native peoples for 1000’s of years. Native Americans still come to Jeffers and pray. The staff onsite work with tribal elders to make sure the site is treated with respect for the Native culture.

Jeffers glyph. Medicine Man’s bag



Jeffers Petroglyph Historical Site is thought to have 5000 petroglyphs carved into the rocks. Pictures in the rocks include: humans, deer, elk, buffalo, turtles, thunderbirds, atlatls, and arrows.

Ripples in the Rock

The geology of the Jeffers site illustrates that this area once a beach environment at the edge of a shallow sea (300 feet deep). The ripples in the rock were produced by waves on the shore, 500,000,000 years ago. The wave-like pattern is similar to the wave pattern you would see at a lake’s edge.



Posted in Nature Notes, Summer | 5 Comments

Sights and Sounds of Spring 2018

Please Note: The Spring bird and frog recordings only works using Safari as your browser.

The wonder of Spring is finally upon us. If you can learn a few Spring calls, it makes the experience even more glorious.

Below are four common spring calls. How many can you identify?




The answers to the birds call are:

  1.                                            2.                                        3.                                      4.


Male CardinalRobin:Wormnuthatch

       Chickadee                                                   Cardinal                                                       Robin                                     Nuthatch
Male wood duck

Male wood duck



Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird



Migrating Canada geese

Migrating Canada geese

 male red-wing blackbird calling in the marsh

male red-wing blackbird calling in the marsh. Listen for the “Okalee” call.


A soaring turkey vulture (photo by Mike Farrell)

A soaring turkey vulture
(photo by Mike Farrell)

Pussy Willows

Pussy Willows

A groundhog feeding in early Spring.

A groundhog feeding in early Spring.

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Mourning Cloak




Painted turtle sunning itself.

Painted turtle sunning itself.

Hepatica is one of the first to bloom

Hepatica is one of the first natives to bloom.


Bloodroot blooms in mid-April

Bloodroot has finished blooming.

Trillium blooms in late April and May

Trillium is at the peak of its bloom.

A chorus frog calling in early spring

Chorus frogs started calling as soon as the ice went out of ponds.



American Toads beginning calling at the end of April

American Toads began calling at the end of April.



Canada goose nesting on muskrat hut.

Canada goose nesting on muskrat hut.

Canada Goose Family.
May 16, 2018

The first week of May the Orioles and Grosbeaks returned.

May 1st is oriole day. Put your orange slices out.

Northern Oriole – Put your orange slices out.

Rose-breasted grosbeak

Rose-breasted grosbeak











Warbler Migration
The first wave occurred during the first week of May. There are still several species of warblers in our woods.

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow warbler

Yellow warbler


Blue-wing warbler

Blue-wing warbler

Posted in Birds, Connecting to Nature, Spring | 6 Comments

Hidden Gem – Coon Rapids Dam

I have lived in the Twin Cities for 30 years and have never visited Coon Rapids Dam until last weekend. What a treasure! A lot of birdwatchers, photographers with ultra long lens, families, and bicyclists. Many thanks to Jane Ball and Celeste Rouse who contributed their beautiful photos.

White Pelican with the “horn” on the top of the beak that develops during the breeding season.  Photograph by Larry Wade


The White Pelican has one of the largest wing spans (9 feet across) in North America, second only in size to the California Condor. White Pelicans nest in Northern Minnesota, North Dakota and Southern Canada.

There were 4 or 5 loons at the dam, possibly because most of the lakes in the area and north are still frozen. Photograph by Larry Wade

Loon eating a crayfish. Photograph by Larry Wade


Most of the birds that were at the dam were migratory. I came back next day and 50% of the birds had left. The wind had changed from a north wind to a south wind. Spring migratory birds usually move when the wind is from south because they can get a free ride and not have to expend as much energy.

Red Necked Grebe in breeding plumage. Photograph by Larry Wade

Eared Grebe with a grub.
Photograph by Celeste Rouse

Eared Grebe is on the left and a Horned Grebe is on the right. Both are in breeding plumage.
Photograph by Jane Ball

Male Ruddy Duck or “bluebill”.
Photograph by Larry Wade

Male Northern Shoveler. The bird gets its name because of its large beak that it uses for filtering plankton.  Photo by Celeste Rouse

Both the Northern Shoveler and the Ruddy Duck nest in the pothole region of Northern Minnesota and North Dakota.

