By Jim Lyons, GEAS Board Member
First, I love this book, so let’s start that way! Admittedly though, I had a somewhat mixed first impression. While any book with “Birder” in the title is a big plus, immediately making me want to know more, I was frankly put off by the cover art* including two bird species that hinted at artists’ renditions, and not “real” species that would jump out at me. This can be a big turn off for me and, I suspect, many other birders.
This initial encounter was of the online variety, and not as we all would probably prefer, enjoyably browsing the stacks at our local library or physical bookstore. It was online browsing, naturally in these times, ending with the discovery that same local library had a Kindle-compatible copy that was available – yes!
To me, a good memoir about the birding life needs plenty of focus on specific birds (chase stories included), as well as birding locales, and of course, interesting observations of other birders! The gold standard to me among many is Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway. And if I had examined the back as well as the front of the book during that first impression, I would have noticed that at the top of the stack of “Unintentional” blurbs, is no less than the kingbird himself. (I also find fascinating that the number two blurb is from Margaret Atwood!)
There is so much more to the memoir, too. It is the story of a multi-generation immigrant family which is fascinating. Zarankin now lives in Toronto but was born in the USSR, and with her college education and teaching at a range of US Universities, including a PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton. That helps answer the question if she can write, and it also helps explain the author’s multiple Anna Karenina references!
Acquiring new vocabulary, or at least a word here and a word there, is often a joy of my reading, and I picked up a little birding terminology here, though the book should be easy to read for most. And while her adventures while assisting in field work at ornithology study sites, the thing I think I related to most is Zarankin’s enthusiasm for learning her local birding spots, Toronto’s hidden pockets of wildlife habitat, and observing what birds frequent these at various times and seasons. She describes this as the aspect of birding that has become her most recent focus, and I can connect with that. Very lockdown-friendly!
I found the book to be a most enjoyable read, with multiple benefits including plenty of miles following along with the author on her birding adventures, both of us gaining insight as she goes. Also, I can attest to learning a thing or two, including some current birding terms and a few things beyond the world of birds (e.g. I learned or at least remembered what a “refusenik” is).
And since it is that time, I think this is a great gift idea for the birder(s), intentional or otherwise, on your holiday shopping list!
*BTW those cover birds? I am feeling foolish. No less than Google Lens steered me to Old World families, indicating a chaffinch and a starling. Further research proceeds!
Golden Eagle Audubon members spotted this heron enjoying a snack on a field trip earlier this year. Alexander Sapiens was able to snap some action shots as this heron found and ate a sizable rainbow trout. One reason why people love birding so much is that each time you head out, you could have an entirely different experience!
Hiking in the winter will allow you to see some gorgeous views that you can’t see at any other time of the year. However, with unpredictable weather that can turn dangerous very quickly it’s important that you are prepared for hiking conditions to change quickly. Preparation is essential to making sure that you’re safe on winter hikes. According to experienced hikers these are the best things to do to stay safe when you’re hiking in the winter:
Buy Waterproof Boots
Investing in a high-quality pair of hiking boots is essential. Choose boots that are waterproof and not water resistant. Water resistant boots are often a bit less expensive, but you don’t want to take the chance of getting wet feet when you’re hiking in the cold. Water resistant boots don’t have closed and sealed seams like waterproof boots do so water can still leak in at the seams of the boots. Spend a little more and get waterproof boots with sealed seams to keep your feet totally dry.
Layers, Layers, Layers
Dressing in layers is important for keeping warm in the cold weather. Your first layer should be some performance clothing that is designed to be worn next to the skin. It will keep you warm and wick away sweat to keep you dry. Add light layers on top of that and wear a waterproof jacket or coat over the top. Make sure it’s waterproof, not water resistant, because you don’t want rain or snow leaking in.
Drink Water Regularly
If you’re hiking in the cold you may not realize how much fluid you’re losing to sweat. That means you can become dehydrated and not even realize it. Make it a point to stop and drink water every hour whether you feel thirsty or not. Regularly drinking water will ensure that you stay hydrated and don’t suffer the side effects of dehydration when you’re on the trail.
Beware Of Hypothermia
Hypothermia is a serious condition that can happen when you’re hiking in the cold. If the temperature is below freezing and the wind chill is bitter cold you can get hypothermia in about 30 minutes. Beware of the symptoms of hypothermia like tingling in your fingers and toes or numbness in your extremities. You also might feel a burning sensation in your toes or fingers. If you notice the symptoms of hypothermia take steps to get warm and get out of the wind immediately.
