Second Chance Elk Rut!

In November we will hike back out to Tomales Point for a second chance or a double dose of the Tule Elk!  There should still be some of the mating season behavior at this time of year and we will get an opportunity to document it in our journals. Last year we ended up witnessing some amazing coyote activity on the second chance elk trip and we also encountered  humans who thought it was a wolf! We did our best to spread accurate information about the distinctions between wolves and coyotes and the political importance of this difference. Thanks to Constance, and the California Center for natural History for participating in this field trip last year and providing an awesome spotting scope that helped us see the wolf, I mean coyote, up close.

The weather is variable at this coastal location so be prepared for everything. The hiking will be moderately strenuous due to the distances we will try to cover but the terrain will not be too technical. Wear comfortable hiking shoes, bring a folding stool, binoculars, and a potluck item to share on the trail.

We will meet at 10 am at the Tomales Point trailhead parking lot at the very end of Pierce Point road near the old white barns. Look for people standing around with sketchbooks. This excursion will go longer than our usual meetup to take advantage of this special opportunity. 10am-4pm, potluck lunch at 12:30.

RAINY DAY BACKUP PLAN: If lots of rain is in the forecast, check this site the morning of the event. We will go to the Bear Valley Visitor center in Point Reyes where we can sketch birds and landscapitos from the covered porch or sketch any of the fine collection of taxidermied animals inside. Last time I was there during a rain I saw and journaled a sharp shinned hawk hunting a song bird in the bushes just yards away! The address is

Be prepared for Nature Journaling goosebumps and a good dose of charismatic mammalian megafauna!

$20 suggested donation. No one turned away for lack of funds.

Capture the Essence of California Oak Savanna

In the month of October the north coast nature journal club will be exploring the rolling hills and oak savanna of Helen Putnam Regional Park near Petaluma. We will practice several techniques for doing small watercolor landscapes to capture the essence and atmosphere of the place. We will also practice drawing three-dimensional trees with several tricks that will make your branches look like they’re coming off the page.

We will be hiking short distances up and down hill on this trip with mostly even terrain. Bring all your normal nature journaling supplies and binoculars. Be prepared for sun and warm conditions. A small folding stool could be useful for the longer landscape drawing. This location has a bathroom and seven dollar parking unless you are a member of the Sonoma County Regional Parks. Bring a potluck item that is not too hard to carry onto the trail because we will not want to go back to the parking lot for lunch.

$20 recommended donation

For more information about this park: Helen-Putnam-Regional-Park

In case of heavy rain, unlikely, we will head to California Carnivores in Sebastopol where we can journal and draw incredible carnivorous plants while being protected from the rain..  Directions

Nature Journal Jumpstart This Fall!

Do you want to experience nature with fresh eyes? Do you want to notice, understand, and remember more of the vibrant world around you? This fun class will teach you the tools used by the greatest naturalists of all time. Using pencils, ink, and watercolor we will create sketches and take notes in the field.

Come join a group of motivating people to learn more about nature while also practicing your artistic and scientific skills. The class will take place on four Sundays in a row at a variety of locations in Sonoma County. Be ready for fun and challenge that will boost your observation, your confidence, and your nature journaling skills.

For more information or to register check out: SRJC catalog

Learn Faster:

Here is a practical technique that you can apply to learning almost any new skill but is especially useful for nature artists and nature journalers!

I have been unintentionally doing this for a while and have only recently recognized the value and started to conceptualize it.

Do you have information dense places that you seek out to accelerate your learning?

Do you have trouble drawing, painting, or journaling in public places? If so, my next post is for you!

Spoken Reflections From Tanzania: Hadza Day Five

IMG_5486In this audiorecording, I continue to describe more of my adventures and observations with the Hadza hunter gatherers of Tanzania. This time, I visit a different group and describe more of what I learn about their archery equipment and how they make their arrows. In the photo below, you can see the fletching style on one arrow and a bunch of shafts on the ground.IMG_5456

IMG_5463Necessity is the mother of invention. One guy is holding an arrow shaft between his toes and he shapes while the man in the foreground uses the back of his sandal as a cutting board for trimming the feathers on his newly made arrow. He wore a Hadza-style tire sandal on one foot and a”Croc” type shoe on the other.

 

 

Tanzania 2017 This photo shows a still smoldering charcoal pit. The Iraqw tribe are mostly subsistence agropastoralists but they make charcoal to be sold for cash. The production of charcoal for cooking fuel is one cause of deforestation in this area. The trees chosen for charcoal production are often the important habitat trees for the animals the Hadza hunt such as birds and Galagos.DSCN5533

In this photo, you can see  what I  think is some species of Cordia with edible berries. We spent almost an hour gleaning fruit from this tree. This tree is also the source of the arrow shafts and bow staves used by the Hadza. Talk about a multipurpose plant! Further research on this tree in its human ecological context would be very useful. Fortunately for the Hadza, it seems that the Agropastoralists often leave this tree when they are clearing areas for cultivation, probably not for the fruit as much as for the valuable fodder the leaves provid.On this trip we also saw some cool cucurbit species growing wild including a jelly melon, which I have grown in my garden in California.

