We all live busy lives but that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying nature. Take five minutes out of your day and count the number of animals you see. If you do this regularly and document your findings, you can learn how variables like the weather and seasons affect the wildlife in your area.
You may hear more animals than you see but that’s okay! The 5 minute challenge shouldn’t be a chore; it’s a simple way to relax while becoming closer to nature.
Species List, our custom program developed for nature-lovers, will help you keep track of the animals you see.
Link: Species List
Everyday Ecologist is pleased to announce the release of Species List. Species List allows you to document details about the animals you see every day. The robust program uses easy to understand forms to effectively guide you as you add species to your life list.
Requirements: Windows, Microsoft Excel
1) Download the SpeciesList_v1.0 zip file: SpeciesList_v1.0
2) Open the zip file and click setup.exe. You do not have to unzip the zip file.
3) Follow the installation wizard and select your desired installation destination. The installer will install a shortcut in your Start Menu (Start>Programs>Everyday Ecologist>SpeciesList) and on your Desktop.
4) Click one of the shortcuts to run the program. You will need to enable Excel macros to successfully run Species List.
Once you open the Program, you will notice a tab on the top menu titled “Everyday Ecologist.” These navigation buttons make adding, editing and viewing details about wildlife sightings a breeze.
Click the “Add Entry” button to add a new wildlife sighting. The form below will appear. Here, you can tabulate all sorts of animals and keep them organized by type. Did you see a Gray tree frog? Click the Amphibian button under the Add Entry menu and the program will add it to your Amphibians tab. What about an American black bear? Click Mammal and continue. Did I mention the program is customizable? You can add new species to the Species drop down menu or remove species that were mistakenly added. Have a local park that you visit frequently? Add it to your Favorites! This is great for kids as they document species they see in their backyard or at school. Just click the Update button at the bottom of the form to add your entry.
If you forgot to add a detail about the Bald Eagle you saw at your local lake, click the “Modify Entry” button on the top tab and you can describe the fish he was carrying in his talons. Choose your animal group and the entry number and then click “Edit.” This will show you information that corresponds to the entry you are editing. Among other things, you can update the quantity and details of the sighting. Just click “Update Entry” for the changes to take effect.
Your tabulated results are updated immediately. You can view your sightings in spreadsheet form (as shown below) but what if you’re looking for a visual summary of the animals you’ve seen?
That’s simple! Just click the “Plot” button in the navigation tab and a wizard will help you generate a custom plot. The first tab of the wizard asks you to select a constant. If you are interested in plotting how many of each species of bird you’ve seen in your backyard, your constant would be the Location “Backyard.” On Tab 2, you will select your variable (in this case, it will be “Species”) and you are ready to create your plot.
Your custom plot will show up under the spreadsheet tab “Plots.” The Plots feature is also a great way to see how many animals you’ve observed as a function of time. Plotting your life lists in this manner will give you a better understanding of how variables like the seasons can affect the wildlife in your area.
Uninstallation: To uninstall, just run setup.exe in the downloaded zip file or go to Add and Remove programs in your control panel.
If you like our projects, please donate to Everyday Ecologist. Our goal is to make a SpeciesList Android App so you can bring the power of this program to your mobile device. If this is something you would like to see or if you want to provide feedback, email our developers at email@example.com.
External Link: SpeciesList_v1.0
What better way to start the new year than by creating a 2013 bird list? Document each bird specie you identify this year! You may be surprised at how long your list will be at years end. This list can be done via a checklist, a pencil and paper or an excel workbook. All you have to do is start!
This year, Everyday Ecologist will be creating a wildlife list and we will bring you updates along the way!
To help you identify your birds, I recommend the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Fifth Edition.
Tybee Island Light Station is located on Tybee Island, Georgia (map). General James Oglethorpe ordered the construction of the first lighthouse back in 1732 but it was destroyed by a major storm. It wasn’t until 1773 that construction of the third and current lighthouse was completed. This lighthouse was partially destroyed by confederate forces in 1861 but was rebuilt later that decade, in 1867. The lighthouse is still used by mariners as they navigate the Atlantic ocean and Savannah river. Its 1st order Fresnel lens and two 1,000 Watt bulbs are maintained by the Coast Guard and can be seen for 18 miles.
