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.
Often, when I spot an interesting bird, I don’t have my binoculars handy. I’m holding a paddle or a pair of bicycle handlebars, which aren’t very helpful when it comes to birdwatching.
That was the case during an early-morning bike ride last summer, when I noticed a brownish bird about the size of a chicken standing at the edge of a farm pond. I would have liked a better look, but it was clearly an American bittern, scanning for prey against a backdrop of reeds and cattails. It was a rare sighting for me, one I was lucky to have. » Continue Reading.
There is a broad, craggy precipice in Franconia Notch, NH, not far from my home, called Eagle Cliff. It was named in the 1800s for the golden eagles that nested there, back when the region was full of open farmland that was conducive to the giant raptors’ lifestyle. While the fields have grown up and the eagles are long gone, the cliff has been home to nesting peregrine falcons each year since 1981.
Once completely absent from the eastern United States, peregrine falcons have been making a steady comeback since the 1980s. Those falcons that nested on Eagle Cliff in 1981 marked the first successful re-occupancy of a historic cliff breeding site. Since then, recolonization has been steady, if slow. » Continue Reading.
With summer right around the corner, many parents are wondering how to best prepare their child for a summer camp experience.
With over 70 years of positive youth development at 4-H Camp Overlook, we have learned some tried and true tips that will increase success at overnight camp and help eliminate or reduce homesickness for first time campers. » Continue Reading.
It’s tempting to simply view fish scales as armor, but there’s more to them than that. They provide camouflage; they also play a role in locomotion. For scientists working on the recovery of American Shad in the Connecticut River, scales provide a record of a fish’s life history and a way to measure the success of restoration efforts.
American shad is our largest river herring. The males, called bucks, run up to six pounds. The females, or row shad, up to four. Like their cousins alewife and blue-backed herring, shad are anadromous, spending most of the year in the ocean, then running up fresh water rivers like the Connecticut in spring to spawn. » Continue Reading.
The Grass River — or Grasse, as most now spell it — is one of the most beautiful rivers in the northwestern Adirondacks, though few know it well. That may change now that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has issued management plans for the 288-square-mile Grass River Management Unit. » Continue Reading.