Sunday, March 21, 2010

A different perspective.

(A new way to view a flower)

I have been thinking about perspective lately for two reasons. The first is that I got to spend 5 days helping to rebuild some ropes course elements about 2 weeks ago. It was a great time with most of my days being spent 30-60' in the air working in Douglas Fir trees (Pseudotsuga menziesii). And the second is that I am still watching the remains of the mountain lion kill near where I live. Very different perspectives. 
So talking about perspectives, being in the trees for 5 days was a cool experience and something I have not gotten to do since July of last year. Being 5 stories up in the air does give you a very different perspective to be sure. But the event that had an impact on me was one afternoon I was sitting in a tree about 60' up waiting for a cable to get cut on the ground. As I sat/hung there I started hearing bird calls all around me. A slight chirping chorus all around me. I saw one of the little birds land nearby me. At first I though it was a chickadee. It looked like it had a black cap, and black and white colors on it's body. Then the little one flew into the sunlight and it turned yellow! The shade had dulled out it's yellow color and once it was in the sunlight, it's full color came out! It was a very cool optical trick on my eyes. Talk about a change in perspective! I am not sure about the species, I am still looking in some bird books, but I think based on my look at it for a brief few seconds at about 25' away, that it was a Townsend's Warbler. So for this posting, I am going to send you on a "photo" journey to look for different perspectives.

You will need at least 2 people for this activity. One person is going to be a "camera" and the other is the photographer. This activity is called Camera and is one of my favorite classic outdoor education activities from the New Games Foundation and Joseph Cornell. This activity is a great game to play when you are on a walk or simply in your back yard. It is also a great game to play in and around your anchor spot. 

The photographer guides their “camera” around in search of specific things to photograph. The person being the camera keeps their eyes closed most of the time until the photographer “takes” a picture. When the photographer finds their subject, they position the camera’s lens (eyes) at the object. Then the photographer taps a shoulder of the camera to open the shutter (eyes) and then taps the shoulder again to close the shutter. It might help for the photographer to say “open” and “close” when taking the pictures. Then the pair moves to the next subject. It is important that the camera keeps their eyes closed between pictures so that the 2-5 second “exposures” will have more impact and be a surprise for the camera. Sometimes it is neat to keep talking to a minimum until you both have had a turn and let the "pictures" speak for themselves.

The traditional way of doing this activity is for the pairs to take photos of whatever catches the eyes of the photographer. This is a wonderful way of doing this activity, and you can also try and look for specific things to photograph. Here are some examples you might try: 
Parts of trees, specific trees, the 6 plant parts, rocks, producers, consumers, decomposers, portions of the water cycle, proof of decomposition, tracks.

You can also practice taking close up shots and also big vista shots. It can really create a neat feeling to go back and forth between the two. Or do a series of mirco-close up shots, and then a whole series of marco-wide angle shots. Another great thing to do is to bring a real camera with you and take shots of the pictures you take. Have a blast exploring with your new camera! I also encourage you to seek out natural things to photograph in your house.

Nature Nugget:
(Photos by Liesl Pimentel)

So, to touch base a little with the other event that caught my attention around perspective, lets talk about mountain lions, pumas, rock cats, and cougars! Yeah they are all the same animal. I will preface this section by saying that the puma is perhaps my favorite mega-fauna of all time! I have always loved big cats, and since the mountian lion is the only really big cat  here in North America, I fell in love with it early in life. 

Anyhow, here is some general info about these amazing animals:
Males- 1020-1540mm or 3'3"-5' without the tail up to 6'+ with the tail.   
Females-  860-1310mm or 2'8"-4'3"without the tail and up to 6' with the tail.

Males- 36-120kg or 80-265 pounds.
Females- 29-64kg or 64-140 pounds.

Their weight and length depend a good deal on their habitat and available food supply. The recent sightings in my area place the lion at about 140-150 pounds, most likely a male. They tend to eat ungulates but will go for smaller animals like rabbits, raccoons, etc.

The adults are solitary animals except for the brief period of mating period in December through March in the northern latitudes. A female will have on average 3-4 cubs which are born blind and will stay with their mother for an average of 15 months before separating and finding their own home territory. A home territory ranges in size from and average for females of about 60 square miles and about 100 square miles for males.

There is great concern among many people about being attacked by a mountain lion. The odds are pretty good in your favor. In 13 years-from 1991-2003- there were 73 attacks in the U.S. and Canada with 10 of those resulting in death. 7 of those attacks were in California and 2 of the deaths. Having said that, one piece of advice I can give folks in general about going outdoors, learn about the things that will hurt or kill you. There are fewer of them, it gives you knowledge about where you are going, and it will help keep you safe. A site that has good info on pumas and details recorded attacks and deaths.

 And now you know!

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  1. That's great stuff. I wonder what is the mountain lion population in your area and do they live in packs? I assume they don't all get to have their own territory?

  2. Anca:
    Great to "see" you here. Thanks for reading the blog. The University of Santa Cruz estimates that there are between 30-70 lions here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. They live alone for most of the year except during mating season. Their territories do overlap in some areas. But for the most part thee is a good deal of land for them to be alone.