Species Parade, Week Seven

Back in the day, bird identification came with a gun, not a pair of binoculars. Of course, the explorers and scientists didn’t have

Townsend Warbler

Townsend Warbler

a Peterson Guide on their desk. They quantified and qualified what would later make it into the Peterson Guide. Nearly two centuries ago, naturalist John K. Townsend was just out of graduate school and headed west on an expedition from Missouri. He found birds alright: “I think I never before saw so great a variety of birds. All were beautiful…and my game bag was teeming with its precious freight.”

Forty five species this week, highlighted by a Townsend Solitaire and Townsend Warbler.

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Mammals:

Black Tailed Jackrabbit

Cottontail Rabbit

Mule Deer

Coyote

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Rock Squirrel

Brush Mouse

Skunk

Birds:

California Gull

White American Pelican

Grackle

Townsend’s Solitaire

Townsend’s Warbler

Yellow Warbler

House finch

Red Shafted Flicker

Tufted Titmouse

Black Capped Chickadee

IMG_0960Mountain Chickadee

Bushtit

Common Raven

Scrub Jay

Magpie

Turkey

Dark-Eyed Junco

Ringed Turtle Dove

Rock Dove

Western Kingbird

Mountain Bluebird

Meadowlark

Rufous-sided Towhee

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Chipping sparrow

Song sparrow

Black Headed Grosbeak

American Kestrel

IMG_0980Turkey Vulture

Prairie Falcon

Red-Tailed Hawk

Killdeer

Starling

American Robin

Common Poor Will

Common Nighthawk

Alder Flycatcher (perhaps. See at right.)

 

Species Parade, Week Five

Babies have left the nest. You can hear and watch them still begging their parents for food, beaks open, wings shivering. They can be clumsy flyers, sometimes struggling to land right on branches. The ravens, in my observation, are the loudest and klutziest of newbies. Raven siblings hang out together all summer and beyond.

Thirty-nine species this week, highlighted be a Lazuli Bunting and by flushing and getting a good luck at a nighthawk.

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Mammals:

Black Tailed Jackrabbit

Cottontail Rabbit

Mule Deer

Coyote

Rock Squirrel

Brush Mouse

Birds:

House finch

Tufted Titmouse

NIghthawk

NIghthawk

Black Capped Chickadee

Bushtit

Common Raven

Scrub Jay

Magpie

Turkey

Dark-Eyed Junco

Nighthawk in flight

Nighthawk in flight

Ringed Turtle Dove

Rock Dove

Western Kingbird

Lesser Goldfinch

Mountain Bluebird

Meadowlark

Rufous-sided Towhee

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Chipping sparrow

Black Headed Grosbeak

Lazuli Bunting

House wren

American Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Great Horned Owl

Ferruginous Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Killdeer

Starling

American Robin

Cooper’s Hawk

Common Poor Will

Common Nighthawk

 

Real live streaming

Never has getting outside been a more conscious, deliberate activity. But when you get out, where goes your brain?

ins outsideAssuming you’re alone, do you focus on emptying your mind and being ‘present?’ Or, do you let your mind flit restlessly from topic to topic, like a bushtit from branch to branch? Or, are you a student of the wilderness, treating a hike like a laboratory learning session?

Mindfulness and meditation are all the rage.  The smart phone app, Headspace, has more than a million subscribers and offers them scads of guided meditation sessions. Of course, you can take it with you into the back country. What’s more, research seems to quantify the benefits of calming and emptying the mind.

But I’m also a fan of Zen’s psychological foils: train of thought and stream of consciousness.IMG_1912

Whilst sitting at a desk, the writer’ mind is laboriously pedaling forward, hell bent to the task. On a hike, that same mind gets to coast, pedal backwards, and play with the footholds. The best article leads, epiphanies, leaps of connection, and rewrites come to me during a hike, not while sitting purposefully at the desk. I have confidence that this dwell time will yield results, if I come to it without purpose and just let the mind do its thing.

Which brings us back to research.

I heard this week that video games may soon be prescribed for kids with Attention Deficit, since research is supporting the notion that the screen time can gain their focus and calm the kids’ harried brains. Gawd. Why can’t doctors write prescriptions for hiking boots and binoculars? I’m betting kids couldn’t help but benefit from their own, more organic form of dwell time. And if they get dirty, tired, and sore in the process? All the better.

