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The return of the vireos is as notable as other birds

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Nothing excites birders like the month of May. Spring migration peaks. New birds arrive almost every day. Colorful warblers and tanagers monopolize the attention, but several groups of less spectacular birds are equally interesting. Escape the spotlight A red-eyed vireo, for example, is a drab tree top dweller, but its return is just as notable […]

May is the best month of the year

Thursday, May 7, 2009

May brings the best transitions of the year. Neotropical migrants return, wildflowers bloom and butterflies emerge. It’s my favorite month. I find it hard not to smile all month long. Only get so many But each year also reminds me that we get only so many Mays. The older I get, the more precious each […]

Spring migration and its parade of color are under way

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A flash of red signals the return of a male rose-breasted grosbeak. A lemon drop bouncing across a country road means yellow warblers are back. And a patch of deep blue atop a withered snag tells me indigo buntings have arrived. Spring migration and its parade of color are under way. The colors of birds […]

Nature’s colors mean so much more to birds

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring equals color. Wildflowers bloom. Butterflies appear. And, of course, neotropical migratory birds return. Though migration is well underway, the brightest and most colorful birds have not yet arrived. Give them a few more weeks. But get your hummingbird feeders up today; they’re coming back early this year (www.hummingbirds.net/map.html). To most of us, nature’s colors […]

Get your chimney capped soon to avoid swifts

Thursday, April 16, 2009

To avoid having chimney swifts invade your home this spring, get your chimney capped — as soon as possible. Swifts usually return in mid-April, but precise arrival dates are tied to weather, particularly temperature, which determines the activity of flying insects. Swifts eat flying insects exclusively. You can check their northward progress at www.chimneyswifts.org. Chimney […]

Sandhill cranes perform a courtship to remember

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Platte River flows past Kearney, Neb., and in March it can be a cold, inhospitable place. It certainly was back in 1982. I was there for a professional meeting, but I spent my first afternoon shivering in a blind overlooking the river. Waterfowl, mostly Canada geese and mallards, covered the shallows and sand bars. […]

Wildlife law violators pay the hefty price

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Crime stories make national headlines every day, but violations of wildlife law usually escape the spotlight. But that doesn’t mean federal conservation laws are ignored. Recent stories Here are just a few recent stories featured on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Web site. In Florida, two Georgia-based construction firms were fined $70,000 and put […]

Homeowners making mountains out of moles’ hills

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mounds of fresh top soil and ridges from tunnels just under the sod mean one thing — moles. Have to offer But before you succumb to the pest industry’s annual campaign against moles and rush to the local home improvement center for traps and poison, consider what moles have to offer. The presence of moles […]

Update: Big news about some pretty big predators

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Large predators are difficult to study because they’re relatively uncommon and they roam widely, so I was thrilled when I heard two good news stories about big predators. Lost and found Back in November 2006, Dr. Todd Katzner, Director of Conservation and Field Research at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, and biologists from the Pennsylvania […]

Wood frog’s voice is not frog-like

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It may seem a bit early to be listening for frogs, but wood frogs rush the season. They emerge from beneath forest leaf litter in late winter, and as soon as the ice melts, they sing. A wood frog’s voice is hardly frog-like. One field guide describes a wood frog chorus as sounding, “like a […]

Stinky skunk cabbage is actually a sign of spring

Thursday, February 26, 2009

If your daily commute takes you along a stream that meanders through a wet meadow, watch for early signs of life as spring approaches. Skunk cabbage Even as snow or ice still covers the ground, skunk cabbage begins to grow. I first noticed skunk cabbage while riding the school bus many years ago. Every day […]

Challenge yourself with shed hunting

Thursday, February 19, 2009

From late winter through early spring, whenever I’m in the woods, I keep my eyes peeled for shed antlers. Sheds, the antlers white-tailed deer bucks lose each year, are a terrific addition to my collection of natural artifacts. The first few I found were still attached to skulls, antlers of unlucky road kills, so it […]

The 2009 Great Backyard Bird Count is a success

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The highlights of this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count Feb. 13-16 are likely to include reports of northern species moving south in huge numbers. White-winged crossbills, pine siskins, common redpolls, and snow buntings only occasionally visit our latitude, but 2009 has seen an impressive southbound invasion by these species. The Great Backyard Bird Count is […]

Daisy finds one playin’ possum

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A few years ago on a cold winter night, Daisy, my yellow Lab, and I took a walk in the woods after a snow storm. Daisy enjoyed plowing through the ankle-deep snow with her nose. At one point she wallowed in the snow the way she rolls in mud holes in the spring. As we […]

Facts on the yellow-bellied sapsucker

Thursday, January 29, 2009

To the uninitiated, the yellow-bellied sapsucker sounds like a mythical creature. “Where is it in the field guide?” they ask. “Right next to the “bleary-eyed bedthrasher?” “No,” I answer. “It’s a woodpecker.” Four There are actually four species of sapsuckers in North America, but only the yellow-belly is found here in the east. Williamson’s, red-breasted, […]

New to many: White-winged crossbills

Thursday, January 22, 2009

If you’ve seen or heard unfamiliar birds recently, it’s probably not your imagination. The mystery bird is about the size of a white-throated sparrow and is found primarily in groves of evergreens — spruce, hemlock and pine trees. Males are red with dark wings; females are drab olive-gray. Both sexes have two bold white bars […]

Hypothermia — A cold killer

Thursday, January 15, 2009

With the onset of winter comes the threat of hypothermia — the dangerous lowering of the human body’s temperature. As the number one killer of outdoor enthusiasts, everyone should understand the circumstances under which hypothermia occurs and its symptoms. Mild weather Surprisingly, however, hypothermia can occur even during relatively mild weather. In fact, most cases […]

January is the beginning of nesting season for birds

Thursday, January 8, 2009

On the afternoon of Dec. 26, the thermometer on the back porch read 73 degrees. Carolina wrens, cardinals and white-throated sparrows sang as if spring had replaced winter. A few weeks earlier, the morning temperature had plunged to four degrees. In between we’ve had several measurable snow falls and school delays. As I write this […]

These Web sites are just right for nature lovers

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Each holiday season I recommend books and other gifts that might interest readers. Today I give a gift to you — a series of Web sites chock full of valuable information that nature lovers will appreciate. And they’re free. If you don’t have Internet access at home, visit your local public library. http://digital.library.pitt.edu/a/audubon The University […]

A Christmas Eve to remember

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It was the night before Christmas about 15 years ago. Nora was barely 10, and Emma was still dreaming of kindergarten. We had just gotten home from a Christmas Eve church service. About two inches of snow had fallen the day before, and it was cold, about 25 degrees, so a white Christmas seemed assured. […]

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