Nature Books, Part 3: Water

This third post about some of my favorite nature books involves the theme of Water. Water can be a source of adventure, peacefulness, or inspiration. It is a form of transportation. By living near a lake, river, or ocean, its presence may be woven into everyday life. Life can be abundant in water, on water, and surrounding it. Water is the most plentiful compound on Earth.

What books have you read that prominently include water? Here are mine:

1 – Pacific Lady: The First Woman to Sail Solo across the World’s Largest Ocean – by Sharon Sites Adams, Karen Coates

In both 1965 and 1969, Sharon Sites Adams sailed alone in the Pacific Ocean – first from California to Hawaii and then from Japan to California. I can’t even imagine! I admire her for these achievements. This book contains simple and satisfying accounts of those journeys and her life during those years.

2 – The Everglades: River of Grass – by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Robert Fink

First published in 1947, this is THE source of information about the Florida Everglades. Wildlife, Native American history, explorers, geology, ecological and developmental threats, and more are covered in a moving way. The Everglades is “one thick enormous curving river of grass….It reaches one hundred miles from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico, fifty, sixty, even seventy miles wide.”


3 – Island of the Blue Dolphins – by Scott O’Dell

This award-winning pre-teen fiction book tells the story of Karana, a girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. She learned to survive and also to thrive.

4 – The Outer Beach: A Thousand-Mile Walk on Cape Cod’s Atlantic Shore – by Robert Finch

I wanted to learn what it’s like and what it means to walk Cape Cod’s shoreline and this book provided that insight. I also gained some historical and cultural knowledge.

5 – Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea – by Steven Callahan

In 1982, after his boat capsized in the Atlantic Ocean, the author drifted in his inflatable raft for 76 days. The writing is fast-paced, technical, spiritual, and thought-provoking.

6 – The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod – by Henry Beston, Robert Finch

Poetic and charming. It will make you want to go to Cape Cod. Here’s something from the book that gives you a flavor of the author’s writing: “Touch the earth, love the earth, honour the earth, her plains, her valleys, her hills, and her seas; rest your spirit in her solitary places.”


7 – Woodswoman I: Living Alone in the Adirondack Wilderness – by Anne LaBastille

This is the true story of a courageous woman living out in the wild. I am both impressed and envious!

8 – Spirited Waters: Soloing South Through the Inside Passage – by Jennifer Hahn

I read this book with interest as the author was a childhood friend. Her account of this voyage was a delight – a satisfying mix of adventure, nature, fear, history, introspection, art, and humor.

The next favorite-nature-books post will be about the western United States.

“Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty.
The objective is an environment of decency, quality, and mutual respect
for all other human beings and all other living creatures.”

– Gaylord Nelson, the Founder of Earth Day


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Nature Books, Part 2: Hiking


It’s time for more reviews of Nature books I’ve read. The theme of the first post is Birds and the theme of this post is Hiking. Hiking/walking in nature can involve all of the senses, from inhaling sweet blossoms of Linden trees to nibbling on a minty wintergreen leaf to hearing the bugling sounds of sandhill cranes to seeing a feisty squirrel chasing off an intruder to feeling the well-worn stones at a lake’s edge.

I invite you to add a comment listing your favorite Nature books!

1 – Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail – by Melanie Radzicki McManus

From the Introduction: “In thirty-six thrilling days, Melanie Radzicki McManus hiked 1,100 miles around Wisconsin, landing her in the elite group of Ice Age Trail thru-hikers known as the Thousand-Milers.” This book was more fulfilling as the pages advanced. The sidebar chapters or portions of chapters on the history of the Trail or other’s experiences regarding the Trail made it more satisfying.


2 – Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. The Impossible Task. The Incredible Journey – by Ed Stafford

This is a gripping adventure story of a feat no one had accomplished to-date, walking the entire length of the River Amazon. It is chock-full of challenges.

3 – Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail – by Ben Montgomery

After raising 11 children in a marriage with an abusive husband, 67-year old Grandma Gatewood walked the Appalachian Trail and then went on to do even more walking. Wow.

4 – No Picnic on Mount Kenya: A Daring Escape, A Perilous Climb – by Felice Benuzzi

This is a unique true story of three POWs who climb Mount Kenya and then return to the POW camp. It is adventurous, heart-warming and has bits of dry humor. Plus there are poetic-like passages such as this one: “Always, and more especially on mountains, have I watched daybreak with deep awe. It is an age-old miracle which repeats itself again and again, every day the same and every day different. It is the hour of Genesis.”

5 – Walking on the Land – by Farley Mowat

I enjoy this author’s storytelling abilities. Here, he walks the Arctic and describes the Inuit people of the Hudson Bay area and their struggles and hardships.

6 – Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan

The author and his dog Atticus M. Finch set out to climb all 48 of New Hampshire’s four-thousand-foot peaks twice in one winter. This book taught me about love and healing.

