Felix Fettig is passionate about butterflies, native plants and amphibians. In 3rd grade Felix started raising monarch caterpillars and has done this activity for the past five years.
“ I just feel really passionate about this. I have raised monarchs, painted ladies, red admirals, polyphemus moths luna moths, cecropia moths, red spotted purples, viceroy, giant swallowtails, black swallowtails and tiger swallowtails. In all, I have raised and released hundreds of butterflies. This has got me a lot more interested in life science. I also like to growing carnivorous plants and love amphibians. That is why we built the pond up on the hill. Amphibians are very important because they are an indicator species.”
Butterfly garden, designed and planted by Felix when he was in 5th grade.
Felix’s original butterfly garden plan
White admiral in his butterfly garden.
“Black swallowtail larvae. I found the eggs on the parsley and dill and am feeding them Golden Alexander leaves.”
“This one is the tiger swallowtail. It is in its 5th instar and will turn brown soon. That is when you know it is going to pupate. I feed it green ash.”
Felix was in 5th grade when he made this drawing.
Monarch pupae. “I raised the monarchs from eggs that were on the milkweed in my butterfly garden.”
Salamander yearly migration cycle.
“The drawing above shows vernal pond and wintering pond/lake. The adults can’t breed in the wintering pond because the fish will eat the larva and adults. In the spring salamanders migrate to a vernal pond (has no fish and dries up in late spring). The adults lay their eggs and the larvae metamorphose before the pond dries up in the spring. They then spend the summer underground in the moist soil of the vernal pond and travel to the wintering pond/lake in the fall.”
Amphibian pond that Felix designed and built last year.
Old Naturalist: The Hopkins Field Biology Camp has been run by Scott Stillman for 18 years. He recently received a “Life Changer” award for his work with children and nature. During this year’s camp, I was surrounded by natural beauty, but the most inspiring thing for me was interacting with the young adults campers.
Photo by Jack Gunderson
The Shadow Like death falls the shadow The blue, the green, the yellow Everywhere this shadow lurks Waiting Until the golden rays bleed through. Not to end, but to aid. And when the shadow rises You will learn its name Silence Like the fog coming to trap the trees. We can learn many things from silence.
Jessie Kurus photographing a pitcher plant
I think I have been killed one thousand times. Although it is hard to count over the chimes. For that’s the noise I make as I do die I think it is God making a small noise For each moment I lived in gentle poise They count carefully and would never lie I know the answer is carved in the stone With this knowledge, I will not be alone. So there is no reason to sit and mope It is okay that I will die again. For that means I will be a thousand men. My future is all, at least I hope Sarah Coval
Photo by Jackson Risser
Nuala Kelly – Foley
Old Naturalist Note: Nuala said her work represents the expansiveness of the universe and the Earth is the blue dot at the top.
The summer sun is setting Everyone is forgetting The troubles of the day. The calmness of the fallen trees The serenity of waving leaves The sun sinks towards the rolling hills. Taking with it daytime’s thrills The night bears arms to the open sky Where the moon is soon to rise. Bringing with it night’s unrest The darkness pressing in your chest.
Then sleep will come And next the sun, Will rise outside your window.
A water droplet on a water lily. Photo by Soso Waterman
Tiny explorers determined and quick High up above and deep under wet earth Climb the trees tall and lark off at a flick Forever never to learn caution’s worth Tiny explorers hungry and buzzing. Alighting on those that just wish them gone Shooed half away with distracted fussing Returning as soon as defences yawn. Tiny explorers, jewel-bright and alive Crawling and winging to sights unforeseen.
Mink Frog photo by Taylor Hedlund
The leaf Jackson Risser
An old gnarled giant of a tree Fell from cloudless skies To a darken underworld and buzzing flies Illuminated by its old friend, the sun.
The broken branches envy the lofty trees And remembers standing tall Having leaves gilded with light Whispering to the wind passing by.
