Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Natural View of the Mid-Atlantic

I've been a naturalist all my life, and while having spent much time tumbling around snowy mountain farms and forests of New England and mucking through swamps in the Southeast, I find that here in the Mid-Atlantic we have a wonderful blend of natural history that is all its own, yet deeply interconnected with north and south in ways that are surprising and rich. I hope this blog will help aspiring naturalists at home or new to the Mid-Atlantic discover the beautiful natural complexity that our region offers.

Source: Wikipedia
The purpose of this blog is to document, highlight, interpret, and celebrate the wild and varied natural history that can be found in the six states described as the Mid-Atlantic: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York. Depending on the source New York is often excluded and elsewhere Virginia is left out. Here, however, I include both NY and VA as sharing our region's distinct seasonality and biogeoregional similarities. This is a well-populated region, with some estimates suggesting that over 28 million people live here. A drive up I-95 from Washington D.C. to New York City may create the impression that not much nature survives the crush of humans living, working, and doing business in the Mid-Atlantic. But don't let the view from a car discourage you. This blog will point to some great places to visit and explore, even some in the midst of the human-altered landscape, that will change that impression quickly!

Mullica River, Pine Barrens, New Jersey.
Just a short drive from Philadelphia, Trenton, Wilmington,
and a nice day trip from Washington D.C. and New York.

I hope you have the opportunity to take a daytrip or a long weekend away to discover the interior as well as the far reaches of our region. Having a few kids along will only enhance the 'Wow!' factor and you'll soon discover that nature close to home has all the magic and intrigue of an exotic trip to a far-away place, while still being home for dinner and homework! This blog will include ideas for solo trips, adventures for families with children, trips and gathering for seniors, and even for the thirty-minute-lunch-break naturalist. Please share your adventures here with a comment or two. We can all learn from each other as surely as nature teaches us all.

The Appalachian Trail runs through the Mid-Atlantic and offers hundreds of jump-off points.

One of the unique characteristics of nature in the Mid-Atlantic is its adaptability to human impact. Understanding that there are trade-offs is an important idea to appreciate the conservation issues concerning species that have returned to heavily altered landscapes. There are opinions and encounters that may go against the grain of some. I recently spoke with an Old Order Mennonite chicken farmer on whose property a pair of bald eagles has nested for several years now. Though the road in front of the farm is packed with birdwatchers whom he welcomes, he deals with the eagle's predation on his free-range flocks year-round. Protected by law, the eagles have raised several many young  on the bounty the farm affords them. Meanwhile, the farmer is powerless though he wishes he could remove the eagles from his land. As a farmer I get it.

The 'Old Order Eagles' in New Holland, PA
There are trade-offs in heavily settled landscapes when nature returns.
Understanding this helps build appreciation for complex conservation issues.

This blog will serve several purposes:
  • To explore the nature of the Mid-Atlantic as close-to-home and accessible
  • To provide resources and learning opportunities for the aspiring naturalist
  • To describe species natural history at the intersection of human history and landscapes
  • To encourage participation in natural cycles and processes, not just simple observation
I hope you enjoy this blog as it unfolds. I will update posts as I collect good shots of featured landscapes, plants, animals, fungi. Check back often. And if you have a great picture or adventure you'd like to share, I'm happy to place it with proper credit of course!

I hike, fish, beekeep, plant a few things in the ground, build furniture, paint and write. Natural history permeates everything I do, at home and at work (agriculture education consultant). It's too good here in the Mid-Atlantic not to share! Let me know what you think.

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