Natural Wonders

with Maggie Jones

In the summer of 1972, I wandered out of a newly rented farm house, looked up, and saw 2 red-tailed hawks soaring over woods and pasture.  They were so beautiful, so other-worldly, I was overcome with a desire to know everything about them.

Years later I became a wildlife rehabilitator and a falconer and was able to have close hands-on experience with them. Today that desire to learn about the natural world has only broadened and intensified. I’ll read some of my favorite biologists’ writings and occasionally include my own thoughts.

9 + 9 =

June 18th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
June 18th, 2024
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Once more from the the rich pages of Afield, Portraits of Wisconsin Naturalists, Empowering Leopold’s Legacy by Sumner Matteson, I’ll read the first part of the 15th Chapter about Joseph Martin Rose Sr. He was an Elder of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa  Indians, and a professor of Native American Studies at Northland College. He was born in 1935 and died in 2021. Next week, the final part of the chapter.

June 11th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
June 11th, 2024
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A story about a pair of Baltimore orioles fighting their own reflections in our windows, and how to bring that to a stop, introduces another 2 chapters from Frances Hamerstrom’s wonderful book, Walk When the Moon is Full, the May and June chapters, about the children watching a food-begging young great horned owl and fireflys over a marsh on a still moonlight night.

June 4th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
June 4th, 2024
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The final reading today from Chapter One of Sumner Matteson’s wonderful book, Afield,  Portraits of Wisconsin Naturalists, Empowering Leopold’s Legacy;  Volume One

We follow Increase Lapham during 10 days in the Penokee Iron Range, on foot, surveying for ore, his observations on Madeline Island, and then to Oconomowoc Lake, where he bought land (“Minnewoc”) for his family.

May 28th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
May 28th, 2024
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In part 3 of my reading about Increase Lapham, from Sumner Matteson’s book Afield, Portraits of Wisconsin Naturalists, Empowering Leopold’s Legacy,  we will travel with Lapham to the Dells of the Wisconsin, “one of the most interesting and remarkable localities in Wisconsin” and to his family home west of Columbus in Ohio, and up to Lake Superior and  the Apostle Islands, heading toward the Penokee Hills.  

May 21st, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
May 21st, 2024
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Reading for the second time  about Increase Lapham from the book AFIELD, Portraits of Wisconsin Naturalists Empowering Leopold’s Legacy. 

Briefly  I want to return to a topic we discussed during the recent pledge drive  with ornithologist Laura Erickson, who is the host of For The Birds. — and that is, bird friendly coffee, In her book 101 Ways to Help Birds she lists buying bird friendly coffee as the number one thing, that’s not an accident that she put that at number one. 

May 14th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
May 14th, 2024
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I’ll read again from AFIELD Portraits of Wisconsin Naturalists, Empowering Leopold’s Legacy by Sumner MattesonThe first chapter is devoted to Increase Lapham. Sumner writes, “Apart from Native Americans who were the first to know  Wisconsin’s natural history, there was one who many argue was Wisconsin’s premier naturalist – Increase Allan Lapham, – the first to promote the state’s natural history well beyond  the state’s borders.  Wiry, quiet and unassuming, this self trained scholar possessed an inexhaustible passion to understand and catalog the natural world.” 

This is a story well worth hearing, a mild mannered, deeply curious scientist born in 1811, who studied effigy mounds, was a founder of the National Weather Service, and had a botanical collection of more than 3 thousand plants, and did so much more.

May 7th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
May 7th, 2024
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Today I’m reading ornithologist Laura Erickson’s writing. She is heard regularly during Tuesday’s 8 o’clock hour “Second Cup of Coffee”, “Speaking for the Birds” and tomorrow she will be live on the air during our fundraiser. I read part of the introduction and closing of her book 101 Ways To Help Birds, with some thoughts of my own on what we have control over and what we don’t. We do have control over bird strikes on windows of our houses, and in her book Laura provides many many ways to remedy this problem that kills millions of birds each year. Be sure to look at lauraerickson.com where she has provided all of her 16 (!) books online to be read or purchased..she is a generous soul.

April 30th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
April 30th, 2024
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I read the April Chapter of A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, followed by Fran Hamerstrom’s Walk When the Moon is Full, also the April Chapter, both talk lovingly about watching and hearing the skydance of the American Woodcock.  We’ll hear the distinctive sounds the woodcock make during the skydance.  Leopold also writes about the benefits of Come High Water, when floodwaters keep one from obligations in town and no one can visit, and he talks about the tiny flower of spring, the draba, “a small creature that does a small job quickly and well.”, and he writes about the storm troops of the forest, the bur oaks, standing against the fires of the prairies, and the changes that occurred on the landscape when Europeans arrived and started to extinguish prairie fires.

April 23rd, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
April 23rd, 2024
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David Krier has written a fascinating essay about our water quality in our area.  David works to gather interesting facts, not just opinions. 

He touches on history of the Clean Water Act , history of land use in this area after European farmers arrived, and the resulting movement of soils from the ridges to the valleys, burying RR tracks , bridges, and farms below.

He describes  Aldo Leopold’s work in this time to save soils, and the history of management of our trout streams. And describes the volunteers  who monitor the quality of our surface stream water, what they measure, and ways today we are working to combat soil runoff- and lots more.

