Posts Tagged ‘Species’

You Are Not Alone

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

A long time ago in North America, a great man that came to be known as the “Peacemaker” met with representatives of many northeastern indigenous nations to demonstrate the power of unity. He held a single arrow in the air and with a quick snap demonstrated how easily it could be broken as a single individual. He then took many arrows and bound them together, and tried to break them with all his might but could not. “Together we are strong” he proclaimed. That inspirational meeting led to the founding of the “Haudenosaunee” also known as the Iroquois Confederacy. The social implications set into motion a chain of events which eventually traveled around the entire planet as European settlers in America were inevitably introduced to their first democratic participatory system before the United States ever even existed. That amazing political and social model of representatives from different groups and nations to vote for the overall benefit of everyone created a model that influenced everything from the United States constitution to the assembly of the United Nations. Though today those facts are often overlooked in many of the history books, a little digging clearly demonstrates the power of unity of thought, or another way to look at it is “To be of one mind”.

“We Are All related” and very much so in fact, every atom in our bodies has the same origins as every thing else on this amazing planet. That is not a gesture; it is science and is one of the amazing truths to life on the Earth. So we are connected in ways that most, hardly even understand or are aware of. Knowing that together we really are strong and that we each are connected is a great place to start from when talking about the environment as whole.

With the world economies in serious turmoil, what environmental laws there are to protect our forests and watersheds seem to be on the chopping block yet again. Unlike the social activism of the 1960s and 1970s recent generations have quieted down to a point where many of the things we believe in and care for have honestly come under very serious and real threats. If we do not stand up for what we believe in, then who will? Our willingness to preserve natural resources is the only thing stopping big business from literally leveling everyplace we know and hold sacred for the pursuit of money, a particular kind of hunger that can “never” be satisfied.

Remember that many arrows bound together will not break; the point is that when we all stand together with pride and honor then we are strong enough to be capable of creating real social change. You are “not” alone at all in fact there are millions of us who really do care about wildlife and the health of the natural world. Even many environmental groups have become businesses as opposed to voices for the people so efforts to protect wildlife often focus on cute cuddly species that are easy to raise money for.

It is time for “all” of us to be heard. The natural world is not an object to be bought and sold like a product at a retail store; it is the habitat that “we” need to survive. Humans and wildlife all share a common destiny, what happens to wildlife really does happen to us. That is much more then a nice saying, it’s a fact… When you hear about species extinctions on television or online remember you are also a species and the habitat loss causing that extinction is working its way into your own habitat as well.

We have reached a fork in the road of our history like never before and have to now decide which way to go. Do we sit back and let big businesses decided what happens to the clean and wild places we all love and cherish or do we grab the steering wheel and change the course of our destiny to a better place?

“We decide”. Just know this for those of you who do stand to help preserve clean and healthy wild places, to raise your voices to be heard in your communities you remember that “You are not alone” and I am standing right beside you, we all are.

Mark Fraser

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The Social Media Revolution Solution

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

In the natural world, species that are considered “prey” often use a common tactic by joining forces with others and taking advantage of the “strength in numbers” benefit. This can both confuse and overwhelm the predator that is challenging them. In the human domain, that applies just as much, we “are” animals after all.

Watching the people in countries like Egypt and Libya rise up and struggle to bring about change in their homeland is literally about that same strength in numbers that applies to any species.

History itself will inevitably decide both the positive and or negative outcomes of this new and powerful social capability.

Those are stunning examples of people uniting their own voices to a common cause. In a world of instant communication and constant social media, broadcasting a viral “thought” is a new hi-tech approach to the phenomena of social change. The message is instantly capable of traveling like a living breathing organism working its way through the minds of the masses. Sometimes the sway of society’s popular opinion can turn on a dime sounding the bells of freedom and the end of oppression or in some other cases to strange directions that seem to fly in the face of reason.

Recently I watched major news reports of Charlie Sheen as they seemed to morph the stories from a drug riddled public meltdown into a Twitter superstar posting comments like #winning.

Suddenly the social media “Flock” sprung into action and millions connected to watch. Was this shift of millions to help better the world, save wildlife, help with poverty or end social oppression?….um…no.

Of course the money hungry marketers have no doubt stepped in and as long as the eyes of the masses are still watching Charlie’s party you’ll see lots of drinks, phones and untold products magically appear on tweet photos. Some stars are paid by the “tweet”, very lucrative deals because the commercial real estate on their Facebook and Twitter pages are enormous.

Odd, isn’t it? I actually find a healthy forest and clean river far more important and, well “valuable”.

