8/13 Change of Fortune

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Last year I would have said this was one of the luckiest Box turtles around. He’s large, bright colored and outgoing. And though he lives in a small nature preserve in the city,  he has an excellent territory with many female turtles around. In my post from 10/16, “Tale of Two Turtles”, I contrasted him with a poor captive boxie that appeared to have been dumped at the LNC. But life has no guarantees, and wild animals have no health care. This past spring, I happened to spot him just emerging from his winter sleep – and it was obvious that something was not right. Read More

8/7 The Trail

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One of the biggest impacts we make on a forest for the sake of enjoying it, is to build a trail through it. Of course other animals make trails too, but they’re intentional, utilitarian. Deer trails gently meander the contours of the landscape, to accomodate much stopping to browse along the way. Recreational trails, on the other hand, are like freeways through the forest, encouraging the hiker or biker to keep moving and effectively notice nothing but the trail itself. Unlike freeways or animal trails, recreational trails often don’t go anywhere in particular (except maybe to a waterfall or a view). Worse, they can damage the very landscape they allow us to appreciate.

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7/30 Is It Time To Kill Your Lawn?

 

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Just another little neighborhood in Portland OR, where residents have happily given up their lawnmowers. I recently survived a family trip to the Northwest with teens, and despite the incredible natural beauty we hiked through, Portland sticks in my mind. This post may seem like a digression from my usual subjects, but there’s a connection. Every little front and back yard is a fragment too, much like our forest on a tiny scale. It’s potential habitat for butterflies, bees, birds, snakes, lizards, box turtles… or it can just be lawn. Read More

7/15 Unwary Bird

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Walking down the trail on one of those dreadfully humid days last week, I was lucky enough to spot this bird. Truthfully, he would have been hard to miss; his attitude of unconcern was striking. I’m pretty sure this is the same Pileated Woodpecker featured in my post from 4/9, “Big Woodpecker” – the one that persuaded me to get a better camera. Read More

7/3 Fledglings

 

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Life is exciting for all young animals – so much to learn, so very fast. Baby songbirds are on a particularly quick timeline; pop out of the nest, learn to fly and feed yourself, or be food for someone else. Bird populations are at their zenith this time of year, but will soon to be whittled down by other hungry mouths. This young House Wren seems to be thriving as it masters the art of staying alive. Read More

6/22 Where the Forest is Reborn…

 

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Elderberry in a gap near trail post #18

….is where the light is. Though I’ve spent much of my life outdoors, especially in forests, there are plenty of things I failed to notice until a forest became my workplace. “Gap dynamics” is one of them; the process by which the forest continually renews itself as old trees die. A light-filled gap is a lively place in the midst of a forest’s somber shade. Full of Jewelweed and other summer blooms, it’s a meetup zone for pollinating insects and those that prey on them. In this forest, the presence of a vigorous blooming Elderberry bush, Sambucus canadensis, always signals a gap. Many little Elderberry shoots spring up throughout the moist floodplain, but only the ones in sunlight can grow fast enough to escape the deer. Read More

6/12 Life is Busy

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It’s Browntail again, and she has a little secret. Yesterday she was acting oddly skittish, and I sensed she really wanted me to go away – probably because it was time to feed her new fawn(s). I haven’t seen them yet, but she has an udder full of milk and she’s looking skinny again.

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6/1 The Best Berry You’ve Never Tasted

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Mulberries that actually taste great, from a tree by the Louisville Nature Center

Right now the forest is alive with the “beads on a string” whistling of Cedar Waxwings. I wanted to include a pic of what they’re doing – gorging on mulberries, but mostly it’s a way-high-in-the canopy sort of party. This social, frugivorous (fruit eating) bird is here because in some parts of our forest, every tenth tree is a mulberry. Desirable as these mulberries are to birds, most of them are not the native Red Mulberry, Morus rubra. Read More

5/22 Opening Pandora’s Box

 

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Cut stumps reveal the plant diversity in this landscape has been narrowed down to nothing but “old growth” Bush Honeysuckle

Working on invasive plants is like managing the behavior of a defiant two year old. One must be consistent and firm in resolve, day after day, for at least sixteen years. Let up for even a little while and you lose a lot of ground. Of course, most two year olds grow up to be some sort of adult, but invasive plants never go away.

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5/10 The Box Turtle’s Predicament

 

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Box turtles mating; the male leans back with feet locked under the female’s carapace

And no, I don’t mean this sort of predicament. In fact, there’s not enough of this going on, and that’s a real problem for turtle populations.  Read More