Posts Tagged ‘Nature Walks with Mark Fraser’

Social Media and Conservation

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

In our lives we are faced with so many challenges in today’s super hi-tech society. The new generations are growing up with social media like Facebook and Twitter being part of their daily lives. Films on Youtube are replacing their televisions and Smart phones seem to be able day able to even replace the almighty home computer. Information is now available at speeds beyond the collective imagination of the kids of even my own childhood.

The fast paced change of today’s world creates so many questions however like everything in life, I look to nature for examples and guidance.  You see with millions of years of evolution there really is no greater teacher then the natural world itself – that is of course if we all simply choose to listen.

Nature teaches us that species who adapt to change survive and even thrive while those who do not adapt are in trouble. Like the changing climate, social media is a shift in the sociological weather pattern. A new paradigm where information and communication create a global network that like it or not, we are all a part of.

We often think “how could technology be natural?” I mean isn’t anything made by people unnatural by definition? Well consider this; we ourselves are “of” this world. We are a species on this planet, made of the same material with the same origins of all things on the Earth. So if that’s true, then perhaps social media is a natural step in the growth of humankind?

To put it another way, let’s look at Spring Peepers, a small northern frog that happens to live in my area of the northeastern United States. After winters long chill leaves us, and the air is still brisk you will begin to here a faint call of 1 or 2 frogs singing their beautiful high pitched call.

As the days and weeks follow, more and more frogs call out until it sounds like one massive song made up of thousands of individual frogs.

What if the social media of today used in our own lives, is really no different than the call of the frogs and other species trying to communicate? It creates a way of reaching out across the darkness and distance allowing us to call out to each other? Perhaps we are a species coming out of the winter of our own evolution and instant global communication is the next step like so many frogs using sound waves to communicate across an entire pond. So in that way it is also natural it’s just that In our example we happen to  sing “communicate” our spring song on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

Social media changes social consciousness:
The impact of media and how we are raised can’t be overstated. Our culture and beliefs around the world provide a social compass as we navigate through our lives. We are very much products of our environment.  This is so powerful that behaviors that one culture may see as wrong or ethically bad, in other cultures are considered completely normal. That’s why Cannibals and the Pizza delivery person have the same genes. They are not born different, they simply “learned” differently. So in conclusion, what happens to the social media society of today if we don’t get involved and teach important life lessons like protecting wildlife habitat? Well, we run the risk of creating a gluttonous society capable of self destruction, like a cannibal.  If we are “involved” with social media ensuring the important “life lessons” are still a part of the information we teach our children and ourselves, then our world has a great future where clean waters and forests, wildlife and even ourselves can still exist. I like that future…

Mark Fraser

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Dragonfly

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

Lately, I have been paying close attention to the details of the many species of Dragonfly that can be seen swarming on these long hot summer nights.

They seem to be having a population boom as of late. I assume with the longer hotter weather lately there is more food for them, so that makes allot of sense.

The more you look at these incredible insects the more fascinating they really are. Just imagine millions of years ago during the Carboniferous period the fossil records indicate there were species of Dragonfly as large as a Seagull with a wingspan of 2.5 feet!

Even today we see species that boast a very impressive size in fact, the largest of the species these days still has wingspans over 7 inches which for an insect is enormous in its own right.

They are among the fastest of all flying insects and some species like the Green Darner have been clocked at over 50 MPH!  Larger Dragonfly like the Darners actually live for several years and since they feed in the north country where the pending winter will mean no insect prey for them, they actually have evolved to migrate like birds traveling up to 80 miles in a day!

The smaller species live shorter life spans so migration is out of the question.

There are countless kinds of dragonfly with some of the most beautiful color patterns found in nature. A literal biological rainbow with species names like Yellow Winged Darter, Emperor, Downy Emerald, Common Hawker, Banded Pennant and one of my favorite Dragonfly names “Meadowhawk” as well as countless others.

These incredible insects start their lives in the water as a very effective aquatic hunter called a nymph. Complete with external jaws they much on everything they can find up to and including small fish! Then after in some cases up to the 3 years, they crawl from the water and molt their skin turning into the amazing species we know and enjoy.

In the North Country in early Spring, rings the dinner bell for a biting fly called the “Black fly”. Every hiker in May knows this species very well and dreads the pending swarms which are among the most antagonistic of all biting flies. Within a couple weeks of their arrival, as if timed to an ancient biological alarm clock the Dragonfly return feasting on these insects. In fact they are so efficient that within a short amount of time the reign of the Black fly is over as quick as it came.  The fact is that Dragonfly are a very important species that take up a niche within the ecosystem where us humans directly benefit.

So the next time your on a nature walk take the time to admire these spectacular examples of “Mother Nature’s” finest!

PS:The image on the right reminds me of a helicopter pilot hahaha.

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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Make it count!

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

Let’s face it, life is really short. Regardless of who we are or where we come from we have a brief chance to make the best of our own lives. Appreciating every simple pleasure from a sunrise to a passing bird is the secret sauce to life. We are remembered by our kids and those in which we have made an impression on during our lives. The bigger the impression the longer we are remembered and eventually in time, like a long lost flake of snow belonging to a previous winter we melt away in time returning to the place in which we all came from. What kind of story will they tell about your life, how will you be remembered? How long will that memory of your life last? One generation, perhaps four generations, and then what? How far back in your own family can you remember or know the story of those who came before we did. Paying attention to the elderly is one of the best ways to gain insight and wisdom during our lives but how many of us do. They have so much to teach us and remember they have been through far more “life” then we have. Learning from their experiences helps us navigate in our own lives and knowing the stories that they remember carries the torch of the lessons of so long ago. To many first nations of North America, it’s said that people should try to leave the world better then you found it for the next 7 generations. What a thought, being stewards of the land in such a way that world is protected for so very long after we are gone. There is a lot of wisdom in that. *Making our lives count* and leaving the world better then we find it.

