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Archive for November, 2010

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

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is now available from www.trafalgarbooks.com or your local bookseller.

CHRISTMAS FERN (Polystichum acrostichoides)

Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, is one of the most common ferns in eastern North America. It is evergreen and its fronds were formerly used for Christmas decorations. Christmas fern’s name is said to have derived from the fact that it remains green year round, but I like to think it’s because each of the individual pinnae (small leaflets off the main stalk or axis) is shaped like a Christmas stocking.


Vermont Public Radio Interview

Celebrate Thanksgiving with Tom T. and me by listening to "Vermont Edition" on Wednesday, November 24th at 12 noon and 7 p.m.(probably the last 10 minutes of the show), on Vermont Public Radio! Jane Lindholm and I take a walk in the woods and discuss our "finds," including a fisher scent post, porcupine den and black bear scat. If you can't get VPR, you can go to http://www.vpr.net and listen to it any time.


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

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is now available from www.trafalgarbooks.com or your local bookseller.

WINTER MOTHS

This week a cloud of these small, tan male moths of the genus Operophtera were flitting over the dirt road that I live on. The reason I can tell you their gender is that the females are wingless, and cannot fly. Although the exact species in this photograph is undetermined, this genus of moths includes several species which were introduced from Europe and are considered insect pests of deciduous trees, including oaks, maples, beeches, ashes, poplars and fruit trees. The adult moths emerge from the soil in November, and are active until December or January, during which time they mate and lay eggs. The eggs hatch in the spring and the tiny inchworms tunnel into buds and often defolitate branches or entire trees. Four consecutive years of complete defoliation can kill a tree.


Upper Valley Book Signings

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Nov. 17, I am having a book signing at the Norwich (VT) Bookstore at 7 p.m. They limit the number of people who attend, so best to call them before coming (802-649-1114). Saturday, Nov. 20, at 1 p.m. I have a signing at the Hartland Library that is being sponsored by the Hartland Nature Club and the Hartland Library. Come one, call all!


Red Squirrel Middens – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is now available from www.trafalgarbooks.com or your local bookseller.

RED SQUIRREL MIDDENS

In the fall, red squirrels prepare for the coming months of winter by caching supplies of cones and nuts. Sometimes they are piled high at the base of a tree, but often they are buried underground. Frequently red squirrels will choose wet areas in which to bury their cones, as here the cones will remain closed (retaining the seeds which the squirrels will later eat) and stay relatively fresh. When snow accumulates, red squirrels construct a labyrinth of tunnels under the snow, where they are both hidden and protected from the bitter cold. From these tunnels they have easy access to the food they buried in the fall. This photograph is of a red squirrel midden of buried eastern hemlock cones that were dug up and eaten right at the mouth of the hole in which they were placed last fall. All that remains are the cones scales upon which the seeds rested.


Snow Geese – Welcome to a photographic journey through the woods, fields and marshes of New Englandw Geese –

Dead Creek National Wildlife Area in Addison County, Vermont, consists of nearly 3,000 acres of cultivated farmland, wetlands, grasslands, and hardwood forests surrounding Dead Creek, a river which runs north through the Champlain Valley on Vermont’s western border and empties into Otter Creek near its mouth on Lake Champlain. It is primarily a waterfowl refuge, and several dams have been constructed to increase open water and permanently flood wetland areas. Among the 200 species of birds that Dead Creek WMA attracts are the Snow and Canada Geese that stop here for fuel on their fall migration southward. Upwards of 20,000 Snow Geese can be found at Dead Creek around the middle of October feeding in corn fields; you can reliably see them here through November, though not in as large numbers.

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is now available from www.trafalgarbooks.com or your local bookseller.

SNOW GEESE


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

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is now available from www.trafalgarbooks.com or your local bookseller.

OWL PELLET

Thanks to my dog Emma’s acute sense of smell, we located an owl pellet in the woods this morning. It was probably that of a barred owl, given the size and the prevalence of these owls in this area. The pellet appears as a somewhat flattened mass of hair, skulls, teeth and nails (the indigestible parts of the owl’s prey), and not its typical oval shape, due to the torrential rains we’ve had lately – this was not a fresh pellet. Still, you can identify its meal prior to coughing up the pellet – to the left in the picture is one half of the bottom jaw of either a North American or white-footed deer mouse (as a rodent, it has two large incisors at the front of both upper and bottom jaw, good for tackling its omnivorous diet of seeds, berries and insects). Next to it are the upper half of the skull (center) and half of the lower jaw (right) of an insectivorous shrew (note sharp, pointed teeth well-adapted for crunching the hard exoskeletons of insects). Look closely and you can see the telltale purple tinge to the shrew’s teeth.