Monday thought of the week: a wonderland to me

A thought:

I was just a twelve, thirteen year old boy, and it was just a wonderland to me. If I could, I would just do the same thing today that I did then but it would look funny.

– Naturalist Edward O. Wilson reminiscing on exploring in nature as a child, in an interview for PBS Newshour (April 28, 2016). Wilson’s new book is Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life.

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GUEST POST: BOOK REVIEW: Baby Birds: An Artist Looks Into the Nest

This is a guest post from writer Bryony Angell of Seattle, WA.

BOOK REVIEW: Baby Birds: An Artist Looks Into the Nest by Julie Zickefoose (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), 352 pp. Hardcover, $28.00. Images courtesy the author/illustrator’s website (click each of them to view larger).


The new book Baby Birds is both an art book and a memoir; additionally a dedication (but not a how-to) to wildlife rehabilitation. More than anything it is a showcase to the breadth and sensitivity in words and watercolor renderings of the talent of its author Julie Zickefoose. Zickefoose is foremost a writer, author and artist, and her rehabilitation efforts are fueled by her love for her subjects–birds–and the association that her fans make accordingly.

I know first hand what expectation her public have for someone like her: I grew up with a dad whose fame locally associated him with injured birds and their rescue. My sister and I grew up with owls and hawks in the house; victims of hunters or window strikes or nest purging of some kind. By the time I remembered their faces the fledglings were well on their way to flying the coop; the kind of attention Zickefoose pays to her baby birds was not what I observed as a youngster in my parents’ house. But I appreciate that wildlife rehab is not for the faint of heart nor the amateur.

My own effort at rearing a baby chestnut-backed chickadee failed. I was in college at the time, and my dad passed the bird on to me. It was naked like a plucked chicken, tiny, yet responsive to me like an infant. “Keep it warm above all else,” said my dad.  I carried it on my person for two days in a shoebox stuffed with kitchen towels, feeding it suet and crushed nuts. At a dinner of fellow students, two beautiful Swiss girls with preoccupied American suiters, I was the odd one out with my shoebox containing a fragile blind hatchling. I left early.

My hatchling died in the night. But I understood then the tremendous work involved in care for such tiny creatures with specific needs.


I admire Zickefoose’s incredible record of success with the delicate birds she has documented. The time and care–let alone the attention to detail in painting these birds that she manages–astounds me. Who would consider painting naked Ruby-throated Hummingbirds daily? Aren’t they rather ugly as their pin feathers are coming in? Describing the feeding by the parent, one worries for the welfare of the nestling. Zickefoose writes, “The mother brings up nectar and and insects from her crop as the chick makes a rapid pumping motion with its head, entirely engulfing its mother’s ¾-inch-long bill.” Couldn’t a puncture happen?


Baby Birds is an homage to the fragility of Spring’s duty; the new life every year is not assured of survival. Zickefoose, an optimist and passionate advocate of wildlife and wild places, understands her role as caretaker and documentor, historian and storyteller on behalf of the birds she cares for. She does not stray into anthropomorphism or sentimental projection in her work, though she treats each patient with the care and sensitivity of an individual. Her chapters include the story behind her obtaining each bird, natural history of the species, as well as the change in care as she refrains from handling the birds as they grow older, so that they will remain wild.


Zickefoose is the first artist to document baby birds with such concentration in print. Her many talents produce this beautifully written and illustrated book that spans multiple genres and appeals to readers for different reasons. Each chapter has the tension of the unknown–will the birds survive and fledge? Considering they are in the hands of this talented and thoughtful artist and author, the reader can rely on, if not a happy ending, the absolute utmost in effort to assure one.


Bryony Angell is a Seattle-based magazine writer. She also blogs about being an urban gal who loves wild birds at

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Upcoming nature events in Portland

— Please check for any schedule changes or registration requirements —

Nature-based camps for Summer 2016 – now registering!

