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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 […]

A conversation with ornithologist and author

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I met Bridget Stutchbury in the early 1980s at the University of Oklahoma Biological Station. I was teaching ornithology, and she was a visiting graduate student from Yale looking for a place to study the social behavior of purple martins. We had dozens of pairs of martins in six apartment houses right on campus, so […]

Nature’s fireworks: Fireflies’ bioluminescence

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The first firefly of the year appeared in my yard a month ago. As fireworks commemorate Independence Day, I’m reminded of the natural fireworks that go on all summer long. Fireflies or lightning bugs First, though, a few words of clarification. Fireflies, or lightning bugs as my dad called them, are neither flies, nor bugs. […]

An unexpected Indigo treat is found

Thursday, July 1, 2010

One of the unexpected treats of collecting the first blackberries of the season is stumbling upon an active bird nest. Bramble thickets are prime nest sites for species such as cardinals, catbirds, song sparrows, yellow-breasted chats, and indigo buntings. Males Male indigos are easy to find and even easier to recognize. They sing a complicated […]

It’s been a strange year for ruby-throated hummingbirds

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some observers report more birds than ever. Other ask why none have returned. My experience has been equally confounding. I saw my first hummer this spring April 11, a full 11 days sooner than my previous first date, so I expected lots of birds this year. And the map of returning hummers at www.hummingbirds.net offered […]

A nature lover’s guide to a summer reading list

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Whether your summer leisure time is spent on the beach, in the mountains, or on the back porch, a good book is a great companion. Recommendations Here are a few recent titles that I recommend. The only work of fiction on the list, Anthill: A Novel by E.O. Wilson, (2010, W.W. Norton & Co., $24.95) […]

Making environmentally friendly seafood choices

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My wife and I dine out more often during the summer, especially when we’re on vacation. And for some reason, we favor the seafood part of the menu during warmer weather. And with that choice comes the uncertainty of knowing what meal to select. Seafood types Many types of seafood are overfished, and our meal […]

Insects could be the answer to a nature deficit

Thursday, May 20, 2010

“I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” Those words, by a fourth-grader in San Diego, are the essence of Richard Louv’s 2005 bestseller, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder — kids today spend too much time indoors and too little time outdoors. From […]

The Wilds animal park is a dream come true

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Back in the summer of 1993 I eagerly awaited the release of Jurassic Park and its promise of computer-generated, live action footage of dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are the creatures that hooked me on nature. I collected and played with the hard plastic models and would have done anything to see live dinosaurs. I’ll never forget an […]

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