More Macros

Bleargh. I know, I’ve been falling down on the job, going this many days without posting. Last week I was in downtown St. Paul for a couple days, and while getting to have Thai food for the first time in months was marvelous (green curry, mmmm!), being in an urban area felt really odd after all this time in the North Woods. Then I was trying to get caught up on work here when I got back, and now I have a cold and am spending the day watching TV in bed and eating bagels with nutella and struggling to get more of my homework done.

SO, anyway, I thought I’d share these macro photos I took last Monday before I left for the big city, and hopefully soon I will have something new and exciting to post about.

Important Announcement!

I got some very exciting news last night: I’ve been accepted into the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point’s graduate fellowship program in environmental education. What this means is that in July I’ll be moving to Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin (which is in the wilderness up near the border with UP Michigan) to spend the next two years working at a conservation-themed semester school for high school students while simultaneously completing my MS degree in natural resources with an emphasis on residential environmental education.

Obviously moving from the coast of Georgia to northern Wisconsin is going to be a big change – for our Friday staff meeting this afternoon my boss, coworkers and I went to Dairy Queen and sat outside in the warm, sunny weather eating ice cream, something I doubt I’ll be doing this time next February. But I’m really looking forward to it, because it’s a gorgeous part of the country. I know a fair number of you who read this blog have started doing so since I moved to Georgia and may have a special interest in this area, but I really hope you’ll all stick with me when I head to the North Woods. It’s going to be an adventure.

Anyway, I’m still going to be here on Jekyll Island until at least the end of May, so there’s time yet. Right now it’s time to head out for my afternoon constitutional on the beach!

Giving Thanks

As I start to write this post it’s Wednesday afternoon and I’m on a jet airliner, 10,000 feet above eastern Georgia (or perhaps Alabama, if we’ve crossed the state line by now).  That’s right, the plane I am on has free wi-fi.  Free wi-fi ON A PLANE.  I live in a sci-fi novel.

Anyway, I thought in honor of the holiday tomorrow, I’d do the traditional thing and write a short post about some things I am grateful for (other than unexpected internet connections).  I’m grateful that I have a job where I get paid to be outside, sharing my love of nature with others.  I’m grateful for the love and support of my friends and family.  And, odd though it may seem, I am grateful to all of you who read this blog.  When I started it in March I barely dreamed I’d soon attract a number of regular readers other than my parents and friends.  Blogging has proved to be not only a fun outlet for writing regularly – at one point in my childhood I wanted to be a novelist when I grew up! – it has also spurred me to increase my knowledge of my area’s natural history and improve my photography skills, plus led to me to many other fascinating, insightful blogs that I now consider must-reads.  So I really mean this, all: thanks.  And happy Turkey Day, however you celebrate it.

Happy Cephaloween!

I wasn’t going to dress up for Halloween this year, but then I found out that we could wear costumes to work on Friday, and what’s the point of teaching ecology to fifth-graders on the Friday before Halloween if you’re not going to wear a goofy nature-related costume?  So I bought an old shirt at Goodwill and some fabric glue and puffy paint at Michael’s and made myself an octopus.

Okay, it’s not the most stunning costume ever (and it would be better if the fabric paint for the suckers hadn’t gotten smudged so badly), but it served its purpose, which was amusing my students.  There are two more “arms” in the back, and before you ask, no, that does not make me two limbs short, you are forgetting to count my legs.  If I’d had more time and ambition I could have made this much cooler, but whatever.  It was adapted from an idea in this post at The Shell and Mantle.

Of course, if I’d wanted to go really basic I could have just worn a shoe on my head and said I was a cephalopod.  One of my coworkers took this approach, duct-taping a shoe to her stomach and calling herself a gastropod.  We science nerds get our amusement where we can.  Last year when the end of October rolled around I was at an isolated field station in the Australian Outback and didn’t really do anything to celebrate, so it was nice to have some Halloween-related fun this week.  I hope all of you enjoyed the holiday as much as I did!

The Bad Birder

Serious birders define themselves by lists and numbers: how many birds they’ve seen in a given year, in a certain state, or even from their bathroom window.  The single most important number is, without question, the length of your life list – the total number of bird species you’ve seen and identified in your life.

Mine currently stands at 544.

By anyone’s standards that’s pretty impressive.  But the truth is, it’s misleading.  My plus-sized life list comes less from the fact that I’m an awesomely talented birder and more from the fact that I’m lucky enough to have traveled.  A lot.  Visit Saskatchewan, Costa Rica and Australia, make regular trips out west to Arizona and California for a couple years, and you too can have a life list that completely misrepresents your birding skills.

Oh, sure, I can pass as a real birder.  I have the binoculars.  The giant stack of field guides.  The “Eat, Sleep, Bird” t-shirt.

I do the Christmas Bird Count every year.  I volunteer at banding stations.  But my deep, dark secret is, I am not really a hardcore birder.  Maybe I was once upon a time, say, back in college, or when I was working in Saskatchewan.  But these days, if I’m not traveling in some unfamiliar place with new and exotic birds, I rarely bother to take my binoculars with me when I go for a walk.  I certainly still notice the birds around me, but unless there’s something special like the CBC or a local nature festival happening, I don’t just go birding.

Birding was kind of my gateway drug.  Before I taught myself how to identify wildflowers and butterflies, before I bought a tree field guide and started taking photos of spiders and helping out with breeding amphibian surveys, I watched birds.  However, in the past couple years I’ve started to think of myself less as a birder and more as a naturalist, which (to me) means being a sort of jack-of-all-trades, someone who has a basic knowledge of a lot of different aspects of the natural world rather than an obsessive knowledge of one thing.  This is part of why I ultimately couldn’t go into research as a career – I hated the thought of specializing!

I suppose to most people the distinction between a true hardcore birder and someone who just thinks birds are cool isn’t all that apparent; I mean, there are four bird field guides on my bookshelf now, and a couple more in a trunk at my parents’ house.  But when I go for a walk on the beach I don’t really make any effort to identify every species of gull, tern and sandpiper I see, and I’m okay with that.  One of the guys I went birding with in college used to say that the only thing he didn’t like about birding was other birders, so maybe not being a true birder isn’t such a bad thing.

Of course, maybe the definition of a birder is someone who cares enough to keep a life list.  And who finds a way to work her impressive life list total into a blog post in a way that doesn’t sound too much like bragging… you be the judge.

Bye-Bye Buckeye State

Once again, I’m not dead; I’ve just been having one of those weeks where real life takes over and doesn’t leave time for extraneous things like blogging.  Interesting nature stuff continues to happen – there are monarch caterpillars on the milkweed outside, and I took campers on a field trip to a fish hatchery this morning – but I just haven’t had time and energy to photograph and write.

Anyway, this is my last week at my job in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  On Saturday I leave for three weeks in Arizona with my parents, and then I’m moving to Georgia to start my new job on Jekyll Island.  I’m super excited for that job, but leaving here is bittersweet; I grew up in Ohio and it will always be home to me.  And I won’t get to see autumn come to these woods.  Looking at the green riot of summer around me now, it’s still hard to believe that when I arrived in January, Glen Helen looked like this:

While I’m visiting my family we’re going to take a road trip out to California and Oregon, during which I will definitely not be blogging.  I’m planning on digging through some old photos and scheduling a few of them to be posted while I’m gone, and when I get back you can expect posts on the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Point Reyes, Redwoods National Park, and Crater Lake.  Until then, take care!