Observations by a Phenologist

Observations by a Phenologist

By Laurie Root

Photo by Keith A. Anderson
Photo by Keith A. Anderson

What is a phenologist you ask? You probably are one! Phenology is the study of changes in plants animals as they respond to weather, climate and the seasons.

I love being in the field in October to watch the big flocks of birds migrating. My favorite are the Canada geese, but it is mesmerizing to watch the huge flocks of blackbirds working a field in the fall too. We have learned about the birds migrating since we were little but when you think about it, it is still amazing how far they go, and how they find their way. Much of how they do it is still a mystery and I am good with that.

Photo by Keith A. Anderson
Photo by Keith A. Anderson

When I am sitting alone watching geese fly, I think of “Lessons from the Geese” written in 1972 by Dr. Robert McNeish of Baltimore. Dr. McNeish, for many years a science teacher before he became involved in school administration, had been intrigued with observing geese for years and first wrote this piece for a sermon he delivered in his church. Words to ponder. Enjoy your fall!

Lessons from the Geese

Photo by Keith A. Anderson

Fact #1 – As each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird following. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71 percent greater flying range than if one bird flew alone. Lesson Learned – People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the strength of one another.

Fact #2 – Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. Lesson Learned – If we have as much sense as geese, we will stay in formation with those who are ahead of where we want to go and be willing to accept their help as well as give ours to others.

Photo by Keith A. Anderson
Photo by Keith A. Anderson

Fact #3 – When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies at the point position. Lesson Learned – It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership.

Fact #4 – The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. Lesson Learned – We need to make sure our honking from behind is encouraging, and not something else.

Photo by Keith A. Anderson
Photo by Keith A. Anderson

Fact #5 – When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it is able to fly again, or dies. Then they launch out on their own, with another formation, or they catch up with their flock. Lesson Learned – If we have as much sense as geese do, we too, will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

Laurie Root is a naturalist at Outdoor Campus – West in Rapid City.


5 Things You Might Not Know About the Interns

5 Things You Might Not Know About the Interns

By Jensen Goodell

1.We are sarcastic 92% of the time.


Although it pains us that we cannot be sarcastic all of the time, the other 8% of our job is pure seriousness. This is reserved for when we are discussing the importance of safety and instruction in our classes to ensure that everything can go smooth and everyone can have fun.

2. The tan lines are real, and they are awkward.

photo 2

Everyone has heard of the farmers tan, but the interns at TOC put those farmers to shame. The tan lines also make it extremely awkward when we do decide to go sleeveless. Kudos to the brave interns that wear Chacos on an everyday basis; those tan lines are close to impossible to hide. P.S. this is the actual foot of Intern Erica Jurgensen.

3. Long after work hours, we still smell like fish and campfire.


Who needs perfume when you have wondrous smells on campfire and fish? The smell is a true stamp of pride that you are an intern at TOC. Spending your days outdoors making delicious smacos and fishing for hours on end is just part of the job description.

4. It’s always a battle: Fitbit vs. Food.


If you have been to TOC, you might have noticed the majority of the interns wear a Fitbit. So you would think that we are really healthy, right? Well it might come as a surprise to know that if there are any treats in our reach, you can bet they will be gone in a matter of minutes. Our Fitbit only provides an excuse to eat as much as we want. Ya know, because we take so many steps!

5. We are “happy to be here.”


Being an intern at The Outdoor Campus also means you get to work with a lot of great people. You would think that we might get sick of each other from working together all day, every day for an entire summer, but we don’t. We even hang out outside of work because we cannot get enough of each other.

From Cold Stone and Finding Dory, to hanging out at Erica’s house and our staff development days also known as “Family Sunday Funday”… on a Friday, we enjoy each other’s company. Contrary to popular belief, we do indeed work as well. Although our family and friends might not believe it, because they only hear about all the fun things we do! Getting the opportunity to work with great people and teach some super fun classes, when we say we are “happy to be here”, we mean it.

Thanks for a good summer!

Jensen is a naturalist intern for The Outdoor Campus this summer. She is currently studying at Augustana University as an elementary education major.

5 Places to Go Fishing in Sioux Falls

5 Places to Go Fishing in Sioux Falls

Summer is a perfect time to take your kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews out to go fishing on a lake or river near you. If you’re in Sioux Falls, you most certainly do not have to go far as there are several places to cast your line. Check out these public fishing areas.

