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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. […]

You’ll want to find these books under the tree

Thursday, December 4, 2008

If you’ve got some avid readers on your holiday gift list, here are some titles I enthusiastically recommend. The Owl and the Woodpecker: Encounters with America’s Most Iconic Birds by Paul Bannick (2008, $24.95, Mountaineers Books) is my book of the year. Stunningly illustrated with more than 130 color photographs by the author, this book […]

A flock of tundra swans is an impressive sight

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Last week as I traveled across the southern tier of New York, V-shaped skeins of Canada geese crossed the sky from north to south. It was a vintage November day — cold, gray and damp. At a rest stop near Jamestown, another flock caught my eye. But these birds were bigger and pure white. Tundra […]

A few tips on avoiding squirrel-induced insanity

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A few days ago, while listening to Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt on ESPN radio, Van Pelt broke out laughing in near hysteria. Tirico asked him to explain himself. It turned out Van Pelt was broadcasting from his home, and he was watching a bird feeder as he worked. The distraction was a squirrel […]

Be on the lookout for kinglets this time of year

Thursday, November 13, 2008

November is usually a dismal month, thanks to cooler temperatures, gray skies, rain and mud. But not this year. The first week of November has been perfect — bluebird skies and 70 degrees. It has felt like spring. But weather forecasts report more seasonable weather will return; I doubt we’ll see such mild weather again […]

Tips to discourage unwanted wildlife guests

Thursday, October 30, 2008

With bird seed prices at record highs, resentment toward unwanted visitors at backyard feeders is likely to increase this winter. Who wants to spend nearly a dollar a pound for seed to feed deer, squirrels and pigeons? If you’re willing to pay any price to feed any critter that visits the backyard, you can stop […]

Design a cozy roost site for your favorite birds

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Whenever I get a series of letters asking the same question, it’s time to address that issue in a column. Over the last few weeks, a handful of readers have asked about winter roosting boxes, so here goes. Bluebirds, chickadees, titmice and nuthatches nest in cavities and readily use nest boxes, but did you know […]

Hummers, those mighty migrants, can still show up in winter

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mid-October marks the end of the ruby-throated hummingbird migration season, so it’s time to take down nectar feeders, clean them thoroughly, and store them until April, right? Generally, that’s good advice, but if you’re a hopeful birder, keep one feeder filled all winter. You may get to see a wandering hummingbird from the west. Hummingbird […]

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