Male and Female Blue Wing Teal. Blue Wing Teals nest throughout Minnesota.
Photo by Larry Wade

Hooded Merganser is a fish eating bird. It has a serrated beak and is sometimes called a “sawbill”. Photo by Larry Wade

Male wood duck in the foreground and the female in the background. Wood ducks nest in the Twin Cities.
Photograph by Larry Wade


Great Blue Heron  Photo by Celeste Rouse


The Great Blue Heron is 4 1/2 feet tall. They use their sharp beak for spearing fish, frogs, mice and insects. Blue Herons nest mainly in trees.

Osprey   Photo by Celeste Rouse


There is an osprey nest on the  west side of the Coon Rapids Dam. On Sundays there is an osprey watch volunteer monitoring the nest. He has a very large telescope for interested people to observe the birds.

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Land Untouched by Humans

Spending a few days up on the Gunflint trail, North of Grand Marais, MN changed my emotional outlook. We did not have all of the comforts of suburban life. We became more a part of nature rather than observers from afar.

White Pine at Sunrise

Off the grid
Changing gears
Beauty exists everywhere
It wasn’t there yesterday.

Ice Sculptures formed by wind and water

Sun halo
formed by the ice crystals in the upper atmosphere.


Only the wind in the pines
The gentle touch of nature

An otter slide at the lake’s edge
Moose tracks across the lake
A trance-like state

Pristine beauty of a frozen lake

An uprooted pine

Land untouched by humans.
The life outside of me
Is also inside of me.


Camp Visitors

Pine Marten
30 seconds of wonder


Gray Jays or “Whiskey Jacks” will eat out of your hand

The “drumming” of the pileated woodpeckers sounded like the playing of a djembe in the woods.

Red Breasted Nuthatch.
Laid claim to the camp.

In the presence of wildness
Early morning ski
Fresh Pine Marten tracks
A wisp of its presence in the air
I drink it in
Time slows down.
Nearby, the marten’s den
A sacred space
But invaded by a human
Who must get a photo
To share on Facebook
The beauty and wonder is lost.

Fresh Pine Marten Tracks

Bear claws on a dumpster near the car




We stayed at the Tall Pines Yurt that is off the Gunflint trail, 28 miles North of Grand Marais. It is reasonably priced.
Barbara and Ted Young/Boundary Country Trekking  / 11 Poplar Creek Drive
Grand Marais MN 55604
They provided: bunks wood for the heat, water, and outhouse.
email:   bct@boundarycountry.com



Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Poetry, Winter | 2 Comments

Eyes of Wildness

Observing nature is a process of discovery – of finding the story behind what you are seeing – of SEEing more and so finding yourself woven into the story as well.

Great horned owlets

Over the past week I have been tracking the development of two young owlets who have fledged their nest, but their flight is very limited, making them vulnerable to predators.

Fast forward 5 days, we got out of the car and immediately heard the “mobbing” of crows. Usually an indication that an owl was in the area. An adult great horned owl flew in front of us, carrying what looked like a rabbit and the crows were in tow. We found the fresh remains of a raccoon and fox tracks. A predator was near.

Further down the trail, we saw the smaller owlet of the two on the same branch it had been on days before.The larger owlet was nowhere to be seen. The sun was in our eyes, so we went to a location that we hoped would have a better view. The owlet was hunkered in a defensive mode (photo above). We were too close and made a quick exit.

owl track

Owl pellets. Owls cough up the fur and bones of the animals they capture

We climbed up on a ridge and had a tree-top view. We saw some owl tracks in the snow and two owl pellets and found ourselves drawn into the sacred web of life.  We were both worried about the whereabouts of the larger owlet. It was nowhere in sight. The adults  seemed to have disappeared, as well.  Not even the crows were  giving us a hint of activity. I said something like, “I am not feeling them anywhere nearby.”

My companion describes what happened next: “Larry went down the trail a ways while I stood silent and seeking. I finally turned around, and there, only 15 feet away, was the owlet, sitting silently watching us from a tree branch. I called to Larry to turn around and when he did we burst out laughing with delight at having the tables turned.”

We moved a safer distance away. Both relieved that the larger owlet was still alive.

great horned owlet

There was humor and delight, there was the struggle for survival, and the respect for the role each living critter plays (humans included). These experiences nourish the soul!

Adult Great Horned Owl
was within 50 yards of the owlets.

One of the adult owls started calling from a large oak 100 yards away. Was the adult trying to draw us further away from the owlet? Then the crows started mobbing again and the owl flew deeper into the woods.