1. Family Park


Family Park Fishing Saturday is a great place to go if you don’t want to haul poles and a tackle box to the access point. In cooperation with Game, Fish and Parks and The Outdoor Campus, Family Park provides the poles for free and all you have to do is show up. They will even teach you how to bait a hook and properly cast. The water is restocked with about 14,000 rainbow trout each year, but you can also catch bass, crappie, and northern pike.

2. Big Sioux River


This is an obvious place as it is the large body of water that runs through the entire city. The Big Sioux is a tributary of the Missouri River and is home to a wide variety of walleye, pike, bass, crappie, catfish and bullhead. There are several fishing spots located throughout its flow through Sioux Falls.

3. Covell Lake


Located in the peaceful, serene setting of Terrace Park, you can enjoy shore fishing for crappie, perch, bullhead and pike here. The park also offers several other amenities to enjoy like picnic shelters, a nearby swimming pool, and the beautiful Japanese gardens. So if the kids get bored of fishing, you have other things to do.

4. Scotts Lake


A very popular angler spot, Scotts Lake, formerly Scotts Slough, is located about 25 minutes north of Sioux Falls in Hartford. This is a place where you can catch a lot of fish in one trip, which is great for beginners. If you like fishing on the water, there are access points for non-motorized boats. The most popular catches here are perch, sunfish and bullhead.

5. Lake Alvin


This 59 acre park, located 25 minutes south of Sioux Falls in Harrisburg, is best known for its beach and excellent fishing. Although it is small in size, anglers can expect to catch walleye, northern pike, crappie, sunfish, perch, catfish and bullheads. The 105 acre lake is the perfect size for any boat and motor; however, the lake is designated as a no-wake zone to protect the shoreline from erosion.

It’s Spring: Baby Animal Time

It’s Spring: Baby Animal Time

Sioux Falls, South Dakota: With the coming of spring, Sioux Falls residents will likely start seeing more wildlife in their yards and parks. Sioux Falls Animal Control would like people to know some basic facts about young wildlife.

Wild animals leave their young alone for long periods, often from four to six hours at a time. The mother needs to go find food, and the young are not able to follow her yet. Their safest option is to stay still. If you discover a baby bird, bunny, raccoon, or other wild animal, do not pick it up.

Most baby animals that people find have not been abandoned. If you move the animal, then the mother will not be able to find it. Also, the mother may not come back if you are nearby, so give the baby some time and space. The mother is probably coming to feed her young when you are not watching.

Wild animal mothers are better parents for wild animal babies than people are, so let them do their jobs. If you are afraid your pet will injure the baby animals, try to protect the nest and limit your pet’s movements near the nest for a couple of weeks. The young will move on when they are old enough.

baby bunny (Medium)Do not take baby animals to the Game, Fish and Parks Outdoor Campus, the Great Plains Zoo, or to the Humane Society. These locations do not relocate or rehabilitate wild baby animals. It is against the law to have wild birds or animals in your home without a permit. Raccoons, skunks, squirrels, and bats cannot be kept as pets in the City of Sioux Falls because they are considered non-domestic animals.

If you have questions about wildlife that you have found, call Animal Control at 367-7000 for more information.

Winter Sports: Where Can I Rent Snowshoes and Skis?

Winter Sports: Where Can I Rent Snowshoes and Skis?

IMG_20160213_103403Folks get tired of winter, but around here we love long winters!

We offer many classes throughout the winter featuring cross country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing. The more snow, the more classes!

Where Can I Rent Skis or Snowshoes? 

We do not rent them here, we just teach classes. You can rent them in Sioux Falls. Here’s a list of places to call.


Sun N Fun : 605.361.1456

Great Outdoor Store:605.335.1132

Cross Country Skis

Great Bear Recreation Area:  605.367.4309



An Introduction to Glamping

Consider this: right now, you’re inside, online, reading a blog, but the blog is about the outdoors. That mixture of appreciation for both outside and inside fun marks you as a perfect candidate for a new fad known as “glamping,” or glamourous camping!


Wait, hey, come back, it’s not as weird as it sounds. Like any camping trip, you pack up a tent, mosey out into the wilderness and enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, fishing and s’more making with your friends, family or partner. The important differences are on the inside, just like people and calzones.

