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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 […]

A very good year in my backyard

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It’s been a banner year for wildlife in my backyard, and each evening my wife and I enjoy the show from the back porch. Pairs of bluebirds, robins, phoebes, chipping sparrows and Carolina wrens tend to their second nests of the season, while the young of their first broods search the backyard for insects and […]

Noodlers reach where sane men fear to trod

Thursday, July 9, 2009

There are a few outdoor adventures I’ve never tried and never will. Skydiving, rock climbing, and bungee jumping come immediately to mind. Noodling is another. I try to avoid activities that put my life or body parts at risk. Noodling, also called hand-grabbing, is a form of extreme catfishing that’s popular and legal in some […]

Recommended summer reading

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Whether you’re planning a stay-cation in the backyard or a getaway to the shore or mountains this summer, a good book makes a great companion. Here are a few titles you might enjoy as you settle into a favorite reading chair. – Birdsong by the Seasons: A Year of Listening to Birds by Donald Kroodsma […]

Bullfrogs are the victims of ecological chaos

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Visit a farm pond ringed with dense vegetation this month, and you’re sure to hear two distinctive sounds. A booming “Jug-o’-rummm!” signals the presence of bullfrogs. The sound of a loose banjo string comes from an amorous male green frog. Though similar in appearance, bullfrogs can reach a length of seven inches; green frogs top […]

Another citizen science opportunity — Firefly Watch

Thursday, June 18, 2009

About a week ago while sitting on the back porch watching night fall, I saw the first golden flash of summer. Soon a dozen fireflies, or lightning bugs as they are often called, patrolled the backyard. Another handful flashed from perches in the tall grass on the edge of the yard. Flashing fireflies mean summer […]

Eastern wood-pewee sings its own name best

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Of all the birds that sing their own name, the eastern wood-pewee does it best. Every morning as I lie in bed just before dawn, I hear the usual spring chorus dominated by robins, cardinals and Carolina wrens. In the background, from deeper in the woods, comes the pewee’s plaintive, two-part song — “pee-a-weee,” followed […]

Ruffed grouse, masters of disguise

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Finding an ovenbird nest is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Unless you follow this drably colored warbler to its domed, oven-like nest on the ground, you’ve got to be lucky. As I pressed my luck a few days ago, I followed an ovenbird with binoculars as it moved along the forest floor. […]

Meet the thrushes: Their singing is impressive

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The sight of four fledgling American robins on the lawn reminded me that robins are thrushes, a family of birds that has a handful of representatives likely to be seen in spring. Most familiar members Most have spotted breasts and most sing impressively. Robins and bluebirds, both plain breasted as adults, are probably the most […]

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. […]

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