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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 […]

Identifying 11 more warblers made easy

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The easy male warblers that I reviewed last week are recognizable by eye and ear to any birder. But going beyond that first level of warbler identification is like taking a graduate course in birding. So here, during birders’ favorite month, are some tips to help you move on to the next level. Chestnut-sided warblers. […]

Ramps – the king of stink can be a tastebud treat

Thursday, April 22, 2010

As I worked my way down the steepest portion of the valley, I could see patches of green in the distance. Some were stands of Virginia bluebells just unfurling their leaves, but most were carpets of ramps. Experience Experience has taught me that mid-April is ramp season. When the redbuds and dogwoods bloom and the […]

Early visitors this year: Hummingbirds are back

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bird migration epitomizes spring. But unless you spend a lot of time outdoors with binoculars, or you really know bird songs, the players often pass through unidentified. Hummingbirds Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the exception. Hang a nectar feeder, and you’ll know when they arrive. And thanks to a Web site that maps hummers as they return, […]

Good news and bad news for monarch butterflies

Thursday, April 8, 2010

If you’re a fan of monarch butterflies, I’ve got good news and bad news. First the good news. Last year the folks at Project Monarch Watch sent three monarch caterpillars into space via the shuttle Atlantis. On November 16, 2009, they were delivered to the International Space Station where they lived out their lives. These […]

Birding help: Walks, mentors, Cornell Web site, “Birding by Ear” discs may help beginners

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Every year, just as spring migration begins, I get letters from readers who have decided to learn to identify birds by ear. “Where do I begin?” they ask. Start with what you know. Though you may not know the names of the most common singers, you undoubtedly have heard at least ten species many times. […]

Bluebirds make a comeback with some human help

Thursday, March 25, 2010

As winter relaxed its grip earlier this month, six consecutive days of bright sunshine and blue skies left no doubt that spring was on its way. Red maple buds burst open, and a pair of eastern bluebirds began visiting a nest box on the edge of the yard. They were just beginning to investigate and […]

Duck identification requires more than just effort

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Though most migratory song birds won’t arrive until April or May, March is a great month to tackle waterfowl identification. Binoculars and a field guide are the essential tools. To find waterfowl, visit wetlands — lakes, farm ponds, beaver ponds, flooded meadows, and rivers, especially near dams. These are the habitats ducks frequent as they […]

Feeding deer corn is not the best thing to do

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Last week’s column on the perils of feeding deer corn in winter generated more mail than anything I’ve written in years. Many readers were mortified that their good intentions may have done more harm than good. Here are a few excerpts from e-mails from concerned readers. “I only put out a few cups of corn […]

Feeding corn to deer could be death sentence

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Just days after 20 inches of snow blanketed the ridge, a second storm arrived. We could have another 8 inches by morning. Such conditions bring out the softie in many of us. We make sure the bird feeders are filled even before we shovel out the driveway. Feeding the deer? But what about feeding the […]

Squirrels know persistence pays off in the end

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In January, I did most of my wildlife watching through my office windows. Though the bird feeders were always busy, I also noticed a frenzy of activity among the gray and fox squirrels that inhabit the nearby woods. Chase begins On all but the coldest and snowiest days, I could count on seeing two squirrels […]

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