April 16th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
April 16th, 2024
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For the last reading of Eels, An exploration from NZ to the sargasso of the world’s most mysterious fish”, by James Prosek, published in 2010, we’ll return to the weir on the East Branch of the Delaware River in the Catskills of NY,  and to Ray Turner who has devoted his life to reading the river and the weather and the seasons, and makes his living by trapping native NA eels on their migration to the sea.

April 9th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
April 9th, 2024
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Reading again from Eels, An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World’s Most Mysterious Fish, by James Prosek. Today, parts of Chapter 4, More Tales of Taniwha,  and then pivot to a parallel subject in NZ to here in our Driftless Area streams, and a good change that might be on the horizon. Then I will move back to parts of Chapter 5, The First Taste of Freshwater, and then discuss some of what I’ve learned about the commercial exploitation of glass eels and elvers, (the early juvenile stages of freshwater eels lives), overharvested as tiny young, before they have any chance to reproduce.

April 2nd, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
April 2nd, 2024
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Today we will travel with author James Prosek to New Zealand, to see and hear stories about the largest freshwater eel, the longfin eel, anguilla dieffenbachii. These eels can live more than 100 years and weigh over 80 pounds. The longfin eel is only found there.  These stories are from Prosek’s book Eels; An Exploration,  from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the world’s most Mysterious Fish.

March 26th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
March 26th, 2024
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I’m reading from the book Eels, an Exploration from New Zealand to the Sargasso of the World’s most Mysterious Fish by James Prosek.  In Chapter 2, we will go to the East Branch of the Delaware River where an ancient huge weir is being maintained by one man, for the yearly and brief migration of freshwater eels to the sea.  He is  one of the few people in the US, who are allowed to legally trap adult eels on their migration to the ocean, and we will learn more of the life history of this amazing fish. 

March 19th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
March 19th, 2024
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Freshwater eels are today’s topic, a truly awe inspiring fish that breeds in the Atlantic and lives inland among us in our rivers and streams, sometimes for decades, then as mature eels, they move down and out back into the ocean to find their breeding gyre, the Sargasso Sea. 

March 12th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
March 12th, 2024
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Travel back in time, year by year; we are so blessed to be able to read his words, Aldo Leopold’s  A Sand County Almanac on the 75th anniversary of its publication,  2024.  This is one of my favorites, The February Chapter, Good Oak.  “Rest! cries the chief sawyer, and we pause for breath.”

March 5th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
March 5th, 2024
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I read the March chapter of Sand County Almanac, The Geese Return, and discuss the virtual speakers during Aldo Leopold Week, March 1 through 10.

This year, 2024,  is the 75th anniversary of the publication of A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold, and the 100th anniversary of the Gila Wilderness  which was designated the world’s first wilderness area on June 3, 1924. Aldo Leopold was a forest service officer in New Mexico and recognized the need to preserve this beautiful area of more than 558,000 acres in SW New Mexico and worked for its preservation. 

February 27th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
February 27th, 2024
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David Krier, a Wisconsin master naturalist,  writes about his life growing to love birds. He has suggestions on how all of us can enjoy birds more, including how to get involved with looking for chimney swifts in Viroqua this summer.

February 20th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
February 20th, 2024
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Ed Holahan sits in for Maggie and talks with Forrest Jahnke of the Crawford Stewardship Project.

February 13th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
February 13th, 2024
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Today I have an inspiring essay to read by David Krier about getting involved in Wisconsin’s Master Naturalist Program, wimasternaturalist.org . Find out how David discovered this opportunity and how it has enhanced his life. Based on the Master Gardener Program, this is a way to have the best teachers and fellow students in your life, learning about anything that interests you in the natural world. And don’t ever worry about not having enough skill to get going! 

February 6th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
February 6th, 2024
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This is John Muir’s true story of a day, exploring a huge glacier in Alaska, that became dark and dangerous. He was accompanied by a small dog named Stickeen, who wouldn’t be told to go back to camp. 

He wrote of how spent they were, at the end of the ordeal, from their efforts to survive; We were safe, and then, too, came limp weariness such as no ordinary work ever produces, however hard it may be.

January 30th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
January 30th, 2024
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I’ll be reading first from John Muir’s tales of exploring in August 1879 when he was 41, from his book Travels in Alaska, chapter 8. 

 Then we will  jump back in time to when Muir was 26 and exploring the Great Lakes region’s plants. He spent 2 years living in Ontario, in 1864 and 1865.  His first published writing was in the form of a letter he wrote to his professor about his delight in discovering the rare orchid calypso borealis. It was published in a Boston newspaper.

January 23, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
January 23, 2024
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We travel back to 1879 with John Muir in Alaska, exploring the Stickeen Glaciers; this one is called the Dirt Glacier. I’m reading from his book Travels In Alaska, published in 1915.

The challenge will be keeping up with him !

January 16th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
January 16th, 2024
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TWO MORE stories from Frances Hamerstrom from Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter.

Today the chapter Birds on His Shoulders takes us to the Snake River in Idaho during WW2.  Frederick’s first assignment during WWII  was at Mountain Home Air Force base.

Then the last chapter in the book, Biography of a Dancing Ground— This piece, if I had to choose only one of her writings to take to a desert island,,this would be it.

January 2nd, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
January 2nd, 2024
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Another hunting trip with Frances Hamerstrom from her book, Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter.
This chapter, called “Swamp Buck”, takes a side trip from the hunt for the big buck of her dreams, to her telephone party-line strategies and how she applies her crowded phone access tricks to minor hunting problems that arise in the field. As always , delightful.

