Friday, August 27, 2010


One sure way to get the greatest pleasure from the outdoors is to diversify your interests. We tend to get stuck in the rut of doing the same thing at the same place, all of the time. I once read that the average American spends 90% of their life within a 30 mile circle of where they are born. I would be willing to bet that the circle is smaller in West Virginia. I am not going to suggest travel in order to spend time outdoors, not in these days of high fuel prices. You can get more enjoyment from the places in which you normally spend time.

You probably already know where the turkeys roost and the deer feed in your normal haunts. When can you expect to hear wood frogs at their breeding pools, on what date do the scarlet tanagers return? You cannot answer that one can you? The old-timers knew when to expect everything. The TV generation does not. Here is my one little challenge to you. During the next month, learn to identify one bird, butterfly and tree that you are not familiar with and do this within one mile of your home. I can hear you thinking now. You know everything that grows and flies in your area. No, you don’t and you will be happily surprised to learn this when you give it a chance. Be observant and my prediction is that you will not stop at one new species.

Those who spend time on the water can add diversity to their pastime, by paying a little more attention to aquatic life; other than fish. Learn about the underwater organisms and how they fall in the food chain. Remember, the key to catching fish is to know when, where and what the fish is feeding on. This is all based on water temperature and life cycles of smaller organisms. If you want a real eye-opener, get involved with a watershed improvement organization. Volunteer a few hours to participate in water quality monitoring and make sure you do a benthic survey. It will not be difficult to find a group near your home and all are in need of help. You will enjoy the work and will learn to appreciate our waterways in a different way.

Photography is the one thing which has made my outdoor life more meaningful. Skills of stealth and the power of observation are two necessary requirements of nature photography. Curiosity is also important; you do not want the title of your photo to be cute caterpillar. You will scour field guides to find out what the image really depicts. This research will likely bring back things that you used to know; before your mind became cluttered with important things like algebra. Photography can be simple or advanced. It is up to you in how well you choose to advance your skills. My one tip on this subject to help shorten the learning curve is to: learn how to set your white balance manually.

If you are one who quit learning when you graduated; shame on you. Learning is a lifelong experience. Diversify and improve your quality of life.

This Article first Appeared In Two-Lane Livin

A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs: Northeastern and north-central United States and southeastern and south-centralCanada (Peterson Field Guide)     Field Manual for Water Quality Monitoring: An Environmental Education Program for Schools
The Digital Photography Book
The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2
The Digital Photography Book, Volume 3
Bryan Peterson's Understanding Photography Field Guide: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History (Princeton Field Guides)
Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars of North America

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