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Feeder Frenzy

This week’s blog was written by Allie F., a Bucktails alumni. Allie is a high school junior who plans to pursue a career in medicine. She decided to attend the Wildlife Leadership Academy due to her interest in biology and nature. In her spare time, she enjoys music, dance, and hunting.

Bird watching can be a lot of fun, and this year I was asked to take part in an annual bird count. Due to large amounts of snow, however, I did not get the chance to participate. Instead, I found an online version that I could take part in – The Great Backyard Bird Count. I sat for an hour over a span of two days inside my house watching and identifying different birds that were outside. I saw many different birds, including cardinals and even a hawk!

A bird sitting on the feeder in my backyard

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology collects data from bird sightings around the world. They collect data including bird distribution, abundance, and habitat. The data is used in studies regarding trends in bird sightings, which contributes to the conservation of birds. When experts see high bird counts or unusual birds in a particular area, they can look more closely at the bird populations in that environment. They also use the studies to track whether bird populations overall are growing or dropping. Birders can use the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird website, or their easy app. Using your location to be able to know the types of birds in your area, the app requests information such as the general size of the bird and the bird’s coloring. Based on that information, the app narrows down the different possibilities, and birders can identify the bird that they saw based on either photos or bird sounds.

A Cardinal eating birdseed from the ground

This year, I really enjoyed being able to watch the outdoors and all the different birds that I saw. It even inspired me to set up a bird feeder outside of my window. I enjoyed being able to help with investigative and conservation efforts.

The photos in the blog belong to the author.

Tracks in the Snow

This week’s blog was written by Melinda J., a Bucktails alumni. Melinda has been interested in nature throughout her life, which is why she attended Wildlife Leadership Academy. She enjoys watching shows, reading books, and learning. Eventually, she would like to find a career in STEM.

This February, we received enough snow to last us a lifetime. While we stayed inside watching flakes fall from the sky and blanket our yard, our backyard friends still braved the outdoors. When I finally emerged from my house into the winter wonderland outside, I loved to look at all the tracks crisscrossing through the snow, which soon connected with my own trail. With these tracks, I could see the journeys of many creatures that happened to make a stop in my yard during their trips across the white wilderness. There’s something very satisfying in seeing perfect little disturbances among a vast land of smooth white.

Deer tracks in my backyard

Unfortunately, I couldn’t see tracks quite that perfect this winter. It seems that the snow did not like being disturbed as most of the tracks I saw had already been covered by the constant snowfall each day. Wet clumps, hail, powder, and wind all distorted the prints, but I could identify most of them as deer tracks by how deep they were and the hoof-like shape of the tracks.

A collection of tracks from the deer who have passed by

After all of the snow had finally finished falling, I went back outside to find an area of my backyard dappled with tracks, like the spots on a fawn. It amazed me to see a visual representation of all the wild travelers that passed by my backyard. Next year, if we get as much snow, I’ll be sure to search and identify some more tracks from my backyard friends. Of course, the easiest tracks to identify will be my own!

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.

The Concerns with Climate Change on the Subject of Greenhouse Gases

This week’s Bonus Blog was written by Abbey T., a Bucktails alumni. Abbey enjoys studying animals in their natural habitats as well as how their presence is able to impact the environment they live in. She isn’t sure what career she would like to pursue, but she is interested in possibly being a biologist, environmentalist, or doing something in Nature Conservation. Abbey wanted to attend the Academy because she really wanted more experience in conservation and ways that she could apply that knowledge.

The term greenhouse gases are quite familiar, and I could guarantee that you have heard it before. However, most people can only link the term to climate change, which of course, is accurate, though somewhat lacking in regard to having an understanding of the term. Greenhouse gases mainly contribute to the overheating of the atmosphere through the greenhouse effect; radiation can come from the Sun itself (in the form of solar radiation) and from human activity (in the form of “new” greenhouse gases). Generally, whether the radiation comes from the Earth’s surface or from the Sun, there is some radiation reflected, and some absorbed, by the Earth’s atmosphere. The absorption of different radiation in our atmosphere is the main concern, as in the process of it being absorbed, it warms the Earth’s surface; and in some cases, can significantly increase the number of greenhouse gases trapped in our atmosphere that are not naturally occurring.

