Thursday, December 29, 2011

Greatest Hits of 2011

With only 2 days left in the year, it seems safe to take stock of our visitors in 2011. There were over 21,000 of you this year. As far as Big Brother Google can tell, about a quarter of you live in DC, a fifth in Virginia, and a fifth in Maryland, with the rest coming in from around the world -- including all 50 states and over a hundred countries. Thanks so much for joining us on our adventures through the natural world.

Help us find even more readers for 2012! If you have friends who enjoy the outdoors (or some who should get out more), send them a link to your favorite post -- or send along this list of the most popular posts of 2011. Have other ideas about how to spread the word? We're all ears.

Greatest Hits - Of the things we posted in 2011, these got the most traffic:

How Cold is Too Cold to Play Outside?
Nature Centers in the DC Area
Public Campgrounds in the DC Area
LOOK FOR: Footprints in the Snow
LOOK FOR: Bear Corn (or Cancer Root, or Squaw Root)
What's the Most Romantic Outdoor Spot in the DC Area?
LOOK FOR: Garlic Mustard
Rock Creek Park: Boundary Bridge - Riley Spring Bridge Loop
LOOK FOR: Backyard Birds
LOOK FOR: Vultures (They Make Better Valentines than Teddy Bears)

Recurring Favorites - These posts keep getting lots of visits even though they were published over a year ago. I knew the swimming and canoeing posts would be perennial local favorites, but the post on frog and toad eggs continues to draw readers from British Columbia to Kuala Lampur. Who knew?

Natural Places to Swim (Somewhat) Near Washington, DC (August 2010)
Car-Free DC: Ten Great Places to Hike Around DC by Public Transportation(Sept 2009)
Places to Rent a Canoe or Kayak in the Washington, DC Area (August 2010)
McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area (March 2010)
LOOK FOR: Frog and Toad Eggs (and Tadpoles) (April 2010)
Scott's Run Nature Preserve (Nov 2009)
10 Nature-Themed Halloween Costumes (Oct 2009)
LOOK FOR: Oyster Mushrooms (May 2010)
Stay in a Lockhouse on the C&O Canal (July 2010)
LOOK FOR: Mosquito Larvae (June 2010)

Did you have a favorite post on the Natural Capital this year? Something you'd like to see more or less of next year? We'd love your feedback!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Read Any Good Books Lately?

Every year around this time I like to browse best-of-the-year book lists. Here are some of the books that caught my eye as possibly of interest to Natural Capital readers. What have you read this year that you think we should look at? Leave a comment below.

From the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment Environmental Creative Writing Award:

Birdwatching in Wartime by Jeffrey Thomson

"In Thomson's poetry collection, the animals are real and so is the singing. Whether mourning a wren killed by the atomic bomb or riffing on Borges, Thomson pays exquisite attention to creatures in literature and the world that might otherwise be lost, enriching our aesthetic and ethical life. Birdwatching gives the lie to the notion that formalism is devoid of passion by drenching its finely-wrought lines in sensual detail and biting intelligence. That it manages to be funny and experimental at the same time is a small miracle. Everyone who wonders about the fate of the green fire in American letters should read this book."

From the National Outdoor Book Awards:

Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees, by Nancy Ross Hugo

"Author Nancy Ross Hugo is smitten with trees. In fact she’ll unabashedly tell you that tree viewing is as exciting as bird-watching. And you’ll see why. Just spend a little time paging through this book—sample a bit of Hugo’s personable and insightful writing, absorb Robert Llewellyn’s splendid photography—and it becomes clear. What this book does differently than many is to examine trees in a close up and personal manner: the resplendent emerging leaves of a white oak, the secreted and graceful immature seed pods of the redbud, the thrilling appearance of a red cedar flower. This striking and delightful book will draw your eyes upward toward the world of leaves and entwining branches, and like Hugo, you may find yourself smitten and thrilled by what you see.

