Friday, September 25, 2009

Asters and Goldenrods

A walk around our wetland was absolutely gorgeous. The purple and yellow blooms of New England Aster and Riddell's Goldenrod were breath-taking. I could have stayed out there all day. The blossoms were covered with tons of insects. Butterflies galore, orange Soldier Beetles, wasps, bees, moths, etc... I will cover some of my finds in another post.

This New England Aster was phenomenal. It was almost as tall as me, with the lovely purple blossoms cascading down the stem.

It really pleases me that out wetland was installed in 2000, and it is such a haven for wildlife. The plantings have really taken off, with this year being a real showstopper for the fall flowers. Native plants can really improve an area. It shows that if you build it, they will come!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Midwest Birding Symposium-Killdeer Korner

THE Ohio Young Birders Club presents: KILLDEER KORNER
Activities for Young Birders of all ages!

Saturday September 19, 2009 is Young Birder’s Day at the Midwest Birding Symposium! Join us from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Wo-Ho-Mis (across the street from South Auditorium). Admission is free, but donations will be accepted. Our friends from the Ohio Young Birders Club and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory will offer the following activities:

Preschoolers can make their own pair of binoculars and learn how to use them. They can also build a bird feeder out of a variety of common recycled items, and make an owl puppet or mask.

For older young birders, they can get their creative juices going by participating in the Midwest Birding Symposium Junior Duck Stamp Contest. Participants will paint a portrait of their favorite duck, goose, or swan! Lily Sprang, winner of this year’s National Junior Duck Stamp Contest, will be leading the activity along with her brother Eli, an Ohio Junior Duck Stamp winner and national runner-up!

All the budding artists will receive materials introducing them (and their parents and teachers) to the Junior Duck Stamp Contest. When the portraits are finished, artists can choose to take their art home with them or enter it into the contest. Prizes will be awarded for the top three contest entries.

For the teenagers, The Ohio Young Birders Club will lead a bird walk from 8:00 – 9:45 a.m. Saturday on the Lakeside grounds. They will meet at the front entrance to the Hotel Lakeside.

For more details, contact BSBO at 419-898-4070.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fringed Gentian

Jim Davidson and I visited a few fens near Springville, OH on Labor Day weekend. One we had to work to find, but was rewarded with a gorgeous stand of Fringed Gentian, Gentianopsis procera.
We got a tip they were just starting to bloom. Jim found the first one and called me over.

Finally, we stumbled upon this beauty. It was fully open and a brilliant Pepsi-can blue. A blue you rarely see in nature. Here is a side view.

And here is a top view. You can see the fringes on the petals, where it gets its name. A flower that was well worth the two hours of searching for the fen.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Increasing Diversity in Outdoor Recreation

I teach environmental education to thousands of school age children here in Indianapolis. Our public schools are full of diversity with children from a large variety of races and creeds. They visit our park for educational field trips with the school. The children will step off the bus with their eyes full of wonder. Familiar with only their urban backyards, many have never stepped foot in a woods before their initial park visit.

They are fascinated to see a Cardinal up close at our bird feeding area. A bird, that sadly I even tend to dismiss at times because it is so common, becomes a miraculous thing, bright red and loud. They excitedly run up, pointing towards it, eager to share their find. "A cardinal, a cardinal" they exclaim.

Our field trips almost always involve a hike. We discuss what does and does not belong in an Indiana forest. Many have grown up with Animal Planet, so I always get "monkeys" as one of the answers. I tell them we do not have monkeys here in Indiana, but they can listen for a bird that sounds like a monkey. We have a pretty reliable Pileated Woodpecker that will sound off. You should see their eyes light up when it does! And sometimes we are even treated to a close view. What a crazy looking bird and it lives here in Indianapolis? That fact really opens their eyes.
We talk about bugs and plants and we may get lucky and spot a slumbering raccoon. But no matter what, we can always hear the birds. And because I am a birder, I rely on them heavily with my programs. They laugh when I do my imitation of the silly Eastern Wood Pewee song. They love hearing the Acadian Flycatcher or "pizza bird", as I call it. I tell them it likes to talk about pizza and they giggle when I tease them about grasshoppers and other yummy bugs as toppings. Many say "This is the best field trip ever!" Most children, no matter what nationality or race, seem delighted and engaged in the great outdoors.

But what happens when they become adults? Why do we lose their interest? They are showing fascination with the natural world as children, but when they become adults, we lose them. This isn't just speculation. Go to most birding event in the United States and look at the crowd. It is almost always predominently white. If we want to protect our natural world, we need to start finding ways to include everyone.

So what can we do to draw in a more diversified crowd? We should work together to find a way to engage other groups. The Black Swamp Bird Observatory has a wonderful workshop coming up Saturday, September 26th, Diversity in the Outdoor Recreation: The Many Faces of Conservation.

Here is the line-up:
The extremely talented Dudley Edmonson will be there with his breath-taking photography. His stunning images have been included in publications from around the world. Even if you cannot make the conference, you should check out his site. Gorgeous photos! He will be presenting "Outdoor Role Models: Black and Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places”.

John C Robinson has worked as a professional ornithologist for over 30 years. He has wrote numerous books and the entire text and computer code for the North American Bird Reference Book CD-ROM. How many authors can claim that! He will be presenting "Birding for Everyone: Changing the Face of Environmental Conservation Through Birding”.

Tamberly Conway and Maricruz Flores will be presenting “Latino Legacy: Improving Connections with Latino Audiences in Recreation, Outreach and Conservation Education Programming”. Ms. Conway is currently working on her PhD in Forestry at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas and her dissertation focuses on outreach and conservation education programming appropriate for Latino communities. Maricruz Flores is a mentor and team leader for the program “Amigos del Bosque” (Friends of the Forest). She is employed as Partnership Development and Community Outreach Assistant Coordinator for the Latino Legacy community outreach program.

Many of you might be in the Toledo, Ohio area for bird migration at Magee Marsh and the surrounding area. Please consider attending this important conference. More information can be found here.

Cardinal and Pileated Woodpecker photos by John Howard. Eastern Wood Pewee butt by me. :)