holding onto a rock in the rapids
A large muskie swam up and rested beside me
wondered if I should be panicked.
Hoped that I was not wearing anything shiny
that looked tasty to a muskie.
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, 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.
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.
Sometimes you see things that makes you thankful to be alive
And you stop breathing
Because you are afraid the experience might end.
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.
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
This bass sashayed past me and let me know me it was the king or queen of the neighborhood.
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.
Lone Lake Park is a forest remnant of what was known as the Big Woods. The Big Woods was over 2,000 square miles, extending in a band 40 miles wide from what is today Mankato to Monticello. In the 1800’s, bears, wolves, and other creatures lived there, but were extirpated by white settlers moving into the area. Dakota elders said that the woods were so thick, that a squirrel could go the entire length of the great forest without ever touching the ground.
Department of Natural Resources plant ecologists, Fred Harris and Dan Wovcha say the following about Lone Lake Park. “Lone Lake Park is a remnant of the Big Woods forest. 98% of the original forest has been eliminated and what remains are very small fragments such as what you have at Lone Lake Park. A portion of the forest was mapped in the Minnesota Land Cover Classification System as a mesic oak forest, which was one of the main forest types that made up the Big Woods. We support your effort to conserve this forest remnant.”
Pre-settlement Big Woods is light green. The dark green dots show what remains of the Big Woods today.
The Big Woods existed for over 700 years before settlers began cutting the big trees in the 1840’s. They didn’t see the magnificent forest that was there. They saw the house they were going to build or the field that would have crops. Agnes Larson, author of the book, “History of the White Pine Industry in Minnesota”, wrote: “In the development of Minnesota, these hardwood forests counted for little. It was the rich soil in which they grew that was attractive to the settler. So the strong oaks, the stately butternuts, and the queenly maples were felled merely to be cast into the fire, so that wheat could grow where once they had stood.”
Ginseng Plant – Missouri Department of Conservation
Ginseng was a common plant in the Big Woods in the 1850’s, but hundreds of thousands of pounds was harvested for the Chinese market by settlers so they could pay off their mortgages. The ginseng was no more (MN Historical Society).
“The Big Woods has a high extinction debt–many of the plant species are likely to disappear because of loss of habitat, fragmentation and invasive species like buckthorn and European earthworms that infest even the tiny remnants of Big Woods. To reverse that situation we need to expand the remnants and relieve the many stresses on them.” Lee Frelich, Director, University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology
Raspberry Farm near Lone Lake. Hopkins Historical Society
By the 1930’s, farmers near Lone Lake Park had clear-cut the hardwood forest and planted raspberries. Many of the trees in Lone Lake Park are second growth, but there are some areas of old growth trees. Suburban development including housing and businesses continues to decrease the small forest remnants that exist today.
In 2003, Wayzata, MN, private developers proposed clearing 14 acres of a remnant of the Big Woods for apartments or a high-rise building. But city officials, like Wayzata City Council member Bob Ambrose, said they didn’t want to lose what they saw as a rare treasure. The community raised the money to protect the land and created a park.
The City of Orono has Woodrill and Long Lake has Wolsfeld Woods, both are Big Woods remnants.
The City of Minnetonka has an opportunity to protect this remnant forest at Lone Lake, so that we can all learn how to be better stewards of our wild spaces.
Photo by Ryan Taylor
In the past 20 years, interest in mountain biking has increased dramatically. In the Twin Cities alone, riders can access over 20 different courses. In addition, there are competitive high school teams.
The Minnetonka City Council is seriously considering putting in 4.7 miles of mountain biking course into this park. The course would disturb roughly half of the wooded area of the park.
The black line is the existing walking path. The orange line shows the proposed mountain biking course.
To meet the demand of some residents, the City Council of Minnetonka, assigned the city staff to research the feasibility of constructing a mountain biking course into Lone Lake Park. Lone Lake is a kettle lake that is enclosed by a glacial moraine. One main reason it is attractive as a biking course is because of its glacial steep hills.
Dan Wovcha, DNR, plant ecologists says, “The overall message is there are a lot of stresses on our remnant forests, and stewardship is extremely important for their long-term health.