I was reminded of last year’s nesting of owls in our local park. It became a circus: dogs barking, people approaching the nest too close, crowds of people making noise. Each day these young owls survive is a blessing.

I got the following note from Ann West, who has been following the development of the owlets for weeks.
“I saw both of the owlets Thursday looking very healthy.  Thank you for not disclosing
their location. As we know that would be so unfair to these amazing creatures “

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Guardians, Nature Notes, Photography/Art | 3 Comments

Borneo – Out of Sight!

Text and photos by Gary Friedrichsen. Other photos by Robert Lockett.

Oriental Pied Hornbill
We were fortunate to see all of the species of Hornbills that live in Borneo. Interesting birds that seal the females into a tree cavity nest and the male then feeds her until the chicks fledge.


I feel extremely blessed to have visited many parts of this amazing planet, and been awed by the grandeur of both human and natural wonders. But after a near lifetime of exploration, research, and exposure to many cultures it is a fantastic pleasure to be completely taken off guard.  I recently had the pleasure of accompanying a good friend on an excursion to the island of Borneo.

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon

Male Proboscis Monkey
The Jimmy Durante’s of the Bornean rainforest. These large primates travel in small groups along the river feeding on leaves and shoots.

Phone rings…. “Hello!” “Hey there, this is Bob Lockett. Have you ever thought about going to Borneo?”
Well no, not really. My mind immediately conjured images of bones in the nose headhunters and endless miles of humid, hot rainforests. Didn’t Margaret Mead study natives there and rock our thoughts about male-female roles in society?

Pygmy Asian Elephants
We had an hour with a group of 19 of these small elephants as they bathed, feed and “played” as these two young males are doing.

I did know that the rainforests there, like others around the world, were being devastated by logging and slash and burn farming and that those activities were putting many of the native birds and mammals at risk.  I jumped at the chance.

A Rafflesia blossom can reach 100 cm in diameter. This is the largest single blossom in the world. Their smell attracts the carrion insects that spread the pollen. Very stinky!

Borneo is the third largest island in the world following Greenland and New Guinea (where Dr. Mead actually did her research). There are over 200 species of land mammals; more than 400 native birds, and an amazing botanical display.

One of the 164 species of pitcher plants in Borneo, this one was the largest we encountered and measured about 16 cm.

This is the land of the “Old Man of the Jungle” the Orangutan. It is the home of Pygmy-Asian Elephants, Giant Flying Squirrels, the almost extinct Asian Rhinoceros, the Proboscis Monkey and eight other primates.

The “Old man of the jungle”. This male Orangutan was bored by the attention given him by the eager passengers in the boats below. He often turned his back on the crowds much to our dismay.

 It was wonderful to share in seeing so much fantastic nature. Hornbills, Trogons, Broadbills, Barbets, Babblers and Bulbuls were seen in profusion. Close encounters with Macaque and Langur monkeys, Orangutans and even the big wild-eyed Western Tarsier. The latter is a very small (~12”), long-tailed primate that jumps from tree to tree feeding on smaller animals at night.

Palm oil plantation in Malaysia. This is one of the two large threats to wildlife and ecosystems in Borneo.


Two major environmental issues facing Bornean wildlife are unsustainable timber harvest of hardwood forests and additional deforestation for palm oil plantations. According to a recent scientific report ( Feb. 2018), Borneo has lost over 100,000 orangutans ( half its population ) in just 16 years due to habitat loss from logging and palm oil plantations.
While flying over the Kinabatangan River, we could see hundreds of miles of cleared forest and a very small buffer of native habitat along the river. The cleared area was solid palm oil production. This was an unending view of monoculture that provides very little habitat to the native animals.


Pig-tailed Macaque (above) and the Long-tailed Macaque were our most commonly encountered primates. Very enjoyable to watch as they scampered through he trees or, like this mother son pair doing a bit of grooming.

   Once on the river we were astonished by the richness of the thin strip of native forest. Here were Pygmy Elephants, comical Proboscis Monkeys, Smooth Otters, and an array birds that defy our imagination.

Pua kumbu

Remember my first thoughts of the inhabitants of Borneo?  I was in for an education, when we visited a museum dedicated to Iban* culture Sarawak. Bob and I were both awed by the delicate tapestries and garments on display. These were artifacts of very high culture that we were totally ignorant of and that pre-dated Columbus’s voyages. We also saw Iban natives weaving patterns that have been passed down for over 700 years.


