Sunday, December 20, 2015

Winter Greetings...

 Winter greetings.  It is time to breathe deeply and relax before the next round of holiday hits us again.  Honestly, I am not one for shopping or conforming to all of the holiday expectations. Instead I am enjoying these images that make me happy and relaxed.  Maybe you can catch a moment of peace here, too.

The Marblehead, Ohio light house is decked out in holiday array.
Someone has gone to great pains to decorate the top of the Marblehead light.  It is quite beautiful, and better yet, it required no effort what-so-ever on my part. 

Huron Light
Marblehead isn't the only Lake Erie town with a light.  Huron has a more modern-day light at the end of a long pier.  This is an excellent hang-out for birders. Rafts of Red-breasted Mergansers were recently noted here.  It it has been known for rarities, too.  Everything from Sabine's Gull to  Purple Sandpipers have made appearances at this jetty. 
Awesome sky light-
It can get windy out at the tip and sometimes I enjoy watching the clouds go by from my car. It is restorative. Relaxing. I don't have to chase every bird, sometimes I can take in the total picture and just know- things are good.  My birding friend Jim McCormac was out in the weather on this particular day, and you can read his report from the point  if you like.  Click here  Yeah, I was getting over a bad cold and stayed in my car. It was nice and warm.

Lorain Light
 Same day, different light house.  Lake Erie sat gray against a backdrop of blue and clouds cart-wheeled across the sky.  Lorain was hosting some rare gulls that day. I missed them too, but I really didn't care.

Marblehead Lighthouse 
 We've come full circle.  Back to the place that feels like home to my heart.  I may have been born a flat-lander, a child of the the mid-Ohio farm fields, but this beacon calls "home" to me.

Wherever you wander this holiday season, my wish is for your happiness.  Enjoy nature, and may you enjoy time with your loved ones.  Do me a favor and take them outside for a bit to see our magnificent natural world!

Happy Holidays- however you choose to enjoy them!

Friday, November 6, 2015

News from Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills State Forest and Park are arguably the most beloved of Ohio's natural areas.   Thousands upon thousands of people visit Hocking each year to commune with nature, view wildlife and hike the hills. Unfortunately the Ohio Division of Forestry looks at Hocking as just another "resource" to be timbered, mined or drilled.

Our dear friend, Paul Knoop, one of Ohio best known and well-respected naturalists, the National Natural Areas and Preserves George B. Fell award recipient for 2014 wrote to me today of his grave concerns for our State Parks and Forests. 

Paul's story starts here:

"The Keifel Road cut was a 20 acre section of Hocking State Forest that was put out for bid and sold to a local timber cutter earlier this summer. This cut is just down the road from our home so I was very familiar with the area, a ridge top with a community of old pitch pine mixed with older growth hardwoods on the adjacent slopes. Older pitch pine ecosystems are rare in Hocking County and I feel they should not have been cut. 

The bigger issue is the cutting of all the big oak trees, one with an age of 250 years plus (a chestnut oak). This tree started to grow before the Declaration of Independence and before Ohio was declared a state. Hardwoods of this age are rare today and common sense would say "leave it alone" to finish out its life. This tree weathered 250 winters and summers, warded off insects, diseases and numerous other maladies that impact live trees. This tree was a champion, it had good genetics and passed its strong traits along in bushels of acorns that were produced during its life time. Only we humans could defeat it and it was a chain saw and fifteen minutes of time and the old monarch came crashing down.

Many of us feel it is a criminal act to cut trees of this age but they are being cut on a regular basis in all Ohio state forests.These forests belong to all the people of Ohio and should be thought of as living museums and treasures for all of us."  Paul Knoop, Jr.

Doesn't Paul's writing raise a level of awareness and concern?  How does cutting down Old-growth trees in tourist areas help Ohio's economy or secure a better future for our children?  We've been told Ohio's State finances are doing fine, so why are we selling off our parks' and forests' trees?

Our highly visited parks and forests create annual tax revenue for their counties by attracting thousand to visit and view the most scenic areas in Ohio.  Who will come to Hocking to see the stumps?  This old giant served its ecosystem well for over 244 years, but now it will become pallets or pulp wood.  Is this the Ohio you envision for our children and their children?

Ohio has no shortage of timber products being produced on private land owners' property.  Why are we allowing our State to destroy some of the best natural habitats at a time the world is calling for an end to deforestation?  Short term profit is not a long term plan. We can do better. 

