Tag Archives: Animals

[Local Lore] Wild and Free at the William L. Finley Wildlife Refuge

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Tucked deep in the heart of Corvallis sits a whimsical wildlife habitat; a home to many seasonal creatures as they make their semi-annual migratory routes. Created back in 1964, the William L Finley National Wildlife Refuge is a preserved natural land area in the Oregon’s greater Willamette Valley and is notorious for the flocks of dusky Canada geese that frequent the landscape. Unlike typical Canadian geese, their dusky cousins nest and mate along the Copper River Delta in Alaska over the Summer and visit the vast acreage of wetlands of the Finley Wildlife Refuge during the colder, Winter months.

One of the last intact wet prairies in the area, the refuge was a reaction to the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964 which diminished the available natural land for dusky Canadian geese. Fast forward almost forty years and in 2006 the Snag Boat Bend Unit was acquired as a partition of the reserve, adding almost 350 acres of unique, historic habitat to the already sprawling 5,300 acres of wetlands covered by the Finley Reserve.

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Beyond the dusky Canadian goose, the William L Finley Wildlife Refuge also plays homebase for a variety of flora, fauna and fowl throughout the year with a handful of habitat regions on site, ranging from wet prairies on the East End to sprawling wetlands off of Muddy Creek, or to the upland Oregon white oak savannas and forests. On any given day, you could run into a menagerie of birds and waterfowl from migratory raptors like the rough-legged hawk to turkey vultures, peregrine falcons, golden and bald eagles, to great horned owls and geese, great blue herons, wood ducks and swans, woodpecker colonies and meadowlarks; not to mention the herds of Roosevelt Elk, blacktailed deer, coyotes and bobcats, alongside pond turtles, red legged frogs and the endangered yet recently re-introduced Fender’s blue butterfly.

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For a full spectrum of the Refuge, I highly suggest returning throughout the year. Even though Winter is wonderful to observe the migratory patterns of waterfowl, November marks the beginning of ‘Sanctuary Season’ which closes off the interior or the park for resting animals; the season end on April 1st, and all interior trails are opened once again.

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Whether you’re hiking, cycling or simply just observing the world at large, the refuge boasts a menagerie of looping trails and rolling hills throughout the grounds, offering over a handful unique hiking paths that cover over a dozen miles of land. For those looking to stay lazy, fret not – there’s an auto tour route with ample roads for roaming. Posted every now and again, you’ll find neat tidbits and educational facts on the nature and ancient nurture of the area.

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Originally, the land was settled by the Kalapuya tribe – a conglomeration of thirteen related tribal groups speaking three distinct languages among themselves; each tribal group inhabited a specific area along and around the Willamette River. With the volcanic Cascade Mountains nearby, tribes around the river effectively fashioned obsidian  arrowheads and spears; if you look hard enough, you can still find obsidian artifacts and minerals in the area to this day – including in the grounds of the Wildlife Refuge. On the other end of history, is the Willamette Valley segment of the Applegate Trail, first used in the 1840’s – it’s a more southerly trail than the Oregon Trail sauntered through by European Settlers.

For more on the William L Finley Wildlife Refuge, head to their social channels – or simply go pay them a wonderful visit; I promise, it’s worth it!

What are your favorite spots to observe the wistful, wonderous wildlife in your town? Let me know in the comments below!

Website | Friends of the WLF Refuge | Facebook | Twitter

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[A Higher State of Consciousness]

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There’s a running joke within my circle of friends that our cats actually own us; when I consider the amount of time, money and effort spent curating those relationships, cuddling and cleaning up after them – it instantly becomes harder to argue the contrary.  What, if any, is the difference between a pet animal and their human counterpart? At its most basic level,  two lives are coming together to coexist in harmony; conversely, at it’s most complex, there are two differing levels of consciousness that are forced to somehow reconcile their innate differences.   Once the qualifications and implications for ‘ownership’ are considered within this seemingly symbiotic relationship, in it’s most simplistic form it all comes down to consciousness.  Is Sake my pet or am I his? To answer this question, you’d have to take a long hard look at our relative levels of consciousness and through that, infer which one of us has the ability to assert their consciousness upon another individual.   Regardless of if you’re inspecting the relationship between humans, animals, plants or even minerals – each and every relationship between two separate entities – is dictated by an individual understanding of consciousness.  In turn, this opens the door for even more questions.  What is ‘consciousness’, how do we as humans define ‘consciousness’ and last but certainly not least – who are we as humanity to ascribe or limit levels of consciousness?

