If it's alive and it lives wild, it's wildlife.

Kevin J. Cook                                              Kevin@WildlifeWindow.com

About Us

A Mission for Wildlife Window

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Wildlife Window promotes biological literacy

by supporting people who are interested in wildlife

 and by providing opportunity for maturing that interest into a life passion.

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      Wildlife Window supports both the general wildlife enthusiast and the modern-day naturalist by consolidating core information into a single source.  Further, the information is relentlessly updated according to best available science and by dogged reevaluation of traditional thought.  Four seminal natural history questions plus one distinctly human question drive the content of Wildlife Window:

 

      (1)      What lives here?

      (2)      Where does it live here?

      (3)      How does it live here?

      (4)      How does it participate – what is its role – in the ongoing drama of life?

and

      (5)      How can a person with a natural curiosity and an appetite to learn connect with this pageant of life?

 

      For the general wildlife enthusiast of today, “biological literacy” means achieving a personal awareness that learning about life on Earth is a gratifying and desirable way to spend leisure time.  This awareness develops incrementally by acquiring information and amassing personal experiences corollary to that information.

      For the modern-day naturalist, “biological literacy” means achieving a specific threshold of awareness about how much he or she does not know about life on Earth.  This awareness develops quickly, often occurring abruptly consequent to a particularly meaningful event, and resonates collectively through mind and soul with no distinction between personal and professional involvement.

      People who enjoy wildlife, whether the general enthusiast or the committed naturalist, not only want information, they crave it.  These are the people for whom Wildlife Window exists.

      In some uniquely personal manner, a wildlife enthusiast may find some motivation in these pages, take that motivation afield to engage a personal experience at an intellectual and emotional level never experienced before and return home transformed from a mere enthusiast into a person passionately in love with the splendor of life.  You will know when you get there when you perceive a crawling tardigrade to be as magnificent as a bugling Elk.



Using Wildlife Window

 

      As a naturalist, whether vocational or avocational, you want wildlife information; and more specifically, you need information that is both reliable and accessible.  Libraries are great and the Internet is useful; but spending three hours to track down five minutes of information – each time you have a wildlife question that demands an answer – drains enthusiasm.

      Wildlife Window offers an alternative.

      As a wildlife enthusiast, you enjoy experiencing life both personally and vicariously.  Some people read fantasy novels about dragons; you like reading about real-life lizards.  Some people read tabloids about social gossip; you like reading about how birds work out their affairs at the birdfeeder.  Some people read magazines about economics; you like reading about symbiosis.  Some people read about the golf they play or the bicycling they do; you like to read about where to find some plant or animal you have never seen.

      For you, Wildlife Window offers an alternative.

      Imagine any number of scenarios: you’re watching a wildlife program on cable television; you’re reading a nature book or magazine; you’re visiting a botanic garden; you’re preparing a presentation for a school group; you’re wishing you could get out for some time afield but can’t right now, not today.  You engage any of these, or others, and lose yourself in reverie: I wonder if this thing lives around here?  I wonder how many kinds there are?  I wonder how to find it, and if I knew, if I could?  I wonder...I wonder...I wonder...I...wonder...

      This wondering is the magic-of-the-soul that symbiotically links you to Wildlife Window.  And here is what you do to participate in this symbiosis.

 

Book Review

 

      Understand two things: anyone can write and publish a book, and anyone can be a literary critic.  From these two facts the implication follows: not all books are equally good, and not all critics are useful.

      The Wildlife Window Book Review establishes a unique set of criteria by which nature writing can be evaluated more objectively and less subjectively.

      Watch for Kevin’s list of best American nature-writing books, currently scheduled to appear by spring 2008.

 

Calendar

 

      Each month brings new focus to the living world.  Check the Wildlife Window Calendar for tips about what wildlife events are happening when.  These will link to other pages.

 

Catalogs

 

      Checklists have become a popular and useful information source for both professional and amateur applications.  However, criteria that govern what to include and what to exclude often compromise the overall content of a checklist.  Refer to Wildlife Window Catalogs for a more robust accounting of regional wildlife diversity.  More group-specific catalogs will be added as they become available.

 

Classification

 

      The era of the kingdom-phylum-class-order-family-genus-species taxonomy you learned in school has ended.  But the rate at which new information about wildlife relatedness is being gained has muddled any potential launching of a new era!  The Wildlife Window Classification page allows you to follow the process of change.  It also makes possible viewing a bit of biological history by seeing when certain groups were most thoroughly discovered.

 

Journal

 

      The Declaration of Independence asserts that all men are created equal.  We now accept that assertion to apply to women, too; but it in no manner applies to the opinions people have.  We hold dear the right to have opinions and express them; but the truth is that an uninformed, uneducated, intellectually vacuous, emotionally charged opinion is worth less than nothing.  Read Kevin’s journal for a naturalist’s views on how biological literacy or illiteracy, as the case may be, affects the society in which we live and the politics by which we govern that society.

