An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Archive for February, 2010

Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England.

Here I’ll be sharing some of my favorite photographs from my forthcoming book Naturally Curious. I’ll be updating my blog periodically with new images, new stories, and more glimpses of New England in all seasons.

SIGNS OF WINTER AND SPRING

This is what my hill top looks like today – but believe it or not, this morning I passed a dead skunk on the road, proving that they think it’s spring. Striped skunks become active in mid-February in central Vermont; the peak of their breeding season is during the third week of March. Between now and then they cover a lot of ground, and, unfortunately, for the next month or so it isn’t unusual to see them lying by the side of the road. I also heard a house finch singing at the top of his lungs (or syrinx) high up in a sugar maple this morning – a definite sign of spring.

To hear his song and see what a male house finch looks like, go to http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/house_finch/id .


Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England

Here I’ll be sharing some of my favorite photographs from my forthcoming book Naturally Curious. I’ll be updating my blog periodically with new images, new stories, and more glimpses of New England in all seasons.

SAP IS FLOWING

All you need to do is take a walk in the woods, especially after the severe winds of the past 24 hours, in order to determine that the sap in trees has started to flow. Whether the result of porcupine debarking or a limb breaking off a tree, sap could be seen flowing freely today, as evidenced by this yellow birch icycle that was in the process of melting when I photographed it. Sugar maple is the tree of choice for most syrup makers, but yellow birch sap has been a source of flavor for beer and wine, as well as for syrup-making. Fresh out of the tree, it has a sweet, somewhat wintergreen taste.


Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England

Here I’ll be sharing some of my favorite photographs from my forthcoming book Naturally Curious. I’ll be updating my blog periodically with new images, new stories, and more glimpses of New England in all seasons.

WHITE-TAILED DEER SIGN

The twenty new inches of snow that fell in central Vermont yesterday certainly didn’t make getting from one spot to another any easier for wildlife.  On top of that, it rained most of the night – I thought I would go out and see who, if anyone, had attempted to travel in these conditions. The tracks of nocturnal creatures would have been obliterated, so I didn’t expect to see much in the way of sign, and, in fact, I only saw the tracks of long-legged white-tailed deer.  It was interesting to note that this much snow did not confine them to winter yards (designated areas where trails are made by deer  in order to save energy and where they usually remain in deep snow conditions).  One deer spent the night under a large hemlock — its bed was distinctly marked with the tracks it made upon rising at dawn.  Deer scat  also was evident on the snow as was its pine-scented urine.  Nearby you could see where it had scratched the ground in hopes of finding ferns, acorns or other edibles.


Welcome to a photographic jouney through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England

Here I’ll be sharing some of my favorite photographs from my forthcoming book Naturally Curious. I’ll be updating my blog periodically with new images, new stories, and more glimpses of New England in all seasons.

CREEPING CRITTERS IN CATTAILS

Much as I discourage the destruction of habitats, I am guilty of doing so in order to share a photograph of cattail caterpillars, larvae of the Shy Cosmet (Limnaecia phragmitella), a slender tan moth, that overwinter inside the fluff of a cattail head.  At this time of year, some cattail heads are still intact, while some are all fluffed out (see photograph).  Cattail caterpillars often inhabit the fluffy ones.  Come spring, they will pupate and emerge as adult moths.



Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England

Here I’ll be sharing some of my favorite photographs from my forthcoming book Naturally Curious. I’ll be updating my blog periodically with new images, new stories, and more glimpses of New England in all seasons.

BROWN CREEPERS SINGING

Brown creepers are small (brown) birds that are often spotted spiraling up tree trunks (as opposed to the downward direction of nuthatches), searching for insects hidden behind bark.  In February the males begin their territorial singing, and today while hiking in a coniferous forest I heard a creeper’s high-pitched tumble of notes above my head.  Brown creepers sing from a verticle position and, according to C. Davis in Living Bird (1978), their song can be heard from as far away as 394 feet.  Brown creeper singing peaks March - May and nest building (behind loose bark) begins in late May.

Brown creepers are small (brown) birds that are often spotted spiraling up tree trunks (as opposed to the downward direction of nuthatches), searching for insects hidden behind bark. In February the males begin their territorial singing, and today while hiking in a coniferous forest I heard a creeper’s high-pitched tumble of notes above my head. Brown creepers sing from a verticle position and, according to C. Davis in Living Bird (1978), their song can be heard from as far away as 394 feet. Brown creeper singing peaks March - May and nest building (behind loose bark) begins in late May.

To hear a brown creeper’s song, go to http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/brown_creeper/id and scroll down to “Typical Voice” on left hand side, click on arrow.


Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England

Here I’ll be sharing some of my favorite photographs from my forthcoming book Naturally Curious. I’ll be updating my blog periodically with new images, new stories, and more glimpses of New England in all seasons.

COOPER HAWK SUCCESS

This winter I happened to be in the right place at the right time – a Cooper’s hawk swooped down out of the blue and nailed a pileated woodpecker (in the air) that I had been watching taking a nap on the trunk of a tree just prior to taking flight.  They are roughly the same size, and it was all the hawk could do to carry the woodpecker into the woods, where  he proceeded to kill and consume it.


Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England

Here I’ll be sharing some of my favorite photographs from my forthcoming book Naturally Curious. I’ll be updating my blog periodically with new images, new stories, and more glimpses of New England in all seasons.

RED FOXES CLEANING DENS


Most authorities will tell you that red foxes don’t use dens in the winter, but a fox down the road has been using one all winter for shelter. Today I decided to check on the den, to look for tracks, scat or scraps of food nearby, and to my surprise found a large mound of fresh dirt and stones outside the entrance. Even though red foxes are breeding now, and not giving birth until late March or April, females are actively cleaning out several dens within their territory and then selecting one for their litter. Keep an eye peeled on hillsides with sandy soil, often in the woods but near a clearing, with a stream or pond fairly close by.