Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wildflower photos published in nature magazine

Two of my wildflower photos have been used for an article in the Spring 2016 issue of The Conservationist, a quarterly publication of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County (in Illinois). The article, called "Spring Woodland Wildflower Guide," was written by Scott Kobal, an ecologist I know from my days at The Morton Arboretum.

Now is the best time to learn about spring wildflowers, so if you're at all interested in reading the article, visit the following website to get a copy of the magazine. They also have digital versions, which are free.

http://www.dupageforest.com/District_News/The_Conservationist/The_Conservationist.aspx

Friday, March 18, 2016

Whip-poor-will Road (an account)

In birding there are wonderful moments. They happen all the time. But sometimes there are multiple moments that accrete into a singular experience that defies words. “Magical,” perhaps? Cheese. But why bother searching for words where none are needed?

Anyway, such an experience was had in Knoxville as I sat in my car at the end of a silent, forested road to listen for a whip-poor-will. It was just before dawn. And while I sat there, glancing at a dark blue sky bordered by black trees, I was lulled into a peaceful, almost dreamy state of mind. I was about to close my eyes when suddenly a pair of Barred Owls began conversing in the woods to my left. The exchange was brief, yet energetic. Owl romance? Maybe. But I won’t speculate as to what they were discussing; that is their business.

For a time things were quiet again after the owls stopped vocalizing (with the exception of a cardinal, whose periodic yawning of a few notes sometimes broke the silence). And then, something unexpected—a low, confident hooting. A Great Horned Owl. I say “unexpected” because the Barred Owls were very close, and the former have been known to kill the latter. I found myself scowling at the bloody-feathered thought when suddenly a friend drove up, quickly shutting off her lights. I got out of the car, and together we listened for the whip-poor-will.

By now the owls were quiet, and the dawn chorus was just beginning: cardinals, robins, a phoebe. I checked the time: 7:09, nine minutes later than when the bird was reported calling the previous morning.

We cupped our ears, kept listening. Nothing.

And then, at the strike of 7:11, of which a nightjar knows nothing, we heard him: That unmistakable churning out of “whip-poor-will whip-poor-will whip-poor-will” into the purple air. It rose off the wooded slope and elbowed its way through the dawn chorus to greet our ears, going on for nearly a minute.

Though for me, it went on forever, too.

eBird report: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S28377954

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Update on the new chapbook

I'm happy to announce that the new chapbook is nearly done and that orders are now being taken! The cost is 5 bucks, which includes shipping. I'm also happy to reveal that partial proceeds will go to Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, a very special place in my community.

Please email me if you are interested in purchasing the book.

FYI: The book contains 20 randomly themed poems (love, nature, happy, sad, etc.) as well as other bits of writing. To make up for the relatively small amount of material, the book also contains wonderful artwork by Stephen Lyn Bales, Vickie Henderson, Bryan O'Blivion, and Kyle Sturner, along with photographs by Melinda Fawver, Bill Foster, Barry Spruce, Kelly Sturner, Jimmy Tucker, and myself.


Thank you to everyone who preorders the book. I REALLY appreciate the support!

Jay

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Brown-shaded Gray

I love this time of year, when first-of-spring things mingle with last-of-winter things. This morning I've juncos, finches, and siskins zipping about the yard, winter birds not quite ready to return to their breeding grounds. Beyond them, down in some wet spot in the woods, newly awakened chorus frogs and peepers are crying out for mates. They'll come, and an orgy will ensue--you can be sure of that. And then there are the less noticeable beauties (all around us, if we're looking) such as this Brown-shaded Gray moth, watching me silently from the patio window as I go about my morning. Soon this cryptic critter will flitter off to do whatever it is such quiet, mysterious things do (probably sleep on a tree somewhere, if I know anything at all) and I'll be sorry to see him go. Thankfully he'll return at dusk--along with the bats and Barred Owls--when he and others like him cling to the house like little impermanent ornaments to bask in the artificial lights. Call me crazy, but I really look forward to seeing them.