Showing posts with label wildlife. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wildlife. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Too Early to Plant, So Take a Trip Through a Garden Instead! A Book Review

March has arrived!  It's too early to plant, so take a nice trip through the outback of Australia with this memorable book!  

 

Many of us are getting very itchy fingers!  We all want to start digging in the dirt!  That's not a bad thing, but here in my neck of the woods, it is far to early to even think about starting all those seeds!  So what's a bonafide gardener to do?  My suggestion, is read a book!  

By accident, I came across this book, "The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart" by Holly Ringland.  I was itching to get my hands dirty, I knew it was too early, yet I needed something to take that itch away.  Talking about flowers seemed to be a good idea.  I must confess that I got this book from the library (thank you Libby app.).  To say that it piqued my interest is putting it mildly.  Alice Hart's life is a story that has been lived by many people in some form or other.  Using her love of flowers, helps her to grow, learn, heal and above all live her life!  The flowers just help her with their stories and meanings.  They help her to express what she sometimes doesn't understand or can't put words to.  

I have always wanted to travel to Australia, but I'm pretty sure that I will only be doing that virtually, especially in these times.  So, I was getting rid of two itches at once (gardening and travelling) while delving into the pages of this book.

Trying to get rid of the itch to garden too early can be difficult, but this book took me away to places I have only dreamed of.  That helped me a lot.  Alice Hart (the main character in the book) grabs you right away.  You want to hold her hand as she traverses a new normal amid family secrets and stories that make life "Okay" again.

So many things are not spoken, and through the language of flowers, Alice finds a way to embrace what is going on in her life. 

Do Flowers have a language?  Oh yes indeed they do!  The first book I read about the Language of Flowers was a book reviewed right here by our own writer, Renaissance Woman!  I was so taken with this book that when I found The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, I knew I had to read this book too!

While enjoying the story, I also learnt of trees and flowers that require a "burn" in order to spread their seeds, birds of the Australian landscapes and flowers that we will never be able to grow here in the north.  In addition, the need to keep our hands off of flowers that will die when we pick them.  

I'm sure that you will enjoy this book as much as I did and it just might help you get through that itch, that for us is starting far too early.

Waiting till April will make our efforts of digging in the ground much more fruitful and successful too.

You can learn a lot by reading and hearing the stories set in far away places. When they are  a novel that is fictional, but interspersed with truths of gardening and the habits of flora and fauna of distant places, you know you will be changed.

Here's hoping that spring will come along in due time and our itches to get our hands in the ground will be fruitful and result in beautiful gardens for the year to come.
 
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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

6 Ways To Help Wildlife In The Year Ahead

 

Butterfly On Wild Flowers By Raintree Annie

If one of the things you would like to do in the New Year is to do more to help our precious and often at-risk wildlife here are six easy ideas reviewed.

Even if we do just one of these we will be helping wildlife and nature. Do all six and your garden could be transformed into a wildlife haven in less than a year! 

In our gardens, balconies and patios we can all do one thing for wildlife and make such a huge difference. Some of these ideas are very easy indeed while others require a little more thought and time but all are fun and not difficult for most people to achieve. You may well find children enjoy being involved in many of these activities as well.

 

1. What To Do With The Old Christmas Tree 

I hope you had a lovely time at Christmas and an attractive, decorated Christmas tree.

We will keep ours up in the house for a little while longer but now is the time to think about what to do with it once the time comes to take it down.

I find it quite depressing to see all the Christmas trees outside people's houses ready to be taken away by the refuse collectors, of no more use to the neighbourhood. 

I do not like waste and feel there is a better way to recycle our old Christmas trees long after they have given us so much happiness. 

Making a woodpile with the chopped branches, creating a stumpery, shredding it and using the shreddings for mulch or even just laying it down in an undisturbed area of the garden for habitat and shelter all help our gardens and our wildlife.

What Do You Do With The Old Christmas Tree discusses more uses for our old Christmas trees.  