Perhaps it’s our definition of the word “valuable” that has taken a serious turn into the Twilight Zone. According to my quick search on “Google” looking to define the term value, I see one of the top 3 definitions that seems to apply. “The quality (positive or negative) that renders something desirable or valuable; “the Shakespearean Shylock is of dubious value in the modern world”

I would say that there is overwhelming evidence that a beautiful healthy forest with wildlife brings a positive quality to life making our own lives on this Earth more desirable. Letting it die and harming it, brings upon a negative impact and so on.

So how is it that we do not seem to “value” the most important things yet we flock to the stories of the strangest and most bizarre behavior? Not that Charlie is all that bizarre, he actually reminds me of my late uncle both in looks and in character. After all it’s not like he suddenly shaved his hair off or anything.

No matter how you slice it there seems to be a huge void between “ethics” and “value” and that discrepancy, well makes me concerned for our future and the fate of all that wildlife that I keep blogging about. We teach ethical guidelines to our children and they will make the decisions of tomorrow. That means it is vitally important for our generation to provide a healthy moral compass to our children to invest in the future of the entire world. Is this really needed in our tech savvy society? Well, look at the influences of today’s online world. Any research on the most popular films seen on Youtube demonstrates the point as the most popular films tend to avoid any social or educational “value” albeit some are certainly fun to watch.

The people in Egypt and Libya from what I see on the news seem to value their
basic freedoms and their rights as a people. They look like they are standing up
for “We the People” hmmm, boy that sure sounds familiar.

What I find hard to understand is that many of us seem to be “bored” with
real-world issues like caring for the natural world (you know, just the health
of the planet that gives “us” life) and lately are fascinated by a wealthy mans public
meltdown. What exactly does that say about “us” as a society and our own moral
compass?

I think its time that we had our own “Social Media Revolution Solution” and
start to put “ethics” back in front of “value”.

Living on this Earth made us rich by birth; we just seem to have forgotten that.
There is no greater wealth then the smell of a healthy forest, the view of an
Eagle in flight and the admiration of a young Deer fawn in a meadow.

You see, we could “create” our own “Social Media Revolution Solution” by helping promote “good” in the world. Imagine what we could do if caring about the natural world could once again be seen as “valuable”.

That is, if we could just allow ourselves the joy of understanding that in the first place.

Then, perhaps we really would all be “#winning”.

Mark Fraser

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Terraform Earth

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

“Terra-forming” that’s a theory about taking a world like mars and making it Earth like. It’s a fascinating scientific endeavor into the possibility of making another planet or even a moon somehow become new habitat for our own species.  Now that’s an interesting subject when you think about it. During my life growing up in the 1970s with great TV series like “Space 1999” where humans actually lived on the Moon, albeit not a terra-formed one, but still they carved out a seemingly impossible niche none the less. I liked that show as a kid and I have often wondered about such things. Life on the surface of the Moon or Mars seems exciting at least at first glance, although I then have to ask myself, would I actually “want” to live in a place like that? Ok so then I went to get a drink of tap water, and the real world came crashing back to me. It’s all about “this” world, isn’t it?

I know there are a lot of Sci-fi folks out there that don’t want to hear this but Terra-forming theory is just that, a “theory”. It’s easy to debate the “what if’s” about the engineering and financial considerations involving warming a planet, introducing algae or microbes helping to create a new world so perhaps we can one day enjoy it however today here you are, hungry, thirsty and needing of shelter. All of which come from the planet your on right now, the Earth (no offense to the International Space Station team). Now I suppose one could say we are actually Terra-forming the Earth, just not intentionally and the current direction isn’t exactly been what one would call “creating a better world”.

No worries, there are some simple truths about our lives to keep the peace with the most die hard science types:

Fact: We are already floating in space… that’s pretty cool.

Fact: There is substantial evidence of life forms right here on Earth that are millions of years older then our own species (ask any cockroach, shark or horseshoe crab)

Fact: There is non human intelligent life on the planet. According to species like crow, apes, dolphins and elephants all intelligent life is non human by definition. Ahem…

Terra-form your own world in 6 easy steps? Sure we can…


Step 1: Protect Sea life

Filling the Oceans with so much plastic that it replaces plankton is a really, really bad idea. The so called “Garbage Patches” that exist around the planet are collection points due to current. Point being the entire sea is at risk from our bad habits and the current eventually takes the broken down pieces of plastic to the gyres like the Pacific Garbage patch. What can we do about something so massive? Lot’s, for example we “each” could say goodbye to plastic disposable shopping bags, bottled water and only shop for products that use an Earth friendly approach to their product material and eventual recycling. Of course all this is mute unless we use “sustainable fishing” in practice rather then theory

(It doesn’t hurt to try)

Step 2: Preserve wild places:

Like us wildlife needs a home. There is less wild places every second of every day around the world, help reverse that. Zoning laws meant to keep a community green actually increase “urban sprawl” substantially.  Is it me, or do you find it strange that we often drive past a dozen abandoned city buildings to get to the new development? Having eco-friendly practices in our lawn and yard care can help substantially as well. (Did you really think safe labels on pesticides meant they were actually safe?)