 

Naturalist’s Daily Reader

 

      Get up in the morning, boot your computer, turn on the coffee-maker, let the dog out, go to the bathroom, pour yourself a cup of coffee, let the dog in, sit down at the computer, log-on to Wildlife Window, and read the day’s 100-word essay about life in the natural world.  These are meant to nudge your thinking about life in general and in so doing serve as a tonic to start your day with a feeling of warmth and good cheer.

 

Schedule

 

      Kevin is always doing something: bird class, wildflower field trip, lecture, seminar, tour, library talk...something.  Keep track of what he’s doing, when he’s doing it, and how you can participate by logging on to Wildlife Window Schedule.

 

Species Profile

     

      To nourish that bit of wonder in your naturalist’s soul, read the Wildlife Window Species Profiles for Kevin’s unique blend of musing and information.  Each essay features a single species or a particular group of species and is timed for the season.  Read the Species Profile tonight; go see it tomorrow.

 

 

      These are the foundation features of Wildlife Window for now.  Other material is in development and will be added as completed.  A sneak preview might reveal something about fungi, geography, and fossils; but you will just have to keep checking back to be sure because to look through the Wildlife Window is to see an ever-changing world!

 

About Kevin

 

            By the light of an aquarium, and that light alone, Kevin labored long into one particular night to write a speech for a high school speech contest.  As he wrote, midnight became one and then two in the morning; as he rewrote, fish shadows drifted back and forth across his paper.

            Kevin wrote in a bedroom that had become a peculiar blend of conservatory, museum, library, laboratory, and studio.  Egg cartons became storage cabinets for collections of rocks, eggs, shells, bones, and teeth.  Plaster casts of animal’s paws and hooves had their place on the shelf next to a sand-dollar and a block of wood drilled with holes to hold upright the feathers found during trips afield.  More than artifacts, these were the mementos of a childhood spent catching fireflies and dragonflies, frogs and snakes, a childhood spent saving baby Blue Jays and Robins, rearing baby Fox Squirrels and Eastern Cottontails.

            Other bedroom shelves held the National Geographic Society books on birds, mammals, and fishes that he had purchased by saving the two-cent deposit refunds on pop bottles that he collected from construction sites.

            On one wall hung a National Geographic Society map of the world augmented by color-coded embroidery thread to show the routes taken by the great explorers: green for Charles Darwin, blue for James Cooke, and other colors for Drake, Wallace, Hudson, Franklin, and all those guys from Portugal.  Special pins marked special places, such as the Mascarene Islands where the Dodo became extinct.

            Several dozen potted plants, a cage for Pepper, the Budgerigar, and a tub for a turtle or two filled the vertical space in his room.  The ever-present aquarium completed the decor; it sat at the end of the desk where, as a third-grader, he had composed his first piece of self-motivated writing: a play to perform with his Christmas present, a Jerry Mahoney ventriloquist doll.  He has been writing ever since, but in his own way.

            During a second-grade parent-teacher conference, Mrs. Case explained to his parents that Kevin couldn’t spell “school” or “Wednesday” but he could spell Brontosaurus and Archaeopteryx with an uncanny precision that included slanting his letters to approximate the italics necessary for a proper scientific name.

            On yearbook signing day at the close of high school, Kevin’s three English teachers advised him to consider alternatives to college because he probably would not pass the freshman English requirements.  Ignoring their advice, he exempted college English by testing out of the subject with high scores.  He has since gone on to publish more than 6,000 pieces of writing.

            Besides writing, Kevin has guided nearly 200 wildlife observation tours, has taught day-long seminars on various wildlife subjects, has taught classes on subjects as varied as nature writing and gardening for birds, and done guest lectures at various conferences and meetings.

            Though best known for his passion for birds, Kevin reserves a special place in his heart for fishes because in a subtle way they saved his life.

            After dreadful experiences in fourth and fifth grades, Kevin stepped into Mr. Reese’s sixth-grade classroom and immediately spotted his two 10-gallon aquariums.  Recess became opportunity to catch food for the fishes.  At the end of the school year, Mr. Reese suggested that Kevin take an aquarium home for the summer, and that glass box of water became his window into the world.  Kevin began building his own aquariums and has not been without one since, including one that through his high school years sat on his desk, the desk where late one night he worked on a humorous after-dinner speech.

            Nine hours and a hundred miles later, he performed without rehearsal; and solely from the memory of having written the speech, he kept the judges laughing and took third place.  He has been entertaining audiences ever since.

            Having earned two college degrees, he found a way to mature childhood show-and-tell into a communication art form.  According to his credo, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a specimen is worth a thousand pictures.

            Kevin has spent his life paying attention to life.  If it lives, he has probably read about it then gone looking for it, if not in the field on his own, then in a museum just to satisfy a curiosity that never fades.

            But his work is not done until he has shared his passion for life with others who enjoy an owl hoot in the night or a bug in the pond.

 

 

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