Posts Tagged ‘Bears’

Real Magic, it’s all natural

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Yes, I said “real magic”, I am not referring to a parlor trick like pulling a domestic rabbit from a top hat or making flowers appear from a cane.

I actually mean everything from levitation to the ability to make one’s self invisible. In the natural world, we see wonders that make the best high end Las Vegas magic show seem at best, cute. No offense to those who make their living that way but

let’s face it, that’s smoke and mirrors.When we look at “Mother Nature”,  it is not only reality it’s biological.

I have been Scuba Diving of the Massachusetts coast for over 20 years. Now some would argue that the colder murky green waters in the north east offer far less to admire but I am here to tell you that is far from the case.

I have seen the most amazing things diving in less than 65 feet of water that sometimes defy logic yet there they were. Let’s take “invisibility” for example, well that’s no problem for species of fish I commonly see like the incredible “Flounders”. This oval shaped fish has several types like the “Winter flounders” and is commonly found off the New England coast as is the similar albeit rounder “Window Pane”. They can change both their color and patterns on their skin to match the surrounding sea floor so perfectly they become literally “invisible”. Sure they are not as famous as the cuddle fish for such abilities but they deserve a sea full of respect for their amazing art of camouflage or as they like to say in the magic business “invisibility”.

It’s not just fish that have this ability, Take the American Bittern. A medium sized heron species with golden stripes on its belly. Standing in its grassy habitat it also will rely on its own form of magic. If it wants to disappear, it will look up to the sky and start to sway it’s body from left to right mimicking the grass swaying in the breeze so the patterns on its belly look undetectable against the surrounding grass. I had no idea how incredible this ability was until I had the honor of seeing a Bittern in the wild standing still in an open field. I watched as it lifted its head looking up to the sky and began to sway “perfectly” matching the grass swaying in a gentle breeze, then within in a second, it disappeared and I could no longer see it until it started to walk away. Ok Los Vegas, give that one a
try! Evan some species of lizards have the ability to blend in to their surroundings so well that you would hardly notice they were there at all.

So let’s talk about levitation. For this, I will leave the sea out of it because that is not only common but as a diver I can do that one myself with the right balance of air in my vest called a “BCD” and weights. What about out of the water, and in the open air and to make it more interesting, not including birds like the Hummingbird since we all know they have that down to a science.   How about spiders? Yes that’s right they can levitate themselves. It’s called “ballooning” and many species can travel this way and even amazing distances. They use a silk called “gossamer” or “Balloon Silk” to weave their magic to life. There is evidence they can travel up to 16,000 feet in the air and over 1000 miles far beyond the distance of any great magician’s theater at the finest venue. They walk to tallest point in the immediate area, then create their “balloon silk” waving it in the air where the tiniest of breezes can carry them away. Even the young “spiderlings” of many species get in on the act as a way to leave home and start off on their own life’s journey. There are even caterpillars and mites that also have this amazing ability. Of course this is an old hat trick when talking about plants like Milkweed or the Dandelion that like many species use levitation to transport their own seeds.
In nature “Levitation” is not only real its fairly common among many species.

So in review, we have covered both invisibility and levitation in the natural world.

Ok no big magician act is ever complete with out a bonus “encore” presentation for the audience. Have you seen a magician saw someone into pieces? Of course we know that’s done with the help of a couple assistants squished into boxes one with the feet hanging out and the other showing the top half to appear as if they were actually cut into pieces. Thankfully that’s fake, just a trick.  Now let’s look at another animal magician, the Sea Sponge. Although they look more like plants they are actually animals and they have a trick that would put any would-be magician out of business. If they are actually passed through a tiny screen mesh, they come out on the other side and start to regroup back into a sponge. Not that I would ever want to do that mind you but it’s not trickery, it’s the real deal.

Is their “real magic?” there answer is; yes very much so and it’s all natural. All we need to do is look it’s actually all around us.

Mark Fraser

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The Brilliance of Autumn

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Most of my life I have lived in the North Country in one area or another. That has allowed me to appreciate the brilliant fall colors during their annual return. Sure the autumn is brief, but certainly everyone will agree it is by far the most beautiful of seasons. The weather and moisture can have a huge effect on the fall colors. If the season is too wet, fungus like tar spots and anthracnose can create brown patches on the leaves.  Wind storms can remove the leaves too early in the season. This year in 2010, everything was just right in Mother Nature’s kitchen and the fall is absolutely breathtaking.

