Fifty-two weeks, 52 columns
Birds, bugs, creatures of the Northwoods and the world…which do you prefer?
BY THE MASKED BIOLOGIST
Special to the Star Journal
This week marks a special one year anniversary; I started writing Wild Connections for the Star Journal June 7, 2016. In my inaugural article, I listed the many amazing natural resource features that make Wisconsin so special; we have a diversity of habitats, which in turn provides homes for all kinds of fish, wildlife, and birds. As an author, I am often asked how I can come up with unique content on a weekly basis. When writing about the natural world, the subjects and ideas come to you. I thought it might be nice to run back through some of what I wrote about since beginning this column a year ago.
I tend to write a lot about birds. This is frankly the law of averages; with over 430 bird species, we have more birds than just about anything else I might write about, apart from insects. I wrote specific articles about robins, cowbirds, sandhill cranes, bohemian waxwings, and swans. I also wrote about nesting birds, hatchling birds, migrating birds, bird songs, and International Migratory Bird Day. Birds weave their way in and out of folk tales, fables, myths, legends, and a variety of religious accounts. Humans and birds are strongly linked; what we think, how we feel about birds tells us a lot about ourselves.
I wrote about a wide variety of other animals, too. Bats, shrews, foxes, squirrels, bears, bobcats, frogs, toads, and canines are some of the subjects that come to mind. Some of these were triggered by questions from readers, or current events; porcupines are a hot button topic every year, especially in the spring. Sometimes it is because I learned something new and wanted to share it; the American marten, our only state-listed endangered mammal, is an interesting look at our state’s history as well as a fascinating animal. While I feel my writing might get mundane if I wrote about an animal a week, the living creatures in the world around us are important subjects in a biologist’s topic list.
While most of the animals I write about live here in Wisconsin, sometimes I want to look beyond our horizon and examine something in the world around us. The global theft of rhinoceros horn, poaching elephants for their ivory, and the global extinction rate affect us all, because once these animals are gone from the earth, we all lose something that cannot be replaced. I also examined sustainable forestry, the effects of lead poisoning and climate change; these issues may not seem directly related to our wildlife species, but they are. The choices that we make every day, from the paper products we buy to the fishing tackle we use or vehicles we drive have an impact on the world around us and the wildlife species that share it with us. I don’t want every week to be doom and gloom, because I also like to have fun with my writing; why not ask the question of why we have no monkeys, or penguins. In fact, one of my coming articles will examine the science of cryptozoology and its relentless pursuit of bigfoot.
I also give you glimpses into my own life, and the lives of my family and my dog. After all, I am as human as anyone, and my life, my work and my writing are all interwoven. Consequently, most articles have at least some link to my life. There are a few, though, that are derived heavily from my life. My article about dads, written after I lost my father was an example, just like reflections on hunting or memories stirred by simply cleaning out the back of my truck. I also wrote about how, in late winter, I yearn for the coming of spring and strain to see any sign of it from deep inside the winter doldrums. Seasons play heavily into my writing, in fact, with columns about Groundhog’s Day, daylight savings, and almanac winter severity predictions. For certain you will see a trend in my writing that I love something about each of our four seasons, just like I love something about every bird or animal species I examine.
I look back so I can look forward. Frankly, from what the paper tells me, they get very little feedback on my articles. I am asking you to change that; send them a quick email or give them a call. How do you feel, now that I have been a contributor for a year? Which kind of article do you like most or least?
Should I keep mixing it up? Are there areas where you wish I would focus more? Want some questions and answers? As long as you keep reading, learning, and enjoying I will keep on writing. Thanks for a wonderful year!
The Masked Biologist earned a Bachelor of Science degree from a university with a highly regarded wildlife biology program. His work in natural resource agencies across the country provided opportunities to gain experience with a variety of common and rare fish, plant and wildlife species. Follow The Masked Biologist on Facebook. Email questions to [email protected].