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2011: New Year brings new reading possibilities

Thursday, January 6, 2011

As we head into a new year, nothing beats a good book by the wood stove on a cold winter night. Here are some recent classics I recommend. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose (1996, Simon & Schuster) and Our Natural History: the Lessons of […]

Don’t feed deer this winter, doing so causes harm

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back in February, as a brutal winter unfolded, I explained that feeding deer in winter is a bad idea. I quoted experts from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, and a veterinarian from the National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin. All agreed that supplemental feeding is bad deer management. That […]

Feral cats not family or environmentally friendly

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hunters and birders may seem unlikely allies, but they share many of the same conservation goals. One is maintaining healthy populations of birds and mammals for viewing and hunting. Free roaming feral cats pose a serious threat to this objective. The University of Nebraska Extension service has just published a review of the feral cat […]

Day with Smithsonian birds was dream come true

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Last month I wrote about Marcy Heacker, a research associate and forensic ornithologist in the bird division of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I met Marcy earlier this fall, and she invited me to visit for a behind-the-scenes tour. A few weeks ago my daughter, Nora, joined me for the visit. In advance of […]

These nature books make great holiday gifts

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I’ve got a bookshelf of titles to recommend as holiday gifts this year, so each gets just a thumbnail description. Suffice to say, if it’s on this list, I recommend it: • Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species (Stackpole Books, 2010, $34.95) by S. David Scott and Casey McFarland is the first truly […]

A winter roosting box for chickadees is a tight spot

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Recently, at a wild bird trade show in Missouri, a women approached me and thanked me for “a great idea.” She said she had read a story I had written about winter roosting boxes a few years ago. Candace Stuart, owner of a Wild Bird Center in Denver, began offering workshops for kids to build […]

Notice the small trees, they yield the best surprises

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Late October brought the first hard frost to the ridge, and now the temperature dips to the low 30s most mornings. Frosty temperatures send my wife and me in search of persimmons, which ripen after a few cold nights. Ours grow in the hayfield. Persimmon Persimmon is a small, inconspicuous tree that rarely grows taller […]

Oaks and acorns: The lifeblood of the outdoors

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just because a resource is common and abundant today doesn’t mean that will always be the case. When Europeans settled North America, for example, migratory flocks of passenger pigeons darkened the sky turning day into night. The last one died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. Inestimable herds of bison roamed the Great Plains. Today, […]

Understanding bird feeders

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Last week I spent two days at a wild bird products trade show in Missouri. It’s a great way to see new products, but I was reminded that truly new feeder designs are hard to find. Improvements and variations on a theme, however, are never in short supply. Any discussion of bird feeders should begin […]

Dropping temperatures will mean hungry birds

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Weather forecasters are calling for overnight low temperatures to dip into the 30s this week, so it’s time to pull out the bird feeders and stock up on some seed. Here are some tips to keep in mind when shopping for food for wild birds. Sunflower seeds attract the greatest variety of feeder birds. Black-oil […]

Forensic ornithology is an interesting science

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I made a new friend last weekend at the annual Berkeley Springs (W.Va.) Fall Birding Festival. Marcy Heacker and I spoke to the group on Saturday evening. Marcy works at the Smithsonian Institution’s Division of Birds where she identifies feather fragments as a forensic ornithologist at the Feather Identification Laboratory. Usually her work involves bird […]

Goldenrod unfairly fingered as allergy culprit

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Though most wildflowers have faded by late September, goldenrod is just taking center stage. More than 100 species of goldenrod (genus Solidago) brighten North American meadows in late summer and early fall. They are the bright yellow flowers that turn open fields into seas of gold. My hayfield came into full bloom about a week […]

No time to waste: It’s time to buy a duck stamp

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Though I’ve never hunted waterfowl, every year as fall approaches I buy a duck stamp. I get mine at a post office, but they can also be purchased online (www.duckstamp.com) or at larger outdoor stores. That $15 is the best conservation investment I make each year. Plus I get a collectable piece of miniature wildlife […]

Notes on whooping cranes and hummingbirds

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently announced plans to reintroduce a non-migratory flock of endangered whooping cranes in Louisiana. If this proposal is approved, the reintroduction could begin in early 2011. There are approximately 1.3 million acres of suitable marsh habitat in southwestern coastal Louisiana. The cranes are not expected to be affected […]

Factory fishing jeopardizes important fish’s future

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Quiz time. Name the most important fish in the sea. If you said tuna, halibut, flounder, marlin or swordfish, you’re wrong, at least according to H. Bruce Franklin. His book, The Most Important Fish in the Sea (2007, Island Press), makes a powerful case that menhaden is the correct answer. If you’re unfamiliar with menhaden, […]

Fall webworms aren’t really cause for alarm

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Roger Patterson of southwestern Pennsylvania, writes, “Late this summer I have noticed what appear to be tent caterpillar tents in my lilac bushes. I’m fairly certain these are not the tent caterpillars we normally get in the spring. “These late summer munchers are white and hairy. Their tents are similar, and they seem to kill […]

Solving the mystery of what causes bald cardinals

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nancy Kincaid of Charleston, W.Va. writes, “My husband and I feed birds and squirrels in our backyard, and we have a special male cardinal we have fed for the last two years. He and his mate have raised many young during this time, and we have enjoyed watching them grow and visit our feeders. “This […]

Navigating the maze of conservation agencies

Thursday, August 12, 2010

One of the frustrations of wildlife conservation is determining who’s in charge. At the state level, state agencies are responsible for managing most wildlife and fish populations. They set seasons and bag limits for species that are hunted and fished. They’re also responsible for the welfare of nongame species. In Pennsylvania, for example, the Game […]

Warbler numbers grow with habitat management

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Among birders, Kirtland’s warblers are a top priority. They are rare because they have very specific habitat requirements — young jack pine forests five to 20 feet tall and six to 22 years old. Such stands are found in northern Michigan and parts of Wisconsin and Canada. They nest on the ground; presumably trees these […]

A hayfield stroll displays midsummer blooms

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Most summer evenings, shortly before dark, my wife and I take a walk through the hay field on the highest point on our property. It’s not really a hay field, it’s just an old field being encroached upon by the adjacent woods. I try to keep the invasive autumn olive at bay, but it’s a […]

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