The Ohio Ornithological Society and seven other organizations are calling on our Governor to stop this needless cutting in our parks and forests. Help us protect our natural heritage. Please join us and send your letter of support to:
Governor John KasichRiffe Center, 30th Floor
77 S, High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215-6117

Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall Colors, Flagging invasive species

 If the recent rains haven't knocked all your fall leaves to the forest floor, this weekend may be your last chance to take in a color tour. Or if you have travel in mind, here is a link to a fall color travel map.

An Ohio forest in full Fall display.
 Here in Ohio we are lucky to be a part of that small percentage of the world which experiences these beautiful colors of leaves changing from green to yellow, orange and reds in response to cooler weather.  An experienced color watcher can develop a feeling for the composition of a woods by its colors.  Yellow is expressed by Hickories, Eastern Hop-hornbeam, and Hackberry.  Beech leaves turn to the warm color of copper.  Sassafras trees are total show-offs,  likely to range through color expressions of red, yellow and orange! University of Tennessee  offers a nice fall color chart, you can download here.

Fall is also a good time to identify invasive plants in your landscape.
 This photo documenting stunning pinks and reds dominating the fall forest, makes me wish I were just a little less forest-wise.  While most people enjoy this as a lovely display of color, land managers see this as a brewing problem in our natural areas.  The pink and red coloration is the tell-tale sign of a nasty invasive, non-native plant: Winged Burning Bush, Euonymus alatus.  It comes out the landscape plantings and spreads into natural areas. Unfortunately, for all its beauty, it becomes an aggressive colony which can quickly out-compete the woodland flowers and native shrubs.

Michael Woogerd attacks non-natives.
Since non-native plants get their competitive edge over native plants by holding their leaves longer in the fall and greening up first in the spring, those are ideal times to assess your natural areas and plantings at home.  If something appears excessively robust this late in the fall, that maybe a good indicator to take a second look!  Michael Woogerd, land manager for North Central Ohio Land Conservancy, attacks all of the Burning Bush which has crept onto land trust properties with great prejudice.  It can't hide its true colors in the fall!

Winter Creeper, a menace in green.
Some invasives are not so showy; they calmly head into winter in their glorious green. Winter Creeper, another euonymus, Euonymus fortunei is a particular problem at my own home.  It was the legacy of the previous owner who planted it as a "nice ground cover." Too bad it doesn't stay on the the ground!  It is given to climbing up trees and throwing seed to the wind. It is probably on every invasive list in the U.S.

Winter Creeper over-runs a natural area at Lakeside, Ohio.
Given a little room and some time, Winter creeper will gobble up any and all ground vegetation.  It has even strangled my Hosta specimens at home!  Ohio's delicate ephemeral flowers of the forest, like Trilliums and Spring Beauties, don't stand a chance against this "creep"!  Since this photo was taken, we have removed a portion of the Winter Creeper from this flagged transect. I plan to monitor which spring flowers will respond and reestablish themselves when given the opportunity.

Spring flowers will be a great reward for the little bit of work it took to remove a section of that nasty Winter Creeper!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Battle Ahead

Today I am in our nation's capital city, Washington D.C.

A naturalist could hardly feel more out of her elements than here in the city, amongst honking taxis, navigating lanes of traffic and a gauntlet of valets at the hotel.  But I am here, for a purpose.

The Battlefield of the First Bull Run at Massassas, VA.
But few miles from Washington lies a peaceful scene, the first battlefield of our nation's Civil War. The fields outlying today's Manassas are a welcome rest from the hustle of the highway.  The wind blows softly though the high grasses. The tinkle of ground crickets belie the horrors of war this National Park commemorates.

This land set aside speaks to us of our nations history and past struggles.  It is easy to think politics are not a part of a naturalist's life, but we should each feel compelled to speak up against the movement to sell off our nation's great lands and parks.  These places not only commemorate our past, but the are also the front lines for a modern day battle.  The fields of Manassas have found new life and purpose as a urban oasis for grassland birds and wildlife.  This unintentional by-product brings new meaning and urgency for protection from the encroaching world.

Grassland Conservation is now a part of the mission of this National Park.  It is a habitat of historic proportions. In addition to the grassy fields, there are also large swathes of woodlands, shrub lands and streams which are a part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  Manassas battlefield is designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Audubon.

More over, it is an important people area.  Here we can undertake to study the manner mankind and nature each handle its affairs.  This site of an epic and bloody battle scene has been transfigured by a kindly Mother Nature.  I like what she has done with the place.

