Category Archives: Nature

Taking the mystery out of a snake sighting

Note: The following post originally ran May 7, 2010. It’s been updated, and the information on snake ID is as relevant today as it was 12 years ago. 

Wednesday, I was hiking along the North Prong of Shining Rock Creek, a lively mountain stream that plunges 2,200 feet in just three miles through a narrow, overgrown canyon. I was in a reveric trance, lulled in part by the rugged vegetation here in the Shining Rock Wilderness,  in part by the cloudless, 70-degree spring afternoon, when —
Whoa!
I like snakes, but their sudden appearance four feet away causes me to stop in my tracks and say, “Whoa!” Such impromptu meetups are common this time of year, as we humans hit the trail more and rising temperatures activate these cold-blooded critters. Being in the sun rejuvenates our spirit, it jumpstarts their system.
After catching my breath, I scoped out the critter, taking a couple of pictures, jotting some notes, searching my increasingly porous memory for clues about what kind of snake it might be. Not that my database was brimming to begin with.
When it comes to snakes and birds, I don’t expend a lot of my remaining gray storage memorizing types and species. Two reasons: One, there are thousands of species to begin with, and two, the same critter can look completely different depending on various factors: read more

This week, it’s all about welcoming Spring

We’re all about Spring this week, with the first sightings of trout lilies and spring beauties, and 70-degree weather in the wings. This should be the week that spring bursts out in all its eagerly awaited glory.

That said, today we crib from our GetHiking! Spring Wildflowers tip sheet and share some insights into where to look for spring and what it is you’re looking for. read more

Audubon’s CBC: Three Weeks for the Birds

At the turn of the 20th century, it was a big deal to go out on Christmas Day and look for birds. At the time, “looking” involved bringing a shotgun.
Frank Chapman was a fan of the custom, though not necessarily the gun part. So on Christmas Day 1899 he got the idea to go out and identify and count the birds, not shoot them. The idea caught on and 122 years later tens of thousands of folks throughout the Western Hemisphere take to the outdoors to look for birds as part of the annual Christmas Bird Count. The exercise helps scientists keeps tabs on the bird population and identify potentially harmful developments in the bird world.
Here’s how it works: Each count is assigned an area 15 miles in diameter. Volunteers spend the day canvassing the area counting as many different birds as they can find. The results are then shipped to the National Audubon for analysis. You needn’t be an accomplished birder to participate; in fact, one of the great things about the count is that it often gives amateurs an opportunity to hang with and learn from accomplished birders. Not to mention the chance to lurk about the woods all day in search of nature. read more

GetOut! And learn a thing this weekend

Wouldn’t it be nice to emerge from the weekend more knowledgable than when you went in? A bought or two on how to make that happen.

We start with our GetOriented! Finding Your Way in the Woods class. Ever been hiking in the woods, drift into a little reverie, then emerge, look around and think, Where the heck am I? More often than not your still on the trail, where you need to be, just a little further along. But in those few seconds of being mentally misplaced, there’s a real panic. Will I ever see civilization again? read more