Pua kumbu is the cotton cloth woven by traditional Iban women from weavers who have past the designs and know how down for hundreds of years with no written language only hands-on training from an elder.

*Iban tribal members were one of the first settlers in Borneo. Their culture dates back over 700 years and despite no written language their verbal history recounts early interactions with other tribes vying for prime agricultural land. They adopted headhunting as a method to produce fear in their rivals yet held strong religious views. Most are now Christians and Muslims. Their production of brightly colored cloth for ceremonies and wood carvings are rich in texture and historic tradition.

Joss House Temple Kuching
The Chinese have had dealings in Borneo for over two thousand years and they have a large population living throughout Malaysia and Indonesia. We learned a good deal of history along with our quest for wildlife!

We had come for the birds and mammals but our enlightenment towards this and other unknown cultures was the real reward.


Guide Service:  We traveled with “Field Guides” as our tour group organizer. They were “spendy” but excellent.

Acommodations: Batik Boutique in Kuching ( www.batikboutiquehotel.com).

Old Naturalist’s note: “I first met Gary Friedrichsen when he was living in a shack in Humboldt Bay, Northern California. There was an outhouse, no running water or electricity. Gary spent over 45 years plying the seas as marine biologist, specializing in whale and dolphin identification for NMFS, Cornell University, and Scripps Institute of Marine Biology. He also was a commercial salmon fisherman for a number of years off the coast of California and Oregon. Besides being an entertaining writer and excellent photographer, Gary is a wonderful person to be around.”

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My Yard is the Garden of Eden

All photos and text by Celeste Rouse

  Why am I so obsessed with Nature? Because it breathes life into me, it encourages me, it embraces me and gives me permission to take time to listen. To listen to the intense silence, to listen to the calamity and noise of the creatures and to listen to that little voice inside of me that lets me know I am loved by God, Family and Friends.
Celeste Rouse

Celeste Kissing a Junco

I lived in Minneapolis for 45 years where I had to venture away from my house to find the animals and birds that I craved to see. Then my husband and I fell into good fortune a year and a half ago and we bought a lake home in Wisconsin. Well, I now have a yard that I call “The Garden of Eden.” Over 75 species of birds have come to visit, 16 mammals, 11 reptiles/amphibians and more insects that I can count. I would now love to share some of these beautiful gifts with all of you. I hope you enjoy….


Red headed Woodpecker

Hubby and I were having breakfast when I looked outside at the feeders and saw a bird with a red head. I almost choked! I ran to the window to grab a shot through the window and lucked out. I thought I would never see him again. I was wrong
as three more times he visited my yard through the summer. Hope he remembers where I am!

Barred Owl

I love owls, in fact, I wear my lucky owl earrings anytime I go out searching for them. I have traveled many a mile to find and photograph them. Well, the first time I heard a Barred Owl in my yard was late afternoon. I came around the corner from the lake and there he was, sitting up in a close tree watching my feeders. He flew to a nearby tree which gave me plenty of time to get his portrait and say hi and thank you before he flew off. He has visited me three more times.  

Bald Eagle in my Front Yard

I was looking out my kitchen window doing dishes when I saw a large Bald Eagle swiftly fly into the bushes and trees down at the lake. He then came out and landed on the shore of the lake. I grabbed my camera and got one shot off. If you look closely, you will see blood on his beak. I walked down after he had left and he had gone for a turtle. It was still alive but passed three days later. Good Old Nature…


Eastern Towhee

Each day I wake up and think, there is nothing new that could possibly come through this yard. I am usually wrong, thank goodness. Again, I was at my window just looking out at the feeders when an Eastern Towhee flew by and started enjoying the seed. A Towhee in my yard? I was at the right place in the right time as he stayed for just a few moments and then flew off, not to be seen again.

Scarlet Tanager

I decided to take a walk to the end of the driveway to see what was up in the trees. As I was scanning, a bright red flash went from one branch to the next. I knew it was not a Cardinal as I have not seen them since I moved here. But I looked closer and it was a Scarlet Tanager! I had never seen one in my life but heard they come in with the orioles and Rose Breasted Grosbeaks which I already had in my yard. Is he not gorgeous???

Male Indigo Bunting

This summer my yard became streaks of color darting about. I had the bright blue of the Indigo Bunting, the red of the Scarlet Tanager, the orange and black of the orioles, the red, white and black of the Rose Breasted Grosbeak. In late spring, I would sit out on my deck in awe that they all showed up about the same time.

