Wednesday, January 2, 2008

This One Goes to Eleven

Top Ten Nature Moments, 2007 Edition

Nature is around all the time, and I try to pay attention as often as I can. Here I list the the ten most memorable events from 2007 that strengthened my connection with the natural world. In many instances it was an opportunity rather than a singular happening (mostly because I'm wishy-washy), so I typically chose the situation rather than a moment.

01. 17 Mar - starting this blog.
While you could argue sitting inside in front of a computer is the antithesis of "experiencing natural moments," I'd argue the process of writing reinforces the experience. In writing I'm forced, or better, allowed to relive those moments, reminiscing over the details while putting them in context of a greater scheme. Hopefully sharing some of these moments allows others to join in.
Read my first, out-of-the-blue, non-introductory, post here.

02. 30 Mar-02 Apr - a late winter (early spring?) trip to Vermont.

An American Robin perches on a very thin
headstone in a historic cemetery in Stowe, VT.

The wife and I dropped off the child with the grandparents and headed to Stowe, VT for a long weekend. During our trip we not only indulged in excellent Thai food, browsed local art galleries, visited Ben & Jerry's and the city of Burlington, but we spent a considerable amount of time snowshoeing up Smuggler's Notch and cross-country skiing on some groomed (some ungroomed) trails, always birding and nature-watching.

03. Spring and Summer (various dates) - landscaping our yard.
During the winter months we start preparing our gardening and landscaping activities, but it's the getting-down-and-dirty aspect that really ties us to our land. It's especially rewarding when we see the birds and insects using the native plants for food and shelter (not so much when the deer, rabbits, and groundhogs eat the plants).
Read some descriptions here, here and here.

04. 26-30 May - Summer trip to Arkansas.

A foggy view from the top of Mt. Magazine,
the highest point in AR.

Annual Arkansas trips are a must to visit family, but it's also a great place to be to get outdoors. From the Ozark Mountains to the Gulf Coast Plain, it's no wonder it's called "the Natural State." This summer (and coming from NY, May in AR qualifies as "summer") trip included a trips to a couple spots I'd never visited before.
Read about my trip to Bald Knob NWR here.

05. 10-11 Jun - camping in Stony Brook State Park.
A birthday camping trip, the first camping trip for our three-year-old, was long overdue. Falling asleep to a bubbling stream, waking to a bubbling Louisiana Waterthrush, and spending all day with nothing to do except hike through a deep gorge, watch the birds, butterflies, caterpillars, fish, and mammals interacting in their environment, and identifying all the plants we could was a great way to "Simplify, simplify, simplify."

Stony Brook boasts numerous waterfalls and
swimming holes. Added perk: they're dog friendly!

Read more of the story here.

06. 14-21 Jul - vacation in Chincoteague, VA.
Trips to Chincoteague Island, VA and the nearby Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge have been part of my annual cycle since I was about six years old; this year was no exception. A wonderful place to reconnect with the barrier island ecosystem (this year's undertaking: Forster's vs. Common Tern identification).

Assateague Island's ecosystem: classic barrier island.

07. 15-18 Aug - trip to the Pacific Northwest.

The Pacific Coast Rainforest, on Whidbey Island, WA.

Work-related, but happily for me that means it's related to the natural world. Two extremely different habitats in the same day (Great Basin Desert and Coastal Rainforest), clearly too short to really immerse oneself in anything, but a chance to appreciate wondrous diversity.

The Great Basin Desert, near Yakima, WA.

08. 28 Oct - First winter finch arrival in this (possible) superflight year.
A couple of days after putting out the feeders and who shows up? An Evening Grosbeak! An amazing way to revitalize "yard birding." Incidentally, this was my first submission to "I and the Bird."
Read the post here.

09. 18-23 Nov - Fall trip to Chincoteague, VA.
This time I was meeting my folks and sister alone, my wife and daughter headed to visit her family. Without toddler obligations I had more time to get out and bird, which was stellar. Highlights were a flock of White Ibis and a huge number of Red-breasted Nuthatches, which is related to the winter finch irruptions mentioned above.

A flock of White Ibis hanging out with Great Egrets
(they're there, I swear!) at Chincoteague NWR.

Read more about the Red-breasted Nuthatch invasion here.

10. 27 Dec 2007 - chasing birds with friends.
What started as a "routine" plan to try and find some winter specialties turned out to be much more, at least in an internal, reflective way. We dipped on some, or more accurately, most of the target birds, but the birds aren't necessarily what birding is all about.
Read more here.

And a bonus event:
11. 31 Dec, 11:40 PM - hand-entering my 2,500th checklist into eBird.
I had already compiled my Top 10 before this happened, but this may be my proudest "natural moment" of the year so I had to add it. I've been entering eBird checklists since before "eBird" existed (at least in a public venue), but I have yet to take advantage of uploading batches of "old" checklists. Instead, I've hand entered checklists regularly, some collected much less formally than others, but useful sightings nonetheless. I spent a few extra minutes on New Year's Eve to enter a couple missed ones from the year when I realized I was a couple shy of 2,500.

And why is entering data into a computer a natural connection? Because every one of those checklists was gathered from time spent observing and appreciating nature, either alone or with friends, either formally or casually, either from my living room window or in the field. Wherever, whenever, and however, nature is there for observation and appreciation, and that is what I'm pursuing - at work, at home, and here, online.

Best wishes for 2008!

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