A Documentary... With John Cusack and Termites!

The Besieged Fortress is a close up look at life inside a termite colony. If you’re a fan of the Discovery Channel and animal documentaries, you may like this. The film features fabulous macro photography and camera angles deep inside a colony of termites. Being up close you see the rank divisions among the members, working below the king and queen. Their colony is threatened by fire, rain and other animals and insects, namely driver ants, thus battle ensues. It is quite dramatic and amazing to witness.

This documentary is an interesting look into the complex lives of an underrated insect species. The film is narrated by John Cusack (which is reason enough to check out), and there is plenty of dramatic music to fill you with suspense until a moment arises that deserves a self-narrated quip or two a la Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Sculpture and Poetry in Nature

TransformationsTransformationsOaken Transformations, an innovative integration of "art and poetry in a natural environment to promote community, support of the arts, and preservation of wilderness places," hosts its grand opening on Sunday, October 17, 1:00-4:00. Oaken Transformations was borne of Dr. Fred Bonine’s experience of the transformative and healing qualities of art and nature. Dr. Bonine invites the public to share in this experience by walking the .4 mile nature trail behind his office, throughout which are installed original sculptures and poetry from local and nationally-renowned artists and poets including John Sauve, Kate Silvio, Janet Kauffman, and Robert Fanning. This free exhibit will run for one year in Brighton, at 6893 Grand River Road, Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but will be closed for holidays.

A Conservationist Manifesto

A Conservationist Manifesto

Point 1 - The work of conservation is inspired by wonder, gratitude, reason, and love. We need all of these emotions and faculties to do the work well. But the first impulse is love – love for wild and settled places, for animals and plants, for people living now and those yet to come, for the creations of human hands and minds.

Scott Russell Sanders has not been a professor of English at Indiana University for the last 40 years for nothing. The man can write. He has mastered the art of the personal essay and won awards for his, as he should. I found myself all through this marvelous book rereading paragraphs more than once, to savor the language, the turn of a phrase, the expressive beauty and style of the message. I thought of copying passages so many times I realized I would have a quarter of the book written out for a keepsake. I decided to just buy the book, so I can dip in at will.

A Conservationist Manifesto tells how and why (but more why) we must turn from consuming to conserving in order to redress the imbalances we have wrought on the planet. It explores our enduring relationship with Earth’s bounty and beauty and the necessity of choosing a place to stay put in; a home community in which to invest one’s care and attention. Sanders tells numerous stories about his adopted home in southern Indiana. I was especially happy to read about the restoration of the Limberlost, which was once a 13,000 acre wetlands immortalized by Gene Stratton-Porter in The Girl of the Limberlost and other books. Until recently the Limberlost was gone, but careful efforts are bringing back a small section of it, renamed Loblolly Marsh.

Read this book for the urgency of the 40-point manifesto, calling for more attention and justice in our relationship to the Earth and its creatures, and for the change and commitment it will inspire. Read it also for the beauty of the telling.

Point 40 - Conservation arises from the perennial human desire to dwell in harmony with our neighbors – those that creep and fly, those that swim and soar, those that sway on roots, as well as those that walk about on two legs. We seek to make a good and lasting home. We strive for a way of life that our descendants will look back on with gratitude, a way of life that is worthy of our magnificant planet.

Bird Hills and Kuebler Langford Nature Areas


Bird Hills Nature Area is the 161-acre wooded haven for some of the most beautiful hiking trails in Ann Arbor. It is also a well loved sanctuary for myriad creatures and plants, and it's only a mile north of the downtown area. This place is spectacular in the fall. Dozens of fellow runners and hikers explore these trails every day, though they might not know about the smaller but equally varied terrain of Kuebler Langford Park, which borders Bird Hills to the east of the Beechwood Drive entrance.

Kuebler Langford Nature Area is marked by a creek-cut ravine that runs down the middle of the park, with trails heading up either side. The trails are hard packed dirt with a few picnic areas along the way where cleared out woods make for magical little harbors. On the M-14 side of the park, the soil changes to loose sand and prairie-like vegetation, which provides a wholly different experience just a few hundred feet from the woods. You'll find plenty of hills on your hike, though none too steep to climb with an ordinary pair of running shoes or hiking boots. Enjoy!

Discover some of the other outdoor gems in Ann Arbor by checking out Riverwalks Ann Arbor, Along the Huron, or Footloose in Washtenaw, or see our Events page for the Take A Hike! events through the AADL.

Literacy Series -- Nature Literacy

Naturalistic Intelligence is the most recently identified of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. A rather under-appreciated form of intelligence in our technological modern world, Naturalistic Intelligence consists of the ability to recognize patterns, relationships and categories in nature, essentially, the ability to “read” nature and be “nature literate.”

Today, we tend to live farther and farther from nature, although research suggests that access to nature, and even dirt itself may be vital to human health and happiness. Few would argue that nature is essential to human survival -- and we need nature literate people to give us more balanced ways of living on earth.

So what can you do to foster nature literacy? Here are some easy (and fun!) suggestions:

1. Visit a natural history museum: U of M’s Exhibit Museum of Natural History is a great local resource – and guess what? We have a Museum Adventure Pass!

