I like wildlife. I am not referring to animals at the zoo, but actual encounters with wild creatures on nature-based vacations. I love the surprise of coming face-to-face (plus a few yards in between) with a creature I have never seen before. For example, on a trip to the Grand Canyon, I saw two buffalo immediately upon entering the park. What a surprise to have two large, hairy greeters! This prompted the invention of silly buffalo jokes for the duration of the stay.
What do you call a buffalo’s shoes? (answer below)
What did the buffalo have for dinner? (answer below)
Here is my list of wildlife encounters:
- banana slug – What a shock to see a banana peel moving across the forest floor in Portland, Oregon!
- brown bears – 8 of them in Sequoia National Park!
- buffalo – North Rim of the Grand Canyon
- burro – Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
- condor – Vermilion Cliffs
- coyote – San Diego county
- deer – impressive because it was chasing a fox in Mesa Verde
- elk – I think; I only caught a glimpse as we drove by in Mesa Verde
- fox – surprising the deer in Mesa Verde
- otters – Monterey, California
- roadrunner – Mission Trails Regional Park & Anza Borrego Desert State Park
- seals & sea lions – Monterey, San Francisco, San Diego
- sea turtles – Maui
- snakes – Grand Canyon, Mission Trails Regional Park, Kings Canyon National Park, in my house when I was 12
- tarantula – Zion National Park, my neighborhood
- turtles –Austin, Texas
One of my favorite places to observe wildlife is my own backyard with a cup of tea and a notebook. The longer you sit and the quieter you are, the more you get to see. Mornings showcased the territorial hummingbirds, while the afternoon sun welcomed the fence lizards who migrated from one side of the yard to the other to bask in the rays. There are a few red dragonflies that enjoy the corner pond and up to four hawks that circle overhead. In the area just beyond my yard, I have seen coyotes scavenging in broad daylight and sniffing the perimeter at night. One morning on a walk with my dog, I stopped at a grassy dog park to let him sniff around. Just as he was about to step on a brown grass clump, I realized the moving grass clump was actually a tarantula! It is amazing what you see when you stop and take in your surroundings.
1. Create your own observation journal or field book for your backyard and neighborhood. Draw or photograph the creature you are observing and add labels to identify special features. Be sure to include the date and location you saw the specimen, as well as any unique behaviors – like lizards doing push-ups!
2. After observing a backyard creature or brief wildlife encounter on a trip, learn more about the creature with a little research. Then, create a “Diary of a ______” – see I like books for more details.
3. Create your own list of family wildlife encounters. Use this list as your scavenger hunt guide at an art museum, aquarium, natural history museum or zoo. Can you find every creature on your list? Observe how they look different in an artwork or specimen collection. What can you learn about them from these collections? How do the creatures behave differently at an aquarium or zoo?
4. For more tips on exploring your own backyard, visit the Go Explore Nature blog.
What do you call a buffalo’s shoes? Buffa-loafers
What did the buffalo have for dinner? Buffa- lo mein