Bats, Bullfrogs, and Fireflies

bull_frog_face_04_17-67-777694Kathy and I walked a friend home after dinner last night along an unlit path through the woods. The sun had set, the moon was out and we could see numerous stars – it was a spectacular time for a walk. Nighttime walks are another wonderful natural resource we have right in our backyards that very few of us take advantage. After last night’s experience, we are planning to do it much more often.

We walked around Lake Elkhorn in Howard County, MD. Kathy had on a head lamp which was helpful since the stretches in the woods were quite dark and the paths had steep edges. The path that we followed was deserted by humans except for one couple walking arm in arm – but the walk was full of life.

The first surprise was a bat that fluttered right over our heads. Several of them seemed to stay with us for a while, passing back and forth, our headlamp catching them in the light on each pass they took. They were probably harvesting the white moths that were attracted to our light. It was pretty neat to be escorted by bats.

As we approached the open meadows and wetlands at the east end of the lake, we were greeted by hundreds of fireflies doing their mating routines in the tall grasses. The area has been left to grow with many native plants and the fireflies seemed to like the habitat a lot.

We were also treated by a series of bullfrogs calling out to their mates and often jumping into the water as we passed. Their deep calls resonated across the waters and off the tree-lined edges to the lake. We also heard them later as we drifted off to sleep with our windows open. It is a very soothing and primordial sound.

The last thing we saw was the reflection of our headlamp in the eyes of a small mammal. Turning off the light we could see the silhouette of a fawn standing by the water’s edge. We wished we could have spent the entire night out exploring and learning more about the nocturnal habits of our fellow creatures. I am sure that like the daytime, there is so much to see as a wide range of life goes about their activities around this vibrant ecosystem.

Take-a-way: Enjoy paths near your home for nighttime walks. Probably best to go with friends and be careful of your footing.

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Michael Meade Inspires Columbia

Michael MeadeAuthor, storyteller, and philosopher Michael Meade was in town this week and spoke/performed to a packed house at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center. It was a challenging and inspiring evening, and at the end he received a standing ovation. We are so fortunate to have locals who help create these events. Thank you Michael Phillips of Four Gates Wellness Center for making this happen!

I particularly liked Michael Meade’s message this time, his third visit to Columbia, that we all have genius within us. This is the subject of his latest book The Genius Myth. He points out that the challenge of course is to find our inner genius and then use it to create a better world. Michael points out that this is our life’s work.

He concluded that once we find and use our own genius, it is then our responsibility, as the elders of our community, to mentor the younger members in their search for their hidden genius. I find mentoring an increasingly important and a very rewarding part of the work that I do. It is challenging work. One never knows what effect we have on others. But listening, asking questions, and giving others space to better understand themselves is priceless.

Michael Meade Genius bookMeade, through the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, runs workshops each year where he works with disenfranchised youth. As I understand from the people that I know who have attended these events, all of the participants come out inspired and many return the next year. I hope that we can find ways to work with our local youth and help them bring their gifts to our community.

There is so much that each of us has to offer and in fact needs to offer to effect change in our society.  We need to find and encourage all members of our community to find their genius and participate in improving our society, one person at a time.This is especially true with regard to the environment and saving the places we love. Each of us will have to use our gifts, our genius, to recognize the impacts of our actions and help lead the change to a more sustainable future.

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Aggressive Bicyclist Backlash

fast bikerThis morning I found myself with a few free moments to spare so I went for a walk to let my morning activities settle into place. The path I chose had recently been widened to accommodate an increasing number of recreational pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists. Everyone had thought it would be safer if the paths were wider. Unfortunately, Continue reading

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Saving the Places we Love – Campaign Update


swamp lilliesWe all dream of making the world better.  But what can any one person do that will actually make a difference?

That is the central question that my books (Saving the Places We Love and The Chesapeake Watershed) try to answer.  Through personal stories, humor and an approachable list of Continue reading

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Road Salt as a Water Quality Issue

This summary was written by Mark Southerland for the Howard County Environmental Sustainability Board.

road saltWe are all familiar with the use of road salt to melt ice and snow from paved roadways in the winter. There are a variety of deicer products, but the vast majority of what is used is common table salt—sodium chloride (Na-Cl). Road salt improves tire adherence to the pavement, greatly increasing vehicle safety, but has adverse effects on property and the environment beyond the road surface.

The types and extent of these adverse effects are becoming clearer through recent Continue reading

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The River that Caught Fire, 1969 and Today

Cuyahoga RiverExcerpted  from Saving the Place We Love.

One of the most famous American rivers, from an environmental perspective, is the Cuyahoga, which flows through Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, and Continue reading

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National Parks Revisited on Their 100th Anniversary

Denali National Park, AlaskaThis is the 100th Anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service. What a wonderful bipartisan step that was to institutionalize a process for creating and maintaining national parks throughout the country. They are enjoyed each year by millions of domestic and international visitors. We have been emulated by nearly every other country on earth.

In my second book, Saving the Places we Love, I provide numerous stories on the Continue reading

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Spring is a Backyard Vernal Pool

spotted salamanderGuest Post by Mark Southerland.

This year, spring really sprung to life in my backyard when an unexpected visitor arrived—the spotted salamander. Eight years ago I added a 1 square meter pond to my 1/3 acre lot just 1 km from the Columbia Mall. As I had hoped, the pond was frequented off-and-on for 6 years by green and pickerel frogs. They made themselves know by plopping into the water when I walked past to deposit my week’s compost in the backyard bin.

vernal poolLast year was special, however, Continue reading

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The Chorus at Dawn

This is the time of year to get up early and go for a walk. The birds are carrying on from before sunrise to well after sunrise – but go early. They are singing away: greeting the day, attracting mates, declaring their territory – they are in full swing as more and more migrants return to our woods. I have captured some of this activity on a couple of short videos. Just sit back and listen to the chorus. You will hear cardinals, wrens, bluejays, warblers, sparrows, goldfinch, titmouse, woodpeckers, etc.

I have also added a second video of a green heron walking along the shores of Lake Elkhorn. Check out his greenback, red neck, and black crown! This tape has also captured some of the morning chorus as well. Both tapes were taken between 7 and 7:30 am.

Take-a-way: There is always something new to see or to explore when out on a walk. We just need to take the time to look and listen.


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Explore Columbia on Foot in 2016

lake kitt walkersHere is the CA walking itinerary for 2016. SAVE IT!!!  As I did last year, I will be sharing stories of the history, the natural world, and the future of the places we pass. Please note that two of these walks are on Saturdays and the rest are on Thursdays. They all start at 10 am. Last year we had a great turnout for each of the walks. Come walk and meet your neighbors as we all explore Columbia on foot in 10 new and exciting locations. Continue reading

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