Today: Alexandra Wardwell, habitat specialist for Audubon Minnesota, who focuses on the protection and restoration of the tallgrass aspen parklands habitat. She is based in Erskine, Minn.

 

Reading

“The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett, recommended by a friend. It takes place in 12th-century England and follows the characters through the turmoil of the times. Showing a considerable amount of research of the Middle Ages, Follett deftly weaves in historical events, and is able to construct a compelling sense of place.

I also follow Chris Helzer’s blog, The Prairie Ecologist, which is a collection of photos, essays and discussions on prairies and their management. He sends out a photo (or photos!) of the week that bring something new and interesting related to plants, wildlife, their habitats, and their interactions. In my job, I get to see these complex interactions up close. I am lucky to work with private landowners and am able to visit their unique properties and appreciate the mosaic of habitat types across a landscape, such as the tallgrass aspen parklands. It is rewarding. There is nothing more impactful for birds than the restoration and permanent protection of native habitat.

Following

Personally and professionally, the reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The law has been the cornerstone for bird conservation in this country since 1918 and makes it illegal to kill, trap or sell (or offering for sale, purchase or barter) any migratory bird, or their parts, nests or eggs. The new interpretation is limiting the MBTA’s effectiveness, which has alarmed many conservationists for its widespread impact to birds.

Observing

I have an interest in phenology so I am always observing plants and wildlife, for example, noting when I see the first mourning cloak butterfly emerge in the spring. My almost 2-year old son has given this hobby a new dimension. It sparks joy to watch him in the outdoors as the seasons shift. These changes allow me to observe daily milestones as wildlife and plants respond to climate, weather, and interact with one another.

 

Listening

KBXE, local community radio, has a great segment in the morning called “What’s for Breakfast,” where they talk with a local listener about what they are eating that day and what is going on in their life at the moment. It seems like a simple idea, but it is so engaging and opens a window into a day in the life of that person. I am always happy when I happen to catch John Latimer’s “Phenology Notes,” which are fun to hear and allows me to compare his observations to what I am are seeing in my own yard and local natural areas

 

Doing

Bird and wildlife viewing is always a constant activity. I scan trees and grass for movement. With the winter season upon us, I am hoping to improve my cross-country skiing. Winter in northwest Minnesota is the perfect time to explore areas on snowshoes or skis that are inaccessible by foot other times of the year, like large wetland complexes. I also have an interest in local and regional history and historic structures. My husband and I are on a long journey of restoring a late-19th century house on our property that was left to the elements and squirrels about 15 years ago. We’ve discovered that the structure originated as a one-room rough-hewed log cabin. It has been a trying yet rewarding experience, but we have a long way to go.