If you are a hiker or backpacker, a bird or animal watcher, a student needing to find insects, lizards or frogs for a science project, like to picnic or camp, and especially a wildlife photographer, this unique book will help you sight more of the wildlife which may be keeping out-of-sight while watching you. There are many field guides available on identification of mammals, bird, insects, and reptiles. But first you need to spot an animal. Although wildlife is everywhere, many wildlife watchers lament they rarely see any in the wild. Having keener senses of seeing, hearing and smelling than people, animals frequently see us first. The techniques and advice given in Where Wild Things Live will make a big difference in your luck at sighting animals in their natural environments. Skills are explained to locate animals and observe them without frightening them away before you have a chance at identification.
Straightforward methods are given, even for beginners, such as walking noiselessly as possible, keeping talking to a minimum if at all, wearing inconspicuous clothing and avoiding perfumes, taking advantage of the wind and the cover of brush and trees to lessen being smelled or seen. Advice is given on the habits of the animals you plan to observe, such as where they water, their trails, preferred habitats, and time of day most likely seen, often dawn or dusk. One chapter treats animal watching after dark.
Habitats are an important factor, since many animals live mostly in just one type of habitat. Described are the best watching techniques in forests, chaparral, deserts, aquatic habitats, meadows, woodlands, parks, the open spaces close to cities and towns, as well as your own neighborhood. There is no lack of wildlife, which exists nearly everywhere, and there are innumerable natural habitats for animal watchers to explore. It is how to find animals in the first place which is what Where Wild Things Live is all about. Happy observations!
1. Sneaking Up On Wildlife
I recently read Dan Story's book on wildlife watching, Where Wild Things Live, and had an opportunity to put it to a test. As I walked silently along a trail behind the Pinezanita campground, I observed two jackrabbits playfully chasing each other and a meandering turkey crossed my path. And I didn't frighten them away!
Dan's book solved the mystery of why I seldom saw much wildlife on my walks through the woods. I usually wore bright colors and fragrant perfume. I generally walked quickly and focused my attention on the ground so I wouldn't stumble. Sometimes I even sang to myself. After reading Dan 's book I employed a different approach. I wore less conspicuous clothing, avoided perfume, stayed in the shadows of the trees and shrubs and walked slowly frequently glancing around. Just by implementing a few of Dan's suggestions, I was rewarded by seeing wildlife up close that previously--if I saw them at all--it was only briefly and from a distance.
Dan's interest in wildlife began at age thirteen when he started exploring the Anza Borrego desert and Cuyamaca mountains with a friend. Dan soon became fascinated with wildlife and decided to write his own field guide. He cut pictures out of books and magazines, pasted them on typing paper, and wrote brief descriptions of the animals' habits and characteristics. This began a life long study--and obersvations--of wildlife.
In the 1970s Dan and his wife Lisa became volunteers at a wildlife rescue center. A neighbor comented: "You'll never know what the Story's would bring home. It was like having a wildlife rescue center next door. They brought home raccoons, owls, snakes, skunks, hummingbirds. and other injured or baby wildlife to nurse and eventually release back into the wilds." While working at the rescue center, Dan was asked to write a series of wildlife articles for the Sierra club. For the next two and a half years his "Animal of the Month" articles were a regular monthly feature in the San Diego Chapter newspaper. Much of the research for Where Wild Things Live originated with these articles. Dan has also written wildlife/ecology related articles for Westways and other periodicals. His love for nature is further revealed by the topic of his master's thesis, a 330 page book on environmental stewardship and ethics.
Where Wild Things Live is the culmination of over thirty-five years of experience finding and observing wildlife, both locally and in distant wildernesses, such as Yellowstone National Park. Of the 56 color photographs in the book, taken by his longtime friend, Al Hochrein, over 70% are local. Explains Dan, "As residents of San Diego County, we are privileged to have four distinct ecosystems within a short drive from anywhere in the county: coastal, chaparral, forest, and desert. Each of these ecosystems support a diversity of wildlife, many of them, because of our mild winters, are active year-round.