December 26th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
December 26th, 2023
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Another hunting trip with Frances Hamerstrom from Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter.

The title of this chapter is “A sharp-tail  Hunt in North Dakota”.  Fran doesn’t give us the year for this chapter—I’m guessing it takes place, as the previous chapters have,  in the 1930;s . We will be with them in the badlands of N dakota. 

This is exquisite vast territory. Fran’s description of the landscape evokes the place as if we were there with them. 

December 19th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
December 19th, 2023
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Here are 2 more chapters from Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter; A Woman’s Place, and Is She Coming Too?

The Hamerstroms are 25 (Fran) and 23 (Hammy), years old when they head west to study under Paul Errington At Iowa State College.  Two more hunting stories from 1932.

December 12th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
December 12th, 2023
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From the  Wi. Conservation Hall of Fame;

“Married in 1931, the Hamerstroms forged one of Wisconsin’s most remarkable wildlife ecology teams. Research fellows under Aldo Leopold, the Hamerstroms became best known for their work with prairie chickens. “

But before they arrived in  Wisconsin, they lived in their native east coast.  In this chapter called “The Game School, How I Got Us In” from Is She Coming Too? Memoir of a Lady Hunter, we are with them in the first weeks of their marriage. They are living in New Jersey, going to school, learning how to raise game birds, following their ideas of how to move toward a life outdoors with plenty of hunting opportunities. This is not a school like you or I have probably attended.

December 5th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
December 5th, 2023
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This week a chapter from  My Double Life, Memoirs of a Naturalist by Fran Hamerstrom, one of my all time favorites of her writings.

 Called “A Letter from my Mother-in-Law”, we find her in the beginning of her life as a field biologist,  with her life long partner Fredrick, moving into a farmhouse that Leopold had arranged for them to live in, in Waushara County in the middle of winter,  no running water, no heat except the wood stove and no electricity.

November 28th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
November 28th, 2023
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Again we will enjoy a Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold published in 1949. 

This part of the November chapter called Axe in Hand,  delves into our biases when we walk into the woods with our axe, or more often now, our chainsaw. We choose what to cut and what to leave, what we favor and what we do not. Why do we make the decisions we do, working on the land?

 What I love about this chapter, and Leopold generally, is that he reveals his own thought processes. We are privy to his inner self,  weighing many different ideas and perspectives.

My thanks to the Aldo Leopold Foundation for permission to read this wonderful book. Please visit their website, Aldoleopold.org for some treats. They have a blog with many contributors that you will enjoy reading and the Phenology Calendar for 2024 is ready for mailing and packed with wisdom and observations for the whole year.

November 21st, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
November 21st, 2023
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I’ll be reading again from Is She Coming Too, Memoirs of a Lady Hunter, with  illustrations by Wisconsin’s own Jonathan Wilde. These are stories about biologist Frances Hamerstrom’s  hunting experiences throughout her life. I’ll be reading the short prologue where she writes that hunting ”is a long fascinating road leading to moments of ecstasy” and I’ll read the first chapter called “A Date To Go Hunting”  about a date to hunt ducks at age 15, with George Glover III.   

November 14th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
November 14th, 2023
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Another path today, we will head  to Costa Rica, flung way to the south and east by a Hamerstrom book,,Hamerstrom Stories,  recollections of the life of Hammy and Fran Hamerstrom. This book is filled with great stories written after both were gone, by fellow biologists, friends, family, students and interns, edited by their daughter Elva Hamerstrom Paulson.

In this book, I found a letter written by Alexander Skutch, a biologist who lived most of his life in San Isidro, Costa Rica. I’ve been aware of him for a long time,,not through the Hamerstroms but because of  a trip I made with a good friend to C.R. over the winter of 73-4. We will hear a wonderful letter Skutch wrote in 1947 to the Hamerstroms after he received a sewing machine from them in the mail.

November 7th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
November 7th, 2023
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When the days shorten and temperatures cool down, my thoughts turn to hunting and memories of wonderful experiences out hunting with friends,  beloved people, dogs and hawks, and I also think of Fran Hamerstrom’s stories about her hunts.  This book, Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter with wonderful illustrations by Jonathan Wilde, is what I’ll read from today;  Chapters ‘Mr Mannegold Gets His Chicken’ and ‘Buying Our Guns’

October 31st, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
October 31st, 2023
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I have the pleasure on this halloween to read you an essay written by one of Wisconsin’s premier bat researchers, Heather Kaarakka. She has a background working with many animals, but her great love is bats and we are all so lucky that she is working hard with the rest of the bat team at Endangered Resources at the WI DNR.  

October 24th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
October 24th, 2023
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Gathering Native Seeds-

Native plants, not the exotics from Asia and Europe that we favor so much,  are the homes of every stage of our native insect’s lives,,and our birds depend on these insects for their survival.  Our own survival depends on these inter-relationships.

But how to accomplish planting natives? It sure can sound like too much of a challenge; what plants to choose? where to find them?, how hard are they to get started and to grow them? Will I have to spend a fortune to do this? Gathering seeds is a great way to go.

October 17th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
October 17th, 2023
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I finish my reading of CrossingsHow Road Ecology is Shaping the Future of Our Planet by Ben Goldfarb. Ben’s eloquence and depth shine through in this important book.

October 10th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
October 10th, 2023
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Ben Goldfarb’s new book is  Crossings, How Road Ecology is Shaping the Ecology of our Planet. He has tackled a difficult and huge topic and delved into the not so obvious aspects of how our highways impact the world we and our fellow creatures live in. 