What will this habitat look like in 40 years? If the city council votes to put in the trail, this ecosystem will most certainly be degraded. However, if the city council decides that having a Big Woods Park is more valuable than a bike trail, the second growth trees will be over 100 years old. There will be more native plants, more birds, more mammals, more…. Life. My grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be able to walk in the Big Woods Park and know that those who came before them protected the land for future generations.
The Bass Ponds are part of the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge. It is an urban wildlife refuge in shadow of the Mall of America, a busy highway and the Minneapolis International Airport. Besides being a refuge for animals, the Bass Ponds is a refuge for joggers, fisherman, hikers, and birders.
Blue – Wing Teal nest in the shallow ponds.
Bald Eagles are a common sight.
Male Northern Oriole (listen to its call below)
I asked the two women shown above why they liked birding. “I have been birding for 25 years. It is addictive. The anticipation of seeing something new, is an adrenaline rush. It is also about slowing down and just being outside in the wonder of nature. Even if it is a common bird, I like to watch their behavior because you witness different behaviors in the spring than you do at other times of the year“.
Male Eastern Bluebird (listen to its call below)
Wood Duck male and female are found in the shallow ponds
American Toad calling. Notice the ripples in the water from the intensity of the sound.
LL Bean volunteer March Trail Clean up (Photo by Grant Fleetwood)
I work for LL Bean at the Mall of America. The Bass Ponds is our local trail and LL Bean has adopted it, and we partner with the wildlife refuge. It an urban park and we are going to go ahead and clean up the trash once a month. I get satisfaction intrinsically by helping out the environment. We want to do our part and make it better for everyone to enjoy. Our next cleanup will be Sat. June 8, and it’s open to everyone. Readers can get more info and sign up at www.llbean.com/MOA . Grant Fleetwood
Muskrat (Photo was taken in March when the ponds were still frozen).
Other mammals found at the Bass Ponds includes: coyote, beaver, deer, fox, raccoons, mink and otters at the Bass Ponds.
Craig Mandel is on the right in the blue jacket
Craig Mandel is a master birder and regularly leads hikes at the Bass Ponds. Craig put everyone at ease with his welcoming demeanor. His quiet passion for birding is contagious. (Contact the MVWR Visitor Center to find out Craig’s next hike).
It was very enriching walking with 25 people who were so passionate about learning and sharing their knowledge of nature.
Male Redwing Blackbird (listen to its “oka-lee” call below)
A female red-wing blackbird weaving its nest out of strips of cattails.
American Redstart is a warbler that nests at the Bass Ponds.
I met a 16 year old bird watcher. “I got into bird watching when I was 5. “My aunt was in a birding group and they “adopted me”. I have been passionate about birding ever since, unfortunately, there aren’t too many birders my age”.
Vanessa Nordstrom grew up exploring and hiking at the Bass Ponds. She shares the following childhood memories: “We would hike down the big hill before it was paved and we loved having the freedom to explore everything. In the winter we would see the fish in the stocked pond and the river run off and they would be jumping out of the ice. We used to always find animal skulls down in the woods too skunks, weasels and a deer, etc. “
To get directions to the Bass Ponds contact Visitor Center Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge 3815 , American Blvd, Bloomington, MN. (952) 854-5900
For the past 24 years I have traveled to North Hudson Elementary in Hudson, Wisconsin for a very special experience. The 4th grade teachers have developed a thematic unit on the oceans that runs from February to May. All of their reading, science, language arts is based upon oceans. One day a year, I have had the honor of teaching an entire day about the oceans: Ocean Communities, Squid dissection, Sand Lab, and Shell Lab.
Jeanette Dickinson, a visual artist, worked with students to create a marine communities mural.
Learning about the uniqueness of sands from around the world
After doing research projects, students create three dimensional ocean creatures.
It is fulfilling to see the Oceanography project has maintained support and grown over the years. This integrated unit has always been close to my heart. The study has generated student enthusiasm; developed learners’ understanding of so many related concepts and processes; and provided an immensely rich and integrated learning experience for every child. Thank you 4th Grade teachers at North Hudson (Paula Feyereisen, Jessica McQuade, Heather Mathews, and Deborah Smith) for carrying on this invaluable study, especially in the light of frequent obstacles. I truly admire what you do on a daily basis.
Vicki Donatell, retired 4th grade teacher at North Hudson
Three nights of winter camping in a yurt can change your perspective on life. Jim Gregory and his son David joined me for the adventure.