The most natural greenhouse gases have the role of instinctively warming the Earth so that it can remain to be inhabitable. However, these added greenhouse gases — are usually stimulated by negative human activity that causes radiation and pollution. For example, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) come from typical human activities like air conditioning, refrigeration, and other objects like aerosol cans.— can cause direct “attacks” on the ozone particles that are in the Earth’s atmosphere. The ozone particles create a protective layer in the atmosphere that primarily shields the Earth from UV radiation. So, if there are more added greenhouse gases, not only will they heat the Earth, they have the ability to break down the amount of O-zone particles, and other protecting particles, that help preserve our atmospheric “bubble” which protects the Earth itself.

This is a diagram that shows the greenhouse effect, which I briefly discuss. Overall, it is important to understand the significance of having a protective atmosphere. And the presence of too much radiation and an increased number of absorbed greenhouse gases are causing that protective barrier to be broken down and have “holes” in it that allows further solar radiation to come through the Earth’s atmosphere and damage the Earth.

Overall, I am sure you also know the effects that climate change is having on the environment. It seems almost daily now that we hear of another natural disaster occurring somewhere in the world, or another hurricane forming, and these are things that have a correlation to climate change. Knowing that the increase of these added greenhouse gases is causing these impacts, you can understand that it is the heating of the Earth, and plenty of other factors, are causing more common natural disasters. Like the melting of the glaciers due to the rising temperatures in naturally cold areas of the Arctic, or more forest fires in California due to the dry climate that is causing the environment to be much more susceptible to the ignition of fires; the list goes on.

Of course, with any issue, there are solutions. We can initiate clean energy, find more environmentally friendly ways to conduct necessary human activities that are responsible for creating large portions of radiation, and more. However, dealing with climate change is not a one thing and done. Initiations have to be made that are preservable for the foreseeable future so that we can maintain the health of our Earth.

The graphic used in this blog was sourced from the internet. It can be found here.

Lure Painting

This week’s blog was written by Lily S., a Bass alumni. Lily wanted to attend the academy to learn more about the environment and all the career opportunities available. Lily loves to spend time outdoors riding her bike, fishing, and hunting.

If you fish buying tackle especially hook can tend to cost a lot of money especially if you are going through many packs. That is why I started painting jigs. Not only does it save money but it is also a ton of fun.

These are the jigs that I use

So how do you paint jigs? You’ll need the jigs, the paint, and a candle. First and most importantly you want to make sure you are in a well-ventilated area. Next, you want to light your candle and fluff the paint by shaking the container. This will remove the clumps of paint.

Next, you will want to take your jig and put it about 1.5 in from the flame. The time to set the jig above the flame will depend on the size, so you may need to experiment a little to find the perfect time. After the jig has heated up you will want to dunk it in the paint and move it around quickly for about 2 seconds. Then shake the extra paint off. When you take it out the paint should melt and become shiny.

Painted jig heads and marabou jigs

After the jig cools down you have the option to bake the jig in an oven if you don’t bake it the durability will decrease. I usually don’t bake the jigs I paint and they tend to work fine. However, if you do tend to bake them look on the jar off the paint for the temperature at which you need to bake them and for how long. If you want to get fancy, you can even put some marabou and chenille on the jig. This will make it have a nice action in the water and many fish will bite.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.

Connecting with the Natural World: Nature Journaling

This week’s blog was written by Emma C., a Bucktails alumni. Emma is an avid student, ballet dancer, and nature lover. When not at dance or school, she enjoys hiking, photography, painting, watching musicals and movies, learning interesting histories, and especially reading. She was extremely excited to attend the Academy because as she puts it, nature is her, “safe place” where she feels at home. Her favorite quote is by the brilliant conservationist Rachel Carson, “One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?’”

