For some of us this childhood curiosity becomes a lifelong obsession.
We develop an irresistible urge to be outside, among the endless
parade of fascinating beings that share planet earth, each of which is
doing fascinating things, having fascinating features, interacting in
amazing ways. We trudge through mud, scramble over rocks, and
wade through streams, often enduring extremes of cold or hot
weather, rain, snow, or ice, to get a close and personal look at a
critter or just to see what we might find. We may brave flies,
mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers, becoming ourselves part of the food
chain, as we explore, observe, and experience the subject of our
studies. We often have an uncontrollable urge to turn over a rock or
log to see what might live underneath. Other times we might sit,
finding a comfortable log or rock to rest on, while we quietly observe,
watching a walking stick slowly move among the branches or a downy
woodpecker picking insects from the bark of a dead branch. We might
sit and watch an anthill as the ants busily carry in food, move soil to
build their ant hill, or defend against an invader. When we are not out
in the field, when we are home sitting in our living room, we might
ponder the meaning of things, the effects of man on the environment,
the evolution of life on earth, where man fits in the ecology of planet
earth. We might consider the purpose of an animal behavior we
recently observed, or how best to deal with a newly introduced
As this museum develops I will touch on all these aspects of Natural
History, with an emphasis on the Baltimore-Washington corridor,
exploring the past and examining the present.
We are living in a time of
rapid change. Travel is
quick and easy, and we are
exchanging flora and
fauna with other parts of
the world at a rapid pace.
Many of our most
common plants and
animals were brought
here by humans from
other parts of the world
– dandelions, English ivy,
starlings, house sparrows, and Japanese beetles are established
members of our flora and fauna. Other recently introduced species
include the brown marmorated stink bug, house centipede, zebra
mussel, and snakehead fish. Some introduced species have caused
drastic changes to our environment, such as the chestnut blight and
Dutch elm disease, which virtually wiped out the American chestnut
and the American elm trees. It is likely that we will be seeing more
drastic changes as we continue to introduce new species, alter the
landscape, introduce chemical fertilizers and pesticides into the
environment, and change the climate.
Many years ago I was told a story that has stuck in my mind. The story
went something like this:
"400 years ago the Eastern part of North America, where we live now,
was a huge, unbroken forest. A squirrel could travel from the Atlantic
Ocean to the Mississippi River by jumping from tree to tree without
ever touching the ground.
The trunks of the trees were huge, often 6 feet in diameter. And the
trunks were far enough apart that a horse cart could
be driven between them. Among the trees there were Black Bear,
White-tail Deer, and packs of Timber Wolves. Mountain Lions, Bobcat,
and Timber Rattlesnakes roamed the forest.
For the most part the trees grew undisturbed,and over thousands of
years, the plants, the birds, the insects, and all the other life had
settled into a comfortable relatively unchanging equilibrium."
That equilibrium has been disrupted, and we are now living in a
dynamic ecosystem. You never know what you will encounter next in
the wilds of the Baltimore-Washington corridor. A bee from England, a
bird from Asia, a fish from Africa?
The Baltimore-Washington, DC area has been my home for over 40
years. I have been exploring and studying the natural history of the
area for as long, and carrying a camera around while exploring has
been my favorite pastime since I was a teenager. This website is my
way of sharing some of the things I have seen and learned along the
way. I hope you enjoy your visit.
-- Getting Outdoors - Places to hike or observe nature and wildlife in
the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area.
-- Plants and Man - native plants and their historical and modern roles
in the lives of man.
-- Edible Wild Plants
-- Herbology - medical uses, historical and modern
--------1897 HERBAL by W. T. FERNIE, M.D.
-- Other uses for wild plants
-- Animals of the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area
-- Plants of the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area
-- Gardening for wildlife and organic gardening
-- Issues in conservation and health
-- pesticides, herbicides, chemical waste, etcetera
-- land use - construction and development
-- Genetic Modification (GM crops)
-- Cool Links
-- Some Field Trips in the Southern States
-- Some Biology of Wildlife
-- Contact me
-- About this site
-- Recommended Reading and Bibliography
--------------- Plants and Plant Identification
--------------- Herbs and Ethnobotany
--------------- Hiking and Wildlife Watching
This site is maintained by me in my spare time. Please let me know what you
find particularly useful and what you would like to see expanded. If you saw
an interesting critter I would love to hear about it. Contact me
|THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA
AN ONLINE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM AND NATURE CENTER
|THE METROPOLITAN NATURALIST
Many of us who live in suburban
areas have interesting wildlife
living in our backyards. But
much of the wildlife activity
occurs at night under the cover
of darkness while we are fast
asleep. One way we can catch a
glimpse of the hidden activity is
through the use of Trial Cams.
Trail Cams with motion sensors
and infrared flash have become
relatively inexpensive and can
be purchased at sporting goods
stores or online retailers.
I set up a camera in my yard and
have been getting some
interesting pictures of foxes,
deer, rabbits, squirrels and
sometimes birds. Other animals
that can be captured on film by
Trail Cams include raccoons,
opossums, skunks, coyote,
beavers, and muskrats. Many of
these cameras have video
capability and can record the
activities of animals with minimal
disturbance as they hunt and
feed, play, and raise families.
|The Online Natural History Museum
SEARCH THIS SITE
All use of this work shall reference www.metro-naturalist.com. All use of this
work shall be non-commercial.
Wikipedia tells us that “Natural history is the research and study of
organisms including plants or animals in their environment, leaning
more towards observational than experimental methods of study.”
A naturalist is a person who studies the natural world, including
rocks and minerals, stars and celestial events, weather and climate,
as well as plants and animals, fungi and bacteria and viruses.
Naturalists tend to shun laboratories and experimentation,
preferring to observe and describe natural and spontaneous
events. At least as much philosopher as scientist, Naturalists are
observers, learning through observation and forming a
philosophical world view based on observation of the natural
I think we are all born naturalists, we all born curious about nature,
fascinated by creepy crawly things. Wondering what is that?, what is
it doing?, how does it do that?, why does it do what it does?