Often working with only the light of his headlamp and a lantern, Jim was able to create his work. This was his first experience using water colors. When we left, Jim generously gave his painting to the owner of the property.
City boy Brought a cell phone charger Now I am out of juice Can’t plug it into a pine tree. City boy
Creative Snow Plops – Nature is the Artist
Lost my glove liners Tearing everything apart Going crazy Heck with the liners… Going skiing Out on the trail now…. I adjust my hat And feel something. Hey! I found my glove liners.
Whiskey Jacks Pirates – Scavengers Fearless ……If food is involved Gray Jay
I went out before sunrise, skiing. When I returned to the yurt, I was hungry and was going to make some hot cereal. David had not skied, but made this special meal. In 50 years of camping, I have never had a breakfast like this. It was a wonderful gift.
The foot is very wide on a Canada Lynx, to keep it from sinking in deep snow. It has been classified as a Federally Threatened Species. Barbara Young, the owner of Poplar Creek Guesthouse said that she has seen many lynx over the years. Once she saw a lynx jump 5 feet high and knock over a bird feeder.
Two nights – The same dream The eyes of wildness Burning into my Soul Waking me from a restless sleep. On the ski trail Fresh tracks of a Canada Lynx The lynx’s essence Passes through me But remains unseen. The eyes of wildness Deep in my bones.
When David was two, I carried him on my back while I cross-country skied. I often wonder if that has something to do with his love of skiing and the outdoors. Jim Gregory
There were no more than a dozen mature white pine near our yurt. Loggers cut down most of the giants in the early 1900’s. I can only imagine what this land was like when the old growth white pine dominated the area.
Where Does Beauty Hide?
Where Does Beauty Hide?
Where Does Beauty Hide? In the simplicity of nature And deep in my heart.
Do you need to make a Northwoods Pilgrimage? Contact Barbara Young at Poplar Creek Guesthouse. 11 Poplar Creek Drive. Grand Marais, MN 55604 (218) 388-4487
We are lucky to have guest blogger, Nanci Olesen, share her relationship with nature through art and text. When I first saw Nanci’s work in a Minneapolis Star Tribune article (http://www.startribune.com/will-publish-in-different-format/504165212/), I was touched by the intimacy of her sketches and how she was able to connect to nature through art.
I have filled small sketchbooks and journals with my drawing and writing for as long as I can remember. I am a mom of adult children and a Montessori teacher. Montessori education is rooted in peace, simplicity, independence, and the wonder of the natural world. I like to pay attention. I like to follow the child. Nanci Olesen
The next 4 drawings appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and document the quiet beauty of an everyday nature walk. Beneath each sketch are Nanci’s nature notes from the day.
30 december 18: Mid afternoon, sort of grey. Still cold, but not bitter. Me neither. I met an old friend on the path. We chatted. We found a red hatted woman happily pointing to a pileated woodpecker (red capped of course). We saw chickadees and juncos too. Later, a boy from my old school, Lamont. In a red hat! “Fourth grade is hard!” And me, with my red hat on, just taking it all in. Oh yes, and I fell on the ice… twice! Argghh.gh…
31 december 18 4 pm. Greeeeeyyyyyy. Snow’s coming. Ice still freaking us all out. I only slipped two times. Deep in the bird sanctuary is a little streamlet-kind-of pond. Mallards were doing their happy swim and their funny ra-ra-ra-ra sound. That same pileated woodpecker (or so I think) swooped low, making some loud wa-wa-wa-wa… and me, quietly, to all of it: “Woah.” Snow falling at an angle and temperature dropping steadily. The tree trunk seemed to say “Onward into the new year.” The pond responded “Shoooooshh.” “Tzee, tzee,” whispered the fallen branch.
1 january 19 There are two lifeguard chairs at North Beach, Lake Harriet. I like the one on the left. Sunset. Resolutions. Bravery. “Happy New Year,” I say from my perch on the chair, gazing out at the miraculous ice. Surprisingly, the lifeguard chair responds, “Same to you!!”
3 january 19 It’s that blue of dusk… especially in the winter. Glorious! Deep blue– getting inky—but still holding light. The simple magnificence of it all. Oh baby! The b e a u t y ! Indeed.
