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Egret, the oldest independent
U.S. journal of nature
Egret, Vol. 65, #1
Past installments of
Sun Valley Almanac.
A personal almanac of the nature, culture, climate and history of Sun
Valley, Idaho and its environs.
to the best of the environmental
new age CDs discovered by the Outrider
"The Wichita Mountains exhibit some of the oldest
exposed granite in the nation. The uplift occurred hundreds of millions
of years ago, long enough for wind and water, freeze and thaw to sculpt
the phantasmagoric rock formations that rise several hundred feet in
stark contrast to the surrounding plain."
"Walking slows the thoughts to the pace of
and mindfulness, There is probably no other activity that affords us
the ease of connecting mind, body and place."
“Thoreau, Dickinson and Muir had mutual
interests in the relationships between science, culture, and nature,
relationships that they were partly able to explore and express through
the observed habits and experiences of insects. Sharing the belief that
nature was a reflection of God's intention... they recognized that
insects, like every other particle of nature, were lovingly created by
God to serve a unique purpose."
"Thoreau's belief that 'To be awake is to be alive' is ultimately
connected to his understanding of the natural harmony of the universe.
One of the ways he can 'learn to reawaken and keep [himself] awake not
by mechanical means, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn,"'is to
heed the persistent whine of the mosquito.
Comes to Elk Mountain: Dispatches from the Wichita Mountains
Wildlife Refuge, by Gary Lantz. 239pp. University of North Texas Press,
"In many ways October is as near to perfection as life gets here on the
weather-challenged Southern Plains. The heat of summer has faded,
January's chill is still months away. October rains refresh the grass,
refill the streams, and bring wildflowers back for an encore."
Structured in the form of a journal with entries stretching across the
course of a single year, this narrative incorporates the author Gary
Lantz's ten years of observations in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife
Refuge of Oklahoma. It begins with a January walk through Styx Canyon,
an improbable wilderness amid geometrical wheat fields and county road
grids, and concludes along the headwaters of Medicine Creek with
largemouth bass, a mature golden eagle, migrating mountain bluebirds,
and one of the refuge's signature buffalo.
Established in 1905 in order to reintroduce buffalo to the plains and
save the species from extinction, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
is one of the nation's oldest. It lies in the southwest corner of
Oklahoma and includes the Charons Garden wilderness, Bat Cave Mountain,
Fort Sill, Osage Lake, Medicine Bluffs and Mount Sheridan.
A native Oklahoman and local feature writer, Lantz demonstrates an
obvious affection for the place and a depth of knowledge that he's
eager to share. His "dispatches" are personal, poetic, and perceptive.
Seasonal Roads, by Mary A. Hood. 168pp. Syracuse University
"Seasonal roads" are rights-of-way or routes of travel not maintained
throughout the year. No snowplow clears these lanes in winter and only
the change of seasons reopens them for passage. Many are used to
connect two more traveled roads and most pass through wooded or natural
In this book, poet and conservationist Mary A. Hood describes her walks
on fifteen such roads in rural Steuben County of southwestern New York
State, immediately north of the Pennsylvania border.
"Each road provides and opening into events and issues concerning the
environment," Hood explains. "Sometimes the road triggers what I know
about certain plants and animals; sometimes the road leads into a
natural history of a place; sometimes it leads to thoughts on the
meaning and the ecology of our lives. The roads offer a means of
relections, and, out of that thinking, an understanding of what is of
value and how we might protect it may emerge."
Insect View of Its Plain" Insects, Nature and God in Thoreau,
Dickinson and Muir, by Rosemary Scanlon McTier. 212pp. McFarland, 2013.
A work of literary criticism with an ecological bent, this book
examines the writings of three prominent 19th century American authors
- Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and John Muir - for their
observations of insects and conclusions about their role in creation.
The title of this work is drawn from Henry David Thoreau's essay The
Natural History of Massachusetts in which he imagines how the world
looks to an insect: "Nature will bear the closest inspection; she
inspires us to lay our eye level with the smallest leaf, and take an
insect view of its plain."
