Home  |  Experience Open Space  |  Articles that Educate

Articles that Educate - Plants, Animals, & the Environment

Pack it in / Pack it out and Outdoor Ethics - graphic

Pack it in / Pack it out and Outdoor Ethics

Author: PLAN Jeffco

Date: December 2016

Outdoor Ethics may be summed up in the phrase Leave No Trace, and in Jefferson County Open Space Parks, like all other park systems, the rules of good outdoor ethics apply. Specific rules may be found in ... read article »

Slower Life - The Worms of Spring - drawing of worm by Jan Ratcliffe

Slower Life: The Worms of Spring

Author: Sally L. White

Illustrations: Jan Ratcliffe

Date: May 2016

Did Charles Darwin retire after spending 20 years on his greatest contribution, On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection? Not likely. But he did slow down, in a sense. Where he had studied pigeons and chickens in his pursuit of inherited traits, he turned in later years to earthworms and plants, where his efforts were equally impressive though far less well known. Why did one of the world's great scientists ... read article »

Tuesday Birder - Birds at Mount Falcon - Turkey Vulture.

Birds at Mount Falcon

Author: Ann Bonnell

Date: September 2015

On September 29, seventeen members of the "Tuesday Birders" spent four and one-half hours looking for and counting birds at the West (upper) end of Mount Falcon Open Space Park. One hundred ninety-five individual birds representing 31 species, were sighted. ... read article »

Tuesday Birder - The Birds of Chatfield - Great-horned Owls nesting at Chatfield State Park (Photo by Rob Raker).

The Birds of Chatfield

Author: Ann Bonnell

Photos: Jim Esten & Rob Raker

Date: May 2015

Hiking, biking and horse-back riding are not the only things that you can do in the open spaces of Jefferson County. Ann Bonnell, long-time PLAN Jeffco Board Member and volunteer naturalist ... read article »

Tuesday Birder group visits Bear Creek Lake Park - Canada Goose

Tuesday Birder group visits Bear Creek Lake Park

Author: Ann Bonnell

Date: March 31, 2015

Tuesday Birders, led by Ann Bonnell, Dave Hill, and Phil Gerkin, visited Bear Creek Lake Park, a City of Lakewood Park, on March 31st for a four-hour walk amidst 58° - 75° weather to record bird species and numbers. ... read article »

Tuesday Birder group visits Lair o Bear Open Space Park - Steller’s Jay

Tuesday Birder group visits Lair 'o' Bear Open Space Park

Author: Ann Bonnell

Date: November 4, 2014

Tuesday Birders lead by Dave Hill, Ann Bonnell and Mary Keithler, visited Lair O Bear, a Jeffco Open Space Park, on November 4th amidst 31 - 53° weather to record bird species and numbers. Click to see their report ... read article »

Living and Playing in Coyote Country by Mary Ann Bonnell

Living and Playing in Coyote Country

Author: Mary Ann Bonnell

Date: September 2014

Creating coyote-savvy open space users and residents helps reduce conflict between coyotes, pets and people throughout Jefferson County. Educating and motivating citizens to help preserve open space and the wild species that use it is at the core of the PLAN Jeffco mission. This is the first of two articles designed to improve our understanding of and to stimulate conversation about coyotes and their presence in our parks and communities. The comments ... read article »

On Golden Clouds by Sally L. White

On Golden Clouds

Author: Sally L. White

Date: September 2014

Perhaps city folks don't notice, but few who live in mountains and foothills escape knowing when the pines are doing their thing, and this spring was certainly one of the obvious ones. We see pollen adrift on spring puddles, pollen gathered from the roof to collect in rain barrels, pollen like golden dust all over our decks—marking the tracks of squirrels that have passed. We may fuss at the inconvenience of this annual deposition ... read article »

Trails through Time - A Geologists Guide to Jefferson County Open Space Parks by Jack Reed

Trails through Time: A Geologist’s Guide to Jefferson County Open Space Parks

Author: Jack Reed

Date: July 2014

Jefferson County straddles one of the most conspicuous and important geographic and geologic boundaries in western North America, the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains. To the east you can travel 1,100 miles across Great Plains and Central Lowlands before you sight the western foothills of the Appalachians. If you travel in the other direction you will cross or skirt mountain range after mountain range until you sight the ... read article »

Damnation Toadflax Or How Pretty Plants become Problem Pests by Sally L. White

Damnation Toadflax Or How Pretty Plants become Problem Pests

Author: Sally L. White

Date: September 2013

Even a plant-lover, and I do consider myself such, can be challenged by some species, and the mellowest of us can be pressed into trophy hunting when circumstances are right. Summer is the season for bagging the biggest baddest trophies in our neck of the woods. Each year I've been going after my limit, but of course, you never run out of this bad boy. Its beauties, and I'll grant there are some, are only petal-deep. ... read article »

Distelfinks and Dinosaurs by Sally L. White, Illustrations by Jan Ratcliffe

Distelfinks and Dinosaurs

Author: Sally L. White

Illustrations: Jan Ratcliffe

Date: May 2013

Sparrows don't quite do it for me: I look at them and I clearly see birds, normal birds, hopping on the ground looking for seed or flying around. But distelfinks are different. Distelfink, literally "thistle finch," is a handy word still used by the Pennsylvania Dutch for a group of birds that reminded them of the colorful finches of their homeland. It's both memorable and descriptive, as distelfinks of all species adore thistles—in season, of course. Perhaps you've ... read article »