Dan's new book is full of information, not only on how to find wildlife and observe them undetected, but on the habits of local wildlife and helpful information on what environments particular animals reside in and where are the best places to look for them. There are chapters on aquatic wildlife, bird watching, finding wildlife after dark, and even where to search for wildlife in city and suburban habitats. The book is written in a narrative conversational style and includes numerous personal anecdotes and adventures from Dan's own wildlife watching experiences.
Where Wild Things Live has changed the writer's perspective on viewing wildlife and experiencing nature. Any book that can change a person's outlook is a good read, indeed. As I sit in my RV looking out my window, a Seller's Jay is dive-bombing a squirrel six feet from my door with three red topped Acorn Woodpeckers as observers. Takaing Dan's advice, I had put out birdseed to draw them closer. More evidence that this 123-page book was well worth the time I took to read it.
2. Story's book shares 'Where Wild Things Live'
You've done it yourself--spied a fox or rabbit on the side of the road and called to your friend, "Look over there." And all your friend sees is a tail disappearing under a hedge.
But it does't have to be that way. Ramona author, wildlife enthusiast and photographer Dan Story has published a book, Where Wild Things Live, that can help anyone enjoy the wildlife that teems around us, especially in San Diego County.
Subtitled 'wildlife watching techniques and adventures,' Story's book uses his lifetime experience of tramping the woods, hills and national parks to bring added dimnesion to everything from a walk in the neighborhood park or your own backyard to a climb up Mt. Whitney.
The first law of the wildlife experience is knowing where to find the wildlife. Be assured, said Story, it is all around you and it knows you are there. The second law is knowing how to observe the animals, birds or critters without scaring them away.
Story takes you through all these steps--the colors to wear, how to walk, where to look. For instance, the greater the diversity of food in the area, the greater the variety of wildlife, said Story, whose book is illustrated by photographer Alfred K. Hochrein.
There are four distinct ecosystems in the San Diego area--coastal, chaparral, mountain, and desert--more than in most areas, and all with different and overlapping wildlife. In fact, says Story, with the exception of Yellowstone National Park, San Diego County has probably the most diverse wildlife in the nation.
Add to that the bird population, which Story says has a greater variety than any other county in the nation, according to the San Diego Natural History Museum, a fact that is greatly enhanced by Ramona being on the migratory route for many raptors flying from Canada and points north to Mexico and points south.
In his book Story builds on the love of pet animals that are so much a part of family life, and extends this to an appreciation of wildlife.
Perhaps the most intimate and personal way that people reveal a longing for nature is their love of pets," he said. "Dogs, cats, horses, monkeys, rabbits, birds, reptiles, rodents, fish, insects--nearly every variety of animal imaginable shares peoples' homes and yards."
"Now think about this for a moment," Story continues, "From a practical standpoint, why this affinity for pets? After all, a lizard or bird is hardly an animal one can cuddle. It is nearly impossible to take a hamster for a walk. Who ever heard of a snake or turtle sleeping at the foot of the bed! What purpose does an ant farm serve?"
As an answer to his own question, Story cited animal behaviorist Konrad Lorentz, who said "The wish to keep an animal usually arises from a general longing for a bond with nature."
"It is abundantly clear to me that people instinctively realize, even if subconsciously, that animals are the heartbeat of nature," said Story. "They are what make the wilderness wild. A brief glimpse of a deer, coyote, or fox; the songs and calls of birds; nests, dens, and tracks, without them a forest, a desert, a meadow, even a city park is empty and barren." And Story adds yet another dimension--nature photography.
"Today there is good quality equipment available at reasonable prices with lenses that go from close-up to significant zooms," he said. "You can get really close-up work with insects and small reptiles, and with many medium-sized animals, 50 yards is close enough. With film it used to be expensive, but with digital cameras, you can just keep five. There really is a fantastic world out there."