|Rustling Cabbage Palms|
|Bull Gator Bellowing|
A while ago I was walking through the dark woods of a local state park, looking for birds and butterflies and Jack in the Pulpit flowers, when I heard something in the distance. I wasn't sure what it was--deer, wild hogs--something large and noisy. But as the sound came closer, I realized that it was a couple walking for exercise through the woods with their radio turned on. They were listening to public radio and I don't recall if it was Weekend Edition or Car Talk. I like both shows, but not in that setting. I was irritated because they scared off all the wildlife for 10 minutes in all directions, and because I had to listen to their noise until they were too far away to hear any more. I also felt sad for them that they were missing so much by masking the forest behind a curtain of radio. It was as if they'd brought their living room with them into the woods. For me, this is the opposite of what I'm looking for when I go out.
|Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)|
|Great Blue Skimmer Dragonfly, Hunting|
Early this spring I had my first encounter with a drone in the wild. I was starting my regular shift at the state park where I volunteer and I walked out on the trail to get an idea of what the conditions were. I saw a strange object flying in the distance. It seemed like a bird but the flight pattern was so strange that I couldn't recognize it. Next I was hit with the small engine sound, somewhat like a weed whacker or mower. This is not a sound you expect or want in a park. Then I saw the men with the remote control and I realized that it was a drone. They had attached a video camera and were trying to get photos of feral hogs and alligators. I watched as gators scramble off of the banks to get away from the weird object, and the birds in the bushes were clearly disturbed. I was outraged at the intrusion. And then I had a vision of these horrible things flying overhead and delivering packages, or worse, dropping bombs. Eventually the men packed up their drone and left, but I was rattled.The sound still fills me with anger and dread. Is this the face of our future?
|Green Tree Frog|
|Hungry Baby Carolina Wrens|
|Great Horned Owl|
|Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Rattling|
One of my favorite nature education activities is a listening game. I usually do this with children, but I think adults would enjoy it too. On a nature hike, after walking and exploring for a while, we stop and I tell the group that one of the best ways to appreciate nature is to listen. I tell them that when I say go, they will all close their eyes and keep them closed for a minute. They will be totally silent so they can hear. And then every time they hear a sound, they should hold up a finger. It is magical to watch their faces and fingers as they concentrate. You can feel the collective calming-- huge "ahhh"--while at the same time the excitement grows at the recognition of each sound. When they open their eyes it's as if they have just returned from a wonderful journey.
|Cypress Swamp Skies|