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”  ~Henry David Thoreau

The theme of the next book blog post will be Water.

Until next time,


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Nature Books, Part 1: Birds


The crocus are blooming! These have such lovely hues of purple, don’t you agree?


I like to read. And I document the books I read on (I also get great ideas for future reads from friends there.) I went to the website the other day, thinking I’d list my favorite Nature books in a blog post. I started compiling them.

Whoa…..too many for one post! So, here’s the first post, and all the books are about birds (or a bird).

Note that many, if not all of these are non-fiction, my preferred reading material, because I think the truth is many times stranger and more interesting than fiction!

To obtain any of these books, utilize the library or purchase at,,, or the author’s website.

1 – Saving Jemima: Life and Love with a Hard-Luck Jay – by Julie Zickefoose

This is a terrific account by a talented writer/artist/naturalist who raised a young, starving blue jay one summer until release into the wild. I learned that not all blue jays look alike and that they are incredibly smart!

2 – What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World – by Jon Young

From the Summary: “Birds are the sentries—and our key to understanding the world beyond our front door.” This book made me understand many things about birds and other creatures, even though I’ve been a birdwatcher for years. The author explains the use of a “sit-spot”, a place in nature you go regularly to sit in silence and watch animal behavior.

Mallards: female (left) and male (right)

3Mozart’s Starling – by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

This book alternates between the author raising a baby European starling and Mozart’s life. Did you know that Mozart had a pet European starling that may have influenced his composing?

Chipping sparrow

4 – The Gift of Birds: True Encounters with Avian Spirits – by Larry Habegger

This is a collection of 28 essays that describe how birds have affected different people, mainly in a spiritual manner.


5 – Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl – by Stacey O’Brien

A woman raises a barn owl that has no hope of surviving in the wild. The process is fascinating and exhausting. The telepathic human/animal connection is briefly introduced, which intrigued me.

White-breasted nuthatch

6 – Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World – by Noah Strycker

In 2015, the author devoted a mostly sleepless year to observing and counting as many birds in the world as possible. He surpassed his goal of 5,000 to reach 6,042 species. Birdwatchers should delight in this diary-style account.

Left to right: Tufted titmouse, Northern cardinal, Downy woodpecker

7 – The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds – by Julie Zickefoose

Excellent! Each story is thoughtful, well-written, and full of interesting facts and insights into the life of birds. There are a number of accounts of raising baby birds. The author’s illustrations are beautiful as well. This book would be a lovely gift for a bird-lover.

Wilson’s warbler

8 – One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives – by Bernd Heinrich

Most of this book is engaging however there are some areas I thought were less-so. The author interrupts multiple birds going about their lives; e.g. peering into nests while the adult is sitting on eggs, going through nests to count eggs, etc. I understand this is likely how scientific research on birds is done, however it seemed invasive to me.

Black-capped chickadee

9 – The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human – by Noah Strycker

If you are delighted by birds, this book is for you. It explains why Turkey vultures are attracted to fresh road kill, how European starlings flock, and more.

Red-bellied woodpecker

So there you have it. The next post about nature books will involve hiking/walking.

It’s Spring and warming up! Yesterday morning I found a tick attached to me, ugh! I took a walk with a friend the day before, next to the railroad tracks. 

Tree swallow


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Back to Costa Rica

Ah yes, back to the land of beach sunsets:

And Great Kiskadees are everywhere as usual, making their kis-ka-dee calls at dawn and again in the late afternoon.  I was able to photograph the yellow crown patch of one, below. I looked it up and learned they eat quite a variety of food – fruit, flying insects, spiders, fish, snakes, mice, and even your pet’s dog food!


Canna lilies are found on the roadside and in gardens:

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – not the best picture due to the low light, but one appeared a few times. They do not take well to trespassing in their territory and may attack other birds such as Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Mourning Doves, and Western Kingbirds.

A Blue Morpho Butterfly larvae wandered onto our back porch one day. I took several photographs of the colorful little thing – reddish/brown body, lime-green hairs on the body, and aquamarine blue head and longer hairs at both ends of the body.

After emerging from a chrysalis, the butterfly looks like this, a common sight in parts of Costa Rica:

In the evenings we’d sit at the table on the back porch, enjoying a Costa Rican rum drink, listening to music, and talking into the night. A few candles lit the space. The geckos gathered on the outside walls of the house, lurking in the corners up high, tsk-tsking occasionally. And one or two 4-inch long Praying Mantis would silently crawl into view; it was fascinating but creepy because if you got close enough, its beady eyes followed your movements.

I’m not sure what plant this is at the front of a restaurant but I want one!