Male Northern Oriole

The orioles and grosbeaks stayed all summer and even nested here. The tanager and buntings only a few weeks but again, I had these glorious creatures in my yard.

Female Northern Oriole Eating Grape Jelly

Male Rose Breasted Grosbeaks.

In the past, I used to drive hours to find search for birds and mammals, but now all I have to do is to look out my window. It is a thrill to wake up each morning.

Brown Creeper

I was sitting out in the yard when I saw a little bird going UP the tree. I zoomed in with my camera and realized it was a Brown Creeper. Well, this was a “lifer” for
me. Even though I had never seen one, I knew what he was. I was thrilled…plus I learned the difference between a Creeper and a Nuthatch. A Creeper goes
UP the tree, the Nuthatches go down. How exciting for me!

Cedar Waxwing

I was using the pontoon on the lake and came across some Cedar Waxwings out on the island. Well I was thrilled!  I took some pics but I had to go a long way to get them. The next day, I was on my dock and I looked to my left and there were five of them right in the trees near my dock and lake. I spent two hours photographing these beauties and when I finished, I thanked them.

Common Nighthawk

My friends and I were out driving around near my house. We noticed these birds and realized they were Nighthawks! Could not get a picture, for the world, because
they are so, so fast. I came home and took my friends out on the pontoon and looked up and there was more than a 100 Nighthawks zooming over our lake. The pic above is
not the best, but they are not easy to shoot. Tons of flying ants had hatched that day in my yard and others and they were having a feast! Lucky for us!


Yellow Warbler

I have had some smaller birds come through this yard. I believe I get so much variety because my land is attached to a deciduous forest and a wetland. I am fortunate to get warblers that travel through here during migration. I was stunned when I saw the following birds: A Common Yellowthroat (“lifer”), Yellow Warbler, I have had many sparrows, such as Fox and a White Throated plus a Tennessee Warbler (another “lifer”) came through to visit. Such variety…..

Tennessee Warbler

Common Yellowthroat

White Throated Sparrow

Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

I was in South Dakota when I saw my first Yellow Bellied Sapsucker. Who knew they would grace my yard all summer long. They kept company with my Downy, Red Bellied, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers whom we call “Phil the Pill”.

Pileated Woodpeckers

Pileated woodpeckers are fascinating birds but can cause havoc when it comes to searching for carpenter ants, their favorite food. They can take down a tree which our “Phil” is in the process of doing. My picture shows two males whom I think are brothers.

Great Crested Flycatcher

When sitting outside I noticed a new visitor darting in and out of an old birdhouse carrying nesting material. To my delight and being another “lifer” for me, it was a Great Crested Flycatcher. Even though I watched closely, I never saw them fledge, but saw the young being taught how to fend for themselves by both parents. I also had Bluebirds, Phoebes and Eastern Kingbirds nesting in my yard.

Red fox kit

I was out on my deck when something on the left caught my eye. Darting and playing around a cabin we have on our property were three Red Fox Kits. I never realized I had a  Fox den 30 feet from the house. They were great entertainment and made for a nice photo opportunity.

Polyphemus (large) and Io (yellow) Moths

Like most mornings, we eat breakfast out on the deck. As I opened the screen door, I noticed some really unusual moths on the door. I could not believe my eyes! For the next two weeks, the first thing I did in the morning was check the screen door and there were different moths every day. This picture is just a small assortment of what I was treated to daily.

Common Loon

And then there is my lake. A small 49 acre lake that holds life in abundance. Loons, Green Herons, Beavers, turtles, frogs, bass and the list goes on. It also gives me back incredible reflections in all its’ stillness.

Young Green Heron


Fall Reflection

August Sunrise

I was asked what is my passion for Nature about? Such an easy answer. It is what it gives me. My belief is God made this world for our enjoyment. When I fish or sit on my dock or go out in the pontoon, I can breath and take it all in.

Nighttime in the front yard

I hope you have enjoyed seeing my yard through my eyes as much as I have enjoyed sharing with you. I want to thank “The Old Naturalist” for encouraging me through this process as it is a first for me. These are just a few of the delights I have witnessed but so thankful for each and every one of these new experiences. I am sure I will have more in the coming months. Thanking you and letting you know I am so “Thankful For Nature” and you.

Super Blue Moon
January 31, 2018

















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