Ferns, feathers and the Maine Master Naturalist program

Natuturalist tools

The treasure trove from Maine Master Naturalist program

Ferns, trees, wildflowers, dissecting kits, owl pellets, field guides–how could I not be in? The Maine Master Naturalist Program offers intense, wide-ranging study of, well, all things natural, and in Maine. I applied the day applications opened, and was fortunate enough to be one of nineteen adventurers accepted into the Mount Desert Island Program.

Oh, and we will be learning birds, too, which is a subject I have found frustrating over the years. My birder friends, and there are many, rattle off the names of every winged and feathered creature that we see or hear. Geology, scat, crawly things, lichens, liverworts–I see and connect to those, and am pumped and excited I will really get to know them. I will collect, draw, dissect and become intimate with them.

I am getting about five hours sleep a night because of our readings, homework, a full time job and a part time job, and the inevitable rabbit hole–drawing a stalk of Japanese knotweed for my journal, I had to check out where and how rapidly it was spreading, and then look at a section with my amazing illuminated hand lens, and then of course draw it and label it. Way more fun than sleep.

I am just starting this journey, and am already wide-eyed with what I am learning.

The program is superbly organized, every minute of class dense with facts, patterns, ways of seeing I never saw before. Our instructors know their subjects, whether birds, trees, or ecosystems, and have that rare ability to share it and how cool, fascinating, interesting it is. We are all focused, and though there is laughter, and shouts of ah ha! we are all trying to ID as many leaves, study as many birds, and write as many notes as we can. The four hours fly by. Saturday is our first field day, and we will be birding. I do want to know birds, and I have tried, taking the occasional Adult Ed beginner birding class, and going on group birding walks. But much as I wish it I could get it, it just remains alien. The birds I learn one day are forgotten the next.

Illuminated Loupe, you may not know it, but you need one.

Illuminated Loupe, you may not know it, but you need one.

I want plants, mosses, trees, rock, and I will get those, but the time has finally come to learn birds. I see the list for warblers and am terrified. They all sound alike. What if I never get it, will I get kicked out? And if I get kicked out, can I keep my goody bag? The Maine Master Naturalist goody bag is the best goody bag ever put together. No hyperbole here, this is simple truth. I still empty it out once in a while to look gleefully at all these tools that are MINE! I am a dragon on his treasure, I am a three-year old with her first stocking, I am that eager beaver elementary school kid with brand new back-to-schooI pencils, notebooks, and backpack. No, it’s even better than that, I am a super-dooper lucky Maine Master Naturalist Tier One student.

Read and drool:
An insect box

A dissecting kit

Sibley’s Field Guide  to Birds

Forest Trees of Maine

The Golden Guide Insect book

Fern finder

A loupe, as my folks called it, or a hand lens. Illuminated! How brilliant is that?

Petri dishes

Beaufort scale guide

Specimen preserving plastic

I want to use them all, right now. But it is 12:45, that’s after midnight, and I have to work in the morning. Not to mention finish my sketch of a Magnolia Warbler.

If you can, take the class, learn about our world, and get goodies. Or just follow along with me as I do my best to keep up and not get the boot. (They probably don’t actually do that, but it keeps me on my toes.)


Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.