A single gnarled juniper remains.
On the field remains a gnarled tree, still fertile with fragrant juniper berries.  This lone sentinel bears witness to our horrific past and leans gently toward the future.  Let us stand up for these reservoirs of nature all across our great land.  What some might consider "wasted" undeveloped land has a greater importance to our history, both natural and man made. 
"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community."  Aldo Leopold 1948

Friday, October 16, 2015

Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania is ensconced within the lovely Allegheny Plateau. It is a portion of the LEAP (Lake Erie and Allegheny Plateau) study area sponsored by The Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  This week, LEAP had a training workshop at the Jennings Environmental Center and our field trips filled our hearts and minds with fall beauty.

The Jennings Prairie features Shingle Oak, Quercus imbricaria.
 When I arrived, my first thought was, "A Prairie?  You've got to be kidding me?"  I felt fairly assured in my belief that prairies are not a natural part of the Pennsylvania landscape.  Well, I was mostly right.  A native prairie in Pennsylvania is a rarity. That is exactly what made this area worthy of protection as the Jennings State Park.

Blue Willow- an unusual prairie component.
Blue Willow, Salix myricoides ("myricoides" means: like bayberry) forms small stands in this wet prairie formed from clay soils. It seemed to be an unusual component for a prairie, and a plant I have only previously seen in Ohio fens. Its attractive blue leaves are wider than most plants in the willow family and do resemble the leaves of the bayberry.

A Memorial wall for Ohio born botanist, O.  E. Jennings
This unique botanical area was discovered by Otto E. Jennings, a Pennsylvania botanist who was born in Ohio and attended OSU.  He was legendary in these parts and the Jennings State Park was named in his honor.  Follow this link to learn more about him.
Blazing star- the "prairie"giveaway!
 Jennings discovered this prairie when he found a large community of Blazing Stars, Liatris sp.  This photo shows the seed head in fall, but the link above takes you to an excellent photo of the purple flower in full bloom.  It is a standard for Ohio and Indiana prairies, but the plant is considered a rarity in PA.

 Another interesting component of this wet prairie is the Massasauga rattlesnake.  One was seen just early last week, but it was likely headed toward hibernation.

Botanist and land managers working on a rapid forest assessment.
 The workshop held at Jennings dealt with assessment of natural areas.  Our group which comprised of land managers, botanists and ecologist from both Ohio and Pennsylvania headed out to the woods to put our knowledge to work.  We enjoyed assessing this high quality Allegheny forest at Wolf Creek Trail which is part of the Western Pennsylvania Land Conservancy's holdings.

Wolf Creek at Slippery Rock, PA.
I'll leave you with a photo of the the colors along Wolf Creek Trail.  Nothing I can say will enhance the beauty this natural area already provides of its own accord.  Get out soon and enjoy a natural area, even if you are only able to assess it by the beauty which you behold. 

Fall is here...

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Go take a hike!

October is the perfect time to take a hike in the woods.  The fall temperatures have been favorable, not too hot and not too cold. Fall colors have not peaked yet, but each day the show keeps getting better and better.

Extra parking at the old Clear Fork Ski Resort.
If you like to hike in the fall, here is an event you won't want to miss. The Grand Opening of the Clear Fork Scenic Trail will be held on Saturday Oct. 17th.  Mark your calendar and head towards Butler, Ohio to take advantage of this special opportunity.

This stream bed glistens as the colored leaves fall.
North Central Ohio Land Conservancy is opening up some very special trails that were not previously accessible by the public. These locations are now being decorated in fall's finest colors. The springs are springing and the trees are standing a little taller as Richland Public Health announces this big event.

Chief trail hiker, Eric Miller.
The trail opening is the culmination of 25 years of careful planning and a few fortuitous mistakes. Since the 1990's, North Central Ohio Land Conservancy has been piecing together this trail from Butler (and the B & O Bike Trail) to Malabar Farm.  Our chief trail hiker (and CEO) Eric Miller is inspecting every step and has personally raked and leveled off a lot of those miles. Major props also go to Larry Smith, Michael Woogerd and Zach Pocock for all of their labors and time spent with trail volunteers.

Rattlesnake Plantain, Goodyera pubescens
Special efforts went into siting those trails. One can easily see a huge colony of orchids,  like the pictured Rattlesnake Plantains. Their stunning striped foliage is quite visible in the fall.  You'll have to come back again in the spring to see our colony of hundreds of Showy Orchis,  Gallearis spectabilis (or Orchis spectibilis.) Right now they are more like "Orchis incognito".  Their foliage and flowers are hidden in the fall as they rest under the soil until next year.