 

2. Don't Be So Tidy in The Garden! 

This may be an easy one to follow! However, I understand many of us like to have a neat and tidy garden, all edges carefully trimmed, leaves gathered up and all weeds eradicated. There is something very pleasing about a neat and tidy garden. However for nature, for wildlife they need us to be a little messier in our gardens.

Wildlife view our gardens as s source of food, warmth, shelter and breeding sites so they look for leaves, woodpiles, shrubs, water and long grass to name a few. 

There is a way to have a mainly neat and tidy garden and to help wildlife though. Messy does not have to mean ugly.

A small log pile can be made attractive to us and useful for wildlife, leaves left in borders or in a small pile out of the way are an invaluable source of shelter and food and just leaving things a little less manicured can be a boon to nature generally. 

We can easily designate a small area of the garden where we allow it to be a little wilder. In fact, I think a garden that aims to attract wildlife is especially beautiful and full of sound and sights and life. 


Diary Of a Wild Country Garden. Are we Too Tidy In Our Gardens? Raiintree Annie 


If you decide to do this you will reap the benefits in terms of seeing more birds, butterflies and bugs and attracting more insect and bird predators to your garden to help you with the pests and diseases all gardens have to deal with. For more ideas please see Are We Too Tidy In Our Gardens? 


3. Provide Water For The Birds 

Perhaps the most important thing we can do for birds is to provide water. Birds need water to drink and clean their feathers. This is vital for their health and wellbeing.

It is also something that fewer homes provide. Many people think about feeding the birds but less think about the need for water and bathing. Do You Have A Bird Bath In Your Garden? discusses this further with tips to help our beautiful birds. 

As long as the water is clean and fresh and ideally we need to change it every day or every few days, it does not matter too much what the container is. 

However, many of us choose to have a lovely looking birdbath or a cute novelty birdbath to make our gardens look gorgeous while assisting the birds. You can find beautiful examples here Reviewing Basalt Birdbaths 

In addition to beautiful birdbaths, I  also use plastic saucers on the ground on our patio to help the smaller birds like these gorgeous sparrows in my garden. I know other wildlife like hedgehogs and squirrels visit the water as well. 

 

Sparrows Bathing by Raintree Annie

One of the main pleasures to us of having a birdbath is to watch and photograph the gorgeous, beautiful, fascinating birds every day from the comfort of our own home.

I like a variety of birdbaths around the garden and so we have several beautiful birdbaths and these ordinary saucers placed around the garden so that the birds do not have to compete for water and bathing rights! 



4.Leave An Area Of Long Grass 

This is an easy one to fulfill if you have a garden with a lawn. Simply designate one area of the lawn and do not mow it all. 

Rather than taking action to help wildlife, this one is all about inaction! Do nothing and wait and see what happens to that small patch of long grass.

It will be interesting to see if you grow any wildflowers or clover. See how liberating it can be to grow daisies and dandelions and how insects love them! Watch out to see if your long grass attracts bees, butterflies or hoverflies. 

It's easy, free and a very simple way to help wildlife especially insects. It does not need to be a big area, just what you feel you can allow to grow a little wild.  

If you do want to take it a step further and grow some wildflower seeds, you will need to take up some of your grass as grass will generally out-compete the wildflower seeds. 

Simply strip the grass away, rake the soil into fine tilth, sow the seeds according to the seed packet and wait for them to grow. The only work you will need to do then is to cut back the wildflowers in autumn.


5. Grow A Window Box For Wildlife

We do not all have big gardens and lawns and may wonder what can we do to help wildlife when we live in a flat or apartment or a house with a hard landscaped yard.

However, if we have a balcony, room for a hanging basket, a window box or a small patio area for pots we can undoubtedly attract and help wildlife. For more ideas on how to attract wildlife in a smaller space, please see Can You Attract Wildlife If You Only Have A Patio Garden Or Window Box

It is amazing how butterflies, bees, lacewings, hoverflies and ladybugs will find their way to your window box given the right flowers and conditions. 

