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The Nature Walk Project, Calendar: November 2012

Please feel free to download this month’s calendar page for your personal use as a printed wall calendar or electronically as the desktop background on your computer.

very time I head out on one of my nature walks, I can’t help but be enamored with the beauty that nature has to offer. All too often that beauty is fleeting, as lovely plants and habitats change with the seasons and never look exactly the same twice.  I find myself so hypnotized by this fleeting beauty that I will take photo after photo trying to capture just the right angle so I can look back and remember where I was standing, what it felt like and the colors of that moment.  While this is a lovely way to remember the places I’ve been, it often results in an abundance of photos. So I’ve decided to turn at least one of my nature walk photos into a calendar page each month.  I hope you enjoy it and thank you for reading and virtually joining me on all of my nature walks.

This month’s calendar page features brilliantly colored, pink seed pods on a Maple tree that grows near my home.  I hope you have a wonderful November!

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Click here to learn more about The Nature Walk Project.

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The Nature Walk Project: One Year Later

This is it!  A year in the making!  I’ve been walking around the same lake, once a month for a year, documenting the seasonal changes, the animals and the plants.  Last night I took my final picture of this lovely, little lake path.  Below is a photo compilation of the wooden bridge that crosses the lake.  The photos start in October 2011 and ended last night, the last day of October 2012.

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Nature Walk: Christopher B Smith Preserve in Naples, Florida

Regular Nature Walk posts will return next month with the unveiling of the results of my yearlong photography project.  In the meantime, please enjoy the photos and this recounting of my recent adventures in the Christopher B. Smith Preserve located in Naples, Florida, USA.

I recently had the opportunity to go on a tour of the Christopher B. Smith Preserve located in Naples, Florida, USA.  The preserve is owned and managed by The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, an organization that works to preserve the natural habitats of southwest Florida.  The preserve is “an eight-acre endangered upland and scrub habitat” and “is home to native plants and wildlife including the gopher tortoise, a threatened species in Florida” (Conservancy).

Ian Bartoszek, a biologist for The Conservancy and a friend of mine, lead the afternoon tour. As we carefully stepped through the fence and into the preserve the first thing I noticed was that the ground is made up of fine, white sugar sand.  It is a soft sand compared to the type often found along the beaches of the Atlantic and it is pure white.  The sandy ground made the scrub habitat feel so different from the areas of asphalt and manicured lawns that surround it.  The white ground, a leftover seabed from millions of years ago, made this area feel like I was stepping into another world and into another time.  Covering most of the sand was a light-green species of lichen, Foliose Ground Lichen (Parmotrema spp). As we walked through the preserve Ian asked all of us to stick to the paths, so as not to disturb this ancient species.

Looking around I noticed that The Conservancy had installed small wildlife cameras attached to the base of a few trees.  The motion activated cameras are able to capture animal activity that people wouldn’t normal get to see and the biologists are able to study these photos and share them with visitors of The Conservancy.

Also dominating the landscape are the beautiful purple flowers of the Chapman’s Blazing Star plant, also known as Chapman’s Gayfeather (Liatris chapmanii).  These pretty flowers are typically a pretty purple color but every now and then, a white one will bloom.  Among the sea of purple we found two of these white blooms very near each other.  It felt like something special to see these rare flowers.  Ian told us that seedpods from established plants like these could be harvested by conservation groups and used in other habitat reclamation projects.  The use of these seeds is typical when reestablishing an area that may have had the natural scrub habitat devastated by logging, land clearing and other development.

As we walked through the scrub we could hear a gopher tortoise or two shuffling through the palms and undergrowth.  The tortoises were camouflaged in the thick growth and I wasn’t able to snap a photo of them on this trip.  However, I was able to get a few photos of the entrances to their underground homes, which I put into the slideshow below.  In addition to the threatened gopher tortoise, Ian told us that there is a very diverse group of animal and plant species (about 250 of them), from tiny spiders and amphibians to bobcats and coyotes, which live in this protected habitat.

We also found this amazing beehive that covered a good portion of a palm tree.  I was lucky enough to have a good zoom on my camera and didn’t need to get to close too these amazing, buzzing pollinators in order to get a good picture (also in the slideshow below).

