They did their best to follow the cardinal rule of middle school social interaction – thou shalt not appear “uncool” by expressing interest in anything whatsoever that an adult is asking of you – but the salamanders exposed the chinks in their armor. Crouched low over small wooden boards we’d set out to mimic the rotting logs that red-backeds prefer, the students murmured with excitement. » Continue Reading.
If there’s one place you’d expect to see a sandpiper, it’s on the sand. However, there is one member of this family of shorebirds that prefers streamside to surfside.
Almost any time you go for a paddle, you are likely to see small brown birds skimming low across the water with stiff, rapid wingbeats. As they walk along a branch or log, or a muddy stretch of shore, they have a characteristic rear-end bob that never quits. In flight, their calls are an ascending ‘weet-weet-weet.” » Continue Reading.
After a passing shower, when the sun comes out again, I often see a rainbow in the east behind my house, arching over the trees on the hilltop. Ancient peoples were awed by these multi-colored arcs in the sky and came up with a variety of explanations.
To the Norse, a rainbow was a bridge connecting Earth with the home of the gods that could only be used by warriors killed in battle. In Japan, rainbows were the paths upon which the dead could return to earth. In Hindu mythology, Indra, the god of thunder and war, uses a rainbow as an archer’s bow to shoot arrows of lightning. » Continue Reading.
A regular chore of mine is to dispose of the mice and moles trapped in our home. I place them on a 4 x 5-foot patch of dirt and rock – which I have named the grave site – beside my woodshed. There, they typically disappear overnight, taken, I had assumed, by our resident barred owl, or perhaps a skunk, raccoon, or bobcat.
Then one day last July, as I was stacking my wood for the coming winter, I noticed a small black and orange beetle around one of the disposed mice. Fascinated, I watched for over an hour as a tomentose beetle (Nicrophorus tomentosus) dug a trench alongside the mouse and ever so slowly rolled the mouse into it. » Continue Reading.
A good friend was in touch; her son was enduring allergic reactions to mosquitos and, like any good parent, she sought solutions. I told her that the most practical, non-toxic way to deal with the problem was to consider a mosquitos’ lifecycle, and interrupt it where it starts.
Mosquitoes begin their lives in eggs laid singly or in rafts, in most cases on the surface of water. We purchase mosquito egg rafts at Saint Michael’s College to run student experiments with the hatching larvae. » Continue Reading.
Freshwater mussels are not exactly charismatic. They don’t flit gracefully about like a Karner blue butterfly, or munch on clover like a cottontail. They aren’t known for their sweet songs like a wood thrush, and they don’t close down traffic on the first rainy night of spring like spotted salamanders. They are fish parasites at one stage of their lives, and they don’t even taste good like their saltwater cousins. » Continue Reading.
Lupine is one of the most spectacular flowers of early summer, painting long stretches of roadside with shades of purple and blue. Thanks to this tall, showy plant, even a stop-and-go drive to Boston’s Logan Airport has its moments of beauty (as I recently had occasion to observe). Full sun and dry, sandy soil are just right for lupine.
Although many people don’t know it, the lupine we typically see in the Northeast is “not from around here.” It’s a non-native plant that was imported to eastern gardens from parts of the western U.S. and escaped cultivation. Our native lupine is similar, but it is seen far less often and is, unfortunately, in regional decline. » Continue Reading.
On early summer nights I sometimes see large, pale green moths with long, twisted tails fluttering near our porch light. Later, I often find them dead on the ground. These beautiful moths are luna moths, named for the Roman goddess of the moon. Each of their four wings has a transparent, moon-shaped eyespot.
The luna moth (Actias luna) is one of the largest species of moths in North America, with a wingspan of three to four inches. It inhabits deciduous forests, where its green wings blend in among the leaves. » Continue Reading.
Here’s one Depot Theatre devotee and Kander and Ebb admirer’s take on The World Goes ‘Round — a cornucopia of songs by the creative team that gave us the mega-hit Broadway classics Cabaret and Chicago.
One of my earliest experiences with the music of Kander and Ebb involved the first time I auditioned for a production by my high school Drama Club, way back in tenth grade. My family and I had seen the movie version of Cabaret starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles and directed by the one-and-only Bob Fosse, and my parents subsequently bought the eight-track tape of the film’s score (if you were born any time after 1980, go ask Grandma what an eight-track was!). It was played a lot in our house, so I was quite familiar with the songs in the movie and my favorite was “Maybe This Time” — a rueful, “am-down-and-out-but-will-rise-again” anthem that, as belted out by Ms. Minnelli, is one of the musical high points in a movie packed with them. » Continue Reading.
One afternoon last summer, my partner Rick called me out onto our deck to see a tiny hummingbird. Not just tiny, but the tiniest hummingbird he had ever seen. My curiosity piqued, I walked out and there it was – hovering in front of the bee balm, sipping nectar and beating its wings at an impossible rate. It was a rich rust color and about an inch and a half long. By comparison, the smallest ruby-throated hummingbirds are twice that length. This was truly the most diminutive hummingbird imaginable.
Or was it? » Continue Reading.
Consider for a second a fish that can live in turbid, low-oxygen water. Can breathe through its skin. Eats almost anything. Has a wickedly effective defense mechanism. And is a really focused parent. Plus, it’s good to eat.
We’re talking about the humble hornpout. Or “horned pout,” if you prefer. Or “mud cat.” Taxonomically, Ameiurus nebulosus. The brown bullhead. » Continue Reading.
Have you seen a spotted lanternfly? If you live in New England, and answered “no,” that’s good. But we’ll have to check back with you next year.
The lanternfly is one of the latest foreign invasive insect pests to become established in North America. And it isn’t a picky eater. Dozens of crops and native trees are go-to foods for this destructive bug. » Continue Reading.
Last June I was walking through our field when I flushed a wild turkey hen. She emerged from the raspberry patch just a few feet away from me. I parted the thorny canes to reveal a nest on the ground lined with dried grass and containing nine large, creamy eggs, speckled with brown.
Since we were planning to have the field mown to control invasive wild chervil, I set stakes topped with orange flagging near the nest. The man we had hired to mow was a turkey hunter, and he was happy to give the nest a wide berth. » Continue Reading.
Recreational use in the Adirondack Forest Preserve has been increasing at a noticeable rate for the last several years. Most notably, hiker traffic has exploded in the High Peaks Wilderness and gone beyond the current carrying capacity of many trails and parking areas.
This explosion in hiker traffic has gained the attention of land managers and lawmakers, who this past summer proposed new trails and alternate parking solutions in the amendments for the High Peaks Wilderness Unit Management Plan (HPWUMP). The Adirondack Climbers’ Coalition (ACC) is very concerned about the potential impact of some of these proposed parking changes. » Continue Reading.
I was in southern Connecticut a few weeks back to pick my son up from college. While he took his last exam, I took myself up a local hiking trail. Connecticut black flies are as bad as their Vermont cousins, and I brushed several of the little beasts out from under my hairline. It can be hard to think of these biting flies with anything but disdain, but they do serve important ecological functions. And in at least one case, they also solved a murder. » Continue Reading.