Consciousness is defined two-fold as both being awake and aware of one’s environment through one’s thoughts, feelings and existence as well as the innate distinction in recognizing yourself within the world.  For an incredible amount of time, the definition of consciousness was limited to the human psyche; after all, can you ask a rock if it’s aware that of it’s mineral state or can you have a philosophical discussion with your dog about his motives for hiding every tennis ball in the depths of your backyard?   After a brief life as a stem cell, each cell within the human body has a distinct function, making it markedly different from other cells; does this mean that within each cell is a level of consciousness an self-awareness? A school of thought led by philosopher Ned Block proposed that there are actually two forms of consciousness, phenomenal and access; the former being the sensory reception of true, raw experience and the later being of the mind and available for analysis and introspection.  Overtime and through plenty of scientific research, it’s been proven that animals of all shapes and sizes – from Orangutans,  Elephants and Dolphins down to the Cephalopods like the Octopus and the Squid, African Grey Parrots, Dogs and Cats – all exhibit forms of what we now recognize as consciousness.   Whether it’s the ability to paint with their trunks, observe themselves in the mirror, or open cans with their tentacles – there have been ample examples of empathetic animals who are aware of the world around them as well as their place within it.  So, as I posited before – beside being at the top of the food chain, who are we to exert our opposable thumbs driven brand of control over the world?

There are ‘isms’ we choose to hie behind and  they each attribute and apply arbitrary levels of consciousness to forms far beyond our human understanding. At a larger, umbrella level – many people make their dietary choices based on what feels good for their body; like the 40-40-20, Atkins or Paleo diet.  And I fully believe that we should all pay close attention to the minutiae of nutritional needs and wants.  But if you look beyond those diets, you find people that ascribe to an ‘ism’ – like Veganism or Vegetarianism; each on the idea that animals retain a level of consciousness that doesn’t exist in plants.  Quite to the contrary – like humans, plants are born out of reproduction between a male and female, live, grow, undergo photosynthesis which produces energy and oxygen, reproduce and die;  blow by blow, a parallel life to any animal or human.   Humans, plants and animals alike all contain trace amounts of the hallucinogenic chemical dimethyltryptamine and to boot, plant systems – especially trees – have been shown to communicate with each other through a type of fungi called mychorrhizae.  If plants are able to communicate, this means they’re able to process and analyze their external world, and wouldn’t that make them conscious beings?

As a society, we’ve grown comfortable ascribing qualities, assigning traits and categorically grouping objects together because it’s the easiest way to deal with the unfathomable amount of chaos, clutter and disorganization within the world.  However, as we push for a greater understanding of our external surroundings, we’re left with the realization that not only do we not completely get it, but most likely we never will.  For years, because there’s been an assumption that animals don’t or won’t operate within parallel plane of consciousness we can exploit them for entertainment purposes like a circus, or Sea World, or as of recently – the Sochi Olympics .    As our definition of consciousness evolves, we should concurrently update our definition of entertainment as well.   The more we study animals like orcas, pigs and elephants within their natural environment, the more we learn about their high aptitude for learning and their incredible levels of both community and intelligence.  After all is said and done, can we still truly call it entertainment when we see our aquatic counterparts reduced to jumping through hoops, or when we limit a four legged friend to the limitations,isolation and dimensions of a cage?  If we acknowledge our own human need for a safe community where we can cultivate relationships, we can’t simply dismiss the needs and freedoms of other animals simply to satiate our necessity for control and amusement. Documentaries like Blackfish and The Cove have been more than influential in bringing these truths to light for me, and I highly recommend watching both of them.

When we sent the Mars Rover to explore the great red planet, there was an assumption that without a carbon based biosignature of life – like humans, plants or animals – that life literally ceased to exist.  But the big picture is anything but: because we’re limited to what we know about the building blocks of life on Earth, our view on life elsewhere is also limited; if we are allowed to expand our definition of life beyond a basic chemical building block, evolving our definition of consciousness shouldn’t be far behind.

Doing it Right: San Diego’s Museum of Natural History

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Most people develop their New Years Resolutions by the time January rolls around; then they’re on top of them, up and at’em and crossing things off their lists.  I have a less manicured, equally pragmatic approach to resolutions – whereas mine typically come to me as the year rolls on.  So far this year, we have not buying packs of cigarettes, walking to the gym instead of driving and now I have another to add to the list: I want to go to one new museum a month!  Last month, I adventured out to the Getty Villa in Malibu to soak up some gorgeous rays and it set a wonderful tone for the day.  I was surrounded by wonderful company and timeless works of art; and I wanted more!  So, while I was down in San Diego last weekend my friends and I stopped by Balboa Park to take in the cacophony of museums. We finally settled on the Museum of Natural History – and it was a good call…between their Chocolate Exhibit and an Ansel Adams-esque Photography expose, we definitely got our fill of culture for the day.

Gorgeous, Southern California weather…

Gorgeous flowers from the Botanical Garden

…more of the garden…

Sunshine peaking through the leaves

Chocolate!! How could we resist?!

That’s a whole lotta chocolate!

If only these were real! Omnom…

Sharks and dolphins!

Pelican! And other birds

I love that the lion skull makes a heart =)

The end of our adventure; until the next one!