 Depending on where you live you may need to protect the container in winter. If you are gardening on a balcony, always bear in mind the weight of any containers when filled with soil and plants does not exceed what the structure can take. 

A simple container is all we need. You can fill your window box with flowers both perennial and annual or decide to grow vegetables, it is up to you. 

Some flowers are better for wildlife than others, but really as long as the plants have some flowers the insects and bees will find them. 

Flowers I have found successful in window boxes and hanging baskets and troughs include bright cheerful Marigolds along with Nasturtiums and evergreen Ivy for trailing. Verbena, Fuchsia in a bigger pot and Heather are lovely. 

You do need to give Heather acid or ericaceous soil so it will need to be mixed with other acid-tolerant flowers. I also like to put in a few dwarf yellow daffodil bulbs to cheer up the containers.

If you like you can grow wildflowers in a pot and I have done this for several years. You do just need to make sure that the soil is very poor as wildflowers, in general, need poor soil. I use old compost and lots of grit in my wildflower containers. Bees and all manner of insects adore these wildflower pots! 

I love to grow herbs such as Rosemary and Lavender and Chives do well also in containers. I would give most herbs a try in pots. Good for us to eat and great for wildlife. Bees seem to always love my Chives!



Your container can easily look good for you and be good for wildlife. You will want some evergreens like Rosemary or Heather there and other summer flowering perennial and annual flowers for interest and nectar for as long as possible.

For ideas on making a healthy balcony garden please see Totally Natural Healthy Ways to Increase Your Garden's Growth - A Garden Review


 


6.Give Nature A Home 

One lovely way to attract and help wildlife is to give them a home to live in and raise young. Whether it is a Bird Box, a Bee House, Insect House or a home for hedgehogs it is possible for everyone with any outdoor space, however small to contribute. Here is an idea for a lovely Birdhouse For Eastern Bluebirds 

Over the years many habitats that our birds and insects require to live and breed have been lost. Houses are built without space for birds to nest, grass that is artificial is useless for wildlife and there are fewer places left for bees and bugs to live, hibernate and breed. 

However, if we all do a little we can help to reverse this and give our valuable wildlife a home. 


 


If you love nature and know adults and children who would like to do more for wildlife you may wish to buy nature-related gifts for Birthdays, housewarmings and special events this coming year. For ideas please see Wildlife Gift Ideas Reviewed






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

5 Wildlife Gift Ideas Reviewed

Bird In Tree By Raintree Annie
It is wonderful to buy a gift that will be appreciated and be of use and joy to the receiver long after the day it is given. 

If your loved ones are interested in wildlife or like gardening with wildlife in mind here are some beautiful gifts they will enjoy for a long time. 

These gifts are perfect for helping our wildlife and give hours of happiness and interest to your loved ones. They will enjoy watching the birds, carefully observing the many insects and spiders and learning about the fascinating world of wildlife. 

Many of these gifts are suitable for children to seniors and will keep on being of interest, not just when they open the gift but for all year long.  Here are a few ideas of wildlife gifts from my own experience.

1. Insect Or Bug House. 

These are fantastic for attracting all manner of insects and spiders. You simply hang it up in a sheltered spot away from winds in the garden and ideally about 6-7 foot high. I find it is ideal to place an insect house near a pond if you have one, or a hedge or trees or a mixed flower bed. 

You will know that you are providing a lovely home for all manner of insects such as lacewings, ladybugs and butterflies that will make it their home or resting place and often provide beneficial activities for the garden in terms of predating and pollinating. 

Gardeners will love it as it will attract beneficial insects to help them in the garden and anyone interested in insect life will appreciate being able to observe the bug hotel filling up! I have one and although it takes a little while for the insects to know it is there once they find it they move in!


 A lovely gift for a young child interested in bugs through to an adult gardener. 


2.Wildlife Books

A wildlife book for a child just starting on the discovery of nature is a beautiful and thoughtful gift. When introducing children to the fascinating world of wildlife you want the book to be fun educational and interesting.

