It’s been over three years now, since I first started this blog project. It started with a goal in mind – to create a list of plants and animals that I wanted to see and photograph, and to document the journey to find them. It evolved into something more, however, and has been a place to share images from my various forays into the natural world and a therapeutic outlet that gave me a purpose to write.
Along the way the actual list sort of fell to the wayside as new species and natural communities appeared on my radar and my quest for biodiversity broadened. In these past three years, Carolina and I have been to every corner of the state and have shared more incredible experiences, and encountered more incredible wildflowers, curious creatures, and breath taking vistas than I could ever have imagined.
In honor of reaching 100 posts on “A Naturalist’s Journey”, I decided to share my personal “top 10” posts. It was no easy task paring these down, but in the end I selected the following based on a variety of factors including diversity, uniqueness, poignancy, and response from readers. Without further ado, I present the Naturalist’s Journey Top 10.
I think this was the first post where my blog really started coming into its own. It reported on a day filled with rare and medicinal plants, archaeology, and prehistory.
9. The Meaning of Life (For a Ringed Salamander)
This was perhaps my most personal, and certainly my most philosophical post. It was well received, and tells the story of a special adventure that elicited an emotional and introspective response.
8. Back to my Roots: Fun with Bird Photography
This post tells the story of how my good friend James Childress rekindled a passion for wildlife photography, which added another layer of depth to subsequent posts.
7. An Encounter with a Vanishing Prairie Icon
This post tells the tale of a rare prairie denizen and the adventure we embarked on to find it. It is a tale of a sad history, but a promising future.
6. Are we in East Texas or Appalachia
Over four years ago now, Carolina and I were introduced to Susan and Viron. They introduced us to land that has been in Viron’s family for generations, and contained one of the finest examples of rich calcareous slope forest left in the state. We have returned every year since to experience spring in this special place.
5. Spring in the Desert Part 2: The Superbloom.
Many of the scenes I have witnessed since starting this blog have left me awestruck, but none so much as the desert bloom in Big Bend in the spring of 2019. We timed our visit just right and experienced a diversity of wildflowers beyond what I could have imagined.
Most years I post a seasonal summary of my outings in the Pineywoods. The fall of 2018 just happened to be one of the finest in recent memory.
Carolina and I have fallen in love with the Davis Mountains. There is no better time to visit these sky islands than during the summer monsoons. When the desert is parched and sweltering, the mountains are cool, lush, and full of life. In August of 2017 we visited with our friends James and Erin Childress, in what turned out to be one of our most memorable trips to the area to date.
2. Vernal Pools: The Kingdom of the Amphibians
Amphibians, particularly salamanders, played a huge role in shaping my love for the natural world. One of my earliest memories was looking under some discarded piles of plywood at a local park in the suburbs of Chicago to find six Eastern Tiger Salamanders. This sparked a lifelong love for all things that many consider “creepy crawlies”, but I consider beautiful and fascinating. This post wasn’t describing any particular adventure, but rather the culmination of countless trips searching for amphibians, and countless hours spent learning about their ecology, evolution, and life histories.
Like the entry above, my personal number one blog post does not describe a particular day in the field, but rather takes the viewer on a narrative and photographic journey through an imperiled ecosystem that helped to shape the nation, and in doing so all but disappeared. It is a landscape near and dear to my heart, and through this post I hoped to share just a hint of the incredible beauty and diversity that abounds in the great longleaf pine forests of the southeastern United States.