Now playing at OMSI’s Empirical Theater in 3D: National Parks Adventure

Starting April 2: 10-part “Explore Your Natural Areas” program from Portland Parks & Recreation

Portland-Vancouver Regional Eco-Blitz Series: May 7 at Graham Oaks Nature Park in Wilsonville; May 14 at Fernhill Wetlands in Forest Grove; May 21 at Powell Butte Nature Park in Portland; and May 21 at Fort Vancouver

Upcoming paddle events with Tualatin Riverkeepers

Nature classes at Hoyt Arboretum, Summerlake City Park (Tigard), and Mary S. Young Park (West Linn) from Tinkergarten

Sunset nature programs & Lunch with the Birds with Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve (Hillsboro)

Discovery Hikes with the Forest Park Conservancy

Hike series with Friends of the Columbia River Gorge

Hike series with Oregon Wild

Winter & spring and summer nature programming (pp. 165-170) from THPRD

Spring nature programming from the Friends of Tryon Creek

Spring nature programming at Jackson Bottom Wetlands (Hillsboro)

Spring nature programming at the Tillamook Forest Center

Free Skills Series from Rewild Portland (every month)

Bird watching outings with Audubon Society of Portland

Bird walks with Backyard Bird Shop




May 2 | Tadpole Tales | Columbia Slough Watershed Council

May 2-8 | Celebrate Children’s Book Week at the Nature Store | Audubon Society of Portland

May 7 | Guided Nature Walk, 9:30am | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

May 7 | Kids Fishing Festival | Columbia Springs (Vancouver)

May 7 | Graham Oaks Nature Park Eco-Blitz | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

May 7 | Mushroom Discovery Hike at Oxbow (16+) | Metro

May 8 | Mother’s Day Hike at Camassia Natural Area | Nature Conservancy

May 8 | Mother’s Day Birds and Blooms at Canemah Bluff | Metro

May 14 | Nature Days in the Park: Whispering Woods | THPRD

May 15 | Sunday Parkways: East Portland | Portland Bureau of Transportation

May 21 | Kids to Parks Day | National Park Trust

May 21 | Tualatin River Bird Festival | Friends of the Refuge

May 21 | Summer Splash FREE Kayak Demo Day | Next Adventure

May 21 | Free Metro parks day | Metro

May 22 | Turtle Walk at Smith and Bybee Wetlands | Metro

May 26 | Evening Canoe the Slough | Columbia Slough Watershed Council

June 1-12 | 30th Annual Great Blue Heron Week | The Intertwine

June 4 | Guided Nature Walk, 9:30am | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

June 5 | Trees of Scouters Mountain Nature Park | Metro

June 4 | National Trails Day | American Hiking Society

June 11 | Explorando el Columbia Slough | Columbia Slough Watershed Council

June 14 | Kalmiopsis Discovery Day | Leach Botanical Garden

June 18 | The Birds of Killin Wetlands | Metro

June 20 | Toothrock Full Moon Hike | Friends of the Columbia Gorge

June 22 | 6th Annual Regional Trails Fair | Metro

June 25 | 27th Annual Tualatin River Discovery Day | Tualatin Riverkeepers

June 25 | Animal Tracking Adventure | Metro

June 26 | Sunday Parkways: North Portland | Portland Bureau of Transportation

June 26 | Dry Creek Falls Hike and Sternwheeler Days | Friends of the Columbia Gorge

June 29 | International Mud Day | Everywhere

June 30 | Twilight Thursday at Smith and Bybee Wetlands | Metro

July 7 | Free Metro parks day | Metro

July 24 | Sunday Parkways: Northeast Portland | Portland Bureau of Transportation

August 15 | Best Adventures Near Portland Release Party | Adam Sawyer

August 21 | Sunday Parkways: Southeast Portland | Portland Bureau of Transportation

September 24 | National Public Lands Day | NEEF

October 2 | Sunday Parkways: Sellwood-Milwaukie | Portland Bureau of Transportation

Regular nature outings (check websites for seasonal scheduling):
Nature Days in the Park and Nature Mobile from THPRD’s Natural Resources
Honeybee Hikes at Leach Botanical Garden
Story and Strolls and Guided Nature Walks at Tryon Creek State Park
Ladybug Nature Walks with Portland Parks Environmental Education
Puddle Stompers at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge
Tadpole Tales with Columbia Slough Watershed Council (beginning May 2)
Farm Fridays at Zenger Farm
Second Saturdays at the Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, WA
Guided hikes at Columbia Springs in Vancouver, WA (third Wed. of most months)
Tillamook Tales at the Tillamook Forest Center

