I shared this image on a Facebook channel called, Idaho Through the Lens. I hope it brightened a few lives, even momentarily.
In an uncharacteristic move, I volunteered to give a presentation about wildlife of Island Park to an Empty Nesters group. I spent a number of evenings deliberating on what I should say and searching for images that would be entertaining, inspiring and educational at the same time. By the time you read this, it will be over and I will know if I have been drummed out of the group for life. On the other hand, these are all seasoned outdoor enthusiasts with their own stories to share and I will definitely come away enriched as well, whether I am allowed to return or not.
Sharing nature has been a part of my life for over 40 years. It is still a pleasure to watch the, “ah ha!” moment when someone really sees or understands something for the first time. Even better, I usually learn something new myself when I have to explain something out loud.
Even now, sharing nature continues to be a fun ride that pushes me to greater understanding. I have found over time that what I think I know and what is actual fact, are often worlds apart. However, I don’t know what I don’t know until I have reason to challenge an assumption. Here is an assumption that I recently had debunked when I read a book by Michael Quinton, called, Ghost of the Forest. This book is about great gray owls in Island Park. Quinton spent several summers photographing them and learning their habits by spending hundreds of hours in blinds and following adult birds through the forest. My assumption was that great gray owls are major predators of all small mammals. Quinton’s observations were that at least in Island Park, great gray owls are specialists: pocket gophers make up the vast majority of their diet. He observed many occasions where the owls completely ignored squirrels and chipmunks while waiting for a pocket gopher.
We have recently introduced several friends to birding. At one point, they were like we had been, nearly oblivious to the incredible diversity in the bird world and the fact that with a little effort, we can become a part of that world. As they have grown in their skills, their interest in the world around them has increased, giving them something to share with their grandchildren. We are thrilled to have played a small part in this.
Mostly though, my wife reminds me that sharing nature is likely one of the best ways to cross cultural and political boundaries that might otherwise keep us at odds with one another. And in today’s divisive world, this may be one of the best reasons for sharing moments and insights into nature—it is a common thread to get people communicating when they might not otherwise talk together. There are certainly topics where we can still find room for discord, wolves and grizzly bears come to mind, but anyone can appreciate a field so full of flowers it seems like a fanciful painting, or a cow moose nuzzling her newborn calf, and become a little better for it by sharing.
This is where social media can actually be a benefit. Sharing nature images and stories builds bridges and like a spider’s web, helps us to find connections with people we might otherwise have little in common with or even disagree with. Resist the temptation to criticize or critique and just enjoy the image or story for what it is and pass it along if it is uplifting.
Nature is powerful medicine. But medicine is only of value if it is shared. However you choose to share, share often. We will all benefit.
Help Idaho Wildlife
When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.
C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles!
See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live.
Wildlife License Plates
Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.
No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.
Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.
Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program. Go figure.
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)
Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls
Harriman State Park, Island Park
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho