Love the Pretty Ones

26 06 2015

A few months ago we had the opportunity to educate and meet hundreds of people at the Arcade Trade Fair. This event is always a great chance to make new contacts and talk to people in our own neighborhood about the wonders of nature.

This year at the trade fair I was standing at our display with a red tailed hawk on my arm next to another Naturalist with a barred owl on their arm. We were both busy talking to the guests at the Fair about our respective birds, enjoying teaching about their roles in the environment. Suddenly a comment came from the well dressed, seemingly intelligent older gentleman that made me take a step back. As he and his wife were delighted to be so close to the beautiful owl, the gentleman turned to me, looked at Orion and said “The only mistake they made when they protected these owls is that they also protected those guys” pointing to the hawk.

A bit astonsihed at the comment, I had to ask where such a negative comment came from. “One of them eagles took out one of my calfs last year. If it was legal I would have shot the #%&*@ thing!” Wow! What a self centered, misinformed comment. But not the first time I had run across a person with such lack of knowledge. That is why we are here. To get the truth out.

Could an eagle take down a large calf? A golden eagle probably could, but a bald eagle which is what we have in our area, probably can’t. The eagle probably found the dead calf on the ground that was probably killed by some other means and saw a free meal. This rancher never did see who killed the calf, he just assumed it was the one eating it. In that logic we could say that the snails and the beetles were the ones who attacked and killed it.

We see this mentality quite often when wildlife “interferes” with our lives. If a groundhog is digging holes in our yard, it must be an enemy because he is targeting our pristine lawn. If the deer is eating our garden plants it must be targeting us alone.

What everyone needs to realize is that we share this world with a wide variety of species. Our habits are interfering with their lives just as much as they are interfering with ours. We all need to learn to share this planet with everyone and everything. Whether they are a beautiful owl or a lowly star nosed mole, they all have just as much right to be here as we do.

Lets all try harder to share our planet better. Take care of nature and learn to love in unison with it.



26 06 2015

I recently spent the day at a local school teaching the students about the fascinating world of owls. As I explained to a first grade class how owls eyes are different than most animals, including ours, a small voice in the front row blurted out the “we are not animals!” A bit thrown back by the sudden interruption I explained that we are a species of animal. “No… we’re humans” was the response. To avoid a long debate, I continued the program.

Shortly after, during a third grade presentation I was interrupted with the same comment. Trying to explain how we are mammals just like our dogs, cats or coyotes and that we fit into the kingdom of Animalia or animals, which contain the mammals, birds, reptiles and all the other animals, I was still not convincing enough for the young gentleman that insisted that we could not be like other animals.

After the long day of programs, I reflected back on these two disturbing comments. Is it our education system, parenting or society in general that has separated us from the natural world to such a point that we can’t see ourselves as related to the other animals.

Although we consider ourselves to have a higher intelligence than the other animals, when we delve into the world of biology we are very similar in structure. We are animals.
One of the focuses we have at Wild Spirit is to teach about the natural world around us. To instill a love for nature. We try to build a bond between the natural world and us. A bond that will hopefully strengthen to a point where we will feel like we are part of nature, which we are.
This separation from the natural world is like a disease that is spreading rapidly amongst our children and ourselves. This disease is serious and could be life threatening for our planet.

So how do we cure this separation? It’s as easy as getting out and communing with nature. Not just going for a hike in the woods, but understanding the woods. Listen to the trees as they sway in the breeze. Understand the connection of all the elements in the woods and then understand that we are part of that connection.

Once you have rebuilt your own connection with nature, take a friend, a child or a loved one into nature and help them to connect with it. Once we have all rebuilt the connection with the natural world, we may start to respect and take care of our fragile planet.

Let’s remember that we are like the rest of the animals.


3 07 2012

A small bird lying in the middle of the road, barely breathing. Stressed from the near fatal collision with a passing obstacle unknown in it natural world. Was I meant to find it? Was it meant to stay oblivious to the passing world with its contrasting orange and black from the yellow stripes painted on the cold grey? What made me stop this morning? Is there a force out there that guides us to our destined paths?

Nature is full of contrasts. We see it in the game of survival. Yet all these contrasts may be connected in some way. Are we part of that connection? Our species seems to try very diligently to separate itself from the natural world, yet we keep getting pulled back into its grasp. I’m not certain of the causes, but I feel that we are all connected through an energy that spans beyond our imagination.

All we need to do is try to get the connection with nature back in focus. I did that as I stopped to help that desperate soul. The positive energy of the connection allowed that tanager to continue its life as I continued mine.