Fall asters are abundant.
 Fall is still a great time to see floristic displays.  Many of our Ohio native prairie plants, like the asters and goldenrods, are still putting on quite a show.  The prairie portion of this Clear Fork Scenic Trail was featured during Flora-Quest 2015. Guy Denny and Larry Smith led a group on a hike through the grasslands of NCOLC.

Look for the signs.
 Come on out and look for our signs. The trails are well marked and often tagged with orange streamers.  We only ask that you stay on the trails and enjoy the views. While the trail was 25 years in the making, it took eons to arrange much of this scenery. Now we want to share it with you. Details are in the poster linked below.  

We'll look forward to seeing you there!

Download this poster

Friday, October 2, 2015

Got Grouse?

Male Ruffed Grouse in Adams County 3-15-13  photo by John Howard

Today Mark Behrendt reported to the Ohio-Birds list-serv about a lack of ruffed grouse in Zaleski.  If successional habitat alone created grouse, Zaleski should be teaming with them.  ODNR even advertises "Excess Lumber For Sale to Public at Zaleski State Forest" on their Forestry website.

There is no shortage of successional habitat in Ohio.  The private lands which provide the 95% of timber products produced in Ohio are all successional.  Private property owners are certainly encouraged to manage and produce timber products on their lands- if they choose.  However, old-growth habitat is arguably the rarest habitat in Ohio. One would hope our State Forests would be managed for the needs of the future, not as the 1950 models dictate. Let's leave the timbering to private land owners. Ohio needs our contiguous forests to provide for biodiversity- like box turtles and bobcats.

Mohican Forest has one small parcel of old-growth trees protected as a State Nature Preserve.  Other lands at Mohican are schedule to be timbered this year.  Timbering will not help Mohican's tourist base. Those successional lands created by timbering will not produce grouse either, as we have not
seen a grouse in Mohican for at least 20 years.

This year Hocking Hills' Forest came very close to losing a large old stand of oaks and mixed hardwoods to the saw.  However, the Hocking Hills Tourism Association challenged Forestry's idea of management and the timbering is on hold for a year.  Tourists now have a little time to go and enjoy a last view of these trees, in case Forestry decides to follow through with the cut next year.

Ohio Ornithological Society (the owner of this list-serv) as well as Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Mohican Advocates, Ohio Environmental Council, Flora-Quest and North Central Ohio Land  Conservancy have been joined by the Hocking Hill Tourism Association in calling for the  rededication of Ohio's State Forestry System.

Looking towards better forest management. Photo by john Howard

If you are under the mistaken assumption that Ohio's Division of Forestry is strictly protecting forests lands, you need to know O.D.F. is timbering them, too.  Let's find better ways of raising funds for local schools and fire departments than cutting down our natural heritage for a short term
profit.  The tourism tax dollars in Ohio's most visited State Forests far out produces timbering as an economic driver.

"Hugging" our old trees makes good economic sense and drives eco-tourism and commerce.  More importantly, I've noticed birds like trees, too.

Nature will provide for natural succession, it always has.

Cheryl Harner
OOS Conservation Chair

More info on cutting in Mohican?  Go here.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fog Play at Meadowbrook

Over due for a few restorative moments, I rose one morning and headed out to Meadowbrook Marsh in Marblehead, Ohio. Although I arrived mid-morning, the fog was just burning off the prairie and the marsh was completely socked in.

The woods had an enchanted forest feel.
Taking my time to soak in the view, I moved about slowly, enjoying the light-play on the branches and foliage.  It created the feel of an enchanted forest.

The giant bur oak stands guard at the edge of the prairie.
 The fog filled prairie crept up silently under the giant bur oak.  Trees speak to me of time and resilience.  Season by season, year by year, they have so much to teach us about patience and time.

The prairie flowers take form in a mist.
 The prairie golds glowed against the silvery haze. With no breath of wind for movement, their dance must wait.  The still, silence and fog took center stage. It was as if- morning was on pause.

Spiders' webs took on an ethereal air.
 Glowing in the subdued light, every spiders' web shone apparent. Each limb and leaf held  remnants of the finest weave. Their shear numbers were staggering.

Beads of water gather on grass.
Every stem of grass gathered dew, until the fog lifted. Glistening beads were all that was left of the earth-bound cloud. The feathers of Indian grass stood tall, while droplets weighed down the finer branches of Switch grass. Light reflected off a million droplets to create an illusion of  spun glass.  