I look to the big picture. I like wilderness travel. I like theatre and dance and music. Yellow is my favorite color. I swim in Lake Harriet. I play the piano late at night. I have a humorous husband. I have grown a garden and cooked dinner and hosted parties and raised our children and ridden my bike in the Kingfield neighborhood of Minneapolis for 37 years. Nanci Olesen
Do you want to see more of Nanci’s work? Visit her website (https://www.nanciolesen.com/) Check out her weekly “visual practice blog” (https://www.nanciolesen.com/blog). And her Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/drawingnanciolesen/). Share these links on your own social media!
Below I’ve selected some of Nanci’s online work:
Berkeley loves its twinkly lights. And I love it all. New perspectives continue. Reading for real and getting organized. Thank you, Mary Oliver.
Mindo Cloud Forest, Ecuador. For two days, we took early morning hikes with our superb birding guide, Lucia, who pointed out numerous species of tanagers and other birds.
After two days, Lucia told us about the Cock of the Rock. But in order to see the bird, we had to do the following: 4am Get out of bed 4:30am Cross the river on the trolley 4:45am Take a taxi with Lucia 5:15 am Get dropped off on a remote dirt road in the jungle 5:20am Be completely stunned when three other taxis arrive -filled with 10 serious birders. Shortly after 5:30 the owner showed up and opened the gate. The group hustled down to the bird blind and jostled for a viewing position. The blind fit around 6 people comfortably, but on this morning there were 13 people and many of them had huge cameras with 3 foot lenses.
Listen to the cacophony of Cock of the Rocks calling :
Cock of the Rocks do not pair up, like most birds. Every day the males come to the same location (lek) and display (head-bobbing, and wing flapping) Their goal is to attract a female and then be chosen to mate with her.
Finally, it was light enough to see the birds and get a photo. But first, I had to stake out a spot in the crowded bird blind.
This was a surreal experience: seeing these unusual birds in this remote area. Sharing the space with all the birders. The friendly and helpful owner, collected $10 from each person. Lucia said that he fills up every morning (over a $100 a day).
Reader Jim Evrard shared his adventure with the Cock of the Rock: While serving in the Peace Corps in Peru in 1965-66, I had an opportunity to see the Cock of the Rock along a wild, rapid-filled stream in the high selva on the eastern slope of the Andes. I served as a technical advisor to the Peruvian Wildlife and Forestry Service based in Cuzco and saw the bird while on a working expedition involved in evaluating private land with the ideal of possibly establishing a sawmill.
P.S. Just so you know, that area was a hotbed of communist activity led by Che Guevara, Fidel Castro’s second in command. I was hauled into an army checkpoint along a road because I couldn’t produce my identify card (stolen by a pick-pocket). The soldiers had machine guns and had grenades strapped to their chests. Since I spoke Spanish with an accent, they thought I was a Cuban until I could identify two other Peace Corp Volunteers who were working and living in that area.
The Galapagos Islands truly are enchanted, often I felt like I was walking in a dream and wondering whether it was really real.
I have never been in an area where such care is taken to preserve and restore the natural habitat. The authorities encourage people to visit, but the number of people and the places they can visit are carefully controlled so there are never large crowds in the uninhabited areas.
Photo by Carol S. Wade
Video by Carol S. Wade
It was an amazing experience being around animals who had no fear of humans. We could easily get within 6 feet of most of them.
Photo by Alan Sable
Advice from a Giant Tortoise Access your ancient wisdom Listen deeper
The Earth is your mother Move slowly, everything will be accomplished Your past will only pull you back, keep growing, live now.
Speaking of the past history of Giant Tortoises… Up to 200,000 Giant Tortoises were taken by whalers and pirates from the Galapagos Is. They were stored upside down in the hull of their ships for up to a year and eaten for food. On Española Island, researchers from the Darwin Center found a remnant population of tortoises ( 2 males, 14 females). The Darwin Center was also able to reclaim a male from the San Diego Zoo that was taken off of Española in the 1930’s. The Española tortoises are breeding at the Darwin Center and to date, 1800 Giant Tortoises have been repatriated to the island.
Photo by Alan Sable
Photo by Lawrence Wade
Frigatebird Photo by Robert Sable
Frigatebirds swoop just at the surface of the water with their wings spread and scoop up fish with their beaks.