Tybee Island Lighthouse, Tybee Island, Georgia
The 145 feet tall lighthouse is maintained by the Tybee Island Historical Society and can be climbed for $8 per person (Price as of 4Q 2012). A 178 step spiral staircase wraps around the inside of the structure with a landing every 25 feet. The staircase leads to a 360 degree observation deck that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the Savannah River.
View of Fort Screven and the Atlantic Ocean from the Tybee Island Lighthouse
The view from the lighthouse is breathtaking. Directly northeast of the lighthouse is Fort Screven and Battery Garland. Battery Garland, built in 1899, contains several cannons and is now home to the Tybee Museum. Admission to the lighthouse also grants you admission to the museum. Looking northwest, you will see the mouth of the Savannah River as it dumps into the Atlantic ocean. Many seabirds fly around this area so be sure to look for animals while you’re perched atop the lighthouse.
When you are ready to make your way back down, be sure to check out the Head Keeper’s Cottage on the east side of the park. The cottage was built in 1881 in stick style architecture and contains furniture and items from the early 1900s.
Head Keeper’s Cottage Kitchenware, Tybee Island Light Station
Although not classified as a nature park, Tybee Island Light Station is proof that nature’s beauty is everywhere. The lighthouse lets you relax 145 feet above the ground while enjoying a bird’s eye view of coastal Georgia. If you would like more information, please visit http://www.tybeelighthouse.org/.
Fort Pulaski National Monument is a 19th century fort located between Savannah, Georgia and Tybee Island, Georgia (map). Construction of Fort Pulaski began in 1829 to protect the Port of Savannah and it was completed in 1847. The fort, nestled on Cockspur Island, contains approximately 25 million bricks supported by wooden pilings stacked 70 feet beneath the surface.
Fort Pulaski National Monument
During the Civil War, the Union Army successfully forced Confederate troops to surrender by propelling projectiles from their rifled cannons through the 11 feet thick walls of the fort. This demonstration and the distance at which the cannons were successfully fired marked the obsolescence of brick fortifications.
Damage from the 1862 Battle of Fort Pulaski
The fort was named a national monument in 1924 and restoration responsibilities were sent to the National Park Service. Today, guests can visit the park for $5 per person (Price as of 4Q 2012). Visitors can access a complex tunnel system near the fort’s entrance that was once used to hold ammunition and supplies. Some of the original cannons can still be seen at Fort Pulaski. Other cannons have been imported from throughout the region and mounted in position.
Cannons at Fort Pulaski
Although exploring the fort is this park’s main attraction, there are a lot of outdoor adventures to do. Fort Pulaski National Monument is a 4800 acre park, of which approximately 90% is protected wetlands. Fort Pulaski is situated near salt marshes and upland areas which support a wide variety of wildlife.
White-tailed deer, minks, river otters, bobcats and raccoons are just a few of the mammals that call the national monument home. The fort itself is surrounded by a moat with a thriving fish population. Striped mullet are often seen jumping out of the water! Naturally, this sort of attention draws water birds to the area.
Dozens of bird species live near the fort on Cockspur Island. Shorebirds, doves, herons and songbirds abound but if you keep a keen eye, you may catch a glimpse of a few protected species. Protected birds that live near the fort include bald eagles, woodstorks, least terns, peregrine falcons and American oystercatchers.
Dove above the tunnels at Fort Pulaski
The national monument is home to seven nature trails, ranging from 0.5 miles to 13.0 miles. Once you complete all of them, you can receive a Fort Pulaski National Monument Trail Adventure Certificate!
The Fort Perimeter trail is the most popular trail. It is a smooth half mile trail that surrounds the perimeter of the fort. The grass trail runs adjacent to the moat and walkers often see striped mullet leaping and turtles basking in the sun. This trail also gives you the opportunity to see the damage caused by the 1862 Battle of Fort Pulaski.
The North Pier trail is a 1.0 mile trail that leads from the visitor center to the historic north pier. This pier overlooks the Savannah River, where you can see nearby Hilton Head, Turtle and Daufuskie Islands.
The Lighthouse trail will probably give you the best opportunity to observe native wildlife. This trail is a 1.7 mile (one direction) walking trail that ends at the Cockspur Island Lighthouse. On this trail, you will pass through a vast marsh with the occasional cabbage palm tree. Keep your eyes open for deer and eagles around this trail!
Life amongst the bricks
Fort Pulaski is an amazing national monument rich in American history. The park is much more than a historic landmark, though. Here, you can also learn about military engineering and architecture. The land surrounding the park gives you an opportunity to explore natural areas as they looked in the days of the Civil War. The fort is absolutely amazing but I encourage to be adventurous and explore the life beyond the walls of the fort, as well. If you would like more information, please visit http://www.nps.gov/fopu/index.htm.
