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The Woodpecker—A Fascinating Bird in Your Backyard

Professional naturalist and wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela is fascinated by woodpeckers, and for 10 years he traveled the country, studying and photographing various woodpecker species. There are many unusual birds in the world, but there is one group of highly specialized birds that I find incredibly interesting—the woodpeckers. Woodpeckers are found in a wide variety of habitats, from jungles to thick forests to parched deserts, and even in some grasslands. They are the carpenters of the bird world, creating nest cavities in trees each year—an important task because many cavity-nesting birds can’t excavate their own and depend on the handiwork of woodpeckers for their survival. In addition, woodpeckers eat countless tons of insects, greatly minimizing pest damage to forests. Woodpeckers have unique shapes, making them easily recognizable by any and all who see them. Their special features and behaviors have captured my attention as a naturalist and wildlife photographer for more than 20 years. Woodpeckers are found all around the world, except in New Guinea, Antarctica,...

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Pimiento Cheese—A Favorite Pontoon Food Recipe

Jon and Erin Davis, authors of Pontoon Food: Easy-to-Serve Recipes for the Water and Deck, share with us their Pimiento Cheese recipe. Cabins and lake homes are meant for friends and family! We gather around decks, patios, and boats for lazy conversations and needed relaxation. Pontoon boats in particular are part of the lake magic, perfect for  cruising around and sharing food and beverages, and they have long been associated with the lake-living tradition. Here’s an easy recipe that’s sure to please. Pimiento Cheese A southern favorite, pimiento cheese is becoming more and more popular across the rest of the U.S. Try this recipe and find out why! It’s amazingly addictive on crackers or raw veggies. Ingredients
 3 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded 8 ounces cream cheese, softened 1/2 cup mayonnaise 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 1/4 teaspoon onion powder 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 Serrano or small jalapeño pepper, minced 1/4 teaspoon paprika 1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimientos, drained Salt and pepper to taste Directions
 Combine all ingredients in a...

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Camper Cabins at Bunker Hills Regional Park

Tom Watson, author of Best Minnesota Camper Cabins: Roughing It in Comfort, talks to us about the camper cabins at Bunker Hills Regional Park, which have some of the most beautiful interiors of all camper cabins in the state. Minnesota is known for its beautiful wilderness: pristine lakes, deep forests, flowing rivers. For those who might not enjoy the hassles and discomfort of tent camping—and for those who do—I herewith present a wonderful alternative: cabin camping! There’s something about a cabin in the woods. Maybe it’s images of Thoreau at Walden Pond or Sigurd Olson writing from his Listening Point cabin on Lake Burntside. Whatever the inspiration, a cabin is the quintessential retreat in the woods—safe, secure, cozy, and quiet—all in a setting of rustic, northern beauty. The cabins are situated among the campsites in the Rustic Loop camping section, a more spacious and woodsy arrangement of sites within the larger campground complex. Located just beyond the outer edge of the suburban ring around the Twin Cities, the oaks...

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Pontoon Food Recipes for the Upcoming Boating Season

Jon and Erin Davis, authors of Pontoon Food: Easy-to-Serve Recipes for the Water and Deck, share with us one of their favorite recipes. Cabins and lake homes are meant for friends and family! We gather around decks, patios, and boats for lazy conversations and needed relaxation. Pontoon boats in particular are part of the lake magic, the perfect way to cruise around while sharing food and beverages, and they’ve long been associated with the lake-living tradition. Here’s an easy recipe that’s sure to please. Caprese Salad Skewers Thought to have originated on the island of Capri, off Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Caprese salad is a refreshing and satisfying snack. The green, white, and red of the basil, mozzarella, and tomato resemble the Italian flag. Ingredients
 Salt and pepper to taste 16 ounces fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini), halved 1 pint cherry tomatoes Handful fresh basil leaves, quartered Short skewers (skewers cut in half) Directions Lightly salt and pepper halved mozzarella balls. Alternate placing cherry...

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Rocks & Minerals of California

Discover the Gillette Sand Dune at Hoffmaster State Park

When it comes to the beauty and serenity of nature, Michigan is second to none. Matt Forster, author of Michigan’s Best Nature Centers and Wilderness Preserves, invites us to discover the Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center at Hoffmaster State Park. You might think that dunes are only found in deserts or in far-flung places like the Sahara, but you can see them right here in Michigan at Hoffmaster State Park. This park is also home to 3 miles of sandy beach! Located about halfway between Muskegon and Grand Haven, Hoffmaster State Park is perched on the dunes overlooking Lake Michigan. The north section of the park houses a campground with modern and semi-modern sites, as well as a day-use area with easy access to the beach. Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center is found in the southern half of Hoffmaster, adjacent to the park’s designated natural area. The center has a wing dedicated to the natural and human history of the surrounding dunes. Exhibits...