The colors on a sunny day are so bright that I have on many occasions had the vibrant yellow and brilliant reds seemingly burned into my vision after walking through the forest and I’ll have splashes of color in my mind for weeks to come.  The nights are just right for sitting by a campfire and that allows us to listen to the sounds of the forest. Species from Owls to Coy-wolves sing to the night giving us the magic sound of the chilly autumn nights.  

Wooly bear caterpillars can be seen roaming the ground across the autumn leaves and ungulates like Deer and Moose are engaged in the rut so the bucks are boasting their striking antlers as they fight for the right to procreate.  There is something wonderful about the change of seasons. A cyclic change happening each year and if you were raised in a part of the world where you can enjoy this phenomenon then every few months you’ll seem to naturally expect even yearn for the pending change.

As autumn quickly passes by, we see the leaves earn their namesake and “Fall” until all deciduous trees are bare, remaining dormant until the following spring.  This survival tactic has allowed them to survive the harsh cold of winter. Conifers keep their needles and are protected from frost with a natural wax coating. The same trees are a crucial survival food for species during winter like Red Squirrels who are safe in their dens with food caches of “Pine Nuts” loaded with Vitamin C that represent  a great food for them.

Some species like Wood frogs are able to “freeze” nearly solid to survive winter and only their most vital organs are barley thawed until spring when they come back to life.

Insects hide in the bark of trees and Black Bear prepare their dens where they will rest off and on through the winter months.

The autumn is both a time of beauty and a time of change.  Each year I look forward to it, and often I will later reflect on it. Soon the colors of autumn will be gone and the world will again change this time to the white blanket of snow covering the leaves that are now falling.

They will decompose into the soil, returning their nutrients into the Earth as they continue a cycle that has happened since long before any human roamed the Earth.

I love all the seasons each for their own natural beauty but of all, the autumn gives us the wonder and joy of appreciating the beautiful painting Mother Nature creates for us each and every year.

Mark Fraser

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Kayaking for wildlife

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

This Spring, I decided to explore some remote rivers and look for wildlife along the banks.  I found what I was after in a great river near the Canadian border. Parking the vehicle, I could feel the excitement that I often get when exploring a habitat by kayak.  The access point was across the street so I decided to quickly run across the road to have a look at the river.  Being Spring,  the Black Flies were buzzing around me looking for a snack and getting what they came for :-) . As I took the first 4 or 5 steps to cross the road, I look over my right side and there is a beautiful and very large Black Bear also crossing the road fairly close. The Black Flies must have driven him out of the forest towards the river and by chance there we both are looking at each other with a “ruh-roh” kind of confused look hahaha.  I decide to try and get my video camera but sure enough the second I moved he was gone.  I took that as a great sign for the kayak trip and sure enough it was full of surprises! Well, come see for yourself! Enjoy this virtual tour of the trip!

Kayaking Riverside Habitats

Getting out and exploring wildlife is the best way to build a relationship with the natural world! One of the best ways to do that is certainly by drifting along in a kayak. For me there is no greater thrill then to slowly traveling down a flat water, slow moving river and exploring the exciting wildlife found around every corner. With the Gulf Oil Spill being on the news everyday and knowing what is happening to those important aquatic habitats it makes this all the more important. We need to pay very close attention to the natural world around us. When we teach our children to love and respect nature, we ensure there is a future place for wildlife to live.

When you get right down to it, if you do not know the native species of plants and animals are in your own area, then how do you know when non – native invasive species are introduced? How would you know when a species of plant or animal is “missing” unless you take the time to know what is there now?  That’s the whole idea, getting to know the amazing world we share and keeping an eye on it. With a flat water kayak trip, you can relax and drift along while admiring countless species of birds, fish, reptiles and mammals. Even the insects have a ton of surprises in fact some like the “Green Darner” Dragonfly actually migrate like birds!  There were so many amazing species found along the river it certainly speaks to the importance of protecting river systems. While we live out busy lives commuting on a highway (that’s a freeway for you California folks) that trip is not that different then a River Otter starting his or her day navigating the river looking for the bounty of food. It’s so important to understand that remote rivers must be kept so the species that survive there have a place that is protected and clean. 100% of their food comes directly from the habitat around them, so you can imagine what happens if that habitat becomes polluted.  The best part is that it’s simply an enjoyable thing to do. Like a healthy Nature Walk in the forest, kayaking allows you to be a part of the beautiful wild world we all share, so get out and enjoy it!