Your thoughts are always welcome.

Mountain conversation oddly civil

While my Maine friends lobby to have Governor LePage impeached and the Pine Tree State stays mired in a certain degree of discontent, discord, and intransigence, folks in Utah seems downright ducky and team-spirited.

snowIt might have something to do with the pro-business environment and one of the strongest Republican majorities in the country. (Utah’s House and Senate are about 80 percent GOP. Governor Gary Herbert is Republican.)

Over the past year or more, the ski resort, Snowbird, has wanted to swap several hundred acres with the national forest land in order to expand its resort. I started to shake my head, imagining all the glad-handing and winks as the deal moved through the process. And, it’s true. By Maine standards, the process has been incredibly smooth and speedy.

Alas, it’s being challenged by concerned residents in Utah county and beyond! Hooray.

Here are some links to the situation as it stands currently:

Mountain Accord is a consortium dedicated to “ensuring the long term vitality” of the Wasatch Mountains.

Fox News covers the process.m

Herald newspaper reports on what’s at stake.

Thanks to my friend, Dave Jarvis, for reminding me of the topic and the current public discussion.

 

Backpacker as a museum piece

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

John Muir

 

Reality is scary and boring.

ins outsideWilderness is beautiful and tiresome.

Getting Out is serene and challenging.

Getting Out, however, might not rate when stacked against the clean, quick, and quantifiable routines offered by technology and domesticity, That’s especially true if those routines have become automatic. Everyone knows the power of habit.

Somewhere between frontiersmen times and now, getting out into the wilderness was a default recreation for many of us. It started with the woods behind the house and expanded from there. Getting out offered a chance to indulge our escapism, to affirm our belief in self-sufficiency, and to connect with something bigger than ourselves. We got out not because we had to, but because we wanted to enjoy what wilderness offered. We learned to crave it.

IMG_1277These were routines:

Hefting a backpack.

Summiting a peak.

Pitching a tent.

Breathing hard.

Getting grimy.

Testing sore muscles.

Following maps.

2Listening.

Hunting grouse.

Swatting mosquitoes.

Catching fish.

Building campfires.

Feeling.

 

Forget about the black footed ferret, now WE are endangered. Soon enough, the camping family may be in museums (That’s camping without television and toilets. RVing does not count.)

Next month, the big Outdoor Retailer expo at the Salt Palace is throwing a kickoff gala, a “Party with a Purpose.” The purpose? “To tackle the growing divide between young people and nature.”

John Gookin has been watching that divide. He’s the curriculum and research manager at the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander, Wyoming. He was also my instructor for a NOLS trip, decades ago.

John Gookin

John Gookin

Like many of us, Gookin hung out in the woods a lot when he was a kid.

“Now, Moms don’t say, ‘Go outside and play.’ They say, ‘Go to your room and play,’” he said.

Fewer and fewer students come to NOLS with any previous backcountry experience, he told me. “They are in more of a raw state and they aren’t as fit.”

Indeed, wilderness education programs (WEPs) like NOLS are becoming increasingly crucial for introducing concepts and habits which many of us learned as kids of camping parents: Leave No Trace, simple living, environmental stewardship.

Research shows that WEPs can and do have a significant impact on how students view the wilderness and what they do with that information. But as researcher Besty Lindley of Utah Valley University found, most NOLS students already come with some wilderness-minded ideas and ideals. The course “enhanced a preexisting love,” said one interviewed student.

"To inspire a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts."

“To inspire a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts.”

In other words, NOLS and similar WEPs are like liberal arts colleges, mostly the domain of the privileged.

How do we reintroduce wilderness to the masses when the trend is one of urbanization? How do we help them learn to crave it?

  • Do we reach them through retail? (We report from the Outdoor Retailer.)
  • Outreach? (We talk with Estee Rivera Murdock of the National Park Service.)
  • Public education? (We check out the idea of “Forest Monday” in schools.)

And, contrarily, is all this effort worth it? What happens if we walk away?