Today, I read from Chapter 7 –  Life on the Verge, Will the highway’s novel ecosystem save America’s most beloved butterfly or obliterate it? Perhaps  you may be as surprised as I am to hear what he has to say about the positive effects a highway running in the right direction can have on the monarch butterfly.

October 3rd, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
October 3rd, 2023
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Reading from Crossings, How Road Ecology is Shaping the Future of the Planet, by Ben Goldfarb; this is the second half of the introduction. I hope you remember Ben. He  is the author of the wonderful book Eager, The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why they Matter, which I read in 3 different programs not too long ago.True to form, Ben is telling fascinating stories. He thoroughly  tackles a difficult subject and gives us hope for the future. He  visits and describes  people who are working to remedy the ills that are presented by our roads all over the world. 

Sept 26th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Sept 26th, 2023
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Ben Goldfarb, who wrote the wonderful book, Eager, The Surprising Secret Lives of Beavers and Why They Matter has written a brand new book.  Crossings, How Road Ecology is Shaping the Ecology of Our Planet, addresses a topic that we all should think about; roads and highways, and the impact they have on wild places and wildlife. True to his upbeat and inquisitive ways, this book is a great read and it’s heartening to hear Ben’s stories about people who are working to create solutions to the problems created by our ribbons of asphalt.

September 19th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
September 19th, 2023
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I hope you can make a quick trip to Duluth’s Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, one of the world’s best hawk migration look-out spots.  If you can’t do that, take break at noon or in the afternoon, especially after a cold front has come through, get a friend and lie in your backyard and look up during this time of great movement of birds on passage, some flying over 4,000 feet and some right over the tree tops..good luck! 

September 10th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
September 10th, 2023
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Have you seen nighthawks recently in the early evening, on the wing soaring and darting after insects, accompanying the migrating dragonflies?

These 2 species migrations are 2 separate events happening in the same airspace and time, —perhaps like me you assumed the birds are eating the insects but it seems this isn’t true. I’ll have Northern rough-winged swallows, nighthawks and dragonfly stories today, with observations that are a delight from 1914 on the Tennessee River.

September 5th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
September 5th, 2023
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Today, chimney swifts; this is another contribution from David Krier. Dave is a gifted thoughtful naturalist, with an engineer’s sharp observation skills.  I know both Dave and I are very grateful to the people of the Vernon County Historical Society Museum for making sure that their chimney has been preserved and protected for the sake of the swifts and for the community to enjoy for many years to come.  

August 22nd, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
August 22nd, 2023
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This is a story of a grand discovery cloaked in a small unassuming form, (much like the little blowsand loving plant Draba, that Aldo Leopold wrote about in S.C.Almanac). This is about a small worm eating snake, called the Lined Snake, which had never before been found in Wisconsin until Viroqua’s own Corey Raimond in September of 2011, decided to go out to explore.  The chapter in the terrific new book Amphibians and Reptiles of Wisconsin about the Lined Snake is written by Corey and Jeffrey Lorch who works at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison. We’ll explore the work they do there that benefits not only wildlife, but all of us.

August 15th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
August 15th, 2023
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Dave Krier has many reasons for all of us to pay attention to the lights we have on at night, which can be disrupting to insect life, birds and bats, and keep our neighbors from enjoying their view of the Milky Way. We all need to pay attention and think about the impact our outdoor lights have on the life around us. And there are many ways to remedy this problem. Thank you Dave for this thoughtful essay.

August 8th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
August 8th, 2023
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Draba, a tiny plant stimulates the mind and heart of those who love the unassuming among us. I read a wonderful essay about Draba, and why it means so much to so many, written by Leah Beiniak, a Program Associate at the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo, and then I read part of the April Chapter of A Sand County Almanac  by Aldo leopold . My thanks to the Foundation for their generous permission to read these essays. 

August 1st, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
August 1st, 2023
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A sweet essay about a close encounter water rescue of a little jumping mouse ( Zapus ), written by Ben Johnston.

And a brief warning and description of a plant no one wants to live anywhere near; Poison Hemlock, making its way into our landscape. But we will prevail! Forewarned is forearmed!

July 25th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
July 25th, 2023
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We get a rare look at the pre-settlement Blue Mounds landscape and 

the thoughts of a Tory in the Wisconsin Wilderness as he must re-enter society approaching Dubuque after long travels along the river courses. “I should soon be in the vortex of a white frontier population, must abandon my canoe, exchange the peaceful tent, pitched on the clean bank of an interesting river, for dirty accomodation at some filthy tavern, and make up my account to pay in money for every act of civility I might receive.”  

We finish Mike Mossman’s essay about an Englishman geologist’s travels, published in the quarterly journal of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, The Passenger Pigeon, Vol. 50 no. 4, Winter 1988. 

7-18-23

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
7-18-23
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Another historical perspective takes us along the old Wisconsin river routes in the 1830s. Along the Fox, the Wisconsin and the Mississippi Rivers, we travel with the first geologist hired by the federal government, a British Tory, to explore parts of our new country. We are in what was then, part of the Michigan Territory  which will become Wisconsin, with George Featherstonhaugh (pronounced fen-shaw!). This essay is part one of A Tory in the Wisconsin Wilderness by Mike Mossman, published in the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology quarterly journal the Passenger Pigeon Vol. 50, no. 4, Winter 1988.

