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Hummingbirds in December? It’s no joke

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A week ago, Vonda Poole of New Wilmington, Pa. emailed me and worried about “a female hummingbird that has not gone south for the winter. It’s now December 9th,” she wrote, “and it’s still here. Was I wrong to leave a feeder up? What will happen when freezing weather hits?” I explained that keeping the […]

Yes, even sparrows are fun birds to watch in winter

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The diversity of backyard birds fuels their appeal. Cardinals and blue jays are spectacularly beautiful. Chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches sparkle with personality. Woodpeckers entertain. But some, the nondescript native sparrows we call “LBBs” (little brown birds), avoid the spotlight by simply feeding on the ground. Ground feeders are nice to have around because they help […]

Christmas Bird Count and Project FeederWatch

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cold winter weather means it’s time for two important citizen science projects — the annual Christmas Bird Count and Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch. This year the 113th CBC runs from Dec. 14 through Jan. 5. Volunteers will devote one entire day to counting all the wild birds they can find. Local leaders determine […]

‘A book is a gift you can open again and again’

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Books always make great holiday gifts, especially for those who have everything. Here are a few recent titles that I recommend.

Winter’s fury is no match for Kinglets

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

As days get shorter, and nights grow longer, the cast of characters on my bird feeders changes. A mixed flock of pine siskins, purple finches, juncos and a few red-breasted nuthatches has joined the usual crowd of chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, cardinals, song sparrows, and goldfinches. But it is a tiny winter bird that captures my […]

Wildlife is resilient in a storm, even during Hurricane Sandy

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

As I write this, Hurricane Sandy has claimed more than 70 American lives and done an estimated $50 billion in damage, and those numbers are likely to increase. Another unspoken toll thus far is that taken on wildlife. How can wildlife possibly survive a super storm? That’s certainly been the topic of many emails I […]

Snakes, bats and spiders could use image makeover

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween can be a terrifying holiday for small children. Boogie men and scary creatures strike terror in their hearts. I’m hoping we can dial back the fear factor associated with real creatures that often show up in Halloween decorations. Spiders, snakes, and bats are three groups that strike fear in the hearts of many, even […]

It’s deer season and it’s a jungle out there

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Anyone who lives in deer country knows fall is the most dangerous time of year. It’s when deer-vehicle collisions peak. In many areas, it’s not if you hit a deer, it’s when you hit one. Over the last 20 years I’ve hit six deer. One totaled my car, and another did $3,000 in damage. Fortunately […]

Birds quickly find new feeders; there is proof

Thursday, October 18, 2012

“When can I expect birds show up at my new feeder?” That’s the most common question I get from readers who begin feeding birds for the first time. My answer is that it depends on several factors, including habitat and time of year, but usually, birds discover and use new feeders in just a few […]

Why do leaves change colors before they fall?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The science behind fall’s beauty: Why do leaves turn colors? Why do they fall from trees, anyway?

When choosing seed, match bird food to feeders

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The bird-feeding season is upon us, and invariably questions about which foods and feeders are best fill my mailbox. Here’s a pre-emptive effort to answer some of those questions. Basics If you are new to feeding birds or you just want to keep it simple, offer black-oil sunflower seed in a high-quality tube feeder made […]

Some clean four-letter words for fall

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The phrase “four-letter word” has a bad reputation, for obvious reasons. But there are good four-letter words, too. Here are a few four-letter verbs for outdoor lovers to keep in mind as fall begins. Hunt — Shorter, cooler days mean a variety of hunting seasons are about to open. Waterfowl, small game, and white-tailed deer […]

A view from above shows the true landscape

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Last week I flew from Pittsburgh to North Carolina via New York City. I took the scenic route and got to see lots of Pennsylvania and southern Appalachia from the air. It’s a vantage point that reveals much about man’s impact upon the land, especially large tracts of forest. From 30,000 feet towns, farms, schools, […]

Attention birders: Fall migration is beginning

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The fall bird migration actually begins in July. Along East Coast beaches, shorebirds that nested in the Arctic begin showing up along coastlines in mid-July. August arctic snowstorms happen, so arctic migrants fledge their young as quickly as possible to get an early start south. Closer to home, male ruby-throated hummingbirds begin heading south in […]

Outdoor wildlife recreation is worth big bucks

Thursday, September 6, 2012

According to the results of the recently released 2011 National survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, more people than ever (16 and older) participated in wildlife recreation. Hunter numbers (13.7 million) grew 9 percent from 2006 to 2011. The number of anglers (33.1 million) increased 11 percent during the same time period. And the number […]

Gray tree frogs can be noisy masters of disguise

Thursday, August 30, 2012

July was too hot and dry for man or beast. One of the consequences is that evenings were quiet. I don’t think I heard a frog or toad the entire month. The gray tree frog Then the rains came, and the temperature dipped. Toads began to trill each evening, and the nightly chorus of crickets […]

2012 waterfowl survey results look good

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The results of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s 2012 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are in, and the news should please duck hunters. Based on aerial surveys over more than two million square miles, the estimate of total ducks in North America was 48.6 million, up from last year’s of 45.6 million and […]

Wildlife netting can do far more harm than good

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Three years ago my wife found an opossum in one of our sheds with a plastic six-pack ring around its neck. I immobilized the ‘possum with a towel, and we cut off the ring. The critter toddled off without even playing ‘possum. No harm, no foul, just a reminder of the harm that such plastics […]

Shooters compete for marksmanship honors

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Port Clinton Camp Perry is alive and well. It’s media day and opening day for this summer’s annual National Matches, the Super Bowl of rifle and pistol shooting. And it’s a good media day because it isn’t just about seeing what others are doing. A bunch of us are hunched over our rifles and going […]

The bane of every summer — stings and bites

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A few weeks ago my wife called from upstairs. There was an unusual urgency in her voice. When I found her, I understood. She had been stung by a bald-faced hornet. It got her right by her eye, and her face swelled up immediately. Within minutes, hives covered much of her body. Linda has been […]

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