I have to wonder if any of us are really doing that in today’s world.  I myself have a smart phone attached to my hip. What happens when it no longer works and I must dispose of it, where do those hazardous chemicals go? There are so many examples of that in our lives it boggles the mind. Simple innocent ways in which we live our modern life that can unknowingly lead to long term environmental impacts. We have a long, long way to go!

There is good news: you see nature has been around for a very long time. We are the new kids on the block and in the end we are the ones who will live with the choices that we make as a society and as a species.

I very much believe in “hope” itself and I believe deep down we all know that we need to be better stewards of the land. It’s the “what can I do” mentality that makes some of us feel overwhelmed or that there isn’t hope. The truth is you can do plenty! In today’s world information is nothing more then a quick search online. Educate yourself to the simple steps that can be made in your own life to help. Conservation really does start with “you”. Think about that, if we each ensure our own homes make sound decisions then collectively we correct the big picture. That’s what they mean when they say “Think global act local”. Get to know and appreciate the natural world in your own backyard as much as you can because that “is” the world we are trying to protect. In time we will all be a little greener and a lot happier.

Mark Fraser

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Getting to know the world we share

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

The art of exploration isn’t gone as a matter of fact, it’s alive and well. The trick is simply being curious then satisfying the feeling. Never let anyone tell you any different! There is so much to explore and learn about in the natural world that most people don’t even realize it. Here is an interesting test, the next time you walk through or even near a meadow, see if you can name all the plants you find- good luck.  Is that too tough, try just the wild flowers or perhaps stick with Trees. You will soon realize that there are so many species of life on the planet we share it is completely unimaginable. Did you know that no person on planet Earth can name all the species? Think about that, no PHD from any science could even come remotely close- It is literally impossible. Sure you could learn the Mammals of your own hometown, in most areas it’s a small number probably in the 50s or so and maybe even the native fish well at least maybe the inland freshwater species. Birds are tougher but insects… Just trying to do that in your own home region, is next to impossible. Getting to know the myriad of species is the secret sauce to life. You see when we know what lives all around us suddenly the world opens up and we realize we are sharing this world with so many others. Some of the complex systems of life are like miniature version of a little universe. Look at the Milkweed plant. On that one single type of plant there are Large Milkweed Bugs, Small milkweed bugs (two different species) there are Milkweed Aphids, Long horned Milkweed Beetles, Monarch Larva, Swamp Milkweed beetle and the list goes on. There is different species of Milkweed plants themselves. The complexity is stunning. Even Beavers have parasites that have evolved to live only on them!

So that’s just it, there is plenty to explore. Getting to know the natural world is the best way to begin to protect the wild species that live here. How do we know a species is in trouble, unless we take the time to admire and appreciate their world, our world?  It’s really easy and all starts with a hike or a swim and simply paying attention. When you find a species try to identify it. Learn about its call, its habitat and food source. The more you learn about them the more enlightened you will feel. You can start to memorize bird calls for example. With practice, as you listen to the birds singing you’ll find in time you can suddenly name species that you can’t even see.

It’s a long deep breath of fresh air when you look at the forest with open eyes & mind. Teaching ourselves to reconnect to the natural world brings about wonderful things. Perhaps in time, we can again learn to be stewards of the land, instead of just exploiting it…

Mark Fraser

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Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico what will happen to the wildlife?

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

The massive Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico is quickly becoming the worst of its kind and soon to wreak havoc on the sensitive Louisianan coastline wetland habitats and species.  Pay close attention to the news reports, because you can bet special interest groups will start telling you “It’s not that bad” and that “it’s too soon to speculate”. Well let’s see, 5,000 barrels of Oil a day dumping into the Ocean – let’s face it, that’s terrible no matter how they try to spin it. This is another prime example of why fossil fuels should become just that, “fossils”, and scientists around the world should work vigorously in developing greener and renewable energy.

What about the wildlife?

Soon we will undoubtedly begin to see the heartbreaking images of countless species who pay the ultimate price for our hunger for fossil fuels. Marine and bird life covered in the viscous sticky oil will be in a dire life threatening situations and no doubt thousands will perish from this horrible man made disaster.

In the future we will be again be asking the questions “Why” and “How could this happen”?  Just like we did after the massive Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, and yet here we are yet again. Wetlands are some of the most important habitats there are. Many species use brackish water estuaries for a safe place to have their babies. Even people who do not seem to care about wildlife at all and only think of the business side of life still admit the economic implications of wiping out a massive fishery. Some time today (Friday April 30th 2010) it’s believed that this slow moving massive slick will reach the coastline. The species that live in the region are in very big trouble. What will “their” world look like from below when the waters surface is covered in the thick black oily film?

Some day we will finally be free of this dependency on fossil fuels. I wonder what people in the future will think about the choices we made. What will they think about statements like “Drill baby drill?” Ironically in the past few weeks the current administration just approved more offshore rigs.

We need to make companies directly responsible for their actions and accountable for their mistakes. A multi million dollar fine for a company making billions does not cut it. We need change, “actual” change, not just someone telling us what we want to hear. Those animals out there don’t have a voice of their own unless you and I give them one, and as we are about to find out, they very much need one…

Mark Fraser

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