While grocery shopping in Jaco, we noticed another wall mural:

Artist: Jade Rivera

From the Artify Jaco website is this explanation of the painted scene:

The mural, named “Legado” or “Legacy” incorporates Boruca indigenous art from Costa Rica in a thought provoking scene of a boy wearing a jaguar mask being blessed by the hand of the Universe. The masks depicted in the mural are made by the Boruca tribe, hand carved usually out of Balsa or Cedar wood and all uniquely hand painted. Use of the masks dates back to when the Spanish Conquistadors first came to Costa Rica to conquer the land. The Boruca Indians we able to ward them off for a period of time by wearing masks and jungle foliage and surprising their enemies in their home territory. This style of Boruca masks are still worn in the Boruca village for “The Festival of the Devils” which happens every year around New Years.

When flying home, I snapped this photograph of what I think is Grand Bahama island:

If you’re interested in Wisconsin birding 2019 year in review, here’s a link. It includes dozens of incredible close-up photographs.

Until next time,




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The Arm of Massachusetts

In October of 2019, I vacationed in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. During an Archeology tour at the Museum of Natural History there, I was informed that the shape of Cape Cod is like a sailor’s right arm. I like that!

Of course, the beaches were fantastic:

Wilson’s plover (left) and a small fish (~3″ long) – both seen while beachcombing:

When I was a boy the Dead Sea was only sick.

George Burns

I attended a bird-banding event early one morning at the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. In addition to the banding, staff determined the species, age, sex, dimensions, and weight. Helpers (in blue hats, below) documented the data. In the background are a few bags of birds waiting for their turn.

The town of Provincetown is located at the “fist”. It is home to the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum. The 252-foot monument commemorates the history of the Mayflower Pilgrims who arrived here in November 1620. One can walk up up up to take in the sweeping views of the northern part of the Cape. While still inside the monument and near the top, you’ll see I took a photograph looking downward as well.

Here are a few photographs from the town:

On my last full day, I hiked the Dune Shacks Trail. From the main road (Hwy 6) start walking east and follow the footprints in the sand dunes. Talk about a workout! Several rustic shacks are located near the shore; some are available for rent to artists and writers.

The clouds were marvelous!


Gray seals were resting on Head of the Meadow Beach. I kept my distance. After I started walking back to the car, a man let his dog loose and the dog chased all of the seals into the ocean. (GRR…leashless dogs are illegal on beaches and I reported the incident.)

Several times while walking along the water, a lone gray seal would be curiously following:

I visited Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary:

There were many Fiddler crabs in the salt marsh. Below are photographs of a male (with one major claw) and an entrance to a burrow. The sediment “balls” near the entrance to the burrow are leftover material from the crab gleaning edibles.


Sassafras tree leaf:

My beach finds:

Yes – that’s a Great white shark tooth!

Almost home – can you name the lakes?

Thanks for tagging along on this trip to Cape Cod.


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Days Gone By

It’s cold and dark and windy in Wisconsin today. Perfect for staying in with a mug of Ginger Spice tea and looking at photographs from the past. Days Gone By. Bygone Days.

When I look up the phrase “Days Gone By” I learn it has been used quite a bit, such as by Joe Walsh, Hillsong Young & Free, Van Morrison, and Hidden Mountain Resort.

Back to Wisconsin…

This delightful butterfly, Painted Lady, showed up for one day in mid-September. 


The Woolly Bear caterpillar is known by nearly every child. According to one version of folklore, it’s coloring indicates how severe the winter will be in the area. The body has 13 segments, each one corresponding to the 13 weeks of winter. (Um, the folklore must not be from Wisconsin.) Each black segment represents one week of more severe winter conditions, while orange bands indicate milder temperatures. What does this one below predict?

What is this Woolly Bear predicting?


A bike ride around Lake Monona (Madison) in early September allowed me to photograph several nature scenes. Who doesn’t love the bright golden yellow of sunflowers?

A stand of Gray Birch trees(?) (photo modified to be black and white):

One of my favorite trees in Madison – a very large Cottonwood – stands proudly near the Yahara River (photo also modified with a filter):

John Muir Memorial Park in Marquette county, Wisconsin is a lovely place to visit. It is part of the Ice Age Trail as well. John Muir moved here with his family when he was 11 years old. It is said that his love of nature began here. 

There is a trail around Ennis lake. The view is gorgeous and peaceful:

There were other sights as well.

Black raspberry vines lined in frost:

Fallen leaves:

A common garter snake on the sunlit path:

A happy dog!

Close to John Muir Park – and said to be frequented by the boy himself – is Observatory Hill State Natural Area. It is the highest point in Marquette county. 

Here’s the story of how the land came to be a State Natural Area:

And here is a view from the top of the hill:

Back in my neighborhood later in October, I photographed fall colors against the blue sky:


Okay, one picture with snow. From mid-November. As I write this in mid-December there is no snow. So strange! This day called for a hike in Madison’s Cherokee Marsh – North Unit. Near the observation deck on the boardwalk I noticed a pattern of snow:

“I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”
– Vincent van Gogh


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Warm temps + fog + spiderwebs = WOW




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