It’s been quite a week with so much work and such that it’s been hard to find time to write. I may perhaps have too many jobs and volunteer positions, but I love them all!
I especially enjoy my Master Naturalist group and its members. I get a lot out of observing their personalities and learning their interests. Sometimes they are a bit quiet, but always in an endearing way.
Last night’s chapter meeting dealt with bats, a topic our speaker, Cindy, is very attached to. I wrote a lot about her talk in the Master Naturalist blog, so here I’ll just say I learned a few bits of information I didn’t know before, and they will stick with me.
We’ve decided to activate the website for The Hermit Haus, our meeting center at the former First Christian Church in Cameron. We are interested in knowing more of the history of the church, and would love it if any of you know about events or people of interest that happened during the long history of the church.
While you’re there, we appreciate suggestions for the website and blog, since it’s new. We are excited that we may get to host the El Camino Real Master Naturalist meetings and class there next year. Anyone else want to rent out the building for meetings? The upstairs is all set! The downstairs still needs air conditioning, though!
Hey again. I’ve got some more deep thinking coming up, but first I have to say it’s hard to get anything at all done this time of year, because there’s always something interesting and deceased laying around.
Our first thing isn’t dead, just empty. That’s the tiny nest the baby finch tried to fall out of yesterday. It’s so small and exposed! But birds successfully fledged.
Awkward photo of awkward bird nest
The next best is bigger and more protected.
But at least two fledglings ended up on the porch this morning!
I’ll tell you! It gave me a happy surprise yesterday, and who doesn’t love a happy surprise? I especially love one that leads to nature observations and stories.
I was leaving work around 5 pm, as workers tend to do, and turned left out of the parking garage. That road leads between two sets of offices, but is shady and has lots of trees. It once was a lovely park-like area, and some parts of it still are.
I looked ahead after making the turn and saw something in the road. Usually, you see deer, since the herd that’s always lived in the area is still here. But, no, this looked more canine.
As I got closer, I ruled out dogs. As I got even closer, I easily ruled out coyotes by looking at the tale. It was a native gray fox! You usually don’t see them when it’s light out, but we were in a dim area.
The fox seemed very happy. I soon realized it was not alone. In the proud little fox mouth was a sizable, but lifeless, striped skunk (also native). I knew foxes ate small mammals, but I didn’t realize they’d eat a skunk. Heck, this skunk was hard for Foxy to carry.
I lucked out, and there weren’t any cars behind me, so I got to watch the fox trot along an office building, probably looking for a place to settle down to a nice, but potentially stinky meal. I didn’t get to grab the phone camera, but no doubt you enjoy the fact that I can’t draw for squat.
It’s by Peter Wohlleben, the German forester who wrote The Inner Life of Animals, which I reviewed recently. It’s the third volume in a trilogy that started with The Hidden Life of Trees, which I promise to finish and review, too.
You’ve just got to like Wohlleben, because he does not give a hoot if others think his ideas are not quite “scientific” enough or if he’s personifying non-human entities. Nope, he just calls things as he sees them, and seeing is his specialty. He doesn’t just look around his forest or anywhere else he visits, he carefully observes from the macro level to the micro level, and from the far past to the present. He doesn’t hesitate to ponder about the future, either. To me, this is the kind of teacher we all need, because he inspires all his readers to think beyond stereotypes and actually pay attention to what’s going on in front of them.
All the scientists out there will also appreciate that he backs up his observations with recent scholarship and provides us with a hefty bibliography for further exploration.
Why is this important?
As I was reading this book, I began to get a sinking feeling of concern. Wohlleben chronicles all sorts of ways humans have interfered with the interconnected web of life on this planet, and how the consequences are very far reaching. Changing the types of trees in European forests meant some organisms had nowhere to live, while others could march in and find new homes (or eat new things). Not having enough shade in the forest also meant huge differences.
Note: this post is about the history of a single county in north Florida. I am quite aware that there were civilizations, settlements, and migrations throughout North America long before events I talk about here. In fact, my own ancestors were in Florida long, long before Alachua County was settled.
While we were visiting Gainesville, the county seat of Alachua County, Florida, I bought this slim book (published in 2015), mainly because I wanted to know what a “biohistory” was. The subtitle of this little gem, which was written by Francis William (Bill) Zettler, is “The story of life in north central Florida through the ages.” It turns out the book is based on a popular class Zettler taught for many years at the University of Florida.
He uses the term “biohistory” to refer to his method of presenting the biological features of the area in chronological order. It turns out to be very enlightening and makes me want to read a biohistory of other areas where I’ve lived.
One thing that helped keep the book short is that Florida was underwater a long time, so there were no dinosaurs to talk about. It also helped that Florida was hard to get to, so animals, as well as humans, took their time showing up once the land mass revealed itself. I’d never thought of that!
But eventually there were lots of giant mammals (megafauna), like huge sloths, beavers, mammoths, and shovel-toothed elephants (cool). They did fine until the humans finally showed up and killed them all pretty quickly, leaving only animals we see today (deer and such). There were also camellids and different kinds of horses, which all escaped to live in Asia and South America.
What a happy moment it was yesterday when my friend Sean Wall bought me a painting I’d commissioned from him. What makes this painting extra special is that the painting was done with natural pigments he gathered in the wild (other than the white; I think that’s acrylic).
I’ve written about Sean before, so check this link to learn about the book he recently published. It has lots of his art, which is what I call hippie folk art, but I bet he has another name for it. I have a poster of one of the trees he painted, which will go in my office in Cameron, once it’s redecorated.