The preserve is part of The Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s new Nature Center.  The center is currently being upgraded and when it is complete it will be open to the public later this year.  Ian was able to give our group a quick tour of the progress so far, along with a visit to some of their animal residents, which I included in the slide show below.

I had a wonderful time on my nature walk and can’t wait to come back soon.  If you’re going to be in Florida, be sure to stop by The Conservancy’s Nature Center and get a tour of this unique area of Florida.  Thank you to our guide, Ian Bartoszek, for showing us around and teaching us about the importance of preserving natural habitats.

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[slideshow]

 

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30×30 Challenge: Getting Outside, Week 2 Photo Collage

Not sure what I’m talking about?  Catch up on the 30×30 Challenge here.

Another great week outside!  This project is fun because it reminds me to look around and really enjoy everything that I’m seeing when I go for my mini-Nature Walks.  I’ll continue to post this week’s 30×30 photos on Twitter and Facebook.

Where you able to get outside much in the last couple of days?  Does it make you feel happier?

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30×30 Challenge: Getting Outside, Week 1 Photo Collage

Not sure what I’m talking about?  Catch up on the 30×30 Challenge here.

I’m happy to say that I was able to get outside for at least 30 minutes everyday last week.  It was a drizzly and rainy week so there was an abundance of mushrooms!  They only last a short while in the hot, sunny Florida climate so I tried to get pictures whenever I could.  I’ll continue to post this week’s 30×30 photos on Twitter and Facebook.

Where you able to get outside much in the last couple of days?  Does it make you feel happier?

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Plant a Mint Bowl

On a recent trip to my local nursery I found these unique varieties of mint!  I planted them in a terra cotta bowl and labeled them with copper plant markers, to keep track of the different varieties.  As I was planting and rustling the leaves of the mint, it smelled wonderful in the air and my hands smelled so fresh.

The chocolate mint has a strong sent of mint with just a hint of chocolate and it is delicious sprinkled over some freshly chopped strawberries.  The apple mint is a little more subtle and tastes delicious in a glass of ice water.  Crush a few leaves between your fingers and drop them in the water, then swirl it around a bit.  It makes a great summer afternoon treat.  The sweet mint is wonderful dropped into a glass of strong black sun tea.

I just love the way it looks when different varieties of the same herb or flower are all planted together.  Have you ever done that?  What are your favorite plant mixes?

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The Nature Walk Project – Month 9: June

Location: Orlando, Florida, United States from 10:30am-11:30am  
Weather: Sunny, windy and very low humidity, 75°F – High: 86°F  Low: 73°F

Catch up on The Nature Walk ProjectMonth 1: OctoberMonth 2: NovemberMonth 3: DecemberMonth 4: JanuaryMonth 5: February, Month 6: March, Month 7: April, Month 8: May

It’s officially hurricane season in Florida and there is no shortage of wind or rain.  During a typical Florida summer we get a rain shower every afternoon, for about 20 minutes and nearly at the same time everyday.  As I walk around the lake today, the wind is strong and constant.  A downpour last night left everything very damp with a wonderfully earthy aroma coming from every direction, as the sun heats up the damp ground.  I can’t actually photograph the wind for you, just the objects that it blows around, like the pages of my notebook above.  I took this short video with my camera to give you a sense of the breeze as it whips through the cypress trees that grow along the lake.  About 6 seconds in you can see one of the many birds that lives here, flitting from one tree to the other.  I hope you’re enjoying the weather and nature where you are!  This is June.

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvHeEN69kuM]

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30 x 30 Challenge: Getting Outside

I recently read about the David Suzuki Foundation’s “30 x 30 Challenge” to encourage people to get outside.  It’s an easy concept, go outside and spend time in nature for 30 minutes a day, for 30 days.  I love the simplicity of this and thought I’d give it try! What better way to kick off the second half of 2012, than with a nature challenge?

Follow me on Twitter to get daily updates and photos from my 30 minutes in nature.  I’ll also do a weekly roundup of my photos and post them to Facebook and right here on the blog.  I’ll kick it off with June’s Nature Walk post later today!

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For my Canadian readers, there is a contest associated with the 30 x 30 challenge where you can win prizes and fun stuff.  It starts today, so sign up quick if you’d like to participate!  I’m in the US, so I don’t get to participate in the official contest, but you can bet I’ll be outside anyway!

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