Did you know?
– $2 admission at OMSI the first Sunday of every month
– $3 admission at the World Forestry Center the first Thursday of every month
– $4 admission at the Oregon Zoo the second Tuesday of every month
– FREE admission at the Portland Art Museum the first Thursday of every month, 5-8pm
– FREE admission at the Portland Children’s Museum the first Friday of every month, 4-8pm
– FREE admission at the Oregon Historical Society & Museum every day for Multnomah County residents

*My friend Laura posts a monthly listing of kid and family-friendly events of natural, scientific, and cultural interest. May’s list is here.

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Kids to Parks Day is May 21 (and a national parks book giveaway)

National Parks Week was just last month, and currently all 4th graders in the United States and their families can get free access to national parks and other national lands through the Every Kid in a Park program). We will visit Mount Rainier National Park in Washington over Memorial Day weekend.


My son looking at a guide to    parks & a MRNP map, with NPT mascot Buddy Bison’s help

And we’re planning a Utah national parks trip for summer 2017.


My son trying on this awesome NPS t-shirt celebrating    Geological Wonders of the West*

That’s a lot of people visiting national parks – kids should get the chance to experience lands so special that they’ve been added to the National Park Service (which is celebrating its centennial this year). And the National Park Trust does great things to get school kids into national parks.


The NPT’s 6th annual Kids to Parks Day is just a few weeks away, on May 21. It’s simple: get outside with a kid and visit a park. You can sign a pledge to do so on their website and add to the growing number of participants. Kids to Parks Day is described as “a nation-wide day of outdoor play organized by National Park Trust (NPT) in cooperation with a host of local and national collaborators” by “encouraging children across the country to explore their neighborhood parks and discover science, history, nature and adventure right around the corner or just across town.” So this is not just about visiting national parks, which would be great if that option is available for you. Any park will do!

We will visit one of our favorite urban nature parks here in Portland, OR. I hope you will participate, too. A kid will thank you!

So, plan to get outside as a family on May 21 for Kids to Parks Day (and pledge to participate to be eligible for prizes including a BabyBjörn Baby Carrier)! If you’re in the Portland area, you can find a park to visit using this map tool from The Intertwine. There are also a few events going on at some local parks and natural areas: the Tualatin River Bird Festival at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Sherwood; a Summer Splash FREE Kayak Demo Day put on by Next Adventure at Oaks Amusement Park; a stream critters program at Marshall Park in SW Portland with Portland Parks and Recreation; a citizen science Eco-Blitz at Powell Butte Nature Park in SE Portland with The Intertwine; and a Free Metro parks day (no parking fees at Oxbow Regional Park near Gresham or Blue Lake Regional Park in Fairview).

If you like to share images on social media, use the hashtag #kidstoparks (or #buddybison if he’s in your photo). NPT is on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. And now for the giveaway!

The giveaway:

To enter for a chance to win two books from the National Park Trust, please comment on this post telling me about a national park you hope to visit someday, and what it is about that park that intrigues you. The two books are: Buddy Bison’s Yellowstone Adventure (which I posted about here) and National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA (Centennial Edition). From the entries I will randomly pick a winner. The contest will be open until Friday, May 20, midnight PST. If you would like to enter without commenting on the blog, you can send me an email at darwinsbulldog AT gmail DOT com. Good luck!**

* I saw a kid wearing this shirt here in Portland, OR and thought I must get one for my son. I had a hard time finding it online though. I found out that you can purchase adult sizes through the online shop of the Crater Lake Natural History Association. But I had to do a phone order to get a children’s size (here’s their contact info).

** Did you pledge to participate in Kids to Parks Day on May 21?***

*** Did you really? Okay, I’m done. Get outside!

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BOOK REVIEW: Spring nature book titles from Dawn Publications look at urban wildlife, farm animals, and growing green beans

I’ve reviewed books from Dawn Publications (Facebook/Twitter/blog) before (see here). They publish some of the best nature books for kids in my opinion. Their three new titles for Spring are equally as informative, creative, and appealing as previous titles.