To Note: Meet someone who’s bucking the trend. My son, Beau Gaughran, documents his travels and adventures through photo and film. Check out his Instagram account here.

Check out related content on our sister site, BestHorsePractices: The umbrella idea of Beasts of Being, making horses newly relevant and recognized in the 21st century.

 

 

Exploring the divide: Inside Outside

I always figured folks viewed the wilderness like I did:

IMG_9718A place to cherish and protect.

A place for quiet observation and reflection.

A place where humans could be brought to their knees by the elements or by simple wonder.

As I get older and as our population swells, I find myself craving wilderness more than any other “thing.” More than dinners out, more than bookstore browsing, more than coffee, chocolate, or beer.

I have to get out there, else my sense of being and sense of normalcy start to fray.

Credit goes to my parents and kids for instilling and perpetuating this outsider habit. Growing up, I thought it was normal. But lately, it’s becoming clear that our family is an exception to the rule in the greater American society. Fewer and fewer people want to get out. And when they do, it’s not necessarily for peace and quiet.

I talked with Ester Rivera Murdock of the National Park Service. She’s studied the connection (or lack thereof) between Arizona communities and their magnificent parks.

I visited with John Gookin, an award-winning wilderness educator for the National Outdoor Leadership School. He said fewer baland fewer students come to NOLS with previous backcountry experience.

I see trends: paved “hiking trails,” ranchers swapping horses for ATVs, a Jeep-filled, dusty, and air-conditioned Moab.

At the Outdoor Retailer, later this summer, the Outdoor Foundation is hosting a huge Outsiders Ball. It’s a party with a purpose, “the one night our industry comes together around one common cause: to tackle the growing divide between young people and nature.”

Are us Outsiders increasingly outside the norm?

Beginning today, UtahOutsider will consider and wrangle with the issues surrounding the growing disconnect between society and wilderness. Look for Inside Outside columns and the accompanying image (below). Stay tuned!

ins outside

Species Parade, Week Two

IMG_8133I’m reading Wallace Stenger’s Beyond the 100th Meridian, John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West.

In 1883, Powell was telling Westerners and prospective Westerners: “Gentlemen, you are piling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights, for there is not sufficient water to supply the land.”

Bit prophetic, eh?

In the very hot (and very cold), there is a stillness with animals as they conserve their bodily resources of energy and hydration. There seems to be less going on in the hills and fields around me. They appear at watering holes, like the one I’ve set in the yard (see right), and come out more at dawn and dusk.

We count 36 species in our second weekly tally of birds and mammals in and around UtahOutsider. We saw them, heard them,

A squirrel sounds the alarm from on high.

A squirrel sounds the alarm from on high.

or did both in our approximate area of the Oquirrh mountains, at 5,800 feet as well as on the road to southern Utah. On a trek to Delta, we saw at least a dozen hawks lining the road, perching on telephone poles or irrigation lines. Raptors continue to confound me. Some day, my ID skills will improve! And we saw the stunning Steller’s Jay on a nearby backcountry trek to about 8,000 feet.

I did finally identify the owl whoo’s been floating above me whenever I pass through a specific gully. It’s a Great Horned (see right).

Follow our weekly updates to appreciate the outstanding opportunities for wildlife spotting ‘round these parts!

Mammals:

Black Tailed Jackrabbit

Cottontail Rabbit

Mule Deer

Coyote

Rock Squirrel

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Birds:

House finch

Titmouse

Chickadee

Goldfinch

Bushtit

Red-Tailed Hawk

Osprey

Common Raven

Scrub Jay

Magpie

Turkey

Dark-Eyed Junco

Hawks (Red-tailed, Ferruginous, or Prairie Falcon. I'm hopeless.)

Hawks (Red-tailed, Ferruginous, or Prairie Falcon. I’m hopeless.)

Ringed Turtle Dove

Mountain Bluebird

Lazuli Bunting

Meadowlark

Rufous-sided Towhee

Rufous Hummingbird

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Chipping sparrow

California Quail

Black headed grosbeak

House wren

American Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Common Poor Will

Common Nighthawk

Great Horned Owl

Northern Oriole

California Gull (because I went to the dump)

Killdeer

Steller’s Jay

 

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