Today's young naturalist is not only a keen observer, but also an avid nature photographer who seems to be following in his mother, Kimberly's footsteps. A native of Arizona, David is nine years old and passionate about studying and protecting animals. As you will see, it is hard not to be inspired by his dedication and his natural curiousity about his surroundings. All photos that accompany this interview were taken by David (except for those featuring David which were taken by Kimberly). Please help me welcome David to The Magnifying Glass.
David, can you please tell us a little about yourself?
I'm nine years old, and my special interests are animals and fantasy books that are really good. We just got four bird feeders in our back yard, so I am very happy. We get to see at least seven different varieties of Arizona birds from our living room.
When did you start taking photographs? What are your favorite subjects?
I started taking photographs when i was four years old, with my dad's little camera. Then, I got my mom's medium-sized camera, and took pictures and videos with it, and then, I finally got my big DSLR that I have today, that I take great photographs with. I'm still learning how to use some of the settings,
like shutter speed and ISO.
One of my favorite subjects is any kind of animal. I like egrets, herons (especially if I can catch them eating fish), hawks, owls, and many other types of birds. We got to photograph bald eagles with their babies in the wild. That was really exciting. I also love insects and arachnids. I even like photographing our cats. I like to see how animals behave. I want to be an animal scientist when I grow up.
If you could spend a whole day with a scientist, what would you want to learn more about?
I would want to learn about a lot of different types of animals and their habits. If I could pick any scientist to spend the day with, I would pick Jane Goodall, so I could learn about chimpanzees and how she learned about them. I always think I'm like her when I'm sitting on the ground enjoying animals, and just getting to know them.
If an alien landed in your back yard and asked you to teach him about the local wildlife, what you would share with him?
If he was an alien that wasn't going to do anything bad to the animals, I would tell him everything that I knew and could share at that very moment. I woud tell him that some animals are dangerous to go around, but some are not that dangerous, and most are more scared of you than you are of them. I would definitely tell him about snakes, roadrunners, and many more Arizona animals that live here. Many animals in the desert adapt in ways to survive in a dry environment, and some look really cool and weird. In Arizona, you can see a lot of animals that you can't see in most of the rest of the world, like roadrunners, rattlesnakes, and scorpions. They can tolerate lots of sun and heat.
Please describe your favorite nature spot for us.
My favorite nature spot is on the top of the canyon of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, looking out at all of the nature in the canyon. I always see lots of trees that probably hold nests of thousands of birds. There are always turkey vultures circling over my head as I look out, and I can see the stream twisting across the ground below. I can also see lizards, squirrels, and even snakes beneath me.
What is the smallest creature you have ever discovered/observed? What is the largest (not in captivity)?
The smallest creatures I've gotten to study closely are baby black widow spiders. We found a black widow egg sac in the garage. My mom put it in a container and black widows flooded out of it. We kept them to watch them grow. Most of them ate each other, but we grew one tiny spider to an adult female, which we still have. The biggest wild animal I've ever seen is probably a bobcat. I've only seen it once, hiding in the bushes, and it jumped across the trail and dove into the other bushes in the shadows. I've also seen a Gila monster. That was really big.
Some kids (and adults) are nervous about picking up bugs and lizards. Do you have any words of advice for them?
I would say that people shouldn't be afraid of picking up bugs or lizards because they should just be amazed by the animal world and take the chance to see them as closely as they can. They should not do anything that can damage or hurt something that they are holding. If they cannot hold it then they should stay where they are and watch it do what it wants to do. I never hurt animals, not even insects.
Do you have any big plans for this summer?
One of the things that my mom said we are going this summer is go camping. I'm a little nervous, but mostly excited. I know how to be safe in the wild so a bear doesn't come get the food, and I like laying out at night under the stars and watching the bats come out.
David, thank you so much for this wonderful interview. I loved seeing your beautiful photographs and hearing your thoughts on the importance of studying and treating animals with respect. If I were an alien, I would want to land in your back yard! Have fun camping and please let us know if
I am on the hunt for some good reading/listening/watching recommendations! The hunt started with preparations for an upcoming trip, but it is also spurred on by my realization that summer is right around the corner. And although it has been many years since I was a student, I still love having a summer reading list. So here is my list of things I hope to read/watch/listen to in the next few months followed by a list of a few my favorites that you might want to add to your list. It's a random compilation of things related to the natural world, gardening,educating,pondering, and just enjoying.