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A “Wild” bond we all share

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

During my life I have been fortunate enough to have had the ability to travel. Nothing crazy mind you, but certainly enough to greatly expand the areas where I could take some time to observe and study the local wildlife and fauna. I remember long ago being in Central America in the Panamanian jungle for a couple of months.  During that time, I had the honor of seeing so many species that make their home in the tropical double canopy jungle environment. I remember walking through a river almost neck deep in the water and the local crocodilian species of “Caiman” were sliding into the water from the banks. I had incorrectly thought that they never grew larger then 4ft in length… whoops hahahaha. The excitement of the moments of discovery and awe of the wild world enlightens the mind and charges the senses. When we are in a forest or jungle long enough our ears and eyes seem to spring to life and the sound of the wind in the trees is suddenly a dramatic and beautiful event.

When I speak with people from around the world about wildlife, I am always amazed that deep down “all” of us are just as fascinated. Even when I have met people that at first seem as if they don’t care, I find that they have simply become so busy day to day that they have forgotten the joy of wonder and discovery found in nature. Within minutes of sharing a film and talking about a wild moment I see in their faces that deep down they care also and are really just as fascinated as the rest of us. You see, nature really does bind us all around the planet. It has “always” been a part of our lives and “always” will be. When humans first began to speak you can bet those early people were making sounds to mimic birds and animals. Probably allot better then I can do (not from lack of trying) :-) .

Taking the time to teach our children about local wildlife is absolutely paramount towards the future health of the entire world. Remember, our children will grow up and make the decisions about how we use our future natural resources. From learning about the species of fish in a local brook to learning about the backyard birds at the feeder and everything in between it will ensure an admiration that will often blossom into real heartfelt conservation. It works no matter where you are from; remember admiration for wildlife is a wild bond we each share. We just need to take the time to do exactly that.

Mark Fraser

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Wildlife is a community we are a part of

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Just coming back from an incredible  springtime filming trip in the Rockies and all I can say is that I was truly humbled by the beauty of the region! From Cody Wyoming and greater Yellowstone to wild points further north and even meeting wonderful new  friends at the 33rd annual International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula Montana!  I was stunned by the incredible diversity of wildlife in many areas of the northern Rocky Mountains. Usually when I travel to a region it takes a bit to start picking out the different wildlife species as they can sometimes be hard to find. However I found that Grizzly and Black Bear were amazingly abundant and Bison, Elk, Mule Deer and Big Horn Sheep were all doing well. Filming such amazing species makes one realize that we really are just another member of the “community” of life in this planet. I wish I could say that everywhere was doing as well but as we all know having healthy wild habitat is becoming rarer every single day. Places like the Rockies have an advantage in that the region has mountains connecting multiple national parks, forests preserves at the state and federal level and eventually to Canada a literal “mother-ship” of wildlife. There are however many smaller habitats in different parts of the country and abroad that thanks to our populations explosion, have become surrounded like an “island”. When metropolitan development circles a forested or wetland area, many of the species that live there are in peril due to the inability to breed with others of there kind therefore decreasing the genetic biodiversity. It’s up to us to plan ahead and pay close attention to developers so that we can ensure areas set aside for wildlife are aloud to exist and prosper. Our future can “only” consist of a world where humans learn to co-exist with the natural world. It’s something that we should not only accept, but embrace and quickly. Employing wisdom in how we grow our cities and suburbs only requires some simple forethought. Connecting forested and wetland areas, with “green-highways” are key towards allowing wildlife to flourish alongside our own populations. This isn’t something that can happen on its own it actually requires getting involved with your own community. There is no one out there in a better position then ourselves, to stand up and be active in the decision making process within the communities where we live. A simple call to your local town office or environmental agency can help you find out how to help, albeit volunteer and or attend occasional town meetings. It’s very much worth your time and you very much can make a positive difference in your community!

Mark Fraser

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