The old tree finds happiness on the ground It grows to like the chatter of squirrels The whistling of grass and buzzing of flies No longer missing the sky. Lucy Smith
Rock Wall Dancer photo by Maggie Lund
The Dragonfly Gliding on cellophane wings A master of flight Chasing other males from its spot Feasting in the warmth of the day You bless the land for all to see What is it like to live a pond as a nymph? And then take your first flight? I feel the freedom in your wings And long to be a partner with the wind To see the world through your eyes Teach me dragonfly, to let go Of my tether to the land And come to your world. Lawrence Wade
The ArtStart Camp run by Carol Sirrine is in its 25th year. The theme this week was the Galapagos Islands. The students in our classes were between 6 and 11 years old. Their dedication to their work and attention to detail was beyond their years. It was very inspiring working with these children. I have included material from three different classes taught by Jeanette Dickinson (mosiac), Sarah Honeywell and Louise Mader (visual arts).
Becca Richman Flying Fish
The flying fish is name the flying fish because it can “fly” above the water for more than two football fields. It lives in pelagic oceans and hunts smaller fish and zooplankton
Maya Vossen Nelson Orca Whale
Orca or killer whale males get up to 30 feet long and have a 6 foot high dorsal fin. They live in family groups that are usually controlled by the oldest female. Orcas feed on large fish, dolphins, and whales, usually hunting in packs. They are known as the wolves of the sea.
Pria Stauning Dolphin
Dolphins can have up to 250 teeth in their mouth. They do not drink water, instead dolphins get all of the water they need from the fish they eat. Dolphins find their food by using echolocation, a type of sonar. They can’t see all the colors, but they can sea shades of grey as well as the blue-green spectrum of light.
Elena Metzger Octopus
Octopus have four pairs of arms and two eyes. They have rows of suckers on each arm.
Nolan Andresen Blue Ringed Octopus
The blue ringed octopus is packed with enough venom to kill 26 people within minutes. It is the most venomous octopus in the world.
Alex Loes Breaching Humpback
Elizabeth Tuttle Tuna and Shark
Tuna can grow to be over 1,000 pounds in weight. The tuna is one of the fastest fish in the world and if a schooling fish.Sharks are the tigers of the sea. The great white shark is the most feared man-eating shark.
Mikey Barshack Green Sea Turtle
Calla Massari Batfish
They have long dorsal and anal fins that five them a unique shape. The batfish is two to three inches in height. The pinnatus batfish’s scientific name is Palax pinnatus. They are found in the Galapagos Islands.
Alex Loes Squid
Squid have excellent eye sight allowing them to locate food. They have 8 arms and each arm has sucker discs that they use for grabbing their prey. They eat small schooling fish and plankton. They tear the prey apart with their parrot like beak.
Abby Sikora Green Sea Turtle
Callum Schultz Marine Iguana
The Marine iguana is the only existing marine lizard on the Earth. They are endemic to the Galapagos Islands. They feed on algae in the near shore waters. To filter-out excess salt that he/she consumes, this iguana has specialized nasal glands that expel it from its nostrils.
Ingrid Johnson Octopus
They are 24-36 inches long. It has eight long limbs coming out form its head. It has two rows of sucker discs on each limb, and they use them to sense and taste the environment. The octopus has a useful ability to grow back a tentacle if it loses one.
Luna Scorzelli Green Sea Turtle
Sea turtles are one of the Earth’s most ancient creatures, living more than 110 million years, since the time of the dinosaurs. The shell or carapace is streamlined so it can swim quickly through the water. Unlike other turtles sea turtles can not use their legs on land, since they have developed into fins over time.
Pearl Gordon Moray Eel
Eels are 10 feet long. They have long needle-like teeth them grab and hold their prey. Eels will attack a human if they are wounded or disturbed in their dens.
Naomi Fink Macaroni Penguin
Beela Kelly Octopus
They spend most of their life under rocks, leaving at night to hunt for crabs and clams. They have a beak-like mouth that allows them pry open or break open shells. They can change color rapidly if a predator is near.
Eight teenagers face the wilds of the Mississippi River and try to be true to their art and creativity. Carol Sirrine of ArtStart offered a residency to some gifted art students. This week their challenge was to create experimental art in partnership with nature.
Found River bank Art
Lucy Niemann A prayer for nature and healing
Confluence between the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers
River Bank mud sculptures
Great Blue Heron Tracks
Ella Barsanti, – Wild Raspberry Dream – natural coloring with black-capped raspberries
Lilia Murphy Tree of Hope – natural coloring with mulberry
Beckett Grice – Olympian Natural coloring with mulberry.