 A book like this can be the very start of a lifelong love of nature and wildlife that will bring joy, understanding, fun and interest to children and develop a deep love of wildlife and conservation that can last a lifetime. A beautiful thoughtful and truly giving gift.
  


If gifting to an adult a beautiful wildlife book gift is Kate Bradbury's "The Wildlife Gardener."I have given this book as a gift myself and it was very well received. I then ordered another one for myself it was so good! You can read more about it in Diary Of A Wild Country Garden Why I Bought The Wildlife Gardener Book Twice! 


3.Bird Bath 

One of the most important things we can provide to wildlife is fresh clean water. It is essential for birds to drink every day and bathe to clean their feathers every day for their good health. 

In towns and cities especially, birds need birdbaths with fresh clean water in as many gardens as possible. If you have a birdbath in your garden you will attract a wide variety of birds all year round and once they know it is there it is likely to become very popular!

Our birdbath has bird visitors from robins, sparrows, blue tits and blackbirds to name a few every single day all year round!

This is a fantastic gift for many people from the enthusiastic birdwatcher, to anyone who simply enjoys watching the antics of the birds, to the bird photographer who can gain many opportunities to take amazing photographs of birds in action at the birdbath throughout the year.

Many of these birdbaths are also very beautiful decorative pieces for the garden.

 


4. Bird Feeders Station
 
Especially in winter but really all year round birds need additional food to help them survive. A bird feeder set will be lovely to look at, help the birds and give immense pleasure all year round to anyone who loves birds and enjoys watching their antics or learning more about them.

 Great if a young birdwatcher is learning about how to identify different birds as they will visit birdfeeders again and again and with luck will attract a wide variety of birds to learn about.

For anyone, it is beautiful to spend some relaxing time simply watching the birds and often getting to know regular visitors.  I can spend hours simply watching the birds without realising how much time has gone by! It adds interest to the day and a wonderful connection with our wild visitors.
 
A very useful addition to this gift is to give with a supply of good quality bird feed so that they can get started right away on Christmas day!    

There are various ideas and gifts for attracting birds to a garden along with various birdfeeder products in this post from Diary Of A Wild Country Garden Wild Birds Visiting Our Garden 

Baby Robin By Raintree Annie


5.Birdbox.

Many people like to attract wildlife to their gardens and a great way to do this is to hang up a birdbox. Smaller birds like bluetits often love to use these and I have had success in my own garden.

Anyone of any age interested in wildlife can spend ages watching the birds bringing in nest material and identifying them. If fortunate, they may see the baby birds fledge all the while learning more and appreciating wildlife!

Simply hang the birdbox in a sheltered shady spot far away from any birdfeeders or birdbaths so that it is not too busy or noisy for the nesting birds to raise their brood. Ideally, it should be sited in a place where it will not get too hot as this may be difficult for the baby birds to tolerate. 

Then it is a matter of waiting to see if you can attract a breeding pair and raise young in the garden. I feel it's a good idea to have bird nesting boxes in place by early January at the latest so that the birds have time to get used to a new feature in the garden and can assess it long before nesting time. 

It is amazing to watch and highly educational for young people and a real pleasure at any age. 
 



Whichever gift you choose for your loved one, if they love birds and wildlife they will love the thoughtful nature of your gift to them. 




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Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Reviewing The Joys And Uses Of Autumn/Fall Leaves

Autumn/Fall Leaves

I appreciate all the seasons and I love the time of year when the leaves start to change colour. Although the vibrant colours of the beautiful spring and summer flowers are now a fond memory, Autumn leaves are equally gorgeous. 

I love to see all the different colours and when you look more closely all the diverse shapes and textures of the leaves. Underfoot if it's dry they feel scrunchy and if it's wet they are all slippery.

When the wind blows you can hear the rustle of the dry leaves and some get caught up and fly higher into the sky like wild confetti! 

In the Fall/Autumn season we are treated to the stunning show of reds, golds, bronze and russets to lift our spirits as the days grow colder and shorter. I do have happy memories of Autumn that stay with me always.