July 11, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
July 11, 2023
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Another contribution from Viroqua’s own David Krier about his experiences with bats, and how he is contributing today to gathering data on bat populations. Learn how we can all help bats.

July 4th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
July 4th, 2023
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Maggie reads from the last chapter of Fran Hamerstrom’s book Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter; the chapter called Biography of a Dancing Ground about the sharp-tailed grouse. This is one of her most memorable essays.

Natural Wonders-Tuesday June 27, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders-Tuesday June 27, 2023
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Part 2 of Mike Mossman’s essay on John Muir’s years growing up in Wisconsin is continued today.  We hear selections of Muir’s book “The Story of my Boyhood and Youth” written just a few years before his death. It’s an eloquent portrait of Wisconsin in the 1850s. This is from the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology’s quarterly journal, the Passenger Pigeon, Volume 50, No.2, Summer 1988.

Natural Wonders- Tuesday June 20, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders- Tuesday June 20, 2023
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In 1988 The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology introduced a  series of essays called “In the Words of Ornithologists Past” in their quarterly journal, The Passenger Pigeon. We will hear the introduction to the series, and first part of Mike Mossman’s essay-  John Muir: Reveling in the Wisconsin Frontier.

 Muir arrived here from Scotland at age 11 in 1849 and reveled in our wonderful state for his formative years. 

Natural Wonders #71

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #71
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We hear an essay called Embracing the Dark, Insects Need the Night—and So Do We from the quarterly publication WINGS; Essays on Invertebrate Conservation, Spring 2023, a publication

of the Xerces Society. (Xerces.org)
They are working to protect the natural world by conserving invertebrates and their habitat.

This essay was written by Richard Joyce, an endangered species conservation biologist with the Xerces Society.

Natural Wonders #70

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #70
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We hear from Sara Woody again. She was a Fellow at the Aldo Leopold Foundation, and reflects on the quality of her experiences there and the dream job that she got as a result of the many skills she developed while at the Foundation.
This essay is called “How my Fellowship Helped me Land my Dream Job”.

Natural Wonders #69

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #69
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The birds we see so many of in summer, the cliff swallows fly long distances to come to North America to raise their young. They nest under bridges and culverts and have many fascinating secrets.

Natural Wonders #68

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #68
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I love our cuckoos, the yellow-billed and the black-billed, and I hope you will too, after hearing about their surprising lives. Today the amazing sounds and habits of our 2 beautiful and distinctive cuckoos.

Natural Wonders #67

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #67
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Another essay by Viroqua’s own Dave Krier. He talks about the changes made to his lawn and area around his house, making it more and more insect friendly by adding native plants and shrubs especially for the insects that birds love to eat.

Natural Wonders #66

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Maggie shares the wonderful world of WDRT and Community Radio on The Spring Pledge Drive edition

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This is one for you archers about there, perhaps you make your own bows.  

Reading again from a book called Hamerstrom Stories, published in 2002, after both the Hamerstroms were gone, this book gave an opportunity for 90 some friends, gaboons  (interns),  neighbors, fellow scientists, to tell recollections, sometimes laugh out loud funny stories, about this unusual and remarkable pair of biologists, Frederick and Frances Hamerstrom. 

In the early pages, Elva, their daughter, who edited this book, writes about finding a letter tucked into a book written by Aldo Leopold. The letter was from Leopold to his good friend, fellow biologist, and contemporary, Herbert Stoddard. 

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Woodcocks do their skydance displays in April and today we read 2 biologists’ stories about this enchanting natural wonder.  First, Aldo Leopold from ‘April’ in A Sand County Almanac, then Fran Hamerstrom from her book Walk When the Moon is Full.

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I’m reading from a “new” book published in 2002,  after the Hamerstroms were gone but their many friends, family, colleagues, and former gaboons got together and wrote stories about their time with them, Hamerstrom Stories.

As a 14 year old boy, Dale Gawlik started working on a Harrier research project with Fran and Frederick Hamerstrom. His reflections on his time spent there with them are fascinating. Today Dr. Dale Gawlik is HRI Chair for Conservation and Biodiversity at the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M in Corpus Christi and a Professor in the Department of Life Sciences. Enjoy-

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A great ‘locally sourced’ reading today, Dave Krier, reflects on part of his work for Valley Stewardship Network, helping people create soil saving and diversity creating prairie strips. The smells and sights and sounds of the diverse plant life fill the senses.

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We travel with a single *atom* within a watershed, becoming part of living things in many forms. Aldo Leopold calls this atom ‘X’ which slowly makes its way, over centuries, to the sea. 

Reading from A Sand County Almanac, Sketches Here and There, Wisconsin, The Odyssey.

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Exploring native plant restoration possibilities of your land  can make a meaningful difference in increasing the diversity of life around us. 

I’ll read The Potential of Pastures and Oak Woods by Dan Carter, PhD.  Dan is an ecologist with The Prairie Enthusiasts.

This was published online Oct 4th 2022 on The Prairie Enthusiasts website, theprairieenthusiasts.org.

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We will visit wetlands again today, and some deep history, with Aldo Leopold.  His A Sand County Almanac was published in 1949, not many months after his sudden death at age 60. He dedicated this book “To My Estella”. This is Part II, Sketches Here and There; Wisconsin,  Marshland Elegy.

I’m so grateful to the Aldo Leopold Foundation for permission to read this timeless book. 