Becket Grice Natural coloring with Crow’s foot flowers.
The parade of frogs to the breeding ponds begins soon after the ice is out (usually after April 15th), as they fulfill their yearly mating ritual. In the spring I try to spend as much time as possible in the local frog ponds. Although it may seem gross to be slogging around a mucky pond, it is actually very healing. It is a world unto itself: the frogs calling; dragonflies darting around; and red wing blackbirds calling from the cattails. All you need is a decent pair of waders or rubber boots and a walking stick to keep from falling in the water.
American Toad – One of the dominant night sounds in May is the calling of the toads. I often have my window open, so I can be lulled to sleep by the trilling of the toads.
Chorus Frogs – The chorus frog is about 1/2 inch in size. The sound can be deafening when they are calling. However, they are very difficult to find if you are searching for them. Chorus frogs have also been called “cricket frogs” because their call resembles crickets.
Wood Frog – The wood frog is 2-3 inches, brown with a black eye line. They are a woodland frog that spend the winter in the leaf litter. They freeze solid over the winter, but their internal organs are protected by glycol, an antifreeze chemical. This frog is usually the first to visit the breeding ponds. They are very quick breeders, often only staying at the pond for two weeks. While breeding, the males aggressively move about their territories. The male’s call is a “clucking” type sound, similar to a chicken.
Gray Tree Frog – The gray tree frog can change colors from gray to green depending on its surroundings. They are two inches in size and have small suction cups on their feet which allows them to climb on windows and in to the treetops (over thirty feet).
Gray tree frogs overwinter under leaves on the ground. Their body completely freezes like an ice cube or “frog cube”. The frog survives by filling major body organs with an “anti-freeze” substance.
Tree frogs breed in mid-May in woodland ponds. After leaving the ponds, they feed on insects living in shrubs and trees.
Bullfrog – Bullfrogs can reach up to eight inches and are the largest frog found in Minnesota. Bullfrogs are a game species and are hunted for their tasty legs. They do not naturally occur in the Twin Cities, but have been introduced in many areas of the state.
Bullfrogs breed later than most frogs, in June and July. The call of a male bullfrog sounds like someone plucking a banjo string. Tadpoles take one to two years to metamorphose. Young frogs take 2-5 years to develop into adults.
Bullfrogs are rarely found far from water. They will eat any of the native species of frogs and have caused the population of native frogs to be lower in areas where the bullfrog has become established. Bullfrogs will eat anything that they can fit into their mouths, including: worms, insects, small turtles, snakes, bats, mice, and ducklings. Predators on bullfrogs are raccoons, mink, pike, bass, and humans.
Spring Peeper- Spring peepers are the smallest frogs in our state. They are approximately one inch in size. They are brown in color and have a distinctive “X” on their back. Peepers are woodland frogs and are uncommon in the Twin Cities because they like a natural setting without humans. Housing developments and roads have caused spring peeper populations to be reduced because of loss of habitat.
In the spring, peepers come to the ponds and make a “peeping” call that sounds like a chick. A pond full of spring peepers calling can be overwhelmingly loud.
Leopard Frog – The leopard frog is the most well known of all Minnesota frogs. It is a large green frog, three to four inches in size, with many black spots. Leopard frogs are exceptional jumpers.
Leopard frogs spend the winter buried in the mud in lakes. When the ice thaws, leopard frogs migrate to their breeding ponds. Many are killed as they cross roads at this time of year.
They begin breeding in late April. The males make a low snoring call to attract females. Leopard frogs complete their breeding in only two to three weeks, but remain near the water or in wet meadows throughout the summer.
Leopard frogs feed on insects and worms. Herons, raccoons, snakes, and owls feed on leopard frogs. Humans use leopard frogs for fishing bait, and many are killed by mowers and cars.
Chinese ink and Brush paintings – James Gregory I like painting nature because in order to paint I have to get out of my analytical mind and actually see the scene in order to paint it. This experience of turning off my expectations of how I think something should look allows me to access parts of my awareness which get blunted in daily thinking.
editor’s note – click on the horse to see it full size
Photo by David W. Nelson
I almost cried. There was an affinity in the woods, A stillness of calm, And peace, And pride. The wind filtered through the brush And touched Ever so lightly, The rustling leaves And the flowing current. Gusts, Upon which the Egret Displayed their grace with dignity. There was an affinity And I almost cried.