Citing a lack of critical attention to the presence of insects in 19th
century literature, author Rosemary Scanlon McTier proceeds to address
“Thoreau, Dickinson and Muir had mutual interests in the
relationships between science, culture, and nature, relationships that
they were partly able to explore and express through the observed
habits and experiences of insects. Sharing the belief that nature was a
reflection of God's intention... they recognized that insects, like
every other particle of nature, were lovingly created by God to serve a
"Shape: Fairly large, large-headed, broad-necked bird withy a short
deep-based bill and relatively short tail typical of Pheucticus genus.
"Voice: Song an extended fairly rapid series of mellow whistled notes,
like toweet toweer taweeyah tawoo; calls include a metallic squeaky
skeet and a high drawn-out eeee."
Indians living in Alaska's Interior
traditionally called the great peak Deenaalee or Denali, while
those on the mountain's south side called it a variety of names,
including Doleyka, Traleika, or Dghelay Ka'a. The essence of the names'
meaning is the same: "The High One" or "The Big Mountain."
"Within a week after the nest lining was
added, the first
egg was laid. Thereafter the female laid an egg each day until she had
completed a clutch of six. At least one raven remained at the nest from
the laying of the first egg, and the female began incubating almost
immediately. Her mate spent most of the day in a convenient lookout
perch on a high aspen, but a few times each day the pair would fly off
together to feed on a moose carcass nearby, never remaining more than
about half an hour before returning to the nest."
New Stokes Field Guide to Birds,
by Donald Stokes and
Lillian Stokes. Eastern Region, 512pp. Western Region, 592pp. Little,
Brown and Company, 2013.
Based largely on the 2010 edition of "The
Stokes Field Guide to the
Birds of North America,"
the latest update to the authoritative series
of birder field guides by Donald and Lillian Stokes divides the
continent into Eastern and Western editions, which are more portable
and easier to navigate.
Combined, the two volumes cover every known species in North America
with range maps, color photos of all signifiicant plumages,
descriptions of songs and calls, and behavioral details. Each species'
listing describes its shape, plumage , flight, babitats, voice and
National Park: The Complete Visitors
Guide to the Mountain,
Wildlife, and Year-Round Outdoor Activities, by Bill Sherwonit. 320pp.
Mountaineers Books, 2013.
The second edition of this guidebook updates and reorganizes a first
edition published ten years ago by the defunct Alaska Northwest Books
and now long out of print. It provides detailed information on the
history of the region and advice on exploring by foot, train, car, bus,
boat or even sled dog team.
The first part of the book, titled "The Story of Denali," describes the
natural processes that shaped the place and the varied ecosystems
supporting mammals, plants and birds. Wildlife and plant checklists are
included in the back of the book.
The second half of the volume is dedicated to "Exploring Denali" with
separate chapters dividing it into four regions. Typical visitor
information and resources are provided, detailing the location of
campgrounds, trails, historical sites, drives and excursions.
Wildlife: Ecology and Natural
History of the Greater
Yellowstone Ecosystem, by Paul A. Johnsgard. 228pp. University Of
Chicago Press, 2013.
The text in this oversized volume of splendid wildlife
photographs is comprised of natural history essays on the Greater
Yellowstone Ecosystem and the creatures that inhabit its six million
acres. In fourteen chapters, biology professor Paul A. Johnsgard
describes the ecosystem's varied environments from the willow flats of
the National Elk Refuge and the geyser basins of Yellowstone Park to
the wide-open Lamar Valley and the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River.
Johnsgard, a specialist in cranes and waterfowl and author of nearly 50
reference books on bird groups, devotes much of his essays to personal
observations of avian life, such as this description of nesting ravens
on the Buffalo Fork River near Jackson Hole:
"Within a week after the nest lining was added, the first egg was laid.
Thereafter the female laid an egg each day until she had completed a
clutch of six. At least one raven remained at the nest from the laying
of the first egg, and the female began incubating almost immediately.
Her mate spent most of the day in a convenient lookout perch on a high
aspen, but a few times each day the pair would fly off together to feed
on a moose carcass nearby, never remaining more than about half an hour
before returning to the nest."
Acclaimed nature photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen contributes images of
the ecosystem's famous megafauna like bison, wolves, bighorn sheep and
grizzly bears as well as many of the 279 species of resident and
visiting birds. Appendices in the back of the book list the birds,
vertebrates, dragonflies and damselflies, and butterflies of the
Greater Yellowstone Ecoregion and suggest places and times for
observing the most popular species.