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Exploring native plant restoration possibilities of your land  can make a meaningful difference in increasing the diversity of life around us. 

I’ll read The Potential of Pastures and Oak Woods by Dan Carter, PhD.  Dan is an ecologist with The Prairie Enthusiasts.

This was published online Oct 4th 2022 on The Prairie Enthusiasts website, theprairieenthusiasts.org.

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I’ll return one last time, to the book EAGER, the Surprising Secret life of Beavers and Why They Matter, by Ben Goldfarb to read from the 3rd chapter,, Deceive and Exclude. 
 We’ll learn about problem solvers who have started successful businesses mitigating beaver problems with many types of ingenious  devices that lower pond levels and allow coexistence between people and these persistent rodents.The website beaversolutions.com has a wealth of information even if you don’t live in Massachusetts.

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We’ll enjoy more of the introduction to the book Eager, The Secret, Surprising Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb. Imagine our valleys here in The Driftless Area 350 years ago with rich wetlands and bountiful wildlife thriving in the lush ecosystems created by beaver dams.

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The Environmental Protection Agency website says,

Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rain forests and coral reefs. An immense variety of species of microbes, plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish and mammals can be part of a wetland ecosystem.

I’ll be reading today from Eager, the Surprising Secret Lives of Beavers and Why they Matter, Ben Goldfarb 

Come with me and let’s get our feet wet.

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We will go with Fran Hamerstrom and her 2 children and Walk When the Moon is Full on 2 cold winter nights and hear foxes in the distance, and see a weasel up close.

Natural Wonders #52- Tuesday January 24, 2023

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Maggie reads from the introduction to Vesper Flights, a collection of essays  by Helen Macdonald, and then discusses the winter breeding habits of great horned owls and bald eagles.(This is a re-broadcast of the very first episode from January 2022).

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We take a winter trek on a “January Thaw” day tracking a skunk with Aldo Leopold in the first chapter of A Sand County Almanac. I then take a hint from Leopold and expand on a hawk he sees that day, the Rough-legged Hawk, a winter visitor from the Arctic tundra summering grounds.

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We climb to the top of a huge maple tree with Kass Urban-Mead to study forest bees that come to forage for pollen,. In spring, many species of trees flower and produce billions of protein rich pollen grains. 

Thanks to the Xerces Society for their permission to read from their Fall 2022 publication “Wings” and their dedication to saving insects and other invertebrates. 

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As well as the myriad of things The Professor did, Aldo Leopold was a bird bander. The December chapter of 

 his book A Sand County Almanac ends with a part called 65290, the band number of a chickadee. 

I will then talk about the first bird I thought of when reading about bird banding, an ocean traveler with a seven foot wingspan. She has amazed people for decades; a banded bird called Wisdom.

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We will again enjoy Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. I’ll read his December chapter segments called Home Range and Pines Above the Snow. 

“Like people, my animals frequently disclose by their actions what they decline to divulge in words.”

and about his pines, “There is much small talk and gossip among pines. By paying heed to this chatter, I learn what has transpired during the week when I am absent in town.”

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Fran Hamerstrom’s story about the caper involving secretly moving Aldo Leopold’s office, led me to reading about one of the other Leopold grad students, Art Hawkins, which led me to a great dog story and thence to The Aldo Leopold Foundation’s blogs, where I found more thoughts on dogs and their role in

Leopold’s life, in an essay by Sarah Woody. Enjoy!

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“Every farm woodland, in addition to yielding lumber, fuel, and posts should provide its owner a liberal education. This crop of wisdom never fails but it is not always harvested. I here record some of the lessons I have learned in my own woods.” Aldo Leopold

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Again we will enjoy a Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold published in 1949. 

This part of the November chapter called Axe in Hand,  delves into our biases when we walk into the woods with our axe, or more often now, our chainsaw. We choose what to cut and what to leave, what we favor and what we do not. Why do we make the decisions we do, working on the land?

 What I love about this chapter, and Leopold generally, is that he reveals his own thought processes. We are privy to his inner self,  weighing many different ideas and perspectives.

My thanks to the Aldo Leopold Foundation for permission to read this wonderful book. Please visit their website, Aldoleopold.org for some treats. They have a blog with many contributors that you will enjoy reading and the Phenology Calendar for 2023 is ready for mailing and packed with wisdom and observations for the whole year.

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But It’s Already Done

I’m reading again from My Double Life; Memoirs of a Naturalist. Fran Hamerstrom tells a story that reveals the love and respect Aldo Leopold’s students had for him. They used the dark of night to pull off a youthful student stunt that would make all their lives much better on the UW Madison campus. 

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We hear more from Fran Hamerstrom, born in 1907, from her book, My Double Life, Memoirs of a Naturalist. 

This chapter is called A Letter from My Mother-in-Law, and finds her in the beginning of her time as a field biologist,  with her life long partner Fredrick, moving into a farmhouse that their professor, Aldo Leopold, had arranged for them to live in. This is  in Waushara County in the middle of winter,  with no running water, no heat except the wood stove, no electricity and no phone.

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A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold continues to delight.

We will hear the August and September chapters, each with a view into a world we may have never been aware of, if it wasn’t for our perceptive sensitive author who guides us on such sweet trips afield.

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We learn from Aldo Leopold about the bur oak and its history on the southern Wisconsin landscape from the April chapter of a Sand County Almanac. 

“Thus, he who owns a veteran bur oak  owns more than a tree. He owns a reserved seat in the theater of evolution.”