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What Eats That?

The Campfire Foodie Cookbook

The Campfire Foodie Cookbook: Simple Camping Recipes with Gourmet Appeal, by renowned cook, food stylist, and author Julia Rutland, arrives right in time for the outdoor season. Her camper-friendly cookbook comes with more than 100 delicious recipes with full-color photographs for every delicious dish. In the weeks to come, the author will share some of her favorite dishes with us. Be on the lookout for English Muffulettas, Vegetarian Campfire Chili, Southwestern Chicken and Lime Soup, and Mini Grilled Blackberry Cobbler. There’s something about a campsite that makes everything taste better. Julia isn't sure if it’s the scent of the trees or the campfires—or, perhaps, that nature itself casts a seasoning over your meals, making them richer and more satisfying. Either way, eating by a campfire brings a special kind of satisfaction. Let the evening cicadas and tree frogs serenade you with soothing sounds that you just can’t get indoors. About the author: Julia Rutland is a Northern Virginia-area food writer and recipe developer whose work...

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PaleoAdventures Offers Great Dinosaur Dig Experiences

Nothing fires up the imagination quite like dinosaurs—and there are more than 1,000 good reasons for that! Dinosaurs are a hugely diverse group of animals that dominated the landscape from 230 million years ago up to the Cretaceous extinction event about 65 million years ago. Dinosaurs are known to have inhabited every continent, including Antarctica. They were present in almost all climate zones and occupied nearly every terrestrial niche available to large animals through the middle and late Mesozoic. There are more than 1,000 species of dinosaurs known today, and that total keeps climbing as new discoveries are made each year. In their book Dinosaur Destinations: Finding America’s Best Dinosaur Dig Sites, Museums & Exhibits, Jon Kramer, Julie Martinez, and Vernon Morris introduce the best dinosaur-related sites across the country. The book features the most famous dinosaur dig sites, track sites, and fossil sites in North America, including venues that allow you to dig for real dinosaur bones! Take Your...

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Photographing the Wild Waterfalls in Spring

Lisa Crayford, author of Waterfalls of Minnesota, thinks that springtime and waterfalls go hand in hand. Here are her suggestions for your next waterfall outing! During this season in northern Minnesota, the snow is melting off the higher elevations. The rivers are flowing with great speed, heading down to meet mighty Lake Superior. If you’re not too familiar with the area known as the “Arrowhead” of Minnesota, it’s the northeast region that butts up against Lake Superior to our east. Starting in the port city of Duluth with a population of 86,110 and heading northeast all the way to Grand Portage is 151 miles. While driving on Hwy 61 all the way up to Canada, you’ll be passing over or around hundreds of creeks, streams, brooks, and rivers. Most of these give us cascades, rapids, and waterfalls. Some are more capture-worthy than others. If you’re heading up the north shore of Lake Superior, have time...

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Super Animal Powers

Jump, Little Wood Ducks—The Tale of a Picture Book

Marion Dane Bauer shares with us how she and Stan Tekiela worked together to produce Jump, Little Wood Ducks, their latest children’s book. Jump, Little Woods Ducks is my fourth picture book to be illustrated by the naturalist and photographer Stan Tekiela. While most of my picture books have been more traditionally illustrated by artists, working with Stan has been a privilege and a joy. On our first book together, Baby Bear Discovers the World, Stan said, “You write the story. I’ll make the photos happen.” I did, and he did. He borrowed twin black bear cubs from a wildlife reserve and took them in his truck to different locations. He set them up to perform the acts of the runaway baby bear in my text. Stan used twins, as filmmakers often do when working with young human children, so that if one wasn’t cooperating he would have a chance of getting what he needed from the other....

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Children reading books

Big Birds, Baby Birds, Birds Everywhere

All of nature seems to be in reproductive overdrive or, perhaps more accurately, hyperdrive. Just look around: Baby birds seem to be everywhere. And adult birds are busy all day trying to fill the mouths of their begging fledglings. The rush for reproduction is bases on a limited amount of time to get the job done. I don’t think it is well understood that most birds only reproduce once per year in the spring. Yes, some of our smaller species of birds will reproduce twice each season, but the point is that they only reproduce in spring. They don’t migrate down south at the end of summer and start reproducing all over again. Many of our larger species, such as Osprey, Bald Eagle, and the Common Loon, only get one shot at reproduction each season. If something happens to their eggs or babies, then it’s all over until next year. Many of...

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