The last of the fog disappears over the marsh.
Finally, as the poet Carl Sandburg penned,"The fog comes on little cat feet."
His fog "sits looking over harbor and city."

Our fog preferred marsh and prairie, until it...  slipped...  away.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hellbenders and Hemlocks- Flora-Quest 2015

Flora-Quest is still a major topic in my conversations... mostly folks asking, "How did it go?"

Honestly, all the Flora-Quests in the last 9 years have been amazing, informative and fun, but this year's was almost magical.  Whether the  good fairy of ecology put us under a spell or we just had the precisely the right combination of people, presenters and places to go, the results were superlative.

Greg Lipps studies a "first capture" Hellbender. Photo by Jeff Belth
Seriously, it is a no brainer that getting Greg Lipps involved in any program means it will be informative and fun.  He is Ohio's #1 cheerleader and head scientist for all things amphibian (and reptilian.) He said he couldn't promise he would find Hellbenders, but instead he found two.

The aquatic team returns victorious. Photo by Jeff Belth.
Both aquatic teams had a session in the field with Lipps and Josh Dyer and a second session with Semroc and Rosche, the dragonflies experts from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Needless to say these folks couldn't have been flying any higher with their successes in the field.  The guides' ultimate goal was to convey an understanding of how Hellbenders and dragonfly larva are bio indicators,  creatures which monitor water quality in our rivers and streams.

The Clear Fork State Nature Preserve hike. Photo Michelle Goodman.
It is the flora of Mohican that makes all the difference: trees protect watersheds. The giant old-growth trees (some of them 300 year old!) in the Clear Fork Nature Preserve survived all those "bad old days" of deforestation and erosion.  Those were the days before the 1940's and the Civil Conservation Corps,  a government program set people to work during the depression, restoring the lands denuded by poor farming and forestry practices.

Cheryl Vargas, Chris Riley and Mary Lee Minor study the forest floor. Photo Michelle Goodman.
Steve McKee opened Flora-Quest with a program that discussed the uniqueness of the Mohican forest and its history of development, deforestation, reclamation and the ongoing efforts to protect Mohican from poor industrial practices and timbering.  Much of the story can be found in the excellent short video (15 minutes)featured during Steve's progam:  Mohican: The Long View.  

Mohican still has much to offer for nature lovers, and should be preserved for the Hemlock Forests, pine plantations, unusual breeding bird populations, mammals and all of the biota which occurs here.

Mohican's Little Lyons Fall of the Appalachia to Canada tour.  Photo by Mark Dilley
The best waterfalls in the area were featured on two tours: Appalachia to Canada and The Waterfall Tour.  The Little Lyons Falls is likely the most hiked trail in all of Mohican.  People love to see this well-known site, but our guides were able to show the lesser known botany and bugs on the trip in and out.

The Barn at Malabar served us well. Photo by Ed Lux
The second day of Flora-Quest convened at Malabar Farm State Park.  We gathered in the barn and split into groups for tours of the Big House, the Farm, the Doris Duke Woods and the wetlands at Junglebrook Trail.
Jim Berry speaks of the Bromfield family in the cemetery at Malabar. Photo by Ed Lux
We had the good fortune to have Bromfield historian and past Malabar Farm manager Jim Berry as a Flora-Quest guide.  Jim is recently retired from the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in New York. He is  an expert birder and excellent botanist and his love for the workings of Malabar Farm is well-known.
Steve McKee orients his Doris Duke Woods group on the steps to the Big House.  Photo Ed Lux
The Doris Duke connection to Malabar is a lesser-known story, but one of great interest.  In fact, Steve McKee's brother, Tim McKee, made a lovely short video about the woods and Bromfield.  You can find that story here:  The Woods at Malabar.
The Junglebrook wetlands in bloom. Photo by Mark Dilley
The little known Junglebrook wetlands at Malabar was one of our attendees' favorite sites. It was an explosion of floristic color and featured a wealth of Ohio's wetland experts and naturalists: Mark Dilley, Jim McCormac, Lisa Rainsong, Larry Rosche and Judy Semroc!  Everyone found something of interest on this trip.  I even learned later that a few individuals sneaked back for a second tour!

Thank you again to all the fabulous Flora-Quest guides and our patrons.  YOU made it magical by your attendance and participation.  Thank you, too, for all the wonderful photos provided to me by our talented attendees! It is said a picture is worth a thousand words- and what a story that first photo tells.

