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You can become a Project FeederWatch volunteer

Thursday, December 17, 2009

If you’ve never put out food for wild birds, this column is for you. Perhaps you are motivated personally — you’d like to see if you can attract beautiful winter birds to your backyard. Or perhaps you envy the birds you see in your neighbor’s yard. Or maybe a child has come home from school […]

Books for the outdoor enthusiasts on your list

Thursday, December 10, 2009

If you’ve got a few outdoor enthusiasts on you holiday gift list, a good book is always appreciated. Recommended Here are some recent titles that I recommend. – Shadow of the Alleghenies: the Wilderness Adventure of a Frontiersman and his Wolf Pup by Edwin D. Michael (2009, $22 ppd., Quarrier Press; order from Ed Michael, […]

The rut from two very different points of view

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The breeding season, commonly called the rut, takes a differential toll on female and male white-tailed deer. Does are fertile only 24 hours every 28 days. If does are not impregnated during that time, they come into estrus again in about 28 days. Bucks, on the other hand, are on call 24/7 from October through […]

A new favorite bird to monitor: Saw-whet Owls

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I have a new favorite bird — the northern saw-whet owl. Until last week, I’d never seen one in the wild. But on Wednesday, Joey Herron invited me to his banding station at Valley Falls State Park, just east of Fairmont, W.Va. “That storm on the East Coast,” he told me, “is going to push […]

Critical responses to mandatory national service

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Last week I suggested that mandatory national service in one of many different fields would be a good way to bridge the gap between high school and the real world. Furthermore, I suggested that FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) be resurrected as a form of national service. My perspective was to provide a work force […]

Let me know why compulsory national service is a bad idea

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Writer and historian Wallace Stegner called our national parks “the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than at our worst.” That was the message of the recent Ken Burns series that aired on PBS (, and I couldn’t agree more. Watching this 12-hour documentary brought […]

Deermice link plants to predators

Thursday, November 5, 2009

When I checked my nest boxes this week, about half were still occupied — by mice. When I gently probed the mass of dried leaves with a stick, it was only a moment before I had a mouse running down my leg. Deermice and white-footed mice commonly use nest boxes intended for cavity-nesting birds, and […]

Keep your eyes open for several fall visitors

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A day after the first hard frost of the season, a flock of nomadic cedar waxwings appeared in the backyard. I counted 42, but probably missed a few. They were filling their bellies with fruits from a bittersweet thicket. More handsome than beautiful, waxwings always seem immaculately groomed. Only the distinctive crest disrupts the body’s […]

Folklore is wrong: Woolly bears can’t tell future

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The parade has begun. Yesterday I counted six as I walked from the house to the garage. This morning I spotted another handful crossing the road as I walked to the mail box. Woolly bears are on the move. Seasons changing Woolly bears are just one of many reliable signs of seasonal change that begin […]

The fall of the bison population in early America

Thursday, October 8, 2009

When Columbus discovered the New World in 1492, the approximately 1 million Native Americans who occupied North America probably never realized they were lost, much less that they need to be discovered. By 1900, fewer than 250,000 Native Americans remained. There are many reasons for the collapse of the Indian population and culture, but it […]

Least among us: Weasel common, but seldom seen

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Though most active between dusk and dawn, weasels hunt any time they’re hungry. Their small size and secretive nature, however, make them difficult to observe.

The unseen migration of the mature American eels

Thursday, September 17, 2009

“Fall migration” conjures up images of honking, south-bound geese and monarch butterflies on their way to Mexico. Each autumn we marvel at the long distance migrations made by many other birds and animals. Some dragonflies make long distance movements, and salmon make well known spawning runs from the ocean to freshwater spawning grounds. But there […]

The miracle of monarch migration

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Changing day length bird migration triggers bird migration because photoperiod is the only absolutely reliable environmental cue that signals birds that keeps seasonal time. Ruby-throated hummingbirds have already begun to leave, and chimney swifts and nighthawks are gathering in evening skies as they prepare to head south. Monarch butterflies Even more remarkable than bird migration, […]

Daisy was a member of the family

Thursday, September 3, 2009

When my daughter, Emma, turned 9 (she’s now 20), she asked for only one thing — a yellow Lab puppy. She had been reading about Labs in library books for weeks, and she knew this was the dog for her. I tried to talk her into a shelter dog, but it had to be a […]

The sounds of insects define late summer

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Compared to spring and early summer, late summer mornings are quiet. Most birds are done nesting. The avian territorial imperative has given way to memories of fall migration. Other sounds, however, fill the void. More noisy than musical, the sounds of insects define late summer. In the heat of the day, dog day cicadas drone […]

Bird names aren’t always what they seem to be

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Anyone who has ever perused a field guide to birds has no doubt wondered how some of the names originated. By convention, the person who first describes a species gets to name it. The stories behind the scientific names are complex and steeped in Latin and Greek. Accurate names Common names are another story. Some […]

Lost Ladybug Project is a chance for citizen science

Thursday, August 13, 2009

For the last 10 years, many of us have been plagued by ladybugs invading our homes each fall. That’s why it may be hard to believe that some species of ladybugs (or lady bird beetles as they are more correctly called) are disappearing. Citizen science project But it’s true, and entomologists at Cornell University have […]

Bass: Fighting fish that are just plain fun to catch

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Any ichthyologist knows that largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are not members of the bass family. The fish competitive anglers seek are actually large members of the sunfish family.

If you love your cat, you’ll keep him indoors

Monday, July 27, 2009

Readers often ask if it’s possible to love both wild birds and cats. My answer is “yes.” But I always add that, “Cats make great indoor pets.” Our last cat lived the good life for 17 years. Outdoors, cats kill millions of song birds and small mammals annually, and their life expectancy shortens considerably. Here’s […]

This year’s waterfowl survey is all good news

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The results of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s 2009 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are in, and the news is good. The preliminary estimate of total ducks in North America was 42 million, up 13 percent from last year’s estimate and 25 percent greater than the 1955-2008 average. The survey samples more than […]


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