Why don’t kids explore nature more?

Why don’t kids explore nature more?
Do you ever wonder why kids don’t explore nature like they did years ago? I do! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about growing up in a small town in the 60s and 70s. Most of my free time was spent outside playing with my sister and friends. We had toys but didn’t always need them because we used our imagination to think of fun things to do.
One time we found some tunnels in an open field that others had dug out. So we gathered up tumbleweeds to hide the tunnels, since much of it had caved in and was open. When we moved a mile away, we didn’t have the tunnel fort, so we made one entirely of tumbleweeds stacked on top of each other. We even had different rooms. It was so fun!
As kids, we would also go exploring, running through the corn field and walking along dirt roads between fields to investigate an isolated grove of trees. We were always looking for new adventures and things to discover. Sometimes we’d find cool frogs, bugs, or mushrooms, but other times, nothing. Either way, it was the excitement of the possibilities that made it fun.
My sister and I would stay outside until the sun went down, 'cause we knew we needed to be home for dinner before it got dark. But that was okay, because we had the freedom to go explore nature and see what we could find.
Today, most kids spend their time staring at a screen playing video games or watching shows or movies. Some keep busy by participating in sports. But I wonder how many have actually gone on an adventure to explore nature. If you have kids, or even grandkids, don’t you wish they’d spend more time enjoying the magic of nature? I hope so, because I feel it’s so important that kids discover nature and learn to love it. If they don’t, then who will protect our planet when we’re gone?
I’ve always loved Baba Dioum’s quote. Its sums up my belief about nature, which is probably why I’ve been sharing nature with adults and children since the early 90s!
For in the end, we will conserve only what we love.
We will love only what we understand.
We will understand only what we are taught.
           Baba Dioum, Sengalese Conservationist
Do your kids or grandkids explore the outdoors? If so, let me know what they’re into.

My Great Backyard Bird Count Experience

My Great Backyard Bird Count Experience
It was a long weekend, and so was my to do list. But I did manage to get some birding in for the GBBC. Some of it was even done from the car while driving home from work and the next few days while running errands! You don’t have to have boots on the ground and binoculars around your neck to bird.

As I turned onto the heading home after work Friday, I immediately saw some bird activity in a tree, and then caught sight of a Cassin’s Kingbird as it flew to another tree where I heard it calling. My first countable bird! By the time I had driven the 30-40 yards to my house, I’d also got Cooper’s Hawk, Mourning Dove, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a whole bunch of Crows (they head northeast in the evening where they gather in huge numbers to roost and then head southwest again in the morning). The next morning, while driving home after running errands, I caught sight of two separate Red-tailed Hawks trying to find breakfast. 

Mornings are an excellent time to bird, so while walking the dog Sunday morning, I added Phainopepla, Scrub Jay, Mockingbird, White Crowned Sparrow, and Lesser Goldfinch. The female Phainopepla, with her grayish brown color and crest, was singing and calling. I tried to get close enough to see her red eye, but without my binoculars, that didn’t happen.

My back yard feeder and fountain also attract birds, so over the four-day event, I added House Finch, California Towhee, Western Bluebird, Spotted Towhee, Rufous Crowned Sparrow, and Eurasian Collard Dove.

Since Monday was President’s Day, I decided to grab the dog and take her to the high school where she could wander around off-leash. Since I live on a canyon, off-leash is not a good idea at any parks close by, or even on the street leading to my house. But at the high school, she wandered and sniffed while I added additional species of Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Say’s Phoebe, Western Bluebird, European Starlings, and a few Western Gulls flying by and hanging out in the mall parking lot. I also saw two Anna’s Hummingbirds. I only saw one at first but knew there was a female close by because the male was doing his territorial/mating display. He climbs way up, then swoops down close to the female, fanning the tail feathers to make a loud popping sound, then climbs back up to do it again and again. Its fun to watch, and once you know what’s going on, you can usually find the female. I’ve also seen this display done to scare a California Towhee off the fence and out of a male’s territory, or so he thought!

All in all, I had a fun time birding during the Great Backyard Bird Count this year. I think 23 confirmed species is a good number for just fitting it in where I could.

Great Fun! Great Backyard Bird Count!

Great Fun! Great Backyard Bird Count!
While watching birds at my feeder today, I saw a couple Western Bluebirds. Not unexpected, but not something I see everyday in my backyard. A real surprise would be the male Phainopepla I saw a month or so ago, but that’s a story for a different time.

