Call for Submissions: The Nature Zine, issue 3


It’s that time of year, well, a bit past due but I was lucky enough to be doing field research for an extra 5 weeks this year. I’m looking for your submissions for issue 3 of The Nature Zine: (re)connecting with the natural world.

Get creative! Send your poems, stories, thoughts, illustrations, paintings, photos to be submitted in the next issue. Topics can include but are not limited to: favorite hikes, backcountry recipes (vegan only please), foraging tips, trail reviews, adventure stories, bike touring, species descriptions/identification tips, collages, places in the city to appreciate the natural world, permaculture, primitive skills,  fears of the natural world, train hopping, attempts to balance city and wilderness, essays, book reviews. I think you get the idea.

There will be a limited edition tape release with issue 3!

Thanks to everyone who has submitted to and supported the Nature Zine in the past and continue to do so. Issues 1 & 2 are still available, but there may be a delay on shipping as I need to focus on getting Issue 3 together for now. If you are in Chicago or New York City, you can pick up a copy at Quimby’s Bookstore or Bluestockings Bookstore.

Send submissions to batsnbikes at gmail dot com by December 1, 2014. If you prefer to snail mail your copy, please email for an address.



Auditory Explosion

I can enjoy the fact that the highlight of my day off was watching the ruby-throated hummingbird enjoy his new feeder I hung up for him this week.  About a week or so ago I caught my first glimpse of him through the living room window.  Throughout the week I spotted him again at the back porch checking out the herbs in their hanging pots.  Then again as I was about to step out the front screen door but paused when I heard buzzing and unique squeaks.  Something flew past me diving down and swooping back up, the buzzing sound increasing as it swooped closer-  the hummingbird again!

As soon as payday arrived, actually that very day, I went into town and picked up a humming bird feeder and some sugar. And the very next day, in less than 24 hours he was at the feeder sipping away.  Not as quickly as while staying with Joy, she spotted a hummingbird in her back yard that morning and moments later we were driving around the town trying to find a decent hummingbird feeder.  The task was completed and just hours later while eating pizza on her back porch the hummingbird joined us for dinner at his feeder.    I wish that when people saw me hanging around in their backyards they would immediately put out a plate of delicious vegan treats and wait around for me to come by to find and eat it.  And like with the hummingbird feeder, it wouldn’t even have to be a full meal, just a tasty treat to give me a little boost but I would still continue along my way and find more meals loaded with the nutrients I need.  I just had an image in my mind of the cliche of cherry pie cooling in a window….. a drifter sniffing it out and leaving something for trade in the windowsill.

While out getting the bird feeder I also picked up some supplies to grow some of my own food since my hopes are dashed on people just leaving treats out for me.  Ok, so it may be a bit late to get started, but I really miss gardening.  With doing field work, traveling and not really living anywhere for for more than a few months at a time, gardening hasn’t been a very practical idea for the past few years.  But I decided to just go for it, and try a new method for me, of growing it all in pots.  Tomatoes, bell and jalapeño peppers, kale, collards, spinach and mixed greens are all on the list.  I’m starting all of the leafy greens (except the one kale plant I came across) by seed which I’ve had previous success with but wish I would have started earlier.  Ohhh well!

It’s almost 21:00 and I’m waiting for the whip-poor-will to start calling.  He’s not always on time.. somewhere between 20:35-21:00 he’ll be in our driveway singing his heart out.  Sometimes I’ll hear the woodcock down at the end of the road singing and dancing as well- a distinct call for each of his ascending, descending and call on the ground.  One night, upon first discovering him, Michael led the household out to our neighbor’s backyard so we could listen and watch the woodcock due is nightly ritual.  Currently the grey catbird is meowing and chattering imitated calls in the backyard.  He hangs out in the backyard most days and always has so much to say.  I’ll admit sometimes I laugh to myself hearing him meow and squabbling away, and sometimes I meow back…

Just the other day while planting my little garden I heard for the first time in my backyard (which is a forest!)… a veery.  I heard them out at our worksite the other week, but it’s more exciting to hear them while sitting on the deck.  They have the most beautiful sound, I really love thrush calls though and actually for the past couple of weeks have also been hearing the wood thrushes calling.  The veery call reminds me of the sound of swirling around a corrugated plastic straw in the air, where as the wood thrush sounds like a robot imitating a flute call….something like that.

Spring time out of the city is a an auditory explosion for me- of natural sounds.  All of the sounds above are linked to their respective bird calls that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology shares with us.  It’s an amazing collection and a great site to help you ID some (or all) of the birds in your area by searching and browsing around on their Bird Guide.

Project Setup

I’ve watched the sunrise everyday this week.  The search crew has to get out to the site and start searching at sunrise.  Shortly after, the scavengers will be searching for their breakfast and we want to find what deceased animals we can before they do.  This makes it sound like we are fighting with crows every morning, but the nights have been too cold for much activity and the crows use their wits, not their strength.

So wait, all of this might sound confusing.  What are we doing out here? Scavengers? Carcasses? Sunrise? You may have gathered a few things from my previous posts, but I’ll explain more.  In case you forgot, I’m working on a bats & wind energy project.  Worldwide wind energy is becoming more common and I can support this, but wind energy companies and wildlife biologists need to work together to lessen and hopefully one day even prevent the negative impacts wind turbines have on wildlife- especially bats and birds.  Thankfully some companies are very willing to have this crucial partnership.

But back to the bats and birds.  Last week we all worked together to set up our transects.  We are searching the area under randomly selected wind turbines on the site.  Our particular wind farm is on ridge tops, so many of our transects are on slopes.  The searchers walk about 21 transect lines for each plot, but this can vary depending on the habitat and slope under the turbine.  We set up and labeled stakes and used flagging to define each transect line stretching north and south.  The searchers walk at a slow pace looking 3 meters out to each side in an attempt to find any bats or birds that were killed by the turbines.

So yes, we witness the direct impacts of wind energy and see dead bats and birds.  But when I compare wind energy to mountain top removal for coal and other coal energy sources, hydraulic energy and the impact of dams, oil drilling, and in general the use of these energy sources and their long term effects, their direct and indirect impacts on the environment- wind energy isn’t perfect, but in comparison I’d say it’s a much better option for the environment.  And if it’s something we are going to head towards and use less of these other options we need to do the research now and be sure to fully understand the impacts and what we can do to prevent or at least lessen them- and find ways to make it more efficient.

I’ve decided to not include images of fatalities, as many of my readers may not be comfortable with these images and also I can’t publicize a lot of this.  I’m ok with witnessing the fatalities, even as a vegan, and perhaps especially so.  I want to be aware and I want to help these animals.  (Duh! That’s why I’ve dedicated so much to conservation!)  The research will be published at some point though and previous project information can be found here.  I’ve included some photos of the turbines (they are HUGE- about the height of a 17-story building!) and our plots, that way you have a better idea of what these things look like.  Turbines are in restricted areas so most of you have probably never seen one up close, let alone stood directly underneath one.  It’s required that we wear hardhats, protective eyewear, orange vests and steel toed boots everyday.

When the field crew members find a bat or bird, I meet them at the location to identify the species and we collect all of the necessary data and photo documentation.  This week while they were searching I was recording habitat descriptions and collecting plot information using a Trimble GPS for the GIS analysis.  It’s a bit different to go from working with live bats to dead ones, but it feels good to be a part of such important research and too broaden my experience. And I LOVE working outdoors.  More to come soon, but I have the day off and I need to go out and enjoy it!

(Also, what I write in my blog expresses my personal views and may not represent those of the organization I work for.)