When a pair of cyclists rode past me on the bike trail recently, I was staring intently into a shrub. Maybe I looked a little bit deranged, standing there with my notebook. I was watching a baby warbler and, frankly, was having too much fun to care what anybody thought. That’s what a citizen science project can do to you. Continue reading
I know: Eeew. But it’s not as unsavory as it might sound. Sometimes we happen upon animals from whom life has only just departed. Aesthetic reservations aside, these encounters provide an unparalleled opportunity to closely examine animals that we usually see only from a distance, if ever. Continue reading
Thanks to University of Nebraska Press for the opportunity to write the following guest post for the UNP blog: What the Platte River Taught Me.
Chip-chip-ch, d-d-d-d-dit. Two sedge wrens echoed each other’s songs in the marshy bottomland near the forks of the Baraboo River. I walked along the bike path, listening and taking notes.
A pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks came zooming down the path toward me, and then veered off into a tree over my left shoulder. The male, black and white with a scarlet bib, perched among the leaves and began to sing. I wrote that down.
A bald eagle had showed up from time to time on my walks south of Elroy last summer. Once, it was circling high overhead Continue reading
Seven decades later, the trumpeting voices of thousands upon thousands of cranes ring out across the marshes and river valleys Continue reading
In this part of Wisconsin, we’re fortunate to be surrounded by many types of public land: county forests, ruggedly beautiful state parks, a huge national wildlife refuge, and more. But the public lands that I use most often are those strangely unnatural avenues for exploring the natural world: rails-to-trail bike paths.
The phenomenon of converting abandoned rail beds to recreational paths has spread across the continent, but it started right here with the former Chicago and North Western Railroad line that became the Elroy-Sparta Trail in 1965. Continue reading
I used to return home from a walk and empty my pockets onto the kitchen table. On a typical walk, I might pick up a few leaves, a twig with some interesting buds, a seed pod, or an unusual rock. Or all of these. Continue reading
You’ve seen them: those little museums housed in old mansions or school buildings. A wooden sign out front bears the name of the local historical society and some infrequent hours of operation. It’s easy to look right past those signs. After all, the spotty hours can give the impression that little museums are usually closed.
The little museum in Aztalan, Wisconsin, on the west bank of the Crawfish River, comprises the village’s former church plus other historic buildings that have been relocated to the site. Continue reading
A fortified city stood on the west bank of the Crawfish River nine centuries ago. Adobe-like walls – upright wood posts, plastered with clay – surrounded tiered platform mounds, a community plaza, and the dwellings of some four hundred people. The homes, like the fortifications, were built with what the river provided: woven willow branches sealed and bound together by the Crawfish River’s clay. Hardened clay also covered at least one of the great mound structures.
When the sun shone brightly, as it did when I visited the Crawfish River yesterday, how the city must have gleamed! Continue reading