What are your favorite experiences out in nature? Some of my favorites are: the time I saw three male cheetahs in Pilansberg National Park, South Africa, the time my favorite deer (named Wildflower) came to me with twin fawns, and yesterday, when I saw Cedar Waxwings for the first time! I have many favorites, but these are the ones that popped out at me just now. I’d love to hear about all your favorites!
When Pine Grosbeaks came to my house and one let me touch him; seeing Avocet walking with its young, family of Shelduck, lots of sandpipers, egrets, herons, etc. feeding peacefully next to us; finding first Green woodpecker, it was screaming loudly in early spring morning on a dead tree; Ringed seal that layed on a rock to rest and was waving in light of setting sun, trying to not fall back in water.
In fact everything where I (or anyone else) had a chance to think about what is happening, how it will affect us, how we will remember it, what it means to us. And surely everything that happened in a good weather, and right circumstances, no matter how “big” the experience was, warm atmosphere really brings it to the moment.
One time I was walking a trail on a cliff above a river, about 50 yards above the river. It started snowing hard enough that I couldn’t see the river which is beautiful when it snows that hard anyway. All of the sudden, I heard Kree Kree Kree, I looked up to see a Bald Eagle materialize through the snow and then disappear a few seconds later.
When I went hiking on the Rocky Mountains and got high enough to see curvature of the earth, amazing.
A couple of years ago I was chasing a Prairie Warbler that turned up and when I was waiting for him I heard a noise up the trail and there is a fawn stumbling down the trail, brushes past my leg, turns into the grasses behind me and sits down. I almost missed the warbler because I kept looking down.
Sitting still as a family of beavers curiously swim around my kayak whenever I paddle into their lodge inlet at dusk in the summer. Watching thread-waisted ants plant wildflower seeds or finding extremely tiny acorn ants spending the winter inside a cozy, namesake acorn house. Any time spent with crows, jays, or ravens is awesome; I’m sure they’ve saved my life on numerous occasions with simple warning calls, and it’s fascinating to have “conversations” using their complex languages. Highland wildflower meadows, elk bugles, seeing enormous muskie leap from the water to snatch prey from the surface or even the shore of a forested lake, insect and frog songs at night. The list goes on.
I’ve been lucky enough to have encounters with “rarities” and animals, plants, etc. I “should” (and do) get excited about. But in my opinion, it’s hard to beat time spent with species you know are really integral to a particular ecosystem. Don’t get me wrong; the unfamiliar is awesome and this spring, consider it a failure on my part if I haven’t worn out some new places and uploaded photos of many different species totally unfamiliar to me presently. But there’s something very wholesome about knowing an area and its intricacies; even if it’s just a small area.
I was lucky enough to grow up around people who encouraged (or a least tolerated) my interest in nature and my work has taken me a lot of amazing places. I have a lot of vivid memories of beautiful moments. The ones that stand out are not necessarily the most spectacular. Some of the best are moments shared with kids, like the time I took our youngest and one of his friends to look for owls. We saw several species but from their perspective the most memorable moments involved chickadees taking sunflower seeds from their hands and a meadow vole that sat on the friend’s boot to eat bird seed. I smile every time I think of it.
Favourite nature experiences for me are when I see a rarity unexpectedly. For example I saw a group of Smooth coated Otters when I went for fishing. Or seeing 60 Caspian terns which is a pretty large count from the location etc.
But the best one for me is trekking through the forests of Western Ghats during monsoon through the steep slopes with slippery ground and flowing water nearby with leeches all over your feet(It’s a very special experience).
I guess whale watching… One day, we had an excellent whale watching experience in Monterey Bay:
then, this day I managed to catch one breaching:
Believe it or not, a common ant. It was its behavior that was fascinating. I was camping with friends outside of Austin, Texas when I was a teenager. One of the guys would eat half of an Oreo cookie (the half with the icing) and drop the other half on the ground. I was sitting on the ground and along came an ant and found it. It walked up to it and touched it, then backed off, and then forward and touched it again. Then it walked away, as it could not believe its senses, then turned back and touched it again. Then it ran around it, and eventually got up on top and surveilled around it. I was reminded of the Daffy Duck cartoon when he discovered the cave of Ali Baba with all the gold and jewels and kept saying “I’m Rich! Rich, I say!”. Then along came another ant and it got down off the top and started fighting it, and the newcomer finally ran away, probably to gather troops to take the cookie away. I was amazed at the display of greed in a little ant, and how much they have in common with humans. I felt sorry for the little guy and picked him and the cookie up and moved it away from the trail of the others, so it could be the richest ant in the world for at least a little while longer.
Hmmm…tough to choose…
I remember once when I was moving to my second house in Indiana, and there were cicadas everywhere!!! I remember collecting one, not yet hatched, one of the tiny brown ones that live underground.
I stored it in an empty kombucha bottle, as my collecting jars hadn’t been unpacked yet.
I doodled it, took it for a ride on my bike, tried to feed it maple syrup, (My mom said they ate tree saps, I thought that was what she meant, okay?) and then, low and behold, IT HATCHES!
Out emerges a full grown cicada, black, red-buggy-eyed, with a big chunky body and little yellow wings.
It was maybe 4 or 5 years ago, but I remember it so well, and it was awesome!
I’m sure my list would change depending on when you asked. At the moment, I am thinking of when I lived in Hawaii.
There was my trip to the Big Island to drive the Saddle Road. I stopped at Kipuka 21 to observe the native honeycreepers, and I kid you not, I heard them singing the famous five notes from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
I had the opportunity to visit Niihau, normally off limits to outsiders, and as I came over a small rise on the beach, I unexpectedly came upon a Hawaiian monk seal resting on the sand. It lifted its head to look at me for a moment, then lay back down.
Those were my Navy days. And that reminds me of a time when we were at sea off the coast of Australia (but out of sight of land), and thousands of flying fish were “catching air,” alarmed by the ship passing. In that same part of the world, I got my first sight of the Southern Cross as I stood on the bridge wing.
I could go on and on.
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