Stay On The Trail
It’s always important to stay on the trail when you’re hiking, but it’s particularly important when there is a lot of snow and you can’t see what’s under that snow. Leaving the trail means that you can end up stepping through ice into a hidden stream or lake and end up in dangerously frigid situation. You also can get lost very easily when the snow is covering all recognizable landmarks. Keep a trail map with you and consult it often so that you know you’re still on the right trail.
This article was provided by www.personalinjury-law.com, an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and it is intended for informational use only.
The GEAS Education and Outreach Committee has sponsored a couple ‘mini’ holiday trees for the St Al’s Festival of Trees in recent years. We thought it was a fun way to reach a broad audience, as some 25,000 attend this annual benefit, engage crafty folks and their families, and support a worthy community cause*.
This year, with a mix of trepidation and excitement, I proposed that we give a full-sized tree a go. I really enjoy finding new ways to incorporate art, making, outreach, and conservation together and this certainly fits the bill. Though, in retrospect, I may have underestimated the commitment I was making this time.
What a journey! I don’t think I’ve ever taken a ‘crafty’ project of this scale on before. There was a mandatory decorator training and a 12 page decorating handbook – which suggested we’d need 150+ ornaments and 12+ yards of ribbon to decorate our 7.5ft tree. Gulp. At least the folks who run this event are pros and very supportive of the first time decorators. If you care to keep reading, I will regale you with a dramatic recounting of the efforts and people who made this tree possible.
I immediately pulled my unwitting sister into the madness since she is my best friend, enthusiastic creator, and go to aesthetic checker. I think at some point she stopped taking my calls for a bit as I obsessed over color scheme and themes for ornaments (Yes, I fully admit it is a silly thing to spend much brain power on, but I really wanted this tree to look good and represent the GEAS I so love). At an Education Committee meeting the fellow volunteer members brainstormed ways to incorporate the conservation themes, and initially thought a focus on window collision prevention would be a good fit. As in previous years, we wanted to hold an event where interested members and the community at large could feel involved and learn about at-home actions we can all take to make the world a better place for birds.
During this time the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and their many partners released the startling paper that estimates North America has lost one out of four birds in less then 50 years. That is alarming and dire, but I really appreciated that they took the time to also provide tools and messaging around the fact that when we take action, we save birds. I was particularly inspired by their ‘7 simple actions’ campaign and decided to move the GEAS tree theme to match these easy, effective things we can all do to help birds.
We hosted our first ever ‘crafting for a cause’ evening at Lost Grove Brewery (thanks for the support!) in early November. It was hard to know how many people we should expect, so I brought just a few different things I could really use help on that wouldn’t require making a mess or dry time. Though the tasks weren’t glamorous, Gretel Care, Lisa Reed, Jennifer Cheffings, Brent Cheffings, Adra Lobdell, and Terra Falconer all did an amazing amount of work that saved me a lot of hours getting the tree together – so thanks so much to them for their help!
In the weeks leading up to the installation day (this past Sunday), I neglected many household tasks and probably fell further behind on admin responsibilities, but I managed to produce more than 100 hand painted or modified ornaments and find all the conservation-themed items we wanted to include under the tree. Ornaments included stylized species found in Idaho, handmade ‘native’ paper flowers that are utilized by birds, birdseed filled globes, and more. For the seven actions we included:
We also included a feeder pole system, a number of feeders, and some seed to get started. I really hope someone will enjoy all these items and maybe some casual birders will be inspired to become more involved in conservation. Hopefully some of the 25,000 people walking past will also learn something too!
When installation day arrived we were thrown a curve-ball. Even though multiple people had offered to help, I figured that my sister and I could knock out our shared vision pretty quickly. Unfortunately she had an emergency that kept her from being able to be there. After a mini panic attack, and some self-flagellation for not accepting more help, I sent a mayday email to some friends and fellow volunteers. Thank goodness the wonderful Dondi Black came to my rescue right away and my good friend and New Roots compatriot Megan Jones was close behind (as was her husband David). We worked diligently, and they patiently since I didn’t have a vision board or anything prepared for them, and nearly got it completed….by the 9pm cut-off. Whew, that took longer then expected and I would have been in real trouble had I tried to do it solo. Important safety tip – they mean it when they tell you to expect to spend 2-3 hours ‘fluffing’ your tree. Of course we wanted to make it as beautiful as possible too.
My sister actually was a saint and came for the final hour even after a crazy stressful weekend. I am very thankful for all the folks, including my patient family, who helped make this tree a reality. Even though the tree was great I perseverated about it all night (Did we tie on all those bird ornaments? The topper really could be better. Did I forget to get the organizers the batteries? Etc – If you know me well, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise). You see, there was actually additional time on the Monday (yesterday) to continue to work, but I didn’t have any childcare and my husband was working. They really don’t want kids down there mucking about with all the delicate ornaments, ladders, hot glue gone, etc around, so I had no plan on being able to return. After some consideration though, I packed up my four year old and 11 month old to brave downtown with a step ladder and supplies on my shoulder. Kate, my awesome sister, took time out of her workday to walk from her office and help with those finishing touches. She even enlisted Kendall from her office (thanks Kendall!) to come help and I handed her a baby while fussing with hot glue and ribbon. My son, Gavin, very politely but loudly started to indicate he wished to go home…like now. So I then left the tree in Kate’s competent hands. Apparently Megan came to help after I’d gone too! Megan – you are so generous with your time and energy – thank you for saving me and being such a great friend!
This has certainly been an experience. If you happen to attend this year’s festival, I hope you will find the tree and feel that it serves as a beautiful but effective conservation outreach tool. I don’t know if I’ll suggest we do this again, but it has been an overall positive adventure that has really helped me appreciate all the people in my life and at GEAS. Thanks again to everyone who participated, offered help or creative energies, or anything else my addled brain is missing right now.
As an aside, I want to say that I fundamentally try and support people at GEAS when they pitch a passion project they are willing to take the lead on. As a primarily volunteer organization, that’s how I think we make the biggest impact. Since this was my idea, I said I would be the project lead and that my family would make the financial commitment to making this tree happen. I feel it’s important for our membership to know that GEAS wasn’t committing our limited financial resources to undertake a somewhat obscure effort like this one, though some support of a few bird feeders and resources we had in storage were utilized. I am always keen to help spread the love of birds, and this was a fun and unique way to reach new audiences.
I hope you have a happy thanksgiving and a great start to the holiday season. Maybe I’ll get to se you at one of the upcoming great events??? Check out the GEAS calendar for a great variety of ways to take action this winter!
*The 2019 Festival of Trees is raising funds to replace and upgrade St Alphonsus mammography buses that serve rural communities.
In September, WSU Press published a new book, To Think Like a Mountain: Environmental Challenges in the American West, by GEAS newsletter editor Niels S. Nokkentved. I just finished the book and highly recommend it to anyone interested in a fuller understanding of critically-important environmental issues currently affecting life in the West. Subjects covered include the greater sage grouse and its habitat; the introduction of wolves; logging, drilling, and mining; salmon, dams, and the failed promise or fish hatcheries; fire and Forest Service policies; overgrazing; the loss of beavers; and much more.
What is especially good about this book is that you get a complete, well-researched, and fascinating chronology of each issue instead of a few biased sound-bites, as we so often get in the media these days. By the end of each chapter you have a real understanding of the issues involved. And as you continue, you'll begin to see how many of these issues are interwoven, one affecting the other.
As a life-long environmentalist with an education in wildlife biology, I was surprised how much I learned in each chapter and I'm sure I'll refer to this book many times in the future. Nokkentved's goal is to help you "think like a mountain," a term coined by famed biologist Aldo Leopold in his classic volume, Sand County Almanac. Thinking like a mountain means taking the long-term view, rather than simply exploiting resources for short-term gains. This evidence-based book clearly shows how we profit most, collectively and individually, when we think long-term and work within the balance of nature.
Nokkentved spent 20 years as a newspaper reporter and eight years as a writer, photographer, and editor for the Idaho Department of Fish & Game. He has won awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists, and a C.B. Blethen award for distinguished investigative journalism. To Think Like a Mountain is available from WSU Press at https://wsupress.wsu.edu/product/to-think-like-a-mountain/ and from Amazon.
Crista Worthy writes about aviation, travel, wildlife, and the environment from her home in Hidden Springs, Idaho.
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