Step 3: Prevent acid rain

Many planets are acidic but does ours have to be? Dealing with that is a serious concern. Acid falls in the form if rain/snow which can corrode the soil and make the watersheds sterile bleaching away the possibility of fish. Solution; update the “Clean Air Act” to include better regulations and avoid corporate dollars from undermining the spirit of the law. Keeping sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in check will ensure our watersheds can support fish which are important considerations when making a planet habitable, especially our own.

Step 4: When politicians disregard climate scientists, “change the channel”

Yes contrary to the belief of some, political party affiliation does not also mean you have become a climatologist. Scientists around the world have never been as united as they are to say the Earth’s climate is dramatically changing and our behavior does impact it.

Let me try to sum this up with some basic math;

Steady Climate= Farms= Food

Or

Unsteady Climate=? Farms =? Food

Step 5: Plant a tree

I don’t mean just send money  so someone else can plant a tree for you. I mean get a Pine Cone or Acorn of a native tree. Put the seed into a pot and raise it your self at home. When its time to plant your baby tree sapling, take your family with you. Find a place that is safe for the young tree by studying what it needs to survive. Look for a spot where it won’t be cut down by future development during its life cycle. Those steps alone will teach you more about conservation than you would expect. Teach your self and family about how that very tree exhales what we inhale and role you eyes at anyone who says it doesn’t count because they don’t have lungs and remind them that “we do”. Keep in mind that very tree could grow to outlive your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grand children and even far beyond them. It may be the longest lasting legacy of your entire life, really.


Step 6: Become the person you know you can be.

Do not expect someone else to fix the world for you because that simply won’t happen. You have to become the hero right where you live, for your family, for your community and for the planet that all of us share.

So I suppose all things considered there is a form of Terra-forming we can actually do today on a planet wide scale. Let’s call this a great experiment in the future of our own species. If we can make all 6 of the above steps come to life maybe we will actually be around in the future to see a community on the Moon or even Mars.

I believe we can succeed. Nature has the amazing ability to heal, and we have the amazing ability to rise to diversity. The future really is up to us.

Mark Fraser

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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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Living with Carnivores: The Coy Wolf

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

Wildlife comes in all shapes and sizes and I truly love them all, but let’s face it some species have a bad rap.  Carnivores for example seem to suffer from a skewed public image.  Let’s talk about that for a moment. Cats are carnivores, and very serious ones at that. When domestic cats are left outside suddenly cuddly little fee-fee is pouncing on Chipmunks and songbirds and in fact “millions” of birds and many other species are taken each year from our domestic pets.  Despite this fact, Cats are considered “cute” so regardless of the science about what really happens, they are left outside and continue to harm local wildlife because they are lucky or even smart enough, to make friends with humans. That’s an important survival skill for a carnivore these days since we are still learning how to coexist with wildlife.

Image courtesy of http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

Let’s look at another species, the “Coy-Wolf” also sometimes called the Eastern Coyote. This is a large predator with some animals reaching huge sizes of 50 to 60 pounds double their western cousins and is actually due to the genetics of being a hybrid between the Western Coyote and the Eastern “red” Wolf.  Like the Cat, this animal is a true carnivore and in the case of the Coy-Wolf is also a very intelligent opportunistic and social hunter.  Unlike that Cat, the Coy-Wolf suffers from a very serious public image problem. They pay a terrible price for that fact and are hunted relentlessly in many areas of their habitat and despite their wild beauty, haven’t yet been able to win over us humans.  Coy-Wolves are a “stunning” looking animal reminiscent of wild times long ago and one would think that people would warm up to them.  They look like, and are very closely related to dogs who are our best friends so what exactly is going on? Well first of all we can’t tame them and many people are bothered by that.  They are really wild, not like the domestic cat who just acts like that when you’re not looking.  The other problem is a real one – they sometimes will eat unprotected cats that are left outside. Our pets are our family and people who have lost a small dog or cat to a coyote or Coy-Wolf certainly have good reason to be upset.  There is however more to the story, and rushing to judgment isn’t always the best approach.  Living with carnivores requires some disciplines to ensure the safety of your household pet as well as the safety of the wildlife. Think of it this way, living next to a road (like most of us do) is far more dangerous. We learn common sense rules at a very young age. “Look both ways before crossing”, “stay in your lane when driving” and the list goes on and on. Following these rules is the best way to ensure your safety. Would you let your small dog or cat cross a busy highway?  Of course not, that’s because you know the rules and the consequences.  Living with carnivores also comes with rules and is by far, much safer then the highway. If you leave food outside for your pet you most likely will attract wildlife including carnivores.  So leaving a doggy dish with food in it can attract Coy-wolves.   Leaving your pet outside unattended is taking a chance that could put your pet in harm’s way so try and keep a leash on your pet or at a minimum stay with your pet. Most importantly, do not let your pets out at night. There is no need since you can easily set a schedule with your pet so they go out when it’s safe to do so. If you must let them out at night for some reason remember the earlier leash rule.