When I attended my first WLA camp two years ago, I expected the plethora of scientific terms, the explanation of biological processes, and the introduction of new, exciting technology for wildlife sciences (which I was of course so here for!). However, what I did not expect was the great amount of time spent on art over the course of the week. Exploring nature photography, plant pressing (which can be both a scientific herbarium sample or art), and nature journaling – we were greatly encouraged throughout the week to use our brains in these artistic ways.

My favorite, as you may have guessed from the title, was nature journaling. Many people have heard of journaling or diary keeping in general, but what specifically is nature journaling? This type of writing is a way to log and explore thoughts and observations about nature. A creative endeavor, nature journals can take many forms. Some journalists like to engage in detailed descriptions of a singular plant or animal, whereas others might record general observations of their time outside. Poetry writings and drawings of the natural world often pepper the pages of journal entries. Sometimes people write poems about their natural experiences or draw pictures of the world around them. In writing style, some lean to a scientific approach, while others may find themselves using more flowery language.

Me nature journaling, Pine Hill Recreation Area, Waynesboro, PA

Whatever form your own nature journal takes, the important goal to remember is that it should bring you joy and build up your relationship with nature. Nature journaling sometimes serves as a form of meditation and creative reawakening. It can be overwhelming sometimes to face the many challenges required to improve and protect our environment, but in the process, we should not lose sight of the joy that nature brings. Just a few concentrated minutes on this singular and calming task of journaling can help people destress, and both literally and metaphorically stop to smell the roses. In part, one of the most rewarding aspects of nature journaling is that it can be just for you; and taking time out of your day for this endeavor is a unique way to engage in some self-care. With those positive energies now flowing, nature journaling encourages your creative juices and improves skills of observation, vocabulary, writing, and memory along the way.

Nature conservation and protecting our environments often feel like big tasks that require big solutions. However, it is important to remember that even smaller acts like nature journaling can help our planet, and in the end, solutions will arise out of a series of small acts such as these. By recording your observations, you are helping to document what our environments look like right now. Especially in today’s climate, the natural world is quickly changing, and many aspects are gradually disappearing. Your documentation can help scientists better understand either the current state of the environment or maybe, sometime in the future, the past state of nature. Either way, the citizen science movement is ever-growing and especially vital to conservation efforts right now, and nature journaling is a concrete way you can be a part of it.

A frog that came upon me when nature journaling, Waynesboro, PA

Equally significant, by deepening your own connection with nature through journaling, you can better enable others to build these same connections. We will never be able to protect our environments “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot” (Dr. Suess). Indeed, journaling is a creative way to show we care while inspiring others to do the same. The observations and emotions contained within our journals stand as vital reminders of the need to protect our natural spaces, as well as serve to encourage others to start their own inspirational reflections.

Still, it seems, one of the most formidable obstacles to beginning a nature journal is our harshest critics: ourselves. Admittedly, not everyone is going to be the next Mary Oliver, Thoreau, or Rachel Carson, but the lovely thing is, you do not have to be. Nature journaling can be just for you, and ultimately, no matter what you create, it will be special and wonderful because it is meaningful to you. We’ve all heard the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, and while this may be true, sometimes a few words are all you need to paint a vivid picture in the mind’s eye. One of my favorite naturalist poets, Emily Dickinson, wrote over 500 picturesque nature-themed poems, displaying both the beauty and raw essence of nature. In so doing, Dickinson became one of the greatest exponents of the environment, providing a richly detailed collection of entries that even sing the praises of rain: “Another on the roof; A half a dozen kissed the eaves And made the gables laugh. A few went out to help the brook, That went to help the sea.” In the spirit of all nature journalists past and present, add your voice to this illustrious legacy. Get out there and write, sketch, and discover, because nature needs you to! We all do.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.