weekend reading: fancy male birds, neonics and monarchs, antibiotic ‘aha’s’

I KNOW: This week’s reading list is heavy on news of the natural world, because that’s where my mind is: outdoors. Snow is shrinking fast in these first few sunny, above-freezing days–so stories of birds, butterflies, toads and even the planets caught my attention. The links:

birdmen: oh, those fancy males

AFTER A DULL, COLD WINTER, I hope some fancy males show up soon (the avian kind, I mean, lest you think I seek my own species of dandy). “Fancy Males” is what Cornell Lab of Ornithology calls its latest section of “All About Bird Biology,” the educational, entertaining and interactive online view into birds’ lives. Explore a world of magnificent plumage and impressive voices and behavior—even from the Southwestern native sage-grouse, North America’s fanciest wild male bird. The video above is just one in a series that starts here. (If you thought human dating was hard work, wait till you see courtship on a grouse lek.)

an offbeat take on winter interest

I PROMISED last week not to say another thing about winter (which thankfully began to recede the last several days). But then I happened on this photo essay, shot at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, by a blogger for “The Paris Review.” Bringing new meaning to the phrase “winter interest.”

the wisdom of doug tallamy (and the chickadee)

ENTOMOLOGIST, wildlife ecologist and author Doug Tallamy of the University of Delaware set the tone for the awakening season with his “New York Times” op-ed called “The Chickadee’s Guide to Gardening.” A must-read. (Want more Tallamy wisdom? The transcript and podcast of our interview from last year.)

neonics and monarchs

NO GIANT SURPRISE, but nevertheless depressing: Research at the University of Minnesota begins to provide links between the insecticides called neonicotinoids—implicated in the death of bee species—and monarch butterfly deaths as well. From Minnesota Public Radio and BeyondPesticides.org.

monarch maptracking monarch migration

MONARCH BUTTERFLIES, their numbers depleted by more than 80 percent over the last 21 years (source: Xerces Society), are beginning the annual migratory journey north from their wintering grounds. Watch their progress on an interactive map from Journey North (or even report your sightings, if you register).

toads’ rebirth at mt. auburn cemetery

PEEPERS PEEP, toads trill. But the latter not so much the last 20 years at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where apparently American toads were no longer present. For three years, tadpoles have been released into the cemetery’s Dell Pond; repopulation seems to be taking hold. The historic landscape garden, founded in 1831, is a must-see for lovers of history, plants, birds—and now perhaps even American toads again.

citizen science is looking up

I’VE WRITTEN about citizen-science projects for counting birds, or monarch butterflies (above), or even dragonflies—where “real people” record observations to help scientists get the bigger picture. But who knew that there were citizen-science astronomer types, too, making valuable discoveries? From WBUR’s “Here and Now.”

lrg_img0008-2the complete audubon prints on display

IF YOU FLEW SOUTH for the winter, be sure to stop at the HistoryMiami museum before migrating back. All 435 prints of John James Audubon’s “The Birds of America” are on display there through May 31—the first time they’ve been shown together this way, and the manner in which Audubon intended them, apparently.

the antibiotic beat

THE HEADLINES seized on McDonald’s committment to serving antibiotic-free chicken within two years, but another story interested me more. Since I don’t eat meat or fast food, and have been told since childhood that I am allergic to penicillin, an op-ed in “The New York Times” on antibiotic allergies—and how they may not indeed be so widespread–was news, as was the existence of a skin test for confirming penicillin sensitivity.

  1. Laura Griffen Dubek says:

    We have attracted Monarch butterflies with a passion vine . They get here around April and stay until October. Hundreds at a time.

  2. john connery says:

    I saw a monarch last year…
    I’m thinking of growing a huge batch of Asclepias Incarnata to give as wedding favors. Hopefully next summer won’t be to late

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