Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fall Changes

The leaves are largely down, cluttering the yard with their presence. That drives some people crazy, and they feverishly work to gather them up, and pile them on the street, for the refuse company to cart away.

Then, in the spring, they buy various mulches, soils, and such, to spread around the yard to help things grow.

I'm not sure I understand it.

I do clear the leaves from part of the yard. Just around the house, near the foundation, I sweep the leaves away. I do that, because, in my experience, undesirable wildlife will take up residence. I do want to keep the mice and such away, and so do work to manage the potential habitats that I consider too near the house.

OTOH, I put out seed in the feeders. I have several, and fill them regularly.

So, some animals I try to attract, others I try to keep away (at least from my immediate environment).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend

I won't be in town again until late Saturday - I'm very much looking forward to seeing the changes in my landscape then. Until then, I'm following the weather reports.

32 degrees, partly cloudy - sounds a lot better than the weather we're having in Cleveland. I've been bundled up, both indoors and out, for days.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Autumn in SC

This year in Rock Hill is a riot of color. My neighborhood is aflame with reds, yellows, oranges, and such. The weather conditions are perfect for fall leave color changes - dry, followed by cool weather. If it's too humid, or not cool enough, the leaves won't show such a dramatic change. The first year I was in SC, it was unusually wet - mucho hurricane activity, and relatively warm. I thought the color changes (or, rather, the lack of them) were the norm.

This year, I'm seeing the more customary color changes. It's been quite interesting to see the color changes of different tree and bush species. As far as I can tell, more of the members of a single species change color within a fairly narrow spectrum. As many of these species are new to me, it's been a revelation.

The evergreens are more evident, now that the deciduous species aren't masking them.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

GIS Overview

I found a site that provides the occurrence of species by location, and displays a map. It's a widget (hot-keyed small application), used mostly by Macs.

I'm going to have to spend some time learning how to use this tool, but I can see that it has some applications for my classes. I've used GPS in the past, and would like to teach students how to integrate the science and the social studies better.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What is a Naturalist?

I've spent much of this class trying to learn more about the community's around me, and, in some respects, I have felt a failure.

Other participants can confidently identify species, knowledgeably discuss the life cycle of organisms, and uncover minute specimens from habitats I would unthinkingly bypass. So, I have followed behind, trying to play catch-up, competing with fellow students who started a light-year ahead of me.

And, often, failing, at least in my eyes.

I'm terrible at bird identification. They usually move too fast for me to focus. By the time I'm looking in the right place, they're gone. I'm usually wearing my reading glasses when the cry goes out “look, over there”. By the time I've secured the glasses, and turned around, it's “hasta la vista, baby!”

There are only a few birds on my list, and most of them are almost impossible to miss (cardinals, crows, hawks). The remainder are those I am familiar with, as the birds also are seen in Ohio, my native state.

I'm even worse when it comes to identifying bird songs. I have tinnitus, a constant hissing sound in the background of my world. I can't hear the higher pitches, even with amplification. If I could just persuade the little darlings to “mike up”, I'd be fine.

I've had the most success with trees. I have a number of oaks in my landscape, and they are relatively easy to identify by the shape and other characteristics of the leaves. Still, I find them easier to identify once they're dead - like a pathologist, I'm most comfortable with the formerly-living. Once off the tree, I can examine them up-close, even putting them under the microscope or hand lens. After our second trip, I surprised myself by the ability to spot a loblolly, even at a distance. Part of the improvement is that I spent enough time to make the distinction between various types of conifers.

I've been working too many long days - in the last month, I've seldom reached home before 6 pm. That has limited my useful time outside; it becomes dark too soon, and I can no longer make out details.

But, I have found other attractions than sight identification. I have learned to recognize the rustling sound the local rabbit makes as he scampers across my front lawn. Always from the north part of the property to the south; always following the same path. I've never seen more than one at a time.

The various insects make their presence known at night.

At first, in the dark, it seems very still. After dinner, the local car traffic is less; although, as I sit there, I can make out even distant traffic.

After a while, I can hear movement in the bushes; sounds that I wouldn't even have noticed, seem very loud. Sometimes, if I sit there long enough, I can see small movements. It's hard to sit there very long without moving, but it's worth it.

I've been planning to take my telescope out for some star-gazing. Unfortunately, when I've had the time, the weather hasn't cooperated. Cold isn't the problem, overcast skies are. I may have to wait another few weeks, when the cold means less moisture, and viewing is better.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Enjoying a Different Ecosystem

I'm in Myrtle Beach, enjoying the SC2 conference. This year, I'm focusing on Chemistry sessions. I've collected copious posters and stuff. It's nice to be out of town, and knowing that I don't have to go to work tomorrow. By Monday, I'll be ready to take up my life again, and march forward.