In 1867, John Muir crossed northern Florida on his way to the Gulf of Mexico
“Chk, chk.” The voice comes from a nearly leafless tree in the soggy floodplain of the Baraboo River. I look up at two rusty blackbirds – and now a third flies in. They confer briefly – perhaps about me – and drop to the ground, out of sight. The blackbirds, migrating from their breeding grounds in Canada, are heading south, maybe just to Illinois, but possibly as far as the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s October 24, 2016. One hundred fifty-nine years ago today, John Muir, having just walked “joyful and free” from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico, fell ill with malaria. His sickness and long recuperation interrupted his plans to travel onward to South America. More importantly, they almost certainly changed the course of conservation history in the United States by sending the young naturalist on a different path. Continue reading
For beginning naturalists, the vast number of wildflower guides can be nearly as daunting as the innumerable species of plants waiting to be identified.
It’s easy to find guides to wildflower identification in stores or online, but finding the right ones can sometimes be a matter of finding the right seller. I like to visit the gift shops at nature centers, wildlife refuges, and parks. They carry books specific to the state, region, or habitat type where they’re located (plus, buying from them helps a good cause). Continue reading
Marsh marigolds are blooming in the soggy bottomlands along the Baraboo River. I was on the 400 Trail in southern Juneau County this morning, looking for birds, but I kept finding wildflowers, too. The sky threatened rain, but nobody seemed to care. American redstarts sang in the trees, a pair of wrens chattered in the brush, and in the distance a pair of sandhill cranes gave a unison call.
I paused to photograph a chokecherry in bloom. At least, I thought it was a chokecherry. Because my purpose was birdwatching, I had a bird book, but no wildflower guide in my pack. Continue reading
Any naturalist afoot in Wisconsin this month is looking for wildflowers and finding plenty. Every week brings another “birthday,” as Aldo Leopold called a species’ first blossoming of the year. Along the Baraboo River, I can look forward to a changing array of woodland, wetland, and prairie plants flowering from spring through summer.
And this spring and summer, as I do every year, I will look up and try to memorize the names of all the plants I don’t yet know. Continue reading