Friday, January 29, 2010

Teaching Classes Through COCC

Red-tailed hawk
I will be teaching a couple of classes for the Central Oregon Community College's Continuing Education program starting this spring. The Beginning Birding class will focus on learning to identify the birds of Central Oregon. Selecting optics, backyard bird feeding, habitat associations and much, much more will be topics that we cover during the four week course.

Hiking in the Spring is another four week course that will embody the phrase, "the path is the goal." I'm the type of hiker that likes to investigate tracks or other sign of animals, birdwatch, smell the roses, and generally take in the environment as I walk. I'm less of a destination hiker, but this will be a "feets on" type of class. Again, we'll cover a variety of topics from choosing a pack to wilderness areas along the trails.

Prairie falcon featherI hope to use these classes to also generate some writing ideas. Of course, I don't need much of a push to take a hike.
I'm also thinking about developing a teen and young adult writing class, which could also be a fun endeavor. This class would be in the summer. "Write on!" my parental friends say.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Another week...

...another round of queries and submissions. Sent one query to FACES for their upcoming issue on PeaceKeepers. The query involved a long list of politicians and citizens interested in forming a Department of Peace in the United States. This cabinet-level department is the current focus of H.R. 808, but it started off with Dr. Benjamin Rush and his essay published in 1792.

I submitted a query to COBBLESTONE, another magazine in the Cobblestone Publishing group. That one focused on the first regiments of African American soldiers in the American Civil War for theie '1863: A Year in the Civil War' upcoming issue. A true tale of bravery and tragedy.

The next query went to Highlights for Children. I have been trying to interview Jacoby Ellsbury, outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, since he left Oregon State University for the Major Leagues. After contacting the Red Sox organization, I learned that I needed an "assignment" from a magazine to schedule the interview. The story of getting an interview is a story unto itself.

Jacoby Ellsbury

I sent an article to World Traveler about the central Oregon Coast, complete with salt spray and shrieking seagulls. Another article went to on California quail and the lessons I've learned from watching the birds in my backyard.

I submitted another bird article for my February 'Nature Happenings' in the Moab Happenings. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will celebrate Bald Eagle Day on February 7 and 14, 2010, but you have to "upstate" to see any large congregations of eagles. However, there are eagles around the Moab area as indicated by this sign in the Cisco Desert:

Eagles On Hwy

I also went fishing for some elk stories and may have landed a good one. I'm targeting Bugle for a telemetry project, but have to make a few more contacts before that story sees the "ink of day."

Of course, there is more. At least this might placate my family that I do work during the week. Even if they don't really believe writing is work. Fun, yes. Work, for sure.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Quail's Lesson

California quail
California quail
California quail
I don't want to anthropomorphize wild animals, but as I watch the male California quail in my yard, I often think I can learn a lesson or two from these feathered fathers.

During the winter, the males and females descend into our yard to feed. Heads down, feet scratching the dirt for seeds, one male tends to look up more than the others. Keeping an eye out for predators, he is the group's sentry for safety.

As winter melts into spring, these groups disband. Pair bonding means establishing breeding territories, and the males discourage others from moving in on their turf.

Later in the breeding season, the female incubates the load of eggs deposited in a ground nest hidden beneath some shrubbery. The male maintains a nearby vigilance. If the female should die for some reason, the male will take over the incubating duties.

When the ping-pong ball sized young hatch, they are ready to run in about an hour. Both the female and male herd their offspring with soft clucks and calls. The male often assumes an elevated perch, to scan for danger and to keep an eye on his flock. If one of the young dawdles or wanders in the wrong direction, he gives a "get back over here" call.

Later in the fledgling season, this elevated perch is our fence. As the male surveys the domain and tries to negotiate moving along the fence top, he will give the all clear signal when appropriate. First one, then another, then the rest of the young birds fly up to the fence top, often accompanied by some collision antics. After the young and female descend to the ground, the male is still in his sentry position.

And so it goes, season after season. Although color-banding some of the males would be a time-consuming process, it would be fun to see if the same adults return to our yard. I guess I'll just have to be content with the lesson of the male quail and adapt his approach to my own life.

Side note. I have sent an article about California quail to DesertUSA ( for their review. If interested in the American Southwest, check out their Web site. Although you can't search by "author," you'll see that I have written several articles for them on wildflowers and wildlife.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A New Year...

gray whale

...which means new opportunities, new dreams, new adventures. There is a story in every moment, every person, every event. The question is how to weave those bits into a tale, into an article, into a book. That is the path that I am traveling along this year. I will post pieces as they arise, in draft form or in final print. I'm working on articles about California quail, the Adopt-A-Lek program, a Major League Baseball player, my deceased dog, gray whales, and Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the signors of the Declaration of Independence and the first American to publicly suggest that a Department of Peace be created in the United States in 1792. Interesting? I know so, even if I'm the only one in the audience.

Whale Watching Spoken Here
Here's to a bit of luck in all our adventures!