In Wild Ones: Observing City Critters (Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications, 2016), Carol L. Malnor and illustrator Cathy Morrison teach kids about the many kinds of animals that live where people live. Readers are introduced to insects, amphibians, birds, and mammals that call cities home by way of an energetic dog – Scooter – that explores his urban environment. From squirrels and pigeons to beavers and coyotes, Scooter sees many animals up close while others do their best to not be seen. Readers will come away realizing that not only do people see animals, people are being observed by animals, too. Humans are part of their environment! Materials for classroom lessons follow: further information about all the animals shown and how some adapt to city life; answers to questions about whether some animals can really do actions shown in the book, activities, and resources for parents and teachers. Here are some sample pages (courtesy Dawn Publications) that will give you an idea of the text and illustration (click to enlarge):







Cathy Morrison also illustrated Over on the Farm (Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications, 2016), while Marianne Berkes provides farm-friendly lyrics to the familiar tune “Over in the Meadow” (her 8th such “Over in the” book). Readers will sing along as ten farm animals and their young eat and move as they go about their day. They will learn what to call the young of the ten animals throughout the book, and as the peck, gallop, and fly (and more), some kind of animal behavior. And as expected with books from Dawn Publications, there is more detailed information about the farm animals at the end of the book for parents and educators to use for learning opportunities and suggestions for activities for body movements. Here are some sample pages (courtesy Dawn Publications) that will give you an idea of the text and illustrations (click to enlarge):






And in Green Bean! Green Bean! (Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications, 2016), written by Patricia Thomas and illustrated by Trina L. Hunner, a young girl explores the world of gardening starting with a seed packet for green beans. From sprouting to watching the rain water the plant to protecting it from hungry critters and hanging out inside the green bean pyramid, kids will appreciate being able to follow along the growth cycle and knowing that they can do it themselves.


My daughter with one of our two green bean pyramids for this planting season

A wealth of information about plant life cycles and seasons follows the story, as well as ideas for relate activities. Here are some sample pages (courtesy Dawn Publications) that will give you an idea of the text and illustrations (click to enlarge):





As for most of their titles, Dawn Publications offers downloadable activities related to its books for classroom use. Find them here.

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Wednesday photo of the week: quiet moment


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BOOK REVIEW: The Creaky Knees Guide Oregon: The 85 Best Easy Hikes

Sasquatch Books in Seattle has published a second edition of their guide to relatively easy hikes throughout Oregon.


Seabury Blair Jr., The Creaky Knees Guide Oregon: The 85 Best Easy Hikes (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2016), 306 pp.

Publisher’s description This day-hiking guidebook features the best 85 eighty-five low-impact hikes throughout the state from the Oregon Coast and Columbia River Gorge to Mount Hood. Written in an informative style that will appeal to anyone, regardless of age, the guide covers hikes in six regions throughout the state as well urban hikes and walks. Each trail description includes elevation gains, including a topographical map; clear, up-to-date driving directions; mileage and estimated hiking time; trail conditions; and more. Creaky Knees hiking guides are perfect for aging baby boomers, seniors, those traveling with small children, and anyone else interested more in a stroll than a climb.

While “Creaky Knees” makes one think this series of hiking guides is for older folk, I was attracted to the Oregon edition because I hike with my two kids, who are 10 and 3. And while I do get outside quite a lot, I am not the most physically fit person. So, a guide to hiking trails in the region that are not going to kill me sounds like a great guide to me. We’ll plan to consult this guide for the times we head out to the Oregon Coast, Mt. Hood, and Columbia River Gorge, and less frequently, other parts of the state. But the author’s use of “Easy” is relative, so some hikes described can be tougher than others. I appreciate then the charts at the beginning of the book that separate the hikes by difficulty, from “Stroll in the Park” and “Easy Walk” to “Moderate Workout” and “Prepare to Perspire.” I doubt we’ll be choosing any of the hikes from the list of “Knee-Punishing” ones. The last section of the book shares a few Urban Trails, including one from Portland (the Eastbank Esplanade Loop). There are a few more hikes in the city that I would like to have seen here (the trail leading to Council Crest from the Oregon Zoo and then down to OHSU through Marquam Nature Park [part of the 4T Trail] or one of the many trails through Tryon Creek State Park or Forest Park). But it’s a book for the whole state of Oregon, not just Portland.