Anyway, I started thinking how easy it is to bird from my own yard. Living on a canyon helps a lot, but the diversity of wildlife we have in San Diego County plays a big role too. I started remembering some of the many birding trips I’ve taken to place like McAllen, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; and San Felipe, Baja California, just to name a few. Then I remembered how easy it is to actually bird from my own yard.

In less than a week, Audubon’s Great Backyard Bird Count will take place again from February 12 to February 15, 2021. I’ve done it a number of times from my own yard, but also while I was walking the dog at the lake. It doesn’t matter how good a birder you are; anyone can participate. All you need to do watch birds for as little as 15 minutes or longer. You can do it once or several times a day over the four-day period from any location. Then just report your sightings at birdcount.org so the numbers can be included in the count. Check out the website for more information and to get the latest promotional and educational resources.

Now who’s ready to start counting birds?

She's Definitely Not a Princess

She's Definitely Not a Princess
Close to 14 years ago, something unexpected and totally unwanted happened. This little girl found me, her safe harbor, after being dumped on the street by her previous mom.

I didn’t want a dog—I had three cats. But she melted my heart that November night. After an hour of nervously circling and sniffing me, she finally decided I was safe. She sat down in front on me, started whimpering, then jumped in my lap and started licking my face. I brought her inside to a house with three cats, not knowing what to expect.

Over the next or so I put up a dozen poster on streetlights and in pet stores. Took her to three different vet offices to try to find a microchip. I didn’t take her with me, but I even went down to the pound to see if anyone was looking for her. The answer was no, so I left a flyer there as well.

I hadn’t given her a name yet because I just knew her mom was looking for her, and I’d be getting a call any day from her momma who had just seen the flyer. As time went by, I realized no one was coming to get her, so I took her to my vet for a complete check-up and shots. From looking at her teeth, he said she was about 2 years old. I also made an appointment to have her spayed because she was going into heat.

Along the way, I had to re-learn how to live with a dog again, as I hadn’t had one since I was in high school. One of the first things I learned was the dog goes outside to pee first thing in the morning! Learned that the hard way by jumping in the shower only to find she’d gone on the carpet instead of holding it.

I also learned that dogs are a lot more hands on than cats, who are very independent. Because I’m on a canyon with a 4-foot fence, and she’s only 13 lbs., she can’t be left in the back yard by herself, so someone needs to let her out. Lucky for me, I quickly found a neighbor boy who was looking to earn money, so he became her dog walker. Since then, she’s had a few different ones, but since she’s partial to males, she makes friends easily.

To me, her birthday is November 12, so we’ll be celebrating soon. If you don’t already know her, she’s very friendly, loves cats and other dogs (with a few exceptions), and likes almost everyone. She’s very chill, even when other dogs walking by bark at her. She’s mostly fur, and when her legs get wet, she looks like fur on a stick, as my girlfriend pointed out. She adores her mom (luckily), loves car rides, and is a very picky eater. She also has a stubborn streak. That’s my little princess (cough, cough), Sadie! I love her more than she knows, and am so happy she found me that November night.

How to Create a Wildlife Friendly Yard Without Much Effort (Part 2)

How to Create a Wildlife Friendly Yard Without Much Effort (Part 2)
Now that you know about feeding wildlife, let’s look at the other needs of wildlife.


California and other parts of the Southwest are under draught conditions most of the time. As a result, wildlife is desperate for water sources.

So, as your shower water warms, capture the cold stuff in a bucket. You can use it to water plants, but also fill a bird bath or small animal drinking fountain. Every morning I enjoy watching four or five hummingbirds fight for the perfect perch to take a bath in a fountain. Bees also visit for a quick drink, and we always need bees around to pollinate crops.

When you return from a day trip, let the ice from your ice chest melt. You’ve now got water for your fountain or bird bath.


Like you and me, animals need shelter for sleeping, as well as raising young. But they also need it for protection. When you decide where to place a feeder or fountain, put it close to a dense shrub or tree for cover. Sometimes darting into a shrub is the only way to escape a large predator like a Cooper’s Hawk.

If you’re in a rural area and have the space, even a brush pile of limbs and branches can serve as shelter for sleeping or nesting wildlife.

Some people have luck with nesting boxes or nesting shelves, but not me. The native trees and shrubs in the canyon probably provide much nicer locations than a wooden shelf or clay nesting box.  

If you don’t mind bats for neighbors, you might try a bat box. It’s a great place for bats to roost during daylight, and when they leave to forage at night, they’ll help rid your neighborhood of thousands of mosquitos and other insects.

Now that you know how to create a wildlife friendly yard, what will you provide? Will it be food? Water? Shelter? Or will it be all three?

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