My Summer List (so far...please, help me add to it!):
Spring arrived, and Delilah spotted new nests every day. She discovered them in tree branches and corners under the porch cover. She even found one in the hold of the barn wall. The birds crafted their nests from bits of twigs, dead grass, corn husks, and Delilah’s hair. She loved seeing her red strands woven in with all the other textures. She always believed she was a part of nature. This was proof of it (p.6).
I could have sworn that I posted about this quick and practical little project on my own blog last spring. Well, at least I meant to. Anyway, I wanted to pop in and share the idea with you all this afternoon. We are having a very, very rainy spring here in Vermont and I have needed to have a few extra indoor activities up my sleeve as a result. Maybe you do too.
Planting into eggshells seems to a common enough kids' craft project, and with good reason. There is something incredibly fun about setting a little carton of hollowed-out shells on the table, and watching them grow plants. Plus, when the seedlings are big enough, you can gently crush the shell to loosen the roots and plant the whole thing into the garden. You can find many, many versions of this project by doing a quick search, but what follows should be enough to get you started.
What you will need:
What you will do:
- During the course of your normal kitchen activites, start saving your eggshells. A good way to do this is to use a serated knife or a pair of scissors to gently remove one end of the eggshell. I found that poking a couple of holes in the eggshell along the line where I wanted to cut allowed me to use my knife or scissors to lop off the top a lot more easily.
- Fill the eggshell to the top with potting soil. Remember that the soil will shink down a bit when it gets wet.
- Plant a two to four seeds in the soil, following the instructions on the seed packet. To water, you can either pour a very small amount of water into the top of the eggshell or use a spray bottle to lightly mist until the surface is uniformly damp.
Now watch your seedlings sprout and grow! We put our eggshells back into the carton they came in and used them as a centerpiece on the table until they were ready to move outside. Just make sure that your plants get plenty of sunlight so that your seedlings don't get leggy and flop over!
Whenever we visit my parents, we spend our days outside hiking the countryside. They live near Puget Sound, and the landscape varies here to an astonishing degree.
The other day, it was just three of us, my dad, my son, and me. We chose a trail atop a dike in the flat muddy land near Padilla Bay. The dikes are earthen walls intended to keep the water from constantly flooding the surrounding farmland as the tide goes in and out. Although the land was picturesque in its own way, I held out little hope for spotting interesting wildlife. But of course I brought the camera--you never know.
The trail was winding (my favorite kind) and around a bend we spotted our first of several Great Blue Herons. This one actually flew in a little closer and we watched him quietly for a very long time.
We followed the ditch for nearly a mile, and we noticed that there were quite a few ducks in the water. From a distance, they appeared to be common mallards, and rather drab, but on closer inspection they turned out to be Green-winged Teals (male and female). A second pair of ducks proved to be Gadwalls.
Male Green-winged Teal Female Green-winged Teal
Male and Female Gadwall Ducks
The more time we spent walking, the more we became aware of various kinds of tiny birds sitting in the hedges and poking about in the mud. We believe these birds are Western Sandpipers, although there are several species of sandpipers that are almost indistinguishable.
We also spotted a number of White-crowned Sparrows. My father found them unremarkable but I had never seen them before.
The wind picked up and my son's little legs started to give out, so we turned back to the car. Just before we departed, we spotted a bit of a row in the sky as a bird (no doubt guarding a nest) determinedly charged a large bird of prey until the intruder wheeled off. We thought it might be a hawk, but using binoculars we discovered it was none other than a bald eagle.
We don't see such fascinating sights every day, but as time goes by I start to think that we make our own luck. If you get out as often as possible, you just never know what you might see. And bring your binoculars!
Nature— the sublime, the harsh, and the beautiful— offers something that the street or gated community or computer game cannot. Nature presents the young with something so much greater than they are; it offers an environment where they can easily contemplate infinity and eternity. —Richard Louv