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CWS_BigBlue(WR)_lg.jpgNotes from the Canyonlands



Chuck has retired but
his past blogs are still wonderfully entertaining.

Occasional observations and notes from Dr. Chuck Sexton, the wildlife biologist at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.  Chuck has been on staff at the Refuge since 1994 and has been a student of the ecology of the Texas Hill Country for over 30 years.


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  • Wednesday, October 28, 2009 7:44 PM | Anonymous
         I thought I would start this blog-record with just a little more background on myself--some lesser known facts from my bio that might help explain or put some context around what I will write about in future entries.

         While my origin in Southern California is fairly well documented, I should add that I grew up on a “huge” half-acre in rural Orange County...although “rural Orange County” is today something of an oxymoron.  That spacious back yard allowed me room to roam and I explored every nook and cranny in my formative years.  My earliest memories of plants, butterflies, and birds come from the confines of that wild place, long before I began stretching my wings and exploring nearby Upper Newport Bay, the remainder of Orange County, and the rest of the western U.S.

         As well, I am very “Disney-fied.”  Not only did my father work at nearby Disneyland, thus making it my second playground, but I was also heavily influenced by many of the early Disney shows.  Most relevant to the present topic is Disney’s classic short film “Nature’s Half Acre” (1951).  For a brief intro to this Oscar winning film, see:


    Walt_disney_sm.jpg
    "Uncle Walt"
    (Photo credit: NASA)

         The parallel to my childhood setting should be apparent.  The Internet Movie Database page explains: “The variety of wildlife in a meadow - particularly insects and flowers - is observed over the course of a year, through the use of microphotography and time-lapse photography.”  It was a seminal nature film that influenced no small number of budding naturalists, myself included.



    CWS Surfing 1965_crop.jpg
    Yep, that's me in 1965, on a cold winter morning
    at Newport Beach's 19th Street beach break.


         I am also a surfer, though I haven’t surfed regularly in decades.  Surfing--to spout clichés--is more than a sport; it is a way of life and it instills in its adherents a distinct perspective on the world.  Aside from all the trappings and idiosyncrasies that have been parodied ad nauseum by Hollywood, surfing gives a person a feel for the movement of energy in time and space through the natural world.  Quite literally, becoming a better surfer depends in large part on recognizing and responding to the flow of energy in the ocean.  The periodicity of the waves, their seasonality, their origins, their dissipation on the shore--all this can be extrapolated to much grander topics in the functioning of ecosystems--to which I will return in future posts.

         And finally, most obviously, having grown up in Orange County in the 1950s-1970s, I witnessed some of the most rapid and complete transformations of natural ecosystems that the continent has suffered.  My boy scout camping spots were paved over to make way for the financial capital (in both senses of the word) of the West Coast.  Places where I made my first wildflower collections can no longer be found.  No small number of SoCal plants, butterflies, and birds that I came to know as a child share space on that narrow ledge at the brink of exinction with our own Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo.

         So, I confess to being a nature-loving, energy-flow conscious, urban-escapee surfer who made it to Austin "as soon as I could" (1974).  I hope you enjoy my forth-coming offerings, framed by my well of experiences over the most recent decades and shaped into these "Notes From The Canyonlands".

    HWSexton_blog.jpg

    p.s.  Despite my official position at the Refuge, I am contributing these blogs as a "private citizen" and Friend of the Refuge.
    To that end, I'll only burden you once with this disclaimer:

    "The content of this blog does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. government
    and no official endorsement should be inferred."

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