Getting Dirty

10 04 2010

As I walked through the woods this morning with a group of fellow naturalists, I listened to the group name any plant or animal species we came across. My mind would occasionally wander back to the other day as I scanned through photographs, looking for the perfect cover shot for the Outlook and discovering that mud covered young girl having the time of her life at our adventure camp.
As our group continued along, educating each other about the wonders of nature, I kept envisioning what that little girl would be doing if she was along on our trek through the woods. She would have been exploring every object in those woods, not caring what it was named or what characteristics it held. She would only have cared if it excited her senses.
Do you still have that excitement for nature within you or did you “grow up” too much to be covered in mud? I keep hearing how our children have lost their connection with nature, yet I too often see adults who have lost that closeness. Our youth learn from example. If you set a good example, your children will follow. If they see you rolling in the grass, then they may do the same… or they may think you had a few too many glasses of wine. If they see that you are not afraid to touch the harmless insect, they are more likely to examine it also.
Seek out the child within that explored nature with enthusiasm and excitement. Forget about the titles and absorb the wholeness of the world around you. Become that child full of curiosity again.

In Search of the Cobs

20 12 2009

As I sat in my office trying to figure out what enlightening topic to write about for the upcoming newsletter, I stared into space in a belief that this practice will allow the brain cells to shift to just such a position that a brilliant idea will suddenly be produced. Instead of a revelation coming to me, I noticed the many and varied cobwebs decorating the upper corners of the room. But no sign of the creator of these silken designs that most try to eliminate from their homes. So where was the cob hiding? Is there even such a thing as a cob? What does a cob look like? I had to find out.
The next couple hours were spent searching every nook and cranny of the office for the lair of the infamous cob. No reference book or pair of binoculars would go unturned. As my quest advanced I discovered more and more of the cobs webs. They were everywhere.
As despair began to set in, I decided to research this master of stealth in order to even the playing field. As I sat at the computer I could just feel the cobs eyes upon me, laughing at my failed attempt to uncover its position. That’s when the truth became known.
The webs that are all about the office were indeed made by spiders. These haphazard strands of silk were produced by a family of spiders from the family Theridiidae, which includes the common house spider. These spiders don’t spin the beautiful circular webs as most spiders do. Being sticky, the webs attract all the dust particles floating through the air, gathering and creating the long strands we see. We don’t usually notice them until enough dust has gathered upon them, long after the spider has abandoned them to build elsewhere.
The word cob is believed to come from the old English word “coppe” which simply means spider. A “coppe web” eventually became a “copp web” and slowly evolved to “cobweb”.
With the quest for the cob now doomed to fail, I decided to get back to trying to figure out what inspirational piece to write for the Outlook. I’ll leave the silken decorations in the office for another day. So what creature created all this dust on my keyboard? Hmmm…

Listening to the Birds

13 08 2009

We just wrapped up another spring of bird banding here at Beaver Meadow.  Although we were delighted with some of the species we captured and released, we were once again disappointed at the decline in the numbers of birds.  Our capture numbers seem to be diminishing each year during our banding sessions.  I recall years of capturing over one hundred birds a day, while this year we are lucky to get thirty.

Although we don’t have any hard data to back up our theories about the decline, the situation is being repeated across the world.  Habitat loss, pollutions, and climate change seem to be the major culprits in population decreases and range shifts.  The National Audubon Society recently released the results of a 40 year study of Christmas Bird Count Data showing a northward shift in ranges of nearly 60% of bird species found in North America by an average of 35 miles.  The data shows the major cause as climate change.  As the temperatures rise, the birds are moving further north.  Go to to learn more about this issue.

Many of us see climate change as well as other environmental issues as something that is not happening close to home, and thus feel that it is someone else that needs to deal with the problem.  Wherever the problems persist, we all need to work together to solve them.  There are many simple changes to our daily routines that can make a difference.  You can do a home energy audit yourself to see how you and your family can cut back on electrical usage.  Tune up your car and drive less.  Plant trees.  And the list goes on.   If we all partake in the solution, we can make a positive impact locally and globally.

Summer Outdoors

8 06 2009

As the school year draws to an end, I find myself closing my presentations with a plea to the students to not waste their summers in front of the television and video games and instead to get outdoors and explore nature every chance they get. I am a bit dismayed when I hear the sounds of disappointment at this statement emanating from the youth.
As parents we are facing a troubling time when we must try to compete with the electronic world our children have fallen in love with. Our first challenge is to teach by example and get ourselves outdoors and ignore the electronics that we have drawn ourselves to depend upon.
So how do we make the outdoors more appealing to our children? That’s a no brainer. Make it fun and exciting. Take part in outdoor activities that the whole family will enjoy. Take a hike at a local park or nature preserve and make it an adventure in discovery. Any of the Buffalo Audubon preserves are a great place to discover nature. Take up orienteering or letterboxing. These turn an average hike into an adventure. If you can’t hang up the electronics totally, grab your GPS and try your hand at Geocaching. All these activities can be done on a low budget and are fun for all ages.