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Tanzania 2017Tanzania 2017 Tanzania 2017

On this eventful day with this group of the Hadza, this guy shot a hornbill and another guy shot a Goshawk. These were some of the most interesting bird species that I saw close up during my entire trip to Tanzania. What is it about killing and eating a hornbill or a bushbaby compared to chicken or pig that affects modern Westerners? For more about this topic see Eating Biodiversity.

 

In this video you can see part of the fletching process.

I practice archery and I fletch my own arrows so I have a lot of appreciation for the speed, efficiency, and artistry of the Hadza fletching process. It takes me twice as long to fletch a single arrow.

IMG_5465While the Hadza worked on arrow shafts, I was busy drawing the plants, animals, and material culture that make up their daily life. This journaling process was the backbone of my trip and the basis for the book that I put together when I got back home.

For more about my time in Tanzania you should check out my book, Intertropical Impressions: Volume Three, available in a high quality print edition, a downloadable PDF and an ebook edition.

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Spoken Reflections From Tanzania: Hadza and Cultural Tourism

On my third day with the Hadza I tag along with the women for a little bit to learn about some of the plant resources they gather and use. When I get back to camp I spent some time reflecting on some of the complexities of my observer/tourist role and the implications of cultural tourism on the Hadza way of life.

Some of the questions that I ask are: What is authenticity? How is the Hadza’s daily life curated to provide an “authentic” experience to tourists?

Part of my intent with my Tanzania trip was to be as transparent as possible. I’m recording my impressions, I’m recording what I see, and I am recognizing that I am part of the equation. I am not objectively floating above the landscape. In these audiorecordings and in my book you can see how I try to pay attention to and process my conflicting feelings around cultural tourism, my role in it, and my relationship to the Hadza. While it might be easy to imagine some isolated stone age tribe living in harmony separate from everyone else, it would be a disservice to all involved to project this blindly onto the Hadza. The truth of the matter is that we live in a much more complicated and inextricably interconnected world.

Tanzania 2017

In the above photo you can see two Hadza and Yussef the motorcycle driver walking past several spiffy safari Land Cruisers parked outside the Hadza camp. Some days there would be more than 5 groups of tourists that might come through and visit one Hadza camp. They would often be led through the same series of activities and hear the same speech from the cultural tourism guides. “And here you can see how they make fire with sticks, and now you can see how they smoke marijuana, and now you can see how they shoot the bow, and here are the women cooking baboon, etc.Tanzania 2017This photo would have looked more “authentic” if it were not for the bright green shirt of Ita, the motorcycle driver, and Zacharia in the frame. I noticed in myself the automatic desire to snap photos of just the Hadza with their bows and animal skins and to exclude the modernly dressed guide and driver. This is one way in which the bias and expectation of outsiders can influence how the whole experience is curated. When I look at a lot of the photos about the Hadza and videos of the Hadza online the Swahili speaking guides and the drivers and the other Tanzanians are usually not present in the photos. I understand the aesthetics behind this but what is the meaning? How would you feel if you were one of the guides and you notice that the tourists are always avoiding you or even shooing you out of the frame when they are taking shots of the primitive Hadza tribes-people?

 

If you are interested in learning more about my trip you should check out my book, Intertropical Impressions Volume Three.

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Spoken Reflections From Tanzania: Hadza Hunt Day Two

On my second day out hunting with the Hadza I experimented with doing audiorecordings during the trip instead of trying to take notes in my small pocket notebook. It was my first time trying this and was a bit hard because I felt self-conscious talking to myself in English while following these guys on their subsistence hunt. Once I got over that it turned out to be a much more efficient and safe way to record information while running over rocks, dangerous steep gullies, and seventeen kinds of spiny plants. Part way through you can hear the loud sounds of humans, baboons, and dogs clashing violently. You can hear some of my personal questions and train of thought around the human ecology of Hadza hunting.

 

IMG_5433Young hunter and the large male baboon that he shot with his bow on this hunting trip.

 

 

 

 

Here is my recap from the rest of that day. In this recap I share some more of the complexities and reality of how these people actually live and my own personal experiences in the moment. For example, how they shared food with some of the agropastoralists and how they stopped to get soda at a weird little shack. I talk about my own reflections around the concept of a “curated experience” and some of my hidden biases around what to portray and what not to portray in my photos.

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Spoken Reflections From Tanzania: Ngorongoro to Karatu

Tanzania 2017During my trip to Tanzania, I used my nature journal and my pocket notebook for drawing and writing and I used my phone for photos, short videos, and audio recordings. With this diverse toolbox I tried to document my observations, feeling, and impressions.

In this particular recording I give some of my observations about agriculture, tourism, and my personal reactions to the land of contrast.

Most of these observations I make in messy notes in a tiny notebook in the moving bus or car, a practice I have kept up on my last three tropical expeditions. Even though I get car sick I find that there is so much to see during these trips and I have so many ideas that it would be a waste not to record them. The notes are almost illegible because they are made while in motion. I also use this book when I am on fast paced walks or hikes that do not allow for me to pull out my big nature journal sketchbook. On this trip I began the pattern of rereading these notes and elaborating on them verbally with an audio recording. I plan on repeating this system in the future.

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