DIY glamping setups typically consist of large tents stuffed with quality furniture, comfortable bedding and plenty of amenities. The key is comfort, and having a cozy place to come back to at night after an exciting day outside. It’s like making a home-cooked meal versus grabbing a bag of grease from a drive-through; the emphasis on preparation and quality over convenience and savings makes for a far more enjoyable end product. No expense should be spared in crafting a luxury hotel-like atmosphere in the tent, and elaborate interior designing is a huge part of the fun, as well as a great way to flex some creative muscles.

Now, since we’ve already established that you were born to glamp, let’s get right into some guidelines for getting the most out of your experience.

  • Find a comfortable mattress, and don’t scrimp on the sheets!

There are plenty of portable air mattresses out there, but for your glamping trip you want to focus on those that put you high above the floor, either by placement on legs or by virtue of their thickness. Throwing on a mattress pad can further increase the comfort factor, as can investing in quality linens that won’t leave you itching all night.6576700

  • Prepare meals in advance, and get fancy with your snacking.

By preparing homemade meals in advance, you can camp out without suffering through dinners of hot dogs and beans. You can prepare a meal that can be heat up over a campfire, or even invest in a portable oven. Jazzing up the snack options is a fun idea as well: ditch the granola bars and trail mix and bring along cheese and crackers, finger sandwiches, shrimp cocktail and chocolate strawberries. You can even gussy up your s’mores by adding ingredients like fresh fruit, caramel, cinnamon or coconut. Finally, leave the paper plates on the shelf and bring along your glass dishware to complete the gourmet dining experience.

  • For furniture, strike a balance between portability and comfort.

A big bonus of glamping is lounging around on a cozy chair or couch rather than on the dirt, and eating off a table rather than your lap. Hauling a recliner or a dining table out into the wilderness can be a tall task, though, and it’s probably wisest to compromise on comfort a little for the sake of practicality. There are plenty of options out there for folding wooden dining tables and chairs, as well as for attractive inflatable couches and lounge chairs. The wooden furniture, along with being foldable and portable, adds a rustic look to the campsite.3608862

  • The right lighting makes for the right atmosphere.

Dragging a generator out to provide portable electricity is an option, but it’s likely going to be bulk, noisy and ugly to look at. Portable or battery powered lights may be the better option. The trick is to avoid harsh, white LED lamps and to instead find lamps that produce softer yellow light that create a relaxing atmosphere and can be left on near a campfire without overpowering the more natural light source.


  • Decorations and extra amenities help you personalize your glamping experience.

One great beauty of spending time outdoors is the multitude of activities to explore, and the beauty of glamping is that it gives you access to these activities while simultaneously giving you the option to say “no thanks, nature, I’m gonna kick it inside a while.” Along with the bikes, hiking gear, kayak, and whatever else you bring along to enjoy the outdoors, you can also pack for those moments when you’re rejecting the wild by filling your tent with amenities like a portable DVD player, a speaker system, a bookshelf or even an outdoor projector screen to watch movies on as a group. Glamping embraces excess, and it lets you enjoy the comforts of the indoors and the excitement of the outdoors all in a single outing.

Photos courtesy of Killarneyglamping.com and Katrina Horner

Sam Williams is a public relations intern this summer at The Outdoor Campus.  He’s an Augustana College student in the not-summer, and spends his free time searching the house for snacks. 

Baby Animals – If You Care, Leave Them There

10982035_10205537892659236_3706015615851795486_nIt’s only May 20, but our offices have been answering a LOT of phone calls about baby animals already. Our advice is always going to be, “If you care, leave it there.”

Sometimes mother nature isn’t kind. Animals are different than humans – they leave baby animals behind for reasons we can’t always see – they may be ill or diseased. Nobody wants to think about what happens to those babies, but they usually end up playing a role in another animal’s circle of life. Sad, but factual.

So far this year, we’ve received phone calls regarding these animals:

Ducklings – 8 calls

Squirrels – 3 calls

BIrds – 2 calls

Rabbits – 8 calls

Raccoons – 2 calls

Groundhog – 1 call

We don’t want to give you the bad news, but baby animals picked up by humans don’t end up well. Tell your kids, your neighbor kids and your friends – If you care, leave them there.