I add some things I’ve learned about our forest ecology today and how forest succession has changed in the 80 years since Leopold wrote his deep historical picture of the oaks.

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Sand County Almanac, Soundscapes and Wildlife

This week, soundscapes, specifically  the sounds that Aldo Leopold  heard, sitting outside the Shack, watching and listening in the early dark hours. The sounds that he heard have changed dramatically since he was listening and scientists have reconstructed them. And because sounds of wildlife are often directly related tolight intensity, both topics are intertwined. I will also talk about sounds that sturgeon make here in Wisconsin, and the Sound Forest Lab at the University of Wi at Madison, studying sounds of tropical forests. 

two links:

https://news.wisc.edu/aldo-

https:// www.soundforestlab.org

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We take another walk into the sand country with Aldo Leopold, celebrating the glory of October.  We read from A Sand County Almanac the last part of the October chapterToo Early and Red Lanterns. “Getting up too early is a vice habitual in horned owls, stars, geese and freight trains”, then wander from one red lantern to another, “the lanterns are blackberry leaves, red in the October sun”

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Smokey Gold

Today the memorable introduction Aldo Leopold wrote in 1948 for “A Sand County Almanac” after we slip into a chapter called Smokey Gold.

We travel afoot with Aldo Leopold in Adams county on a grouse hunt, but more to the point, we observe in detail the trails and tracks, smells and colors of many dwellers of the scrub wetlands in Fall.

“The Tamaracks change from green to yellow when frosts have brought woodcock, fox sparrows out of the north.”

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Drifting Down the Yellow

Another gem of a short story from Fran Hamerstrom’s book, Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter ; the chapter called “Drifting Down the Yellow”. The book is illustrated by Jonothan Wilde who was a close friend of the Hamerstroms and he is my very favorite artist. His pen and ink drawings are  charming, so beautifully rendered, a perfect compliment to the stories.

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It’s Fall and many of us yearn to get out and hunt. We venture out with Fran Hamerstrom, who always tells delightful stories; these are about two outings, each a dog story with a twist. This chapter, Dog Days, is from her book Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter. My sincere thanks  to Elva Hamerstrom Paulson for permission to read from Fran’s books.

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We hear the third and final reading from the Sigurd Olson chapter in Sumner Matteson’s book Afield. Olson describes the difficult work preserving the wilderness areas north of Lake Superior. We owe so much to so many for what we may take for granted when we plan a canoe trip into the Quetico or the Boundary Waters. We anticipate the peaceful serenity, seeing moose, hearing wolves, swimming in the clear water and having great fish meals. Without the work done over so many decades by people like Sigurd Olson we would not have those wild places to cherish. I hope this story is an inspiration to you. The book Afield is full of first person stories of naturalists and biologists who have helped preserve the beauty and biodiversity of Wisconsin. It’s published by Little Creek Press, available on Amazon

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We get a special window into the friendship between wilderness writer, guide and advocate, Sigurd Olson, and Sumner Matteson and his family, in part 2 of this chapter in Matteson’s book Afield.

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From the book Afield, we get a close personal view into the life of Sigurd Olson, writer, environmentalist, and tireless advocate for the protection of wilderness. Whether you have enjoyed a canoe voyage into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area or the Quetico-Superior wilderness in Canada, or not, we all benefit from wilderness preservation.  Olson devoted 60 years of effort to “keep massive road building projects, hydro electric schemes, intensive logging and aircraft out of the Quetico-Superior.” Counted together, the BWCA and the Quetico, comprise more than 2,700,000 acres of wilderness preserved. We join Sumner Matteson, author of the book Afield, and learn about Olson’s life, and we hear his memories of his family’s close friendship with the Olsons. This is part one of 2 parts.

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Join me, take a break, go out into the back yard, and look up to the sky to search for migrating hawks during this time of great fall southward movement.  For Broadwing hawks especially, September is the time they move through our state on their way to Central and South America.  I describe visiting Duluth MN, and have some tips on visiting the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, a very special unique place there, where you can see large concentrations of many species of hawks, eagles, falcons and vultures on passage. No matter where you are, I hope you will take time to look up and enjoy the migration.

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Dr Stanly Temple writes about his early life learning about birds and wildlife from mentor Rachel Carson. He writes, 

“I didn’t know it at the time but the kindly woman (on birding field trips), who took me under her wing on those outings would eventually become one of my personal inspirations and professional heros.” We will hear Stan’s essay about Rachel Carson.

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One can never Walk When the Moon is Full too often.

We join Fran Hamerstrom and her children on 2 hot summer nights; we hear the July and August chapters of her wonderful book.

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 Wisconsin’s Greenfire; Voices for Conservation, is an organization of retired natural resource professionals who have banded together to lend their considerable skills toward 

promoting science-based management of natural resources; this, rather than politically expedient and short-term policies.We then hear Greenfire Science Council member Curt Meine’s essay,The Prehn Decision; Backdrop to a Breakdown about the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and its governing board of directors, and its history. The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently handed down a decision allowing Fred Prehn to remain on the seven-member Wisconsin Natural Resources Board that oversees the state Department of Natural Resources.  His 6 year term expired in May of 2021. The case came before the court because of Prehn’s unwillingness to step down, and the state senate’s refusal to hold hearings on Governor Evers’ nomination of a successor

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I love our cuckoos, the yellow-billed and the black-billed, and I hope you will too, after hearing about their surprising lives. Today the amazing sounds and habits of our 2 beautiful and distinctive cuckoos.