2. Go on a nature walk: Ann Arbor has many excellent parks available for this purpose – Matthei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum for example. And look! We have a Museum Adventure Pass for them. Also, if you act fast, you can take a hike at Greenview Park with us on September 13th.

3. Feed the birds: What better way to observe wildlife than in the comfort of your own backyard? Check out The Bird Lover's Ultimate How-To Guide for some bird feeding and watching tips. To see more birds, and other types of wildlife, too, check out the Howell Nature Center. Oh yeah, and we have a Museum Adventure Pass for them, too.

4. Read about famous naturalists: Like Jane Goodall, George Washington Carver, Rachel Carson, John Muir and Charles Darwin, to name a few.

5. Explore nature yourself!
Try these books for tips:
Hands on Nature
Sharing Nature With Children
Teaching Kids to Love the Earth

Visit Zion National Park...RIGHT NOW!

ZionZionSearching for the perfect fall getaway? Look no further than Zion National Park! I just spent three terrific days at Zion, hiking by day (in 100 degree heat!), and relaxing in the charming desert hamlet of Springdale, Utah, by night. Whether you're a casual visitor or a seasoned adventurer, Zion has trails for every level of hiker, from the peaceful Riverside Walk to the steep and arduous Angels Landing. Though short, the trip was one of the best vacations of my life and I can't recommend this beautiful and majestic park enough. And if you do decide to go, don't forget to check out one of our many park guides.

Coyotes in Our Midst


The Ann Arbor Observer reports this month on the sighting of coyotes in Ann Arbor. Not just on the edges of town, or in parks, but in residential neighborhoods. This is, apparently, not unusual and not entirely unwelcome. The presence of coyotes has been reported in every major city of the US. They begin to appear when the population of rodents and rabbits, with no real predators in town, reaches ungainly proportions and they are actually a part of the solution to that imbalance. Though they are not a threat to humans, the article advises special care be taken at dawn and dusk to protect small pets.

The library has sources for learning more about these creatures which, through choice or desperation, are moving closer and beginning to share our spaces. For general information, try Wild Dogs, Spirit of the Wild Dog or Coyote: Seeking the Hunter in Our Midst. How they come to be so close is the theme of these books: Coyotes in the Crosswalk: True Tales of Animal Life in the Wilds of the City and Animals Among Us: Living With Suburban Wildlife.

With their reputation as wily hunters and escape artists, coyotes have captured the imagination of many of the First Peoples of this continent. We have many trickster tales, folktales and native tales about coyotes, this one in the form of a graphic novel.

The book I learned the most from about coyotes is fiction, Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, where she relates beautifully the great advantages of welcoming these animals into the natural order of our world. Main Street might be a bit close for comfort though!

Take a Hike @ Greenview Park

Greenview pkGreenview pk

Natural Area Preservation (City of Ann Arbor) staff will lead a walk through this 25-acre park located on Scio Church Road at Greenview. Greenview Park consists of an open field that was once a golf course. Efforts are being made to re-establish this area as a wildflower meadow.

Learn about native plants and trees, invasive plants, ecological restoration, responsible use of public lands and volunteer and recreational activities in Ann Arbor parks.

Take a Hike@Greenview | Monday, September 13 | 7:00-8:30 p.m. | Corner of Barnard and Greenview on the Greenview side of the street. Parking available along Greenview.Greenview pkGreenview pk

Monarch Magic

The World Wildlife Fund has put out a list of Ten Species to Watch in 2010. On the list with tigers, polar bears, mountain gorillas, and giant pandas, among others, are monarch butterflies. Their fate is tied to their habitat being destroyed by natural disasters and industrial development, affecting breeding patterns.

Every year millions of monarchs leave their locations and travel thousands of miles to Mexico or California to the overwintering site where they will reside until the following Spring. (Envision a forest of pine trees that are completely covered in monarchs!) How do they know how to get from Michigan or Kansas down to the same spot in Mexico every year? That is THE question, and it has been well studied for years. Not only is their migration fascinating, but their complete life cycle is as well.

To read up on the monarch butterfly, AADL has you all set with a list of books. For the younger set I recommend Monarchs, and The Monarch's Progress: Poems With Wings. For the adults, a real winner is Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the butterflies of passage, by Robert Michael Pyle. For more info, MonarchWatch.org is an excellent source for all things monarch, whether you’re a student, a teacher, or a life long learner.

When you see those orange beauties flying in the sky this Summer, or perhaps perched on some milkweed, give them a second look.

Take a Hike @ Dolph Nature Area

Dolph Nature AreaDolph Nature Area

Join Natural Area Preservation staff for a free hike through Dolph Nature Area. This is the only nature area to have naturally formed lakes, First and Second Sister Lakes. A staff naturalist will point out wildflowers, trees, and shrubs and talk about ecological restoration, as well as volunteer activities in Ann Arbor Parks, recreation opportunities, and responsible use of public lands. Plenty of time will be available for questions. Meet in the main lot off Wagner Road between Jackson Road and Liberty Street.

Dolph Nature Area Hike | Thursday, July 29 | 7:00-8:30 PM | All Ages

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