A few days ago my eyes began to itch. Grass and tree pollen trigger allergies that will continue until the first frost. But pollen is a necessary evil. It is essential for the reproduction of flowering plants. Pollen originates in the stamens of flowers. It is essentially the sperm that must reach another flower’s pistols […]
A report of a rare bird captures the attention of birders within a few hours drive of the observation. So in late May, when a black rail was reported just north of Capon Bridge in Hampshire County, West Virginia, birders flocked to the site. Few saw it. Some heard it. Several even reported hearing the […]
Later this year, the conservation community will celebrate the 75th anniversary of federal legislation that keeps state wildlife agencies afloat. On Sept. 2, 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. More commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Act, it honors its chief sponsors, Sen. Key Pittman of Nevada and Rep. […]
I wear many hats as a naturalist. I enjoy learning about all aspects of nature. Recently, I added mother to my list of interests. Let me rephrase. I’m now a moth-er. Just as birders enjoy and study birds, moth-ers enjoy and study moths. My interest in moths is not new. I’ve often noticed the tremendous […]
If you are a recreation boater, May marks the beginning of the most dangerous time of year. The sultry days of summer make cool lakes and rivers an inviting refuge, but they can be deadly. Last year in Pennsylvania, for example, recreational boating accidents claimed 22 lives. That almost doubles the last 10-year average of […]
A recent discovery put me in a turkey state of mind. While on my knees photographing wildflowers, I noticed a bone a few feet away and found a turkey skeleton concealed by the thickly growing grass. The skull was broken into pieces, though I could still detect the huge eye sockets. Sometime last summer or […]
Words can change the world, but only when they lead to action. Earth Day is a great time to remember this. Here are some of my favorite words. Share them at work, at school, and at the dinner table. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtfully committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s […]
The spring migration of birds is a good time to buy or upgrade binoculars. That’s why I wrote a brief primer on binoculars about a year ago. I explained, for example, that every pair of binocular is described by two numbers, which are usually found on the center focus wheel. For example, 8×42 and 10×42 […]
Shortly after noon on the last day of February, the thermometer on my porch read 62 degrees. It s no wonder I’ve been thinking of gardening. But I had trees on my mind, not vegetables or wildflowers. Planting woody vegetation is the best, though not the fastest, way to improve habitat for wildlife. It’s a […]
With more than a month until April arrives, it may be premature to proclaim the end of winter. But since it never arrived, why not? So far this winter I’ve seen less than six inches of snow, and temperatures have been incredibly mild. Only twice has my thermometer dipped to 10 degrees. We did have […]
The second day of my trip to Ecuador found me at Mindo Loma, about two hours northwest of Quito. I was the only person there, so I was treated well. And dozens of hummingbirds constantly darted among the many nectar feeders.
Reproduction and feather molt are two of the most energetically demanding aspects of birds’ lives. The breeding season can last five months or longer, and feather molt can take six to 10 weeks. Just finding enough food to stay alive during these stressful times can be a full time job.
Under the heading of “unintended consequences,” border fences are proving to be very effective at disrupting the movements of wildlife.
The two hours after dawn and the two hours before dusk offer wildlife watchers and hunters excellent viewing opportunities. I like to sit quietly with my back to a big tree, and watch and listen. Chipmunks, squirrels, and other small mammals often dominate the action as they alternate between barking out alarms calls and searching […]
Every December I get requests to reprint my version of ‘Twas the Night before Christmas I first published in 1988. Merry Christmas everyone!
The Saturday after Thanksgiving, a pileated woodpecker made my day. For the first time in more than 20 years, I saw one of these crow-sized hammerheads at my suet feeder. It returned several times over a 30-minute span.
Fall is a busy season for publishers of nature and outdoor-themed books. They make perfect Christmas gifts. Here are some recent titles I recommend for the readers on your list. Carnivores of the World, by Luke Hunter (2111, Princeton University Pres, $29.95) is a comprehensive field guide to all 245 species of terrestrial carnivores — […]
A few weeks ago the temperature dropped below 30 degrees, and the first winter feeder birds, white-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos, showed up.
About a year ago, when I heard Hollywood was making a movie of Mark Obmascik s 2004 book, The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession, I worried. I feared it would make a joke of birders and birding. Remember Jane Hathaway on The Beverly Hillbillies? When I heard the three stars […]
If you have trees in the backyard, value and protect them. Trees filter and transport water through forest ecosystems. Their roots reduce erosion by binding the soil.