Once, when I was living in a house on the edge of a forest in Western Massachusetts, an early-spring storm blew in and left about a foot of snow in its wake. Worried about the birds, many of which had just returned to their northern breeding grounds, I spent the day replenishing the feeders and scattering extra seeds on the deck and in the yard. I watched through the sliding glass doors, as dozens of songbirds flitted in and out my view. It was a mesmerizing scene. My reverie was broken, however, when a large bird torpedoed out of the >>More
Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category
Nearly all historians agree Marie Antoinette probably never coined the phrase “let them eat cake,” a saying already in popular culture before her time. The saying was ascribed to her by opponents to bolster her reputation as a callous and arrogant aristocrat. She would have seemed far more benevolent if she had said “let them eat trees.” From remote villages to five-star urban restaurants, people around the world consume all manner of delectable dishes featuring second-hand wood. Although that is not generally how it is featured on the menu. Mushrooms such as inky cap, oyster and shiitake have a voracious >>More
I don’t think there’s a more magnificent forest tree or more glorious shade tree than the sugar maple (Acer saccharum); a deciduous tree that matures in 30-50 years, generally growing to between 70 and 90 feet tall, with a crown that turns a brilliant, fiery yellow, orange, or red at summer’s end. The sugar maple is the official state tree of New York, Vermont, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. It’s also the national tree of Canada. And the maple leaf is the Canadian national emblem. For sugarmakers, this is maple season. Having tapped thousands of » Continue Reading. View original post.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has reminded New Yorkers to take steps to prevent bears from easily accessing food sources like bird feeders and garbage. Due to poor natural food availability last fall, many black bears went into their dens with low fat reserves. As they begin to emerge from winter dens, they have already begun seeking out food sources around homes. DEC has already received several reports that bears are knocking down bird feeders to eat the seed. Feeding bears either intentionally, which is illegal, or unintentionally through careless practices around properties, has consequences for >>More
Forty years ago, amid the surge of legislation that accompanied the rise of the modern environmental movement, New Hampshire passed its first Endangered Species Conservation Act. The goal was to protect wildlife facing extinction in the Granite State. There was just one problem: they had no list of exactly which species were threatened or endangered. So, in December 1979, a gathering of more than 50 biologists, naturalists, and woodsmen was convened at the Harris Center for Conservation Education, where I now work. They divided into working groups on mammals, birds, and “cold-blooded vertebrates” – invertebrates and rare plants would have >>More
It was a cold, snowy Sunday morning in the middle of January. I planned to heed the warnings encouraging motorists to stay off the road and turned the radio on to catch the end of an interview with poet Mary Oliver, recorded in 2015. The poet had died earlier that week, at the age of 83. “Listening to the World” was the title of the conversation, ironic on a snowy morning when the earth seemed so quiet. After breakfast, I was gazing out my kitchen window toward the river, looking beyond the woodshed attached to the far side of our >>More
Like most people, I thought I knew where to find fireflies: in back yards and fields on summer nights, flickering on and off like dollhouse-sized lanterns or like Tinkerbell, the tiny fairy that the author of Peter Pan invented while observing fireflies near a Scottish lake. I was only partly right. There are about 2,000 firefly species, but not all are nocturnal. Nor are they all flashy – some don’t light up at all. Furthermore, we don’t have to wait for summer to see one. Meet Ellychnia corrusca, known as the winter dark, or diurnal, firefly. Although common, this insect >>More
The State Museum’s bird collection is always growing as scientists continue to prepare new specimens to document the current New York bird population. Every time a bird specimen is prepared, State Museum scientists take tiny samples of different types of tissues (heart, liver, muscle, brain) and place them in a plastic vial that is stored in an ultra-cold freezer at -80 degrees Celsius (-112 Fahrenheit). These samples, and similar ones taken from newly prepared fish and mammal specimens, comprise their Vertebrate Frozen Tissues collection. It is the » Continue Reading. View original post.
Using data on 77 North American migratory bird species from the eBird citizen-science program, scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology say that, in as little as four decades, it may be very difficult to predict how climate change will affect migratory bird populations and the ecosystems they inhabit. Their conclusions are presented in a paper published in the journal Ecography. Cornell Lab scientists generated new climate models incorporating multiple sources of data. This produced a timeline indicating when and where migratory bird populations are likely to be significantly affected by novel climates during each phase of their annual life >>More
I’ve taken to wandering the night lately – one of the pleasures of having a puppy. Willow, my pup, and I walk at all hours, from twilight to midnight and into the shadowy early morning. Some nights we walk under the cover of stars and moonlight, and other nights the world is so dark my black dog disappears and I wonder what exactly is on the end of my leash. Void of visual stimulus, any earthbound glimmer of light is noteworthy. One night I saw the glow of two small eyes, like gold coins caught in the arc of my >>More