LIVING WHERE WILD TURKEYS, once in decline, have been extra-successfully repopulated, I get to regularly enjoy these comical big birds. Their crazy, descending gobble-gobble-gobble, and the occasional startling, loud beating of wings if a flock is spooked from their roost up in the trees are both part of the background music here. And as dumpy as Meleagris gallopavo looks—more dirigible than F-35 screeching off the flight deck, and positively prehistoric—they are in fact sprinters in the bird world, able to fly very short distances at very high speed (like up to 55 miles per hour). In time for Turkey Day, I asked Ellen Blackstone of the public-radio show BirdNote to serve up some other turkey tidbits—facts and lore about this plus-sized American bird. [read more…]
I share this piece of land I call my garden with an astonishing range of creatures tiny to large: from insects to black bear. I'm (mostly) glad for their company, and always learn something from every encounter.
BIRDS ARE IMPRESSIVE in the ways they cope with winter, whether by fleeing or toughing it out like the great horned owl (above) on its snow-coated nest. Ever wonder how chickadees find those seeds they stashed for winter use, or just how far south some species will go to spend the offseason? Ellen Blackstone of BirdNote, the daily public-radio show, has the answers, along with some tips on what we can provide to “our” birds in winter. [read more…]
PERHAPS THE CREATURE the gardener knows best is the earthworm, but how deep does that knowledge go? Lately readers have been emailing me sensational headlines about “bad” earthworms, asking: Aren’t all earthworms “good”? To get an earthworm 101, I invited Ryan Hueffmeier, an environmental scientist at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and Director of Great Lakes Worm Watch, to join me on the radio this week. Our Q&A includes some surprises: [read more…]
I READ ABOUT a smartphone app the other day in the newspaper, one that’s meant to help ID things you happen upon while on a hike. Naturalist and author Charley Eiseman is far better company, and I suspect he’d also put apps to shame on other fronts. Charley doesn’t just ID a plant, but also the tiny insect that’s mined a microscopic home between the layers of its leaves, or the fungus making a telltale pattern of brilliant purple stains on their surface—or where it looks like somebody shot a hole clean through another. Amazing. Charley and I went walking together the other day in my garden and the surrounding woods (those are his “tracks” in the photo above), and look at what all we found by slowing down and looking closely: [read more…]