From the Orion Book Awards:

Insectopedia, by Hugh Raffles


"A stunningly original exploration of the ties that bind us to the beautiful, ancient, astoundingly accomplished, largely unknown, and unfathomably different species with whom we share the world. For as long as humans have existed, insects have been our constant companions. Yet we hardly know them, not even the ones we’re closest to: those that eat our food, share our beds, and live in our homes. Organizing his book alphabetically, Hugh Raffles weaves together brief vignettes, meditations, and extended essays, taking the reader on a mesmerizing exploration of history and science, anthropology and travel, economics, philosophy, and popular culture. Insectopedia shows us how insects have triggered our obsessions, stirred our passions, and beguiled our imaginations."

From Mother Nature Network's Best Green and Environmental Books of 2011:

Listed: Dispatches from America's Endangered Species Act, by Joe Roman


"Author Joe Roman, a conservation biologist, delves into the question of extinction, and how we aught best prevent it. He writes about a number of extinct and near-extinct animals and their effects on the ecosystems that we live in too. His central narrative is the fascinating history of the Endangered Species Act, in the course of which he asks: does the landmark law, passed in 1973, actually work? In other words, does listing a species as endangered prevent it from becoming extinct? And if so, why are the numbers of extinct species going up instead of down? To answer this question, the author introduces us to fish, bison, woodpeckers, whales, wolves, panthers, and a variety of plants in need of protection, turning what might have been an academic book into one inhabited by a wealth of characters. The trees and birds we meet in "Listed" are charming ambassadors for the cause."

From Amazon's Best Books of 2011 in Outdoors and Nature:

Mycophilia, by Eugenia Bone


"An incredibly versatile cooking ingredient containing an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and possibly cancer-fighting properties, mushrooms are among the most expensive and sought-after foods on the planet. Yet when it comes to fungi, culinary uses are only the tip of the iceberg. Throughout history fungus has been prized for its diverse properties—medicinal, ecological, even recreational—and has spawned its own quirky subculture dedicated to exploring the weird biology and celebrating the unique role it plays on earth. In Mycophilia, accomplished food writer and cookbook author Eugenia Bone examines the role of fungi as exotic delicacy, curative, poison, and hallucinogen, and ultimately discovers that a greater understanding of fungi is key to facing many challenges of the 21st century. Engrossing, surprising, and packed with up-to-date science and cultural exploration, Mycophilia is part narrative and part primer for foodies, science buffs, environmental advocates, and anyone interested in learning a lot about one of the least understood and most curious organisms in nature."

Friday, December 9, 2011

Things to look for in December

Hello dear readers, we've been slowing down the rate of posts here at the Natural Capital due to...well, life. And it's about to get a whole lot slower as we leave town, first to visit family in Florida, and then to visit the coral reefs, jungles, and cloud forests of Honduras for a big chunk of January. We've scheduled a few posts to show up here automatically while we're gone, just so you don't think we've forgotten about you! In the meantime, there's plenty to explore for those of you staying up here in colder climes.

Dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed Junco by ehpien
As I get grumpy about cold weather, it's good to remind myself of the junco -- who comes down from Canada to enjoy our (relatively) balmy winter. At least we're not in Canada, I say. Plus, they're cute little birds.

squirrel nest in my back yard
Squirrel nest by Heart Windows Art
Meanwhile, the squirrels have built their nests for the winter and are hunkering down. Cute alert: this post includes BBC footage of baby squirrels.

Berry Pretty 3
Holly by Kevin H.
The garlands of greenery went up in my office building last week, just like clockwork. But the tradition of bringing holly inside at this time of year pre-dates Christmas. And there's plenty to celebrate about these berries -- and the birds they attract -- even if you're not decking the halls.

Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
Christmas Fern by K.P. McFarland
Christmas ferns were also once used as holiday decorations, for the same reason -- they stay green all winter.

Eastern Hemlock
Hemlock by Mr.Mac2009
While you're out and about enjoying the winter sunshine, try your hand at identifying some trees. It's a lot harder without the leaves! We made a quick guide to ten winter trees that often catch our eye.

Ben's breath
Ben's Breath by nordicshutter
Your breath is often visible around this time of year. Look at it as a measure of temperature and humidity, or enjoy the visible reminder of the breath of all life.

And, for those of you who tend to feel a little house-bound as it gets colder and colder outside, last year we also wrote a Southerner's Guide to Staying Warm Outside in the Winter. Now get out there and explore!