If you live near the coast, there is probably a lighthouse nearby. Climbing a lighthouse is not permitted at all stations but if you are fortunate enough to be near a climbable one, I highly recommend it. I had the privilege of climbing the Tybee Island Lighthouse in Tybee Island, Georgia during a recent trip to neighboring Savannah, Georgia.
Tybee Island Lighthouse, Tybee Island, Georgia
Once you arrive at the top of the lighthouse, you will have a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape. While perched atop the lighthouse, take advantage of your bird’s eye view by looking for nature trails below or shorebirds flying above. It doesn’t take much effort to enjoy the outdoors!
View from the Tybee Island Lighthouse
By getting outdoors, nature will find a way to impress you. Even if you work every day in the penthouse floors of a big-city skyscraper, the view from a lighthouse will be rewarding and refreshing.
External Links: Lighthouse Map
It’s autumn and that means leaves are changing colors and falling from the trees. Before you rake the leaves out of your yard, take time to observe the creatures living beneath them. Dig through a few layers of leaves and you are likely to unearth a rich ecosystem of earthworms, roly-polies and earwigs.
These animals are members of the cleanup community! Throughout the winter, they sift through dead leaves and speed up the decomposition process. As the leaves decay, they enrich the soil with the nutrients that plants need to help them sprout in the spring.
When these plants die, they provide nutrients to help the next generation become healthy and lush. The seasons and the creatures that thrive in them have an amazing way of supporting and sustaining life.
Lake Lynn Park is a beautiful park in Raleigh, NC (map). There are two entrances to the park: one on Ray Road and one on Lynn Road. The entrance on Ray Road leads to the Lake Lynn Community Center and playground. The park includes an indoor basketball court, weight room, baseball field, batting cage and tennis courts.
The park sits on 75 acres with a 2.2 mile paved trail running around Lake Lynn. The paved trail, aptly named Lake Lynn Trail, is rather hilly and transitions to a boardwalk that runs over the water on the north side of the lake.
Lake Lynn trail is one of the busier trails in the Raleigh area. A steady stream of people walk, jog and bike around the lake from dawn to dusk, with the highest traffic occurring in the evenings and on the weekends. The trail is pet-friendly so dozens of people walk their dogs here.
Once you learn to overlook all the people, this park becomes a great place to enjoy nature and watch for wildlife. A large portion of the trail is shaded by native trees, including red maples, american sweetgums and several oak species. These deciduous trees paint the trail in beautiful shades of orange and red during the Fall season.
The lake receives surface runoff from the nearby neighborhoods so it is far from pristine but dozens of ducks and geese can be seen here. Most of the ducks hang out on the sunny north side of the park, where people gather to feed them bread. We do not support feeding wild animals in this way because the animals can become dependent on humans and the unnatural food source can introduce invasive species, like the Muscovy Duck shown below.
I have visited the park several times and have seen osprey, great blue herons, little green herons, eastern cottontail rabbits, eastern gray squirrels and white-tailed deer. Turtles are often seen sunbathing on logs in the shallow waters of the north side and on the pump deck on the south end of the lake. Several species of songbirds also call the park home, including Carolina chickadees, northern cardinals and tufted titmice.
Animals (mostly birds) can be seen any time of the day at this park, but the largest variety is present in the early mornings and late evenings. Songbirds provide a natural soundtrack for you as you walk around the lake. Watch for fish swimming beneath the boardwalk and take pleasure in the assortment of trees gently swaying along the trail.
External Link: Map of Lake Lynn
Chances are there is at least one lake within a short drive of you, even if you live in an urban area. Many public lakes have trails around them so take the time to walk around and explore! The wildlife in urban areas is often accustomed to humans so you never know what you may see on your journey. Ducks and geese can usually be seen swimming near the shore, looking for handouts from people (a practice that we do not endorse). These beautiful mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) were spotted during a recent walk around Lake Lynn Park in Raleigh, NC (map).
Count the number of species you see on your walk. You are likely to see ducks and geese but you may even come across an osprey or heron searching for fish. Don’t forget to look for mammals like deer and foxes coming to the shore for a drink of water.
REMINDER: For your safety, give wild animals their space. Even if animals appear comfortable near humans, they are still unpredictable.