Let me leave you with one important thought: our watersheds matter.  Let us not be doomed to repeat past mistakes of poor farming practices and short-sighted forest management.  Let us cherish the surviving natural areas we have and reclaim more areas for nature, for the health of our watersheds and for future generations.

To learn more about the Hellbender- click on this link below to see an incredible video by the US Forest Service on their efforts to protect this prehistoric animal. It was the one featured by Greg Lipps in his program for Flora-Quest 2015.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Flora-Quest 2015 finale

For those who know me, the fact that I devote a good part of my year organizing Flora-Quest comes as no surprise.  Flora-Quest was the brain-child of Jim McCormac, and Paula Harper and I provided the first "boots on the ground" so to speak.  From 2007-2015 it has been a good run, many of those years were held in Shawnee State Park and Forest.  This year it was time for something new, and Flora-Quest 2015 moved to Mohican Forest and Malabar Farm State Park.

Maidenhair Spleenwort, photo by Steve McKee

With a name like Flora-Quest one might expect flowers.  Most of our Quests have been flora-centric, however this year we focused more on eco-systems. We wanted to convey a better understanding why the hemlock trees and hellbenders are as important as rare ferns, like this Maidenhair Spleenwort, and Roundleaf Orchids.

Mohican's own Steve McKee,  photo by Jennifer Kubicki
But a long time ago I learned what was really important at Flora-Quest: the people.  The incredible guides who share their knowledge.  The fascinating attendees - often guides, authors, conservationists and professional naturalists- who bring so much collective intelligence to our programs.  Many of them are old friends and even more of them have become our new friends.

Long-time guide, Bob Scott Placier and friends. Photo  by Mark Dilley
Bird Banding, photo Zach Pocock

Many of our guides have dedicated their lives to environmental and outdoor education.  Bob Scott Placier recently retired from a long career teaching Dendrology and Ornithology at Hocking College. He is Flora-Quest lifer,  and a guide I can always count on to pitch in and help out in the wee hours of the morning.  There is nothing in the world to capture one's heart like seeing a tiny wild bird, up-close and personal. Bob makes that happen.

Judy Semroc, photo by Jennifer Kubicki
One of our sponsors, The Cleveland Museum of Natural History sends people to our event.  Guides Judy Semroc and Larry Rosche are experts in the field.  They literally wrote the book on Northeast Ohio's Dragonflies. Their combined abilities identifying birds, bugs and plants is legendary.

Greg Lipps and Hellbender, photo by Jeff  Belth.
This year we went to -hellbender- in a basket, or rather a plastic tube. Greg Lipps, Ohio's foremost expert on these endangered, prehistoric aquatic creatures brought some fauna to our flora program. The health of our watersheds matter and the flora we love filters the run-off to our rivers.  Eco-systems are important and we must protect entire ecosystems to protect individual charismatic species, like hellbenders.
Lousie Warner, Chis Riley, Clyde Gosnell 
 For me, the addition of interns or Flora-Fellows took the entire event to a whole new level.  We provide students and young professionals the opportunity to meet the movers and shakers in the world of conservation.  Pictured here, Chris was sponsored by The Stratford Ecological Center (represented by Louise and Clyde.)

Tim McNiven, intern Nicole Hoekstra and Greg Blum
 Nicole Hoekstra brought her many talents to us as an intern, and she was funded by two wonderful individuals who have attended past Flora-Quests.  Greg and Tim wanted to provide this educational opportunity to someone who would not be able to attend without a scholarship.

These are the people of Flora-Quest: intelligent folks who want to share their knowledge and love for nature. People who care.

Mark and Michelle Goodman-  photo selfie
Especially nice for me, my daughter and son-in-law helped by coordinating the efforts of those interns. They also remind me why bringing people closer to nature and learning about our environment really matters.  We do this, not only for our own enjoyment, but rather for future generations.  We are growing a constituency for our parks and forests.

Sure, we all feel better when we breath clean air. We are happier when we are trotting down a wooded trail. My friends all want to have a personal encounters with a bird, butterfly or beetle. Flora-Questers are the people who help us ensure these special places are here for the next generations as well.

Special thanks to all those who have sent in photos!  I rarely have time to get decent pictures during the event. This blog is strictly the result of using the photos I have been given to share.  There were 20 fabulous guides, 4 awesome interns, 1 energetic emcee, 4 excellent speakers- and I will hope to share more of their photos in the future.  For now I would like to say thank you to the paying participants; YOU make this event happen.  "Thank You."