Saturday, November 7, 2015

Budget cut brings swan song

By David Horst 
When a nature column reaches the end of a long run, you can really only describe it as a swan song — a tundra swan song in this case, I suppose.
My byline has appeared in the pages of The Post-Crescent for more than 30 years. Nearly 13 of those have come since I left the full-time employment of The Post-Crescent to go to the nonprofit Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.
Due to budget cuts at the Post-Crescent, my column and other correspondent work have been eliminated.
My intention in these columns has been to take you along on outdoor adventures. If you have ever felt that way, I've succeeded. If you have learned anything, it has come by way of the highly knowledgeable people this column has allowed me to meet.
Tagging along with Jack Hanna, chatting over dinner with “Last Child in the Woods” author Richard Louv, getting to know Aldo Leopold Foundation Executive Director Buddy Huffaker, birding with International Crane Foundation co-founder George Archibald, hunkering down in the blind watching Joe Duff and the Operation Migration gang train young whooping cranes to follow ultralights — the column was my ticket to all of these.
Dozens of area naturalists and environmental organization staff members and volunteers have filled the expansive gaps in my own knowledge of nature.
The column — along with fear of the blank computer screen — has driven me outdoors. The annual crane counts, the seasonal tundra swan migrations, sturgeon spawning or wild flower blossoming and observations in various wildlife areas have fed the ravenous keyboard. The Apostle Islands and Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Paddle excursions probably offered more descriptions of trips than you cared to join.
There are special experiences that happened almost routinely. Dearest among them have been phone calls from New London bird rehabilitator Pat Fisher inviting me to tag, capture or release hawks, osprey, eagles, cranes or owls.
The astounding rescue and release of a bald eagle that had become wedged in the grill of a pickup truck on U.S. 10 tops them all and garnered the most page views.
Meandering the back roads of central Wisconsin in a school bus in the middle of the night wolf howling with naturalist Cindy Mueller was probably the most memorable adventure.
Some columns just shared stuff going on “up on the sand hill we call home.” The wasp nest in the llama pasture, the Blanding’s turtles, the Christmas tree we called “the beast,” the feral cats and the little screech owl perching in the barn rafters during a storm (among the all-time most-read blog items).
You shared my losses — my dog Molly, our llama herd matriarch Truffula, and the nasal cancer that took the unbridled energy that was our 6-year-old yellow Lab, Houdini. The tornado that devastated our woods. The winter storm that we were so grateful to for snowing us in.
I will still have outdoor adventures and I will still have the urge to write about them. I will tell my stories on my blog, where you also can find past columns.
The entries may not be as long or as frequent, but I'd still like to bring you along. I'll see you online. Thanks for reading.

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