Image courtesy of http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

Like the highway, following all the rules doesn’t mean that something unexpected can never happen however, it will greatly reduce the risk of an incident that can hurt your pet, and the wildlife.  People often ask if humans are at risk from Coyotes and Coy-Wolves. The answer is certainly “no” you are completely safe I have been in the presence of these animals many times. Here is another way to make the point. Every year, there are more fatalities from “domestic dogs” then there are from coyotes or coy-wolves in “all of recorded history”. Please read the previous sentence twice, it’s important.

The environment flourishes when there are carnivores its nature’s way and trust that she knows exactly what she is doing-she has had alot of practice.

Image courtesy of http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

The world is far better with Coy-Wolves.  Mother Nature chose them to fill a niche in the natural world fixing an apex predator void that we humans created. Learn about this beautiful species online from scientists studying the species like Dr Way http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com and cherish their incredible songs. Recently I had the honor of spending time with Dr Way tracking radio collared Coy-Wolves during the night and studying them.  His critical research is helping to better understand this amazing and yet poorly understood species. You’ll see more about the Coy-Wolf and observe some actual film taken during the research trip in the coming weeks on the Nature Walks Youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/nwwmark

They are as beautiful as any species you will meet and I hope in time we all can learn to both appreciate, and live “with” this beautiful singing wild k9 called the Coy Wolf.

Mark Fraser

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The world is what we create

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

Nature- the word itself stirs the imagination in each of us. The more wild a region is, the more “pristine” a forest, then the more incredibly beautiful we perceive it. That love of the natural world is something I find with people from around the entire planet from every culture I have ever encountered.

Maybe there is something more to that, something deeper than what meets the eye. I mean why is it that we see a clean and healthy river as beautiful, yet a pile of discarded tires or batteries as ugly. From a biological standpoint is it possible there is something more instinctive at play here?  Deep down inside each of us there seems to be some lessons learned long ago that we each have buried within our brains.

That is what “beauty” actually is – isn’t it? The word describes a feeling; the feeling is created by our brains giving us positive stimulation. Why is it doing that? What’s the point?

Well it boils down to something important, the survival of ourselves as individuals and on the big picture, our entire species.  Eating poison is bad, rotten things are seen as ugly etc. It protects us so that we may live on. In the same way that bad feelings may warn us about pending danger and help protect us from harm the good feelings may also help by showing us the way. A natural built-in compass we are given to navigate through life.

Now let’s get back to the beauty of nature. Not long ago I rented a small aircraft to fly over a wilderness area and view it from above. As I looked over the millions of trees below I actually could feel my eyes well up with tears as if something long lost was remembered, something I yearned for. I even choked a bit trying to have a conversation with the pilot. It feels wholesome and “right” to look over a massive swath of healthy trees or to admire a Whale and hear its beautiful song.  It “feels” good.  You see nature is giving us a compass teaching each of us what is right from what is wrong.  So “why” would nature’s built in bio-compass teach us that we should protect the health of the forests or the sea?  It seems common sense really; we simply won’t have a future without the natural world. Just like teaching us to avoid poison is it so hard to imagine nature is teaching us to avoid destroying the habitat that we are connected too for our own survival? When we level a forest, exploit and damage the sea we are impacting our future as a species and that is very ugly. So follow your instincts – admire an ancient old-growth tree- smell the Balsams and Pine in the forest. Know that wonderful feeling you get is something more than just a great day about to happen. It’s the Earth itself talking directly to you, to each of us.

I sometimes wonder if wildlife that is certainly watching us walk through the forest on a hike or kayaking along is thinking “are they getting it yet?”  Perhaps one day more of us will pay attention to our biological -compass and navigate through life in a way that allows our wild neighbors to walk, swim and fly right beside us.  For now, we are literally at a cross roads in the evolution of our species.  We have never in history been more capable of both great things on a massive scale and also global destruction at the same time.  If we choose poorly and don’t listen to our compass I fear one day the ambers of our own species will shine no more like so many other species before us. If we choose well, we will enjoy a long and happy future on the very special living world we call both home and “Mother”, Earth.

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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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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