Frigatebird Nesting Colony Photo by Robert Sable
Nesting pair of Frigatebirds. The male has inflated it’s gular pouch. Photo by Lawrence Wade
Frigatebird feeding its young.
Video by Alan Sable
Flamingos over-head Photo by Robert Sable
Our group watched the flamingos flying toward us. Some were taking photos, others watched in awe. But all were thankful for the opportunity to see something so magnificent.
Flamingos feeding Photo by Robert Sable
Green Sea Turtle Photo by Lawrence Wade
Dancing with a Green Sea Turtle Floating together Back and forth with the surge Experiencing wonder Such beauty and wildness Never to be forgotten
photo by Lawrence Wade
Waved Albatross mated pair. The largest breeding colony in the world is on Española Island, Galapagos. Photo by Lawrence Wade
Wave Albatross courtship dance. Bill clacking and head nodding. View on full screen.
Video by Carol S. Wade
Waved Albatross chick Photo by Robert Sable
Tree Cactus, Santa Cruz Is. Photo by Alan Sable
Tree Cactus, notice the Land Iguana who had set up its territory underneath the cactus. Photo by Alan Sable
Galapagos Land Iguana is up 4 feet long and weighs 30 pounds. Photo by Lawrence Wade
Land Iguanas feed on tree cactus pads. They scrape out the large spines and are able to eat the smaller ones. Photograph by Robert Sable
During times of drought, many land iguanas die. Photo by Alan Sable
A land Iguana and marine iguana battle for nesting territory. Photo by Lawrence Wade
The fight went on for over 15 minutes. The land iguana was flipped over on its back 2 times and its neck had bite marks on it. Our group left before the end. It was unnerving to witness the rawness of these two species battling for their survival.
Very young Sea lion pup. Photo by Carol S. Wade
A pup trying to nurse from an unwilling mom.
Video by Alan Sable.
The pup wanted to keep nursing and the mother waddled away. The pup followed braying mournfully.
Young Sea Lions swimming intertidal pool
Video by Carol S. Wade
Sea Lions are awkward and “comical” on land. In the water, they are breathtakingly sleek and acrobatic.
Bleached bones of a Sea Lion. Photo by Lawrence Wade
Life and death was continuously around us, interwoven into the fabric of the land. For instance, you might see a plump sea lion pup nursing, take three steps and find a sea lion carcass or a young pup who is starving because his mother was killed for unknown reasons.
Marine Iguana is the world’s only sea-going lizard. Photo by Robert Sable
Note the long fingers and nails that the marine iguana uses for climbing steep cliffs on their way out of the water. Photo by Lawrence Wade
Marine Iguanas spend most of their time on land basking on rocks. They must get warm enough to feed in the cool nearshore water on algae. Their diet causes them to have an excess of salt in their body which they “snort out” through their nose.
Photo by Lawrence Wade
Blue Footed Booby. Photo by Robert Sable
Blue footed Boobys dive from great heights with their wings tucked in until they are torpedo shaped. They dive deep in the water for fish. Robert Sable
Blue-footed Booby Mating Dance. The male is displaying and trying to attract its mate. Photo by Lawrence Wade
Red-footed booby Photo by Lawrence Wade
Nazca Booby Colony Photo by Robert Sable
Nazca Booby breeding colony.
Video by Alan Sable
American Oystercatchers Lawrence Wade
Swallowtail Gull Photo by Lawrence Wade
Video by Alan Sable
Undersea World of the Galapagos
Many large schools of Surgeonfish. Photo by Lawrence Wade
Sea Star Photo by Lawrence Wade
King Angel Photo by Lawrence Wade
Hogfish Photo by Lawrence Wade
Sting Ray in the surf Photo by Alan Sable
Sally Lightfoot Crab. The name “lightfoot” comes from their ability to “walk quickly across the water”. Photo by Carol S. Wade
Lava Heron eating a Sally Lightfoot Crab Photo by Robert Sable
The curtain closes on our adventure. Photo by Carol S. Wade
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
Nature Seeker Workbook is the product of 20 years of work as a naturalist in the Upper Midwest. Over 800 books have been sold in three 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:
or go to the pull down menu at this site – go to Publications. Click on Nature Seeker Workbook.
Oceanography 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: email@example.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)
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.