There are many beautiful and lasting memories that can be made at this time of year between children and their parents or grandparents and I wanted to highlight some of the uses and joys to appreciate this season's beautiful falling leaves.

There is nothing quite like standing under a large tree when its leaves are changing color to golds and reds gazing up at the sky as the sun is streaming through, it is truly a magical experience.


Autumn/Fall With Children

This time of year always raises memories of my childhood. My parents always encouraged a love of the outdoors and Autumn always evokes memories as a child walking through deep rifts of crunchy leaves holding hands with my Mum and Dad kicking up the leaves, having fun!

We collected leaves of all shapes, colours and sizes to press, make into a picture and learn about. To succeed in this process on a basic level all you need is tissue paper and a very heavy book. Simply lay the leaf between 2 layers of tissue paper then place in the middle of a heavy book, close and leave. Before very long you will have beautifully preserved leaves. If you wish to learn more about leaf and flower pressing this book is a great starting point to learn how to create really lovely personalised art from simple leaves and flowers.

The Art of Pressed Flowers and Leaves


For younger children dried leaves can be laid down on white paper, the outline drawn and then coloured or painted in whatever authentic or imagined colours they like!

Autumn leaves are so beautiful to paint and also to take photographs of. They have amazing colours and shapes and are always interesting for the artist. Such gorgeous rich colours and moods to capture. 

When older children are involved in looking at and experiencing nature in this way it is then very educational to teach children about the different leaves and which trees they come from. 

This gorgeous book is a wonderful resource, beautiful, visual and well organised to teach children about leaves, trees, seeds, flowers and so much more to encourage an interest in and appreciation of nature.


Trees, Leaves, Flowers and Seeds: A Visual Encyclopedia of the Plant Kingdom




Children and adults can enjoy making a collage of beautiful shapes and colours together from collected Autumn leaves.

As a child, I did this activity throughout Autumn with my parents and it was an enjoyable craft in the long dark evenings.

 All we need is a large sheet of paper, a safe means of adhering them to the paper and dried pressed leaves. The only limits are our imagination!




Making Leaf Mould For The Garden

I heard a neighbour say the other day how he would like this time of year if it wasn't for the leaves falling. I was surprised to hear this as I always see this time of year as a bounty! Fallen Leaves are a great harvest for me. Each year I eagerly wait in anticipation for the leaves to change colour and then fall. My task is then to gather them all up to make gorgeous leaf mold.

I make it by first raking up all the leaves on a dry day, then I set the mower blades on the highest setting and give a gentle mow over to break them down into smaller pieces. This helps to speed up the process. Next, I either place the leaves into black bags or a simple chicken wire crate.

If they are in black bags I make holes with a fork for drainage.  If it is not raining I water them and place them out of sight around the back of the garage. This is so easy to do and I simply wait a year and then I have lovely crumbly free leaf mold to mix in with potting compost and use freely on our beds and borders!


Autumn/Fall Leaves And Wildlife

We can all enjoy the fall leaves but we should not forget about our wildlife. I always leave piles of leaves around in the borders of the garden in sheltered places so as not to be destroyed by strong winds. If we add large or medium-sized logs or piles of sticks that assist wildlife even more by providing protective cover.

Over the years I have seen blackbirds kicking these piles of leaves around to find dinner beneath, hedgehogs taking the leaves to another place getting ready for their winter hibernation, or even deciding that the pile itself will make a cosy home!

There are also all the unseen bugs, creatures and minibeasts who will inhabit the leaf pile to make it their home and find some winter comfort there. 


So just a few examples of how we and our garden creatures can enjoy and use this bountiful resource that is the fallen Autumn/Fall leaves. How do you enjoy Autumn/Fall leaves?   



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Friday, August 21, 2020

About Raintree Annie On Review This Reviews

About Raintree Annie On Review This Reviews  


Raintree Annie Hi, my writing name is Raintree Annie and I am otherwise known as Jasmine Ann Marie. In life and online I get called any combination of those names! I am really happy to be a part of the Review This Reviews writing group. I started writing many years ago and always love it most when I am part of a creative and enthusiastic writing family. 

