Randy Hoffman

Randy Hoffman’s book, “When Things Happen,” is a guide to when natural phenomenon occurs.

New research has revealed the tremendous benefits of getting outdoors in nature, and a new book by a Waunakee man helps to identify natural phenomenon while you’re out there.

Randy Hoffman, the author of “When Things Happens,” collected data for the book for 60 years. A retired ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources’ State Naturalist Program, Hoffman wrote it to help others gain more knowledge of the natural world.

Hoffman approached the book as a journalist asking the questions, who, what, when, why and where. His book focuses on the “when,” as other books have tackled the other questions.

Since the 1800s, authors such as Henry David Thoreau, John Muir and Aldo Leopold have written about the why, expounding on philosophical reasons for spending time in nature.

Hoffman said we experience “real benefits in getting out into nature on a regular basis.” Along with health benefits, it’s educational and provides social interaction.

But there are cognitive benefits, too, including increased creativity and problem solving and even improved test scores.

Albert Einstein spent time nearly every day walking in the woods, Hoffman said, adding being outdoors also improves eyesight as the eyes focus on distances.

Hoffman showed a nature connection pyramid. It noted that on a daily basis, we should get outdoors and play, even get our hands dirty. On a weekly basis, we should go exploring through gardening or birdwatching outdoors. Once a month, we should head out to a park, and yearly, find a wilderness area to explore.

Locally, parks to explore include the Bolz Conservancy, Castle Creek Conservancy and Holy Wisdom Monastery.

Some nearby natural areas to explore one day a month include Cherokee Marsh south of Waunakee off of Hwy. 113, Schmitt’s Woods on Patton Road and Hauser Road Prairie, just north of Waunakee off of 113 and Madigan Road.

Hoffman said Hauser Prairie is owned by the Prairie Enthusiasts and offers a glimpse of what Waunakee looked like prior to European settlement.

Hoffman also enjoys real wilderness areas, and Wisconsin has plenty of them. He showed pictures of Vilas County, the Lower Wisconsin River and other areas.

His book deals with phenology, the relationship between the climate and the occurrence of biological events, Hoffman said. For instance, he has noticed geese flying high, signaling their migration. The book shows the peaks of such occurrences, such as trillium blooming in late April through May.

Right now, vireos, warblers and fly catchers are migrating, Hoffman said, and tiger salamanders that spend summer in the countryside are making their migration to winter ponds.

This is also a time to hear elk bugling, and you can find those in Black River Ralls. At the end of October, witch hazel will be blooming, and in November, purple finches will come to feeders.

Also in mid-November, if it’s not too cloudy, you have a chance to see the Leonid meteor showers.

“When Things Happen” is self-published and is available for purchase on Amazon.com.

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