Thursday, July 10, 2014


Over the years, I have observed that there are two kinds of people who spend time in the wild...Nature Lovers and Nature Learners.  Now, all Nature Learners are nature lovers, but not all Nature Lovers are Nature Learners.  

I was a nature lover for more than the first half of my life.  I loved to go hiking, camping and I admired the "sexy" mega-fauna like wolves, eagles and bears, etc. I guess I liked the feeling that nature gave to me...the delight of seeing something beautiful...the calm a green forest and blue sky impart...and the quietness, if I could find a place of solitude within a park.  These are beautiful and wonderful things and I wish more people would partake.

But it wasn't until my mid-forties, when I went back to school to earn a degree in Natural History, that I began to actually learn about the rocks, trees, water, plants and animals that had given me so much over the years. Up until then I had only "taken" from nature.  It had been like spending time with a very kind and accepting that would listen to you, be with you, even take on your problems...but then never showing any interest in them.  Eventually this quest for knowledge opened up an even greater appreciation for and depth of love for the cosmos.

During retreats at Prairie Pond Woods, my desire is to help people become Nature Learners, as well as Nature LoversOur walks are full of discoveries, questions, and as many answers as I can give about what and who is going on around us.  Like the row of "green" we are walking next to in Kavanah Field is so much more than is sassafras, dogwood, maple and tulip trees. Participants are then given helpful field marks that help them identify the trees and how important this "edge" is. 

They learn that in the spring, birds forage the maple buds and bees drink nectar from the tulip tree flowers there.  In the fall, birds and squirrels pluck the various fruits and seeds. It is a shelter, where Tiger Swallowtails and giant silkmoths lay their eggs on dogwood leaves. It is so much more than just " green trees."  It is Life...germinating, growing and reproducing.  It is Life-giving...feeding, hiding and hosting many insects and animals we live with.  It is Life-affirming...delighting us, calming us and giving us a purpose in learning from it and protecting it.

This is why on September 12-14, Heart by Nature Retreats will facilitate Wild Words: a Writing Retreat.  It is an opportunity, not only to discover and learn about nature, but to use that knowledge, and the discipline of observation, as a way to enhance your writing...whether it's fiction, creative non-fiction or personal journaling.  You can find out more about the retreat and even register online HERE.

Please join us for a weekend immersed in nature, creativity and Spirit.  Come meet some new friends...human and otherwise!


Friday, June 6, 2014


As the description states, this blog is a nature journal of when, where and what is happening at the retreat.  In nature, something is always happening!  Just three weeks ago I could see through the woods and last years brown growth on the ground.  Now the trees have leafed out and the ironweed, wingstem, grasses and other herbaceous plants are towering over and filling in any bare spots.  

I've been taking a morning and an evening walk with binocs and my camera each day.  Here are some of the things I encountered this first week in June...captured with the limited camera skills I possess.  One of the exciting things for me was to ID two new plant species for the property.  Again...something is always happening...a seed that has been dormant finally germinates. The wind carries a seed through the air and plants itself in the readied soil.  A bird poops.  However it happens, I'm glad it does.  Enjoy!  And come visit sometime!  

PS...if you received this via email...scroll down to bottom and click on link.)


Venus's Looking Glass...a first!

Common Milkweed starting to bloom
Long-leaved Bluets Houstonia longifolia (I think)

Sneezeweed...another first for Prairie Pond Woods
Box Turtles were on the move this week!  They lay eggs in June in Ohio.
Had to dodge 3 while mowing the Refresher Course

Blue-winged Warbler sings all day here
Yellow-breasted Chat (annoyingly) sings all day here too!

Prairie Warbler


Painted Skimmer
Comet Darner...I honestly don't know how I got this photo.  I have been trying for years to photograph one.  They are so quick and they NEVER stop flying.  At one point I think I just took a shot out of frustration and was shocked when I scrolled through and saw it.  Not the clearest but considering the challenge I'm happy with it.
Mating Damselflies

The Creek at the entrance to the property...and Cyon's swimming hole
Downy Rattlesnake Plantain
Cyon waiting while I try to (unsuccessfully) photograph a Worm-eating Warbler

Monday, June 2, 2014


Around the last week of May and the first week of June, after the great wildflower and warbler marathon has wound down, there tends to be a comparative lull in nature observation at Prairie Pond Woods.  Not that there isn't a myriad of fabulous things going's just that most of the butterflies, dragonflies, and prairie plants are not as ephemeral as wood warblers and, well, I take a little breather.  Prairies don't really burst into bloom until mid- to late-summer but even now there are a few things up and blooming that are noteworthy.  Enjoy!

Spider Milkweed
Downy Woodmint

Foxglove Beardtongue
Indian Hemp

Oxeye Daisy
The best thing to do with them, as they are not native and spread like crazy

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


A few themes emerged from the Birdwatching as Meditation retreat, May 2-4, but most prominent were the differences between Seeking and Discovering. Each has it's time and place to be sure...but I think we agreed that beyond the goal-oriented approach to encountering wildlife, or life in general, we enjoyed just placing ourselves in a "state of seeking," or acceptance, to let Life's gifts and discoveries unfold.
Pink Lady's Slipper
 "We sought and we found. We wandered and discovered...Pink Lady's Slippers, a Field Sparrow's Nest, a Baltimore Oriole, Warblers, Columbine, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, good food, good conversation, lovely and wonderful precious encounters with nature."  - D. W. 

Saturday's cool temperatures and wind during the day made it less than stellar birding...but on the night hike we heard a clear and very close song from the upper prairie of the Chuck-wills-widow...a rather rare night jar species in Ohio...with most populations being only in Adams Co!  
 "Thank you for a marvelous weekend filled with bird sightings (many firsts!).  Your guidance has helped open wide the door to local birding." - D. M.
Male Rose-breasted grosbeaks
Sunday was filled with lots of discoveries and gifts of beauty. We heard or saw 52 bird species...over half of the 97 species at the last Prairie Pond Woods end-of-year one weekend!  And while it is nice to hike the woods, strain the ears and get "warbler neck," we also enjoyed watching the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at the feeder, while having our scrambled eggs, fruit & yogurt and toast on the deck!
"The beauty here is astonishing! The land recovers when given love and stewardship. The diversity of the flora and fauna - the birds! - make this a most holy place. I spend my days and weeks when away figuring how soon I can come back." - S. C.
Showy Orchis by the creek
Below is a list of the bird species, a few more photos...and one last quote from a guest. 
"I am always blessed to be at Prairie Pond Woods.  It refreshes my spirit and soul.  I leave with a treasure in my heart."
Wild Columbine on Dolomote slump rock

Turkey Vulture
Canada Goose
Broad-winged hawk
Red-shouldered hawk
Wild Turkey
Mourning Dove
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
White-eyed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Red-eyed vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue-gray gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Swainson's Thrush
Wood Thrush
Cray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Blue-winged Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green
Yellow-throated Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black & White Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated sparrow
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch Preening
Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak

And of course our companion throughout the retreat, Cyon

Wednesday, April 23, 2014