I like to write about what I know and experience. From a young age I developed an interest in nature and loved animals, birds and plants. I was given my own little patch of garden by my parents who encouraged me in these interests. 

My interests merge together really. My love of creating a beautiful garden that has wildlife at its heart, has become a passion and I find a great sense of calm, peace and happiness from learning about and nurturing our garden.

I am never happier than when I am immersed in nature and wildlife. I also like to have plants in the house to carry the natural world through into our home. 

I love taking photographs of natural environments, wildlife, flowers, plants and landscapes. I spend hours in the garden and whenever we can my husband and I go out to visit the countryside, beaches, woods and nature reserves so we can exercise and spend time together relaxing in nature. I enjoy making unique cards and gifts from those photographs. 

I gained a significant back issue over a decade ago and now take good care of my back and keep as fit and healthy as I can in order to continue to care for our garden and be out and about in nature. I always take my back into account when I am gardening and choosing products to assist me.

   

Articles By Raintree Annie


Joy of First Snowdrops
When I am not in our garden, the countryside or a nature reserve you can find me online at these places! 

Diary Of A Wild Country Garden, my blog where I write about my reflections of everyday life gardening and looking after wildlife in our wild country garden.


Life With My Pet Back blog covers reflections on life with back pain and the journey to recovery. 


Raintree Earth Designs is my blog where I share my love of photography with cards and gifts made from my photographs of wildlife and countryside with the stories behind them from my Raintree Earth Designs Zazzle Store. 


Essential Wildlife Gardening Gifts where I share practical, fun and beautiful gardening items which make lovely gifts for the gardener.







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge Review

Wetlands at Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge
Just recently, I have come to experience the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge in an entirely new way.  Instead of sampling the sanctuary like a temporary visitor, I have found my own rhythm of belonging.  In becoming a part of this vital place, I have been able to take in a much deeper level of sustenance.  Perhaps this is the real beauty of refuges.  More than just protecting and conserving natural resources for the benefit of wildlife, they can greatly nourish anyone who truly enters into them.  This is not so much a review of a tourist attraction, or place, as it is a review of learning how to let a place enter into you in a way that feeds your spirit.

As I turn off of busy Highway 160 in South Central Colorado this morning, I slow my vehicle's speed way down.  The two-mile approach to Alamosa NWR's Visitor Center is where I begin to align my pace with that of the natural world.  Opening all of my windows, I breathe deeply and feel the gentle breeze and soft rays of the early morning sunlight on my face.  Reaching into my camera backpack, a palpable sense of anticipation rises up to meet me.

I start counting telephone poles.  There he is, as always, on pole number seven.  My greeter.  Here's where I admit that I don't know what kind of hawk he is.  At some point, I will pull out a book and ID him, but I'm not obsessed with that right now—which is unusual for me.  In the past, I would have immediately wanted to know his name.  The new me has a different agenda for coming to know him.

Sign Marking Entrance to the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge
Off to my left, I pass ANWR's entrance sign.  My morning's soundtrack changes dramatically.  Gravel pops and pings as it ricochets off the bottom of my red Sport Trac.  In my left ear, a meadowlark's lilting aria floats in thin air.  Simultaneously, my right ear picks up the raucous rap of a Marsh wren.  Ahh... the concert has begun, and like a children's preschool program, the singers won't necessarily be bringing their voices in on time or in perfect harmony.  These voices, like their creatures, will do their own thing, and it will be chaotic at times, but gloriously so.

Star Actress in Today's Theater Production of "Fake Broken Wing" - Mama Killdear
Slowly, slowly I creep along the entrance road hoping for an iconic doing-the-splits photo of one of those boisterous wrens.  Suddenly, without warning, a theater production of Fake Broken Wing opens up in front of my vehicle.  The chorus erupts into: kill dear, kill dear, kill dear.  Whoa!