Robin Sanislo – photography and poetry
The question of art for me Is in my home and surrounding gardens. My gardens are one way I connect to nature And the promise of spring Is my favorite time to witness nature. And birds…. I love their visits to my yard And I provide lots of suet and thistle for them year round. Oh, and the bees, too. I love them when they move about all the flowers. I love to listen to them do their work. And then, voila… I reap lots of raspberries and plums and even peaches.
Christina Gregory – Chinese Ink and Brush Painting
I feel the beat of Spring today in crescendo and legato Of wind that stirs the chimes to rise And practice their scales. da da daaaa da da daaaa. Da da da da da. Da da da da da
I feel the beat of Spring today in the heartbeat of Mother Earth Held tenderly in the dark and moist home Singing a lullaby to the new born flowers.
I feel the beat of Spring today in the sap that pulses upward to feed new leaves To touch the buds with nectar sweet And treat humankind to sweetness on their pancakes.
And I hear the grace notes of the rain Quickly against the window pane in the early morn Lightly lightly tapping out a rhythm the stars can dance to.
And on the lakes I hear the creak and sway of cracking ice Thundering like the largest drum Releasing with each beat the water for the boats to come.
The lone wolf comes in from cold Shoulder to the wind Never needing anything Not asking for help Independent and strong Surviving but not living The lone wolf comes in from the cold I see you are child of light You are safe here in my arms And you will always be valued for who you are The lone wolf comes in from the cold You are always welcome at our table I will give you my chamomile tea I will listen to your stories There is no need to be silent anymore I will hug you if you are feeling sad You will never be ignored again The lone wolf, alone no more.
Falling into Spring
The wind is blowing warm across my skin. Urgently it draws me into the night. I sense you there And I begin to play. You whisper, I dance. The wind caresses my face. I am alive under the stars. I hear the flutter of night wings, The flutter of my heart. I am still. The night moves around me. The moon smiles down. I reach out my arms I’m filled with joy. I am falling into spring.
Christina Gregory – Chinese Ink and Brush Painting
Chinese ink and Brush paintings – James Gregory The Chinese say, all Chinese ink and brush paintings begin with understanding how to paint a rock!
Editor’s Note: The wildness of Antarctica, the Chilean Andes and the desert lands of the Atacama in Northern Chile had a deep impact on many of the travelers. Hopefully, you will feel the raw emotion in the poetry and the photos. One of the photographers, Jane Ball, has traveled around the world with her camera. To see more of her work go to: www.janeballphotography.com/
A humpback dives right beside the Zodiac. Photo by Robin Sanislo
When in the Atacama desert, we walked across dry, heaved, hard dirt and made our way to a large, very old Carob Tree. The wind touched our faces and we discussed how being more authentic in ourselves and being more of who we are would allow more life to come to us. To touch us. We would be more available to the earth and to each other. Later that day, I sat with the question, Who am I?
Carob Tree Photo by Jane Ball
I am the Water, the stone,
And the woman who swims.
Life will come to me.
I am the song, the dance,
And the woman who sings.
Life will come to me.
I am the flower, the rain,
And the woman whose hands
Are covered in dirt.
Life will come to me.
I am the wind, the tree,
And the woman who walks
Life will come to me.
I am the tear, the prayer,
And the woman who cares.
Life will come to me.
And I will open my arms
And hold the truth.
Flamingos in Flight, Atacama Desert Photograph by Robin Sanislo.
The poem below was inspired by Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins. They are a tough bunch of creatures. Living each day on the edge. In one of our discussions about the penguins someone asked, “What is their strength?” A fellow traveler answered:
They are what they are
Gentoo Penguin colony
I am the gentoo,
Life and death are constant companions
The skua waits for my chick – to move out of reach
An orca may eat me for a snack
It is of no concern to me
Interwoven into the fabric of life
I am what I am.
Gentoos climbing ice floe Photo by Rodrigo Moraga Zuñiga- Antarctica XXI
I live between two worlds
Land and sea.
Everyday is an impossible journey On the ice floe. Step by Step.
Gentoo Penguin Tracks
Falling down – getting up. A trek towards freedom, The ocean. Then slowly climb back up Step by step. My chick is up there, And must be fed. I am what I am.
