Nature Watch


by Gerry Rising

State University of New York Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus

This column has appeared each week since April 8, 1991 in The Buffalo News. Formerly appearing on Mondays, the column is now published on the newspaper's Sunday Science Page of the Viewpoints Section.

Special Notice

Over the years many readers have asked that these columns
be made available in book form.
Partly because some files have been lost from this website,
I am beginning to respond to that request.
The first two of a series of books,
also available in soft-cover and eBook format,

The Nature Watch Collection: Book One
The Nature Watch Collection: Book Two

are now available through and other outlets.
I am also seeking to have the books accessible
through the Buffalo and Erie County Library System
and through the University at Buffalo libraries as well.

An outstanding feature of the essays in these collections
is the accompanying elegant photography
of Harold Stiver and others.

The Most Recent Dozen Columns

Special Columns:

Wayne Gall's Tribute to Linc Nutting
This Nation's Scientific Future is Threatened
The October 2006 Niagara Frontier Snowstorm

Rejected Columns:

The News rejected these columns:

Earlier Columns by Year Published

A problem has arisen with these files and they are currently incomplete.
I am seeking a resolution to this situation.

2015 -- 2014 -- 2013 -- 2012 -- 2011 -- 2010 -- 2009 -- 2008 -- 2007 -- 2006 -- 2005 -- 2004 -- 2003 -- 2002 -- 2001 -- 2000 -- 1999 -- 1998 -- 1997 -- 1996 -- 1995 -- 1994 -- 1993 -- 1992 -- 1991

Columns and Other Essays by Subject

Astronomy -- Birds -- Books -- Botany -- Camping, Hiking, Biking, Canoeing and Sailing -- Conservation -- Diseases and Plagues -- Education -- Engineering, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics -- Fish -- Geography -- Geology -- History and Archaeology -- Humor -- Insects and Other Arthropods -- Mammals -- Naturalists -- Nature Spots on the Niagara Frontier -- Politics -- Pseudoscience -- Reader Responses -- Reptiles, Amphibians and Dinosaurs -- Travel -- Weather -- Miscellaneous Essays and Talks

Links to My Favorite Natural History Sites

    Among the quite literally hundreds of websites that have been of use to me are a few that I believe deserve special mention. This listing is clearly incomplete (I hope to add to it in the future) but I believe that it represents nature sources of the very highest quality. Sadly, a number of them have been discontinued, leaving only the archives of earlier and very worthwhile columns.

    Here then are some of my favorites:

    I welcome visitor suggestions for additions to this listing.

The Trumpeter Swan Controversy

    Bill Whan, editor of The Ohio Cardinal, and I have become embroiled in a controversy over current attempts to establish breeding populations of trumpeter swans in Eastern North America. As part of our undertaking we are gathering evidence to show that that the historical breeding range of these beautiful birds did not extend to this region. We invite you to learn more about this interesting endeavor by accessing our SWAN FILE and, if possible, to assist us in our research.

Natural History Books

    This file continues to be constructed. It contains a mix of brief and longer reviews of books related to natural history as well as sugggestions for building a natural history reference library. For more recent listings, see Books.

    Some of the books that have been reviewed are:

    An extended essay on Natural History in Contemporary Fiction including excerpts from Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain; Angela Barret, Ship Fever and Other Stories; and A. S. Byatt, Angels and Insects.

    Excerpts from unexpected sources include:

    Some of my general reviews are to be found on my Bookmarks website.

Notes about the Images

    The lovely painting of the winter cardinals is by my artist friend, Len Rusin. For more information about him and a small gallery of additional wildlife paintings, see his website. The photograph of the flying squirrel was taken by Marjorie Hilger of Lockport. She wrote, "If I gently tapped on his tree trunk home, he would come out of his hole and pose for a few seconds.... Going from never having even seen a flying squirrel to actually having one living in my back yard and posing for pictures was truly a remarkable experience." The picture of me looking out over the Minnesota Boundary Waters was taken by my long-time canoeing and hiking companion, Bob Bugenstein of Minneapolis.

    The comet is Hale-Bopp. The photo was taken by Denis DiCicco for Sky & Telescope Magazine. It, many other images, and much more information about this visitor from outer space may be found at the JPL Hale-Bopp site. Information about and pictures of the more recent Martian visit may be found at the NASA Mars site. The photos of the eagle and fox were downloaded from the net. I apologize to the originators from whom I have borrowed them without attribution, because no source was given on the original posting. The only photographs I have contributed to this page are those of the wildflowers: the rare yellow-green form of sessile trillium or toadshade and the Indian pipes. I have, however, taken many of the photos that accompany recent columns.

Personal Comments

    These columns are posted for a selfish reason. I invite your comments, your suggestions and, yes, your criticisms. I undertook this writing 24 years ago hoping to improve my writing skills and to learn some science as well. I have learned (and promptly forgotten) a great deal about science but far too little about writing. Thus you will be doing me a great favor if you react to these 1200 brief essays. (My weekly space allotment is now about 700 words; it was for the first dozen years 600 words.) If at the same time you are able to take away something from my writing, we will both be rewarded. Please do not hesitate to use anything you find here or to call me if you want to check out my sources.

    Perhaps I should add -- defensively -- that natural history has been an avocation and not a vocation for me. I spent my professional life as a mathematics teacher and have returned to a lifelong hobby of bird watching in my dotage. When the opportunity came up to take over this "Nature Watch" column, I asked the then editor of The Buffalo News, Murray Light, if I couldn't restrict my writing to birds. His answer was straightforward -- "No." I have come to thank him for that response as it has forced me to extend my interests in many directions. Happily, I have found the professional scientists to whom I have turned regularly for assistance to be forthcoming far beyond what their duties should require and an outsider should expect.

Author Information


home office: 295 Robin Hill Drive, Williamsville, NY 14221-1639
home phone: 716-689-8301; cell phone: 716-432-3287