When Winter Comes: Strategies for Survival by Sally L. White, Illustrations by Jan Ratcliffe

When Winter Comes: Strategies for Survival

Author: Sally L. White

Illustrations: Jan Ratcliffe

Date: February 2013

Our world is surprisingly full of animals, even in our heavily developed areas. How does nature ensure that fullness? By paying a large price: excess. This annual tax often comes due in winter. Every student of nature stumbles upon and must come to terms with the necessity for such excess. Charles Darwin once remarked upon the "clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low and horribly cruel works of nature." Henry David Thoreau sounded a somewhat more optimistic note: "I love to see that Nature is so rife with life that ... read article »

Life After Life by Sally L. White, iustrations by Jan Ratcliffe

Life After Life

Author: Sally L. White

Illustrations: Jan Ratcliffe

Date: October 2012

Hidden within our soils are a host of organisms engaged in decomposition, that deconstruction project without which life on Earth would long since have disappeared. As with other ecological systems, this one is an iceberg: The part we can’t see is far bigger and more complex than the small fragments that intrude into our ... read article »

Douglas-fir: By any other name by Sally L. White, iustrations by Jan Ratcliffe

Douglas-fir: By any other name

Author: Sally L. White

Illustrations: Jan Ratcliffe

Date: July 2012

The tree we know today as Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) baffled botanists for decades. People have known it as yellow spruce, red spruce, red fir, Douglas spruce, and Oregon pine. It's not unusual for a plant to have many common names, but this one has tried on many botanical names as well. Botanists first called it Pinus taxifolia, the pine with yew-like leaves. Later, they tried squeezing it in with spruces, then firs. In 1867, 75 years after it was made known to western science, they finally gave up and created a new genus (Pseudotsuga) to house Douglas-fir and ... read article »

Snowbirds by Ann Bonnell

Snowbirds

Author: Ann Bonnell

Date: January 2012

Sometimes called "Snowbirds," Darkeyed Juncos are slightly larger than House Finches, with white feathers at the outside edges of their tails. They always show up at your yards and feeders with the first snowfall of the season. The word junco comes from the scientific name for the genus coming from the Latin "a rush." This remains a mystery as juncos are not ... read article »

A Harvest for the Holly Days by Sally L. White, illustrations by Jan Ratcliffe

A Harvest for the Holly Days

Author: Sally L. White

Illustrations: Jan Ratcliffe

Date: January 2012

That holiday tradition of "decking the halls" is a long one still well practiced today. Seeing our homes and streets festooned with greenery, we might think little has changed from those nostalgic Victorian Christmases we emulate. Gathering decorative greens, however, is a rite best practiced in places where sustained harvests ... read article »

Fall Harvest: the Gift That Keeps on Giving by Sally L. White, illustrations by Jan Ratcliffe

Fall Harvest: the Gift That Keeps on Giving

Author: Sally L. White

Illustrations: Jan Ratcliffe

Date: September 2011

Year after year, domestic and wild plants give us—and local wildlife—“free food,” as it were. But some years are special. Trees bent under the weight of fruit they carried; now pantry shelves bend under the weight of jams and jellies as we try to cope with overwhelming abundance. ... read article »

The Bird Family with an Attitude: The Corvids by Ann Bonnell

The Bird Family with an Attitude: The Corvids

Author: Ann Bonnell

Date: June 2011

The Corvids are probably the most notable family of birds with an attitude. They are loud, pushy and act like they are the boss, running off other bird species and often eating other birds' eggs and hatchlings. The Corvids found in our area include Common Raven, American Crow, Western Scrub-Jay, Pinyon Jay, Blue Jay, Steller's Jay, Gray Jay, Clark's Nutcracker and Black-billed Magpie. ... read article »

Big Bluestem: Plant of the Future by Sally L. White, illustrations by Jan Ratcliffe

Big Bluestem: Plant of the Future

Author: Sally L. White

Date: March 2011

This fall I had an email from a botanist friend: "What's going on with big bluestem?" After he pointed it out, I noticed that, sure enough, this species, one of the dominant grasses in the tallgrass prairie (as in the source of the original Kansas sods that once housed the homesteaders), is bustin' out all over the foothills! Big bluestem typically occurs on the slopes of our mountain front, but has been expanding in recent years. ... read article »

Everything is Rosy! by Sally L. White

Everything's Rosy!

Author: Sally L. White

Date: June 2011

"Here in Colorado's foothills and mountain slopes, our future is rosy. So is our present, and for some time, so has been our past. We are fortunate in that almost everywhere we look, we see roses. Although June is the traditional month for traditional roses, the native roses we enjoy here often appear in May. Many of them, however, masquerade under other names, some even under disguises so complete most of us never suspect their true identities. ... read article »

Birds of Jefferson County: Accipiters by Ann Bonnell

Birds of Jefferson County: Accipiters

Author: Ann Bonnell

Date: March 2011

"What is that hawk who comes into my yard and eats 'my' birds?" These hawks are probably Accipiters, a sub-group of the birds of prey most easily distinguished by their long tails and short, broad, rounded wings which allow them to maneuver in and out of trees. Their normal hunting ground is in the forest, but Accipiters have been loosing out to ... read article »

Join PLAN Jeffco today &
help us provide Articles that Educate:

Membership | Donate | Volunteer