Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bring on the snow!

Buck-up you whiners and complainers, we live in Ohio! Ohio gets snow, and cold, and cold snow.  So snap-out-of-it and go visit the wonders that may be hiding in your own back yards!

Snow rollers!  the coolest thing to blow into town.
 I have lived in the land of cold and ice all my life and never heard of snow rollers before.  But they are here now, in a big way.  When I decided to go look for some today, I had to go no further than my front door.  Across the street in a local farm field were the grand-daddies of snow rollers.   These partial sno-men are created when wind blows loose, wet snow across sheets of icy snow pack.

Next thing you know, it is a virtual snow-man factory!  Lots of postings in the news and web if you want to know more of the science behind this phenomenon.  Google round a bit, OK? Here is an explanation by my friend, Deb Marsh at  Around the Bend Ohio or Jim McCormac's take on the event at : http://jimmccormac.blogspot.com/2014/01/snow-rollers-snow-rollers.html.  Very cool, indeed.

Corn-fed Snow Buntings the field next door.
This is my local herd of Snow Buntings.  I admit to visiting them daily and leaving offerings of corn and bird seed, just for the privilege of seeing their black-and-white wings against the snowy backdrop of winter fields.

Snow Buntings are birds from the high arctic, and like Snowy Owls, we seem to have more than usual number visiting Ohio this year.  Crawford County is over-run with them! It is a great honor to have them in our neighborhood, keeping company with the local Horned Larks.

If you haven't the chance to experience Snow Buntings in your own backyard, here is a little video for you. Yes, it is windy, and about -3 degrees.  Aren't you glad you can watch this from the comfort of your home?

Bottom line, quit complaining about the cold and get out there and experience winter!   Besides, some of the best things can be experienced from inside your heated car.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Be A Witness

Nature lovers are experiencing a near winter-Nirvana of  Snowy Owls sightings this year.  The good news has been spread far and wide --and by all means go forth-- and sear the memory of Snowy Owls into your brain.  Commit it to your memory, as these events may not happen again for another 70 years or so.  Or maybe never.

The Snowy Owl's winter visit to Ohio
Most years, Snowy Owl sightings in Ohio are rare. This winter has produced numbers for the record books.

Summer scene on Lake Erie sand bar.
If you admire birds and nature in other forms, please, go forth and fill your heart and soul with nature. Then prepare to be a witness.  Spend this summer luxuriating in those common sightings:  gulls on Lake Erie, great egrets fishing in clean waters.  Our lives are filled with everyday miracles that we take for granted.

Yellow Trout-lily blossoming in mid-Ohio woodland 
Plan your botanical field trips, whether they be across the state, across the county or as near as your local park or nature preserve.  Enjoy the dew sparkling on the spring ephemerals, for like the dew, flowers are soon here- and then gone. If you are one of the fortunate few who have seen the native orchids in southern Ohio, or the rarest of "daisies" in all our land: burn it into your memory bank. 

Monarch Butterfly 
For we know not when the time will come that our common and under appreciated forms of nature will no longer be common.  For years, we considered the monarch as child's play: easily seen and known to all.  But now, we lovers of lepidoptera fear the end of the migrating Monarchs. Last I read, the full number of the wintering flight in Mexico could be contained on a few acres.

If theirs is to be the fate of the passenger pigeons, we will be the ones called upon to retell the glory days of our childhood, when Monarchs were found in every field and ditch.

People in Beijing, China gather to see "sunrise" displayed on a jumbo tron screen.
See this photo and article at World Time
In a world where air pollution is so bad, sunrises are now broadcast on screens, toxic blue-green algae threatens Ohio waters and drought conditions are about to change agriculture as we know it in the U.S.A.  It is not just polar bears (and snowy owls) that will be impacted in the coming years.

John Muir spoke of a "love of wild nature in everybody."  E.O.Wilson similarly tells of "biophylia" or the human tendency to affiliate with life and natural processes.  If you have read this far, certainly you can relate. 

Those of us who love nature, may be called as witnesses.  There are children growing up in a world where they can no longer see a sunrise.  Children in Appalachian Ohio see their streams in shades of orange- the effect of mining run-off.  It is not just West Virginia with environmental problems.

If you love nature, it is time to "own it." Take time to admire natural beauty in whatever form you choose, but also make time to speak out, write a letter, or sign a petition.  Ultimately, if those of us who love nature do not speak up now, we will be called as witnesses to our children and grandchildren. 

This was once a beautiful world, with clear waters, blue skies and butterflies...


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Worth celebrating in 2014?

A simple first-day-of-the-year reflection, "What is worth celebrating in 2014?"

It has been said:

For me that translates to: trees, plants, birds, butterflies, my children, family, friends and parks.

Over and over, my photos repeat the theme of  land which has been "saved."  National Parks, state and city owned parks and land protected in trusts, all come to mind. But is it us who saves the the land, or this land which will ultimately save us?  

About 5 years ago I purchased a CD series for my octogenarian father.  We were about to travel across the country together and I hoped it would fill time in the car. Who knew that this epic production by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan would fill my heart as well? 

Money well spent, those CDs have been re-played many times over. Burn's prose build in me an anticipation for my next adventure, my next National Park.  Indeed, National Parks are America's Best Idea. Ask any of the numerous Europeans who have come to our country to visit these Meccas of nature: Yellowstone, The Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Cuyahoga Valley.

A Joshua Tree  (left) and rock formation at California's Joshua Tree National Park.

My latest trip to California provided an opportunity to visit the long anticipated Joshua Tree National Park. Of course, feasts of this order are best served up with friends and loved ones.

Queen of the Hill, J.J. Soski

Nearly a Nature Valley commercial: Jan and Hu Auburn

Our National Parks not only preserve the land, beauty and wildlife which makes this great country unique. Our parks also preserve many of our memories, of people and shared places. These unique sites must be kept safe for our future generations; they were already deemed worthy of protection.

Lined-up at Shenandoah National Park.
 The National Parks were closed for a brief, unfortunate period during the late summer of 2013.  When that closure was lifted, I noted people were anxious to return to our parks. This long line of eager patrons is not at the gate to Disney World or some exclusive resort.  It is the gate to Skyline Drive, the main corridor of the Shenandoah National Park, an "Eastern Park in the Western tradition."

My parents shared this park with our family when I was a mere child in the 1960's. My oldest daughter and I re-visited that experience in 2013. Unlike the rest of the world, very little here has changed.  

Shelly Soski Goodman smiles at the view 
If we value our children, our birds or butterflies, our land, it is time to protect them.  

Our natural areas, parks, beaches, forests should not be opened to the highest industrial bidder for mines, gas exploration or wind-power.  Public lands have a more valuable use for our society.  They hold our dearest shared memories, as well as our nation's greatest natural assets. Our highest and best use is to keep them intact as a gift to future generations.

Happy New Years!  What's worth celebrating in 2014? 
The National Parks are at the top of my list.   Let's all go visit a park and then, tell a politician what they mean to our family!