Good thing I am driving about half a mile an hour (my typical wildlife-photographer-on-the-hunt speed).  A pair of killdear parents have young chicks attempting to cross the road without first looking both ways.  I've never seen baby killdears until this very moment and they are perfect in every way.  Oh, the wonder!

Baby Killdear - Cuteness Overload
The teacher in me wants to play crossing guard and get those precious babies across the road.  Children... it's not safe.  Hurry!  My heart pounds when I think of how easily these young ones could be run over by a car.  Relief floods me when I silently count the chicks now on the opposite shoulder of the road.  Five.  Phew!  They all made it.

Now, as I'm attempting to photograph the family from my vehicle, they launch themselves, in true killdear form, into what the former athlete in me recognizes as Fartlek (I do not make this stuff up) training.  Imagine seven photographic subjects, all going in different directions, speed walking for several steps, and then briefly pausing before sprinting away in the opposite direction.  I try to anticipate when and where those slower intervals will take place and press the shutter button in an act of faith.  This is living in the moment.  Talk about exhilaration!

It's time to roll on down the road.  I never want to stress the wildlife by overstaying my welcome.  You learn to take the gift they give you, and with good grace, give them the breathing room they need.  If I drove out of the refuge right now, my day would be complete.

Young Mule Deer Buck With Antlers in the Velvet
What I am learning about this refuge is that there are layers you must peel back to get at the true essence.  You can't be in a hurry, and to get the most out of a sanctuary experience, you want to use all of your senses.  Long before you see something spectacular, you are most likely going to hear it, or feel its presence—that is, if you nurture your inherent sense of awe and wonder.  Anticipation and stillness.  That is the intersection where the marvelous can, and will, happen in this place.

The other thing is this: Don't just look for the big magnificence.  Often, the most delightful splendor comes in the tiniest of packages.  While there will be crowds at area refuges during the seasonal Sandhill crane migrations, or when elk herds are moving through, it is in the smaller, and yet equally mesmerizing annual voyages of say, butterflies, that one may become immersed in transcendent moments.

Walking is the More Intimate Way to Experience the Refuge
Right now, with the wildflowers in full bloom, so much teeming life is taking place in the ditches and meadows of the sanctuary.  This is the time to walk the two-mile nature trail (although I found it temporarily closed today due to the Rio Grande's flooding and the presence of the endangered Willow flycatcher).  There is so much beauty right underfoot.

Yellow-Headed Blackbird
Any time I enter the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, I know that an initial assessment of what's going on will vastly underestimate the real activity that is taking place.  I watch first-time visitors quickly drive the three-mile auto tour loop and leave.  I imagine them saying, "Nothing but blackbirds."  Sadly, they have missed out on everything.  I was once that visitor.

In my ongoing evolution from refuge visitor to a sort of artist-in-residence, I can easily spend all day immersed in nature's artistry.  There is an art to being both a witness to, and a player among, the many moving parts of a wildlife refuge.  I believe the natural world reveals most of its brilliance to those who honor the gift-giver.  And I think the honor is in how we pause and pay deep attention, with reverent awe, and a true sense of gratitude.  There is honor in not taking for granted any creature, no matter if there are thousands of them, and no matter if they are present year-round.

A Glow-in-the-Dark Male Yellow Warbler With a Mouth Full of Insects
Dr. Seuss Chicks - American Coot Babies - Wow, Just Wow!
Today, some of the generous gift-givers have been, in addition to the wondrous greeters I have already mentioned, the lovely Yellow-headed blackbird, the brightest colored warbler I have ever seen, three curious Mule deer, various larks, an amazing porcupine, the Dr. Seuss chicks of an American Coot, a sweet-voiced flycatcher, two American bitterns (listed as uncommon for the refuge), a garter snake (true confession: earlier in my life I would not have put snakes on the gift list), teal ducks, Mallard ducks, a Pied-billed grebe, numerous swallows, and way too many others to note in this limited space.  They know who they are and they know that I revel in their presence.

