Nature Notes ~ Summer 2018
Let's Go Jump in a Lake!
Hello summer! Already in the 90s, Denver's way too warm for me. When I was a kid growing up here, I don't remember it being so darn hot, especially in June. Maybe I was too busy running through the sprinklers or splashing in the neighborhood pool to notice. Or maybe climate change is really doing a number on the Earth's weather patterns. I have a feeling it's more of the latter.
It's time to take the necessary steps to lessen humanity's impact on the Earth. Whether it's stopping the use of chemicals in our yards, planting native wildflowers, taking shorter showers, or driving less, every positive step makes a huge difference!
It's also time to be like the loons and cool off in our natural waters, whether it be swimming in a beautiful lake or wading in a nearby stream. For me, being in and near the water brings back such fond memories of spending time with dear friends and family. It was so refreshing to take a dip in John's Brook on the way back from a lunchtime walk. Or jump in a lake and squeal with delight because the water was so chilly! Or just relax by the river and catch up with a good friend.
So in the spirit of summer, I wish you many wonderful days enjoying our clear natural waters, watching your flowers grow, and hiking in the amazing outdoors. Wherever our warm weather adventures take us, let's have fun, stay cool, and give back to nature whenever we can!
Enjoy and happy summer!
Do you recognize the fish in the loon's reflection above? Click here to check it out!
Flying J Ranch Hike
Flying J Ranch has a lovely loop trail overlooking a clear mountain pond, pretty wildflowers, and a sweet little stream. The forest primarily consists of old-growth lodgepoles, ponderosa pines, firs, spruce, and aspen. I was in seventh heaven! Not only because I was spending time in this nurturing forest, but because it was relatively cool with temps in the 70s. Plus, compared to the open space in Parker where I live, everything at Flying J Ranch was sooo green!
During my hike, I found amazing signs of resilience along the trail, like these plants and trees rebounding from fire. A few years ago, an area near Conifer had damaging forest fires due mostly to intense hot, dry weather, a heavy fuel load, and possibly a careless person.
When I worked for TNC years ago, I helped out on a prescribed burn crew during stewardship workdays in the summer and know how important fire is to many ecosystems. It can also be very dangerous, especially in the arid West. With high winds and a parched understory of grasses and plants, wildfires can rage out of control in a flash. Thankfully, the area below, like Yellowstone after many years, is now rebounding.
Another example of nature's resilience I saw on my hike is this spruce tree. It's growing sideways, and appears to be thriving with all the new growth! Something must have fallen on the young tree and it has learned to adapt. This was so inspiring to me. We must never give up! Whether it be overcoming a physical set-back, finding a forever home, or conserving our beloved natural world, one step at a time. Let's stay on the path! We can do it!
Image Spotlight: A Moth Disguised as Poo?
A few years back, I was commissioned to create an illustration of the moth species, Terachidia binocula. This moth was new to science and just recently discovered at Huffman Prairie, a managed natural area on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.
I visited Huffman Prairie more than once to try to catch a glimpse of this little creature guided by expert lepidopterist, Roger Zebold, but we weren't lucky enough to spot one. In order to capture the correct color and pattern of the moth, I worked from collected specimens at the Ohio Museum of Biological Diversity.
So the really neat thing about this moth is it's disguise. The wings are an iridescent ivory color marked with areas of deep olive brown. When the moth lands on a wildflower and folds in its wings, it looks just like a bird dropping! Being mistaken for poop, it protects itself against predators. How cool is this!
I watched two really neat documentaries on PBS recently; one on hummingbirds and the other on butterflies. One of the shows called Nature referenced butterflies as "flying flowers" which I thought was so descriptive of these magical creatures. Many butterflies really do look like flowers that fly! Seeing this TV show was perfect timing because a butterfly painting is on my list to paint soon! This also reminded me that it's the perfect season to plant seeds to nurture the beautiful life all around us!
Let's grow more wildflowers for our winged friends - the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds! Check with your local nursery, garden club, or native plant society for advice on the best wildflowers for your area to help your little flying buddies. Around here, Fairy Trumpets and Prairie Larkspur are very popular among my winged friends! And they're hardy and beautiful, too!
So here's to enjoying summer time! Thanks for celebrating nature with me!
Please share your favorite native!
What's your favorite native flower that helps our winged friends thrive? By sharing, you may inspire another reader to plant something new this season!
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With love and appreciation for the natural world, I'm inspired to share how plants and animals are connected to one another, to their ecosystem homes, and to people around the world. I bring into visual form the concept of biodiversity and the unity of all life. I hope my art helps you feel your own special connection to the land, the water, and all precious life on Earth. In our connection, lies hope. ~ Rebecca