I am the human. Raw wildness of Antarctica, Exposes false truths. Opportunity to see with fresh eyes Unexpressed pain Old patterns and beliefs die slowly An unknown path to travel I am what I am
Two steps forward – one step back Murky water Embrace abandoned self Reach out for help More oxygen More hope An impossible journey back to myself I am what I am
The Atacama Desert, in Northern Chile, is a desolate land filled with many wonders. Looking at the photo below, is a crack between the spires. Some of us were able to find our way up into the crack to a secret landing. It was here that the sounds reverberated off the walls.
Photo by Ken Brown
Ancient spires of red volcanic ash
Reach high into the sky
Seekers ask the enchanted land for entry
A steep scramble and a large boulder blocks the way
But determination wins out
At the foot of the cathedral walls is the sacred ground.
Shoes must be removed,…. but weren’t.
A falcon nest on a small bluff above.
Bones and feathers litter the ground.
A woman’s primeval chant pulses into the mountain
And mixes with the mountain’s song.
The song drifts out across the land
Witnesses hear two voices
One the mountain and the other a woman.
A blessing for Earth.
Natural salt sculptures, valle de la luna, Atacama Desert, Chile photo by Lawrence Wade
It was 43 years ago that I was a whale researcher in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, Canada. After 6 months of living and breathing whales for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, I crossed over into dreaming about them. I had the following dream three times that summer.
I was standing at the estuary’s edge,
A fin whale swam right up to me
And lifted part of its head out of the water.
All I could see was its eye.
This did not feel like an ordinary dream, but more like a vision. It was not so much about the eye, but more about the intensity that pierced the veil into another world. I had the feeling the whale was calling to me.
Blue Whale Eastern Tropical Pacific 1976.
I continued working at sea for another 4 years, then we started a family. In 1985, I finished my book, Getting to Know the Whales. I interviewed renowned whale biologist, Dr. Roger Payne, and one thing he said, I really connected with:
“….down deeper, whales are moving
with slow drifting currents – whales that are
great, gentle, cloudlike beings”.
The whales were still with me, even though I was landlocked.
In 2013, I started saving to go to Antarctica. About a month before I left, I had the following dream: The setting was before the whalers ever came to Antarctica. I was a whale and the interconnection between all the whales was unlike anything I have ever known as a human. I was not only connected to other whales, but to all living things in the ocean. There was a real beauty in the flow between all the sea life. The movement of the currents and whale sounds were part of my daily life. I could feel the currents moving inside of me as well as in the ocean itself.
Antarctica is calling…..
Whale try pots where whale oil was rendered.
This past January, I actually went to Antarctica with a group of close friends. During the trip, we visited two shore-based whaling stations established in the 1920’s or 1930’s. At Deception Island there were eight rusted ovens where the whale blubber was rendered into oil. When I realized what I was looking at, the horror I felt was beyond words. It was like walking through a World War II German death camp.
Whale bones, Whaler’s Cove Antarctic Peninsula
At Whaler’s Cove, we found a pile of large whale bones (probably blue, humpback or fin whales). One of the goals of our group was to “listen” to the land. For most of us it wasn’t hard to hear what the land was saying. From my perspective, there was agony on that beach. The agony of so many whale’s lives cut short. On the day of a whale kill, the beach and water around that cove must have been red with whale blood.
Whale bones litter the beach
Reminders of the genocide
So long ago.
Still, the air smells of agony
Humans breath in the pain
Breath out hope and caring
Tears fall to the sand
Removing the stain on the land
For whales and humans
Since the 1970’s I have been aware of the Antarctic whalers who decimated the blue whale population in the early 20th century (over 200,00 blues were killed). Sometimes, it is hard to be a human. So much ripping apart of the whale tribes to support the greed of a few people. I have carried this burden with me for 40 years, and I am finally free of it. Also, I feel that I had completed a cycle that began many years ago with the dream of the “Eye of the Whale”.
Humpback “blows” at Sunset, Antarctic Peninsula, 2016.
Lastly, that very evening, there were over 50 humpbacks within a half-mile of the ship. Many were right in front of the ship: bubble cloud feeding, tail lobbing, and fluking-up. It was a great celebration of life for whales and humans.