To miss a day at the refuge, is to miss out on the unfolding of thousands of tiny miracles.  I've found there is no slow season when it comes to the miracle of life.  Any time I find myself drinking in sustenance at the oasis we call the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, is the time of my life.

Water is the Lifeblood of the San Luis Valley's National Wildlife Refuges
I encourage you to find your own little oasis where you can soak up the refreshment to be found in spaces that rehydrate the spirit and soul.  Where we find our sustenance, we find everything we need to thrive and grow into the fullness of our own being.  When that happens, we become the refuge that attracts others into our nourishing space.  Being the place, or space, others want to inhabit—isn't that the high calling?







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Friday, January 26, 2018

Reviewing What We Know About the Red Panda

Reviewing the Red Panda - Endangered Species
Photo © Cynthia Sylvestermouse

One Pretty Baby


I really do love all of the animals at the zoo, but there is just something so sweet about the Red Panda

For one thing, almost any time I see one at the zoo, it is alone.  His solitary existence just seems to tug at my heart.  He is so adorable that I always want to just reach in and grab that little cutie and give it a hug. 

It breaks my heart to know that the Red Panda is endangered.


Red Pandas


Reviewing What We Know About the Red Panda
Photo © Cynthia Sylvestermouse
The beautiful Red Panda lives, eats and sleeps up in a tree. When it is cold, it will wrap itself with its gorgeous furry, ringed tail to keep warm. The Red Panda sleeps mostly during the day and forages for food at night. They eat fruit, berries, acorns, eggs. mushrooms and bamboo.

Because of his lovely red hair, he has also been named a Firefox and because he resembles a domestic cat, he has been called a Bear Cat and even Red Cat. Ironically, the Red Panda is not a bear, it is not a cat and it is not a fox. It is in fact in a family of its own. It is a Ailuride, part of the Musteloidea superfamily which includes the skunk, weasel and raccoon.

This endangered animal is still illegally hunted for his fur and even for his tail, which is considered a good luck charm.


A Few Facts About the Red Panda

  • Weight: 12 - 20 lbs
  • Length: 20 - 26 in.
  • Tail Length: 12 - 20 inches
  • Average Lifespan: 8 years
  • Lives in China, India, Myanmar & Nepal
 

ENDANGERED

This is an especially adorable video of two Red Pandas playing in the snow. You will be able to see for yourself their tremendous ability to climb and hang in a tree and I know you will enjoy watching their antics in the snow as much as I do. 


Where You Can See a Red Panda


Because Red Pandas are endangered, plus they are awesome at camouflaging themselves within tree branches and leaves, it is rare to see one in the wild. However, many zoos care for Red Pandas.  I highly recommend visiting a zoo sometime soon to see a Red Panda in person. I know you will simply fall in love with them!

Be sure to take your camera too!  Once you spot a Red Panda, you will want to memorialize the moment with a snapshot, or perhaps a dozen or more. I always find it difficult to step away from these little sweeties. If he is sleeping, I always want to hang around until he wakes up. If he happens to be awake and moving around, I am simply mesmerized by his ability to slowly climb head first down a tree trunk. Makes me wish I had retractable claws!

Red Panda's on Binders, Mugs & More


I love photographing beautiful animals. Sometimes I offer those photos for sale on Zazzle products. The image of the Red Panda below is offered on several different products, including ornaments, mugs, posters and the featured binder.

 

Zoos That I Know Care for Red Pandas


How about you.  Do you know a zoo that cares for Red Pandas.  If so, please leave the name of the zoo in the guestbook below and I will add it to the list above.  Everyone prefers a zoo near them.  Plus, it is really cool to discover who helps these gorgeous creatures.

Visit AmazingWildAnimals.com 
to Read about More Beautiful and Endangered Animals!


Check Out More Animal Reviews
Here on Review This!



Reviewing What We Know About the Red Panda Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse

           This article was originally published by me in 2009 on a site that is no longer in existence.  




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