In addition to The Creaky Knees Guide Oregon: The 85 Best Easy Hikes the publisher also has guides that will be of interest to hikers in the PNW: The Creaky Knees Guide Washington: The 100 Best Easy Hikes (second edition) and the all new The Creaky Knees Guide Pacific Northwest National Parks and Monuments: The 75 Best Easy Hikes.

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Monday thought of the week: arranging a romance

A thought:

I cannot expect my children to care about an earth they have never felt seep between their toes or to protect the life of a bird they have never heard sing. I am arranging a romance, hoping they will fall in love with the world they live in.

Jackie Semmens, “Arranging a Love Affair with the Outdoors,” BonBon Break (April 21, 2016)

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BOOK REVIEW: Born To Be Wild: Hundreds of Free Nature Activities for Families

A new book from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the UK aims to get more families outside in nature (and thus later to have an interest in the protection of the environment). As David Sobel has written, “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.” Kids likely won’t grow up to be environmentally-minded adults if they didn’t have a childhood full of nature experiences.

Hattie Garlick, Born To Be Wild: Hundred of Free Nature Activities for Families (London/New York: Bloomsbury, 2016), 256 pp. US $22.00. Photographs by Nancy Honey.

Publisher’s description Want to save cash, your child’s imagination, and possibly even the planet? This is the book you need. Packed with great photos of real families in the outdoors, Born to Be Wild contains easy-to-follow instructions for activities that require nothing more sophisticated than a child’s imagination and access to a little outdoor space. Organized by season and then by material, it lets parents skip straight to Spring, and then to “Blossom,” “Grass,” or “Earth,” according to their present need. Everything you need to engage in all of its hundreds of activities can be found in your kitchen. No expensive art supplies or outward-bound kit required. All you need is the “Toolkit” listed at the front of the book. These ordinary household essentials include recycled food containers, scraps of paper, string, glue, and an empty jar or two. Along the way, Hattie Garlick talks to families, organizations, cultures, and communities who have rebuilt their relationships with nature–with inspiring results–and introduces scientists, psychologists, and other experts who explain why nature matters in our children’s modern lives.

While the many various activities included in this book make it a great one to have on your shelf, it’s for some of the extra content that I enjoy Born To Be Wild and I think other parents would appreciate. The author shares her “Ten Tips for Turfing Your Kids Out of the House (Happily)” – turf: British for “force (someone) to leave somewhere.” She includes positive and negative statistics (from research in the UK) about being connected to nature, what she refers to as the “science bit” to possibly help convince those not quite sure of the benefits of nature for child development. Also, some common sense guidelines for playing in nature are given. The book’s nature activities are then organized by season, and then further organized by the type of nature material/locale one could utilize for play, such as Grass, Rivers, Streams and Ponds, and Insects for Spring; Flowers, Sand and Shells, and Trees for Summer; Autumn Leaves, Mud, and Wind for Autumn; and Evergreens, Night, and Puddles and Rain for Winter. Throughout are “Facts to fire the imagination” sections that detail natural history facts relevant to the activity being described, such as learning, in the Mud section, that “muddy play might actually boost your mood due to microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae, which increase the level of serotonin in our brains, helping us to relax.” Or, in the section on Trees, being informed that aspirin today contains salicylic acid, extracted from the bark of willows; and that “Ancient Greek physicians used willow to treat fever, earache, gout, dandruff, and gas.” Learning a little science and history while planning an outdoor activity for your kids is great (says this history of science buff).

But the facts and advice from Garlick extend through the whole book, as do the many wonderful photographs of kids at play by Nancy Honey. Born To Be Wild is a treasure-trove of an activity guide, natural history lesson, call for parent involvement in getting their kids outside, and overall appreciation for what connecting to nature means. I’ll enjoy having this book on our shelf; I hope you’ll consider getting a copy, too!

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Wednesday thought of the week: wetland world


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