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What a gift to future generations this book is; Aldo Leopold’s  A Sand County Almanac, contains images and feelings that live in our hearts. Today the July chapter,  with 2 parts, Great Possessions and Prairie Birthday;  

“…it is a fact, patent both to my dog and myself, that at daybreak I am the sole owner of all the acres I can walk over. It is not only boundaries that disappear but also the thought of being bounded.” Thank you again to the Aldo Leopold Foundation for permission to read this book

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We get a rare look at the pre-settlement Blue Mounds landscape and 

the thoughts of a Tory in the Wisconsin Wilderness as he must re-enter society approaching Dubuque after long travels along the river courses. “I should soon be in the vortex of a white frontier population, must abandon my canoe, exchange the peaceful tent, pitched on the clean bank of an interesting river, for dirty accomodation at some filthy tavern, and make up my account to pay in money for every act of civility I might receive.”  

We finish Mike Mossman’s essay about an Englishman geologist’s travels, published in the quarterly journal of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, The Passenger Pigeon, Vol. 50 no. 4, Winter 1988. 

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Another historical perspective takes us along the old Wisconsin river routes in the 1830s. Along the Fox, the Wisconsin and the Mississippi Rivers, we travel with the first geologist hired by the federal government, a British Tory, to explore parts of our new country. We are in what was then, part of the Michigan Territory  which will become Wisconsin, with George Featherstonhaugh (pronounced fen-shaw!). This essay is part one of A Tory in the Wisconsin Wilderness by Mike Mossman, published in the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology quarterly journal the Passenger Pigeon Vol. 50, no. 4, Winter 1988.

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Part 2 of Mike Mossman’s essay on John Muir’s years growing up in Wisconsin is continued today.  We hear selections of Muir’s book “The Story of my Boyhood and Youth” written just a few years before his death. It’s an eloquent portrait of Wisconsin in the 1850s. This is from the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology’s quarterly journal, the Passenger Pigeon, Volume 50, No.2, Summer 1988.

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In 1988 The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology introduced a  series of essays called “In the Words of Ornithologists Past” in their quarterly journal, The Passenger Pigeon. We will hear the introduction to the series, and first part of Mike Mossman’s essay-  John Muir: Reveling in the Wisconsin Frontier.

 Muir arrived here from Scotland at age 11 in 1849 and reveled in our wonderful state for his formative years.

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From Afield, we hear A Gathering of the Voices, written by Curt Meine. It’s the forward to the book

Afield.  

Curt is a conservation biologist, environmental historian, and writer. It is an honor for me to read his part of Sumner Matteson’s book.

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In a reading from Sumner Matteson’s Afield, Jim Zimmerman talks further about his great teachers, and the wide ranging positive impact they had, and his own methods of reaching people’s minds and hearts. And we learn of Jim’s creative work to save the unique canyons of the Kickapoo River from being damed and becoming a lake. “Regarding the land ethic, there’s one fight to preserve land I’d like to mention. In the early 70s there was a proposed dam impoundment in the Kickapoo River Canyon of west-central Wi Driftless Area.”

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From Sumner Matteson’s book Afield we hear more from his interview with botanist Jim Zimmerman, about his life as a student and his teachers, among them Aldo Leopold. He discusses four teachers who had a profound influence on his life and his approach as a teacher.

“Jim Zimmerman was a master at inspiring people, in leading his students to be better stewards of their land. Wisconsin today is a much better state because of all the things Jim did during his lifetime”

Roy Lukes

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Scott Weidensaul is an eloquent writer who many birders love to read. We hear the preface to his classic book published in 1999, Living on the Wind , Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds, and the introduction to his new book A World on the Wing, The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds.

published by WW Norton in 2021.

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Helen Macdonald takes us to the top of the Empire State Building to meet a leading ornithologist and give us new insight  into the fascinating vertical environment; “a tumultuous world teeming with unexpected biological abundance.” The chapter is called High Rise from her book of essays, Vesper Flights.

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The Passenger Pigeon Monument at Wyalusing State Park was dedicated in 1947. We hear Aldo Leoplod’s  speech from that day at the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers.  “Today the laden oaks still flaunt their burden at the sky, but the feathered lightning is no more.” And we hear Dr. Stanley Temple’s introduction to the reprinted booklet, Silent Wings, A Memorial to the Passenger Pigeon published by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology.

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Aldo Leopold writes about the ultimate bird of the grasslands ; the upland sandpiper, another reading from The Sand County Almanac, Back from the Argentine.

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Venture out with Fran Hamerstrom and her children in a very different habitat. Let’s take A Walk in the City; from Walk When the Moon is Full . What do they find?

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From Afield, Botanist Jim Zimmerman is featured today. Maggie remembers co-workers at Willy Street Coop who walked with him afield every chance they got. His influence was strong even on people he never met; and some personal thoughts (after discussions with many botanists) about leaving ramps in the woods. 

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Today an essay, Exquisite Hours by Ken Lange, retired naturalist from Devil’s Lake State Park.  He touches on the moments in our lives, and reveals his love of poets and other writers about the natural world. Thanks to Ken and The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology for permission to read this essay.

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We spend more time with Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, reading from the March chapter, The Geese Return and April, Come High Water.

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We read from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac; the February chapter, Good Oak, a journey with Leopold as our guide, into Wisconsin’s natural history. 

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