Naturalist Stan Tekiela Describes His Profession

In today’s post, wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela describes his work as a naturalist. Find out more about his important educational work. Most people have some idea of what a naturalist is or does. After all, one of our greatest presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, considered himself a naturalist. Charles Darwin, David Attenborough, and John J. Audubon are some other notable naturalists. I’ve been a naturalist for more than 30 years. The easiest way to describe what a naturalist does is to explain that the job is to educate others about nature. That’s right, a naturalist is a teacher about the natural world. Sometimes, it’s called interpreting the natural world. In many places the official job title is not just “naturalist” but rather “interpretive naturalist.” So the what the heck is up with the interpretive part? Interpreting or translating the technical and scientific natural world into something understandable for the average person is what a naturalist does. But...

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A Trip to Michigan’s Lower Tahquamenon Falls

Greg Kretovic, author of Waterfalls of Michigan, takes us on a visit to Michigan’s Lower Tahquamenon Falls. Here is his report. I have to be honest, I don’t know why I didn’t visit Lower Tahquamenon Falls sooner! To me, the Lower Falls is truly a fun adventure for the entire family. During my visit, I brought along my 5-year-old daughter, and she had a great time despite the rain. Our favorite part was renting a rowboat (for a small amount) and rowing the 150 yards to the nearby island in the middle of the river. Once you reach there and dock, a 0.5-mile trail follows the perimeter of the island, giving you close-up views of the cascading waterfalls that make up the Lower Falls. The river was running high during our visit, but in midsummer the falls are a popular place to wade and play in the water. On our return to the mainland, we rowed around a bit, took in the views, and saw...

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Wildflowers Carpet the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Naturalist and wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela takes us on a journey to photograph wildflowers in the Smokies. Walking down the dirt foot path through an amazing forest filled with towering trees, I have to adjust my tripod and camera that I am carrying over my right shoulder. I’ve been carrying this heavy camera gear for four days in a row, so the top of my shoulder is getting a little tender and sore. Stopping to catch my breath and take in the view, my eyes fall on a particularly massive tree with a tall, straight trunk. Most of these tulip trees are more than 100 feet tall and have impressive crowns. In fact, these are some of the tallest deciduous trees in America. You feel like you are walking among giants traveling in these forests. I’ve been working in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park recently, on assignment to photograph the...

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Watch Out, Roadrunner Sprinter Approaching!

To some people, the roadrunner is best known as a fleet-footed cartoon character that is always outsmarting a wily coyote. The Greater Roadrunner is an almost mythical bird to anyone who hasn’t traveled to the American Southwest or lived there. It’s often a bird that you’ve heard about but never seen. And everyone seems to have all sorts of questions about the roadrunner. Does it really run that fast? Can it really outwit a coyote? The roadrunner is an odd-looking bird with a long, narrow body, an extremely long tail, and long legs. A member of the cuckoo family (Cuculidae), it is, in fact, the largest of the cuckoos in North America. Sometimes it’s called the Ground-cuckoo because it spends most of its time on the ground and prefers to run rather than fly. Its scientific name, Geococcyx californianus , translates to “California Earth-cuckoo.” Males and females look alike, but the males are slightly larger. These birds are capable of running upwards of 20 mph, which, believe it or...

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Birds like the Chickadee Sing in Spring and Summer

Naturalist and wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela shares with us his knowledge of the black-capped chickadee and other singing birds. There is nothing like spring. Just stand outside for a minute or two and you will hear what I mean. Birds are singing. From all corners of the prairies, forests, and backyards, the birds are singing up a storm. After a long, cold, and silent winter, hearing the birds is such a relief. Even as I sit in my office to write this column, I can hear black-capped chickadees singing their springtime song outside my open window. Funny thing is, the chickadee call is slightly different in various regions across the country. In the Upper Midwest, the song is a two-note song. In the Pacific Northwest, it is a three- to four-note song. Think of it as a type of accent. That’s right—birds have regional accents just like people. The reason for this...

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Bean and Bear Lakes: A Best-Kept Secret of the North Shore

Join Kathryn and William Mayo on a visit to the Bean and Bear Lakes, one of the destinations featured in their book 61 Gems on Highway 61.  The wonderful thing about living on the North Shore is the ability to set out on an adventure straight from the back door. Jaunts out to explore a path, a road, or a stretch of shore fuel our excitement for being alive, and that’s the real story behind how 61 Gems on Highway 61 came to be: We were just taking pictures and writing down what we were finding on our frequent day trips along Lake Superior. There is a backstory to the Bean and Bear Lakes, and we know from our own experience that the few words we include for one of the 61 sites are only the tip of the iceberg of what waits to be discovered in this endlessly amazing part of...

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The Wood Stork: A Most Amazing Bird

In today’s post, naturalist and wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela tells us more about the wood stork, one of the amazing birds that call Florida home. I get to see, study, and photograph a lot of interesting birds every year. This past winter, I spent some time in one of my favorite places, especially in winter, southern Florida. There are so many unique and fascinating birds that live in the Sunshine State. One of these special birds is on the federal threated species list: the wood stork (Mycteria Americana). It seems that everyone is familiar with the Old World Stork—you know, the storks that were said to bring human babies (all wrapped up in blankets) to expecting mothers. The wood stork is related but not the same. There are 19 species of storks in the world, but the wood stork is the only one in North America. It’s found in the subtropical and tropical...

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Where to Find Wild Cranberries in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan

Teresa Marrone, author of Wild Berries & Fruits Field Guide of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, shares with us where to look for wild cranberries. HABITAT: Three species of wild cranberry are native to our region: small cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus), large cranberry (V. macrocarpon) and northern mountain cranberry (V. vitis-idaea var. minus). All are found in wet, acidic areas such as sphagnum bogs, swampy spots, and fens. GROWTH: This ground-hugging trailing plant is technically a subshrub, but it’s viselike in growth habit. Stems are slender and hairless. Cranberry plants often take root at the leaf nodes, forming dense mats. LEAVES: Smooth, hairless, leathery evergreen leaves grow alternately on the slender stems. Leaves of small cranberry are less than 3⁄8 inch long, lance-shaped with pointed tips, and white underneath; edges are rolled. Leaves of large cranberry are 1⁄4 to 5⁄8 inch long, narrowly oval with blunt tips, and pale underneath, but not as white as those of small cranberry; edges are flat or very slightly rolled. Leaves of...

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