As one of the only native plants that blooms in late fall and early winter, American witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) can be found stealing the forest spotlight right now. While most of our native bloomers turn in for a long winter’s nap, the streamer-like flowers of this plant are just starting to appear, following the annual loss of the shrub’s leaves. These highly-fragrant yellow blooms typically last into December. The seeds and buds of this deciduous shrub are a favorite winter food for grouse and are also browsed by deer and beaver. Witch-hazel is also known to attract a variety >>More
British soldier lichens are among the first wild things I remember being able to identify as a child. I loved spotting this lichen during forays into the woods – on a giant boulder or atop a decaying stump – its tiny, bright red caps seemed whimsical and somehow happy. I still love to find British soldiers, and they offer a welcome pop of color, especially during these days when the landscape is muted. Lichens are fascinating things, really, the result of an intricate relationship between a fungus and an alga (or a cyanobacterium). Lichens are named for » Continue Reading. >>More
Secrets hidden in more than 300,000 index cards with hand-written information about nesting birds are gradually being revealed. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is partnering with Zooniverse, an online people-powered research tool, to digitize this valuable collection and create the largest database of nesting bird information in the U.S. This new effort is called “Nest Quest Go!” In an announcement of the effort sent to the press, Nest Quest Go! leader Becca Rodomsky-Bish said: “The Cornell Lab collected the hand-written cards for its North American Nest Record Card Program from everyday people. This was » Continue Reading. View original post.
In total, about 90 acres of woods were consumed by the fire, and bordering the burn site are acres and acres of what you would expect: spruce, fir, white pine, maple, birch—but no aspen.
I fall in love easy. I’ve been mad about river otters and star-nosed moles, and of course the venomous short-tailed shrew. But my first love was a creature that is almost mythical, a shadow lingering on the edges of time. There wasn’t much of it, merely bones, teeth, scraps of hair, and an occasional breathtaking tusk. Yet Mammuthus primigenius, the woolly mammoth, was (literally) my biggest love. It all started at the Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, Vermont, where a 44-inch tusk was on display when I was a kid. Found in 1865 in a nearby bog, this tusk was >>More
After pairing up and raising chicks, males and females of some bird species spend their winter break apart. At the end of their journey to Central or South America, you might find mostly males in one habitat, and females in another. Yet conservation strategies have typically overlooked the habitats needed by females, putting already-declining species in even more peril, according to a new study in the journal Biological Conservation. “Among the small songbird species that have been studied, the general rule seems to be that females occupy lower elevation, shrubbier, drier sites,” says lead author Ruth » Continue Reading. View >>More
Woolly bear caterpillars seem to be everywhere these days – creeping across the lawn, along the road when I’m walking the dog, hidden in the wilted cut-back of the perennial garden. Last week I found a woolly bear curled up in a shoe I’d left on the front porch. These fuzzy, black-and- brown-banded caterpillars seem intent these days to get somewhere. Where that is – and how they know – is a mystery. “The purpose for their wanderings is not clear,” said Jack Layne, a biology professor and woolly bear researcher at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. “It starts well >>More
Your yard is part of the natural landscape and can offer food and cover for insects, mammals, and birds. Leaving the leaves where they fall adds nutrients back to the soil and provides great cover for insects seeking shelter from the cold and snow. The leaf litter also provides an extra layer of insulation and protection for native, ground and cavity nesting bees and wasps. Some native butterflies and moths have even adapted their chrysalis to mimic the look of dead leaves and seeds. They will overwinter in the leaf litter and hatch in early spring, providing pollination services for >>More
In light of recent news about the net loss of nearly three billion birds in the U.S. and Canada since 1970, advocates say it’s more vital than ever that citizen scientists monitor their own backyard birds. Participants in Project FeederWatch at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have been doing this for decades. Reports from participants are building the kind of long-term database needed to detect shifts in the number and distribution of birds facing challenges from climate change, habitat loss, and disease. FeederWatch participants make two-day counts each week from November through early April. They » Continue Reading. View original >>More
Two new scientific studies recently released by Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute (PSC AWI) and Shingle Shanty Preserve and Research Station (SSPRS) have detected continuing patterns of decline in boreal birds in the Adirondacks. The authors examined avian community changes in lowland boreal habitats and the impacts that temperature and precipitation have on long-term occupancy patterns of boreal birds. Both peer-reviewed papers were recently published in the scientific journal PLoS One. The studies build on more than a decade of monitoring boreal bird populations in lowland boreal habitat. Lowland boreal habitats are characterized by conifer swamps, open peatlands, and >>More