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Enjoying nature in your own backyard

Spotted towhees can be seen year-round on the North Coast of Oregon. Photo by Neal Maine/PacificLight Images


In response to the COVID-19 crisis, North Coast Land Conservancy has temporarily closed access to all of its properties, including Circle Creek Conservation Center in Seaside. The office is also closed, and staff are working remotely.

But with spring unfolding right outside our doors, NCLC has some suggestions for how to enjoy this season—and every season—without even leaving home. Email nclc@NCLCtrust.org if you have more suggestions to share.

Crack a window. Feel the fresh air on your face. Breathe it in. It always feels wonderful, it gets the serotonin flowing, and it’s truly the freshest the air has been in many decades.

Go into the garden. This may be a good time to pay attention to a neglected corner of your yard, to plant some seeds you’ve been saving, or remove invasive species. Embarrassing indeed that we have Scotch broom and English ivy in our own yards, but we do!

Notice nature. Biologist David Haskell wrote an entire book about changes he observed over 12 months in a single square meter of forest. You don’t need to travel to be amazed by the natural world.

Do some backyard or kitchen-window birding. The Audubon Society has suggestions for how to get started  If you need a feeder or some seed, you can order them online. You don’t need a big yard: a feeder outside an apartment window will do fine.

Join the iNaturalist community. NCLC  invites all of its supporters, wherever you live, to share sightings from your home of plants and animals this spring. Not sure what you’re seeing? The worldwide iNaturalist community will help you ID. Join the NCLC Backyard Biodiversity Project by signing in or signing up for iNaturalist and clicking the “join” button. Once you join, you can immediately start posting your own photos, and you can see all the other observations people have posted.  Within a day or so our project manager will add you, and your own observations will start showing up for all to see.

Try sketching. To draw a leaf or a feather, you need to spend time looking closely—which is reward in itself. Use pencils or pens and paper you have on hand. Enjoy the process, and don’t judge the result. If you want to get serious, consider taking an online field sketching course such as this one offered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Or keep it simple!

Catch up on natural history reading. Many independent bookstores, including NCLC supporters Cannon Beach Book Company and Seaside’s Beach Books, are offering such alternatives as curbside pickup, local delivery, and shipping.

NCLC founding director Neal Maine offers his own top-five list of nature books:
A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold
The Invisible Pyramid, by Loren Eiseley
The Forest Unseen, by David Haskell
The Geography of Childhood, by Gary Paul Nabhan and Stephen Trimble
Symbiotic Planet, by Lynn Margulis.

Biologist and NCLC volunteer guide Mike Patterson also suggests the following favorites:
Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv
Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin
Kingbird Highway, by Ken Kaufman
Last Chance to See, by Douglas Adams
The Thing with Feathers, by Noah Stryker (an Oregon writer)
Penguins in the Desert, by Eric Wagner (a former Astoria High School)

Or pick a title among the John Burroughs Medal winners for distinguished natural history writing, awarded nearly every year beginning in 1926.


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