1/2/21 Lickers and lurkers

Though the winter forest looks bare and uninviting to humans, it’s a haven for avian visitors from the north. Two in particular caught my attention this past week – but it’s doubtful I would noticed them had they not been vocalizing. Both Yellow-bellied sapsuckers and Winter wrens blend very well into their habitat, but also call or sing regularly in winter making them easy to find.

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11/17/20 Sugar in the Treetops

I tasted some hackberries yesterday. Like the other hackberries I’ve tried they were very dry but remarkably sweet, like figs. Finding them helped solve a puzzle I’ve been mulling over, and relieved my guilty conscience.

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11/7 Pickers and Gleaners

A White throated sparrow forages in the leaf litter.

The season of easy bugs is over; flycatchers, tanagers, swifts and swallows have all headed south. But a new wave of avian eaters recently arrived, and there’s still plenty of food in the forest for those adapted to use it.

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10/26 The Urban Wild

People walk the trail chatting, laughing, looking at their phones. I lurk off the trail in dense undergrowth, working on some forest project. A branch snaps and heads jerk my way in surprise, even fear – what is a human doing off the trail? I greet them, showing my official green shirt and all is well. But in this most urban of Kentucky’s state nature preserves there is an invisible boundary line between the trail and the forest.

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10/1 Hummer heaven

A white dusting of jewelweed pollen coats a young male Ruby-throat’s forehead.

There is one sure place to find Ruby-throated hummingbirds during fall migration – a jewelweed patch. But the yellow flowered Pale jewelweed Impatiens pallida won’t do, only the bright orange blooms of Spotted jewelweed I.capensis. It’s an ancient relationship, finely tuned over time to suit each partner’s needs.

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9/8 the Fruiting forest

Most Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) berries are all red; this one plant appears to have unique genetics.

Perhaps the word “forest” should be a verb, not a noun. From the first tiny Black locust trees pioneering an old field, to a centuries old Sugar maple and Beech forest, there is continual change. Disturbance of course accelerates the process, and this little forest has been changing on the fast track over the past ten years, thanks to invasive plant removal and the Emerald ash borer.

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8/24 Two young Birds

This young female Pileated woodpecker is almost the size of an adult, but still has some of that “baby” look about her

Young birds lucky enough to survive the egg, nestling and fledgling parts of their lives are now juveniles. Though they look a lot like adults, they’re only a few months old at most, and many will soon be facing a long migration south. It’s a precarious life for young birds, needing to learn not only how to find food and escape predators, but also navigate in a world full of of human hazards. (Many window strikes at this time of year are juveniles).

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8/16 I Take Pictures To See


There is nothing ordinary about the predatory Robber fly (this one is in the genus Diogmites). But I did not realize they had such amazing feet – spiny with claws and fleshy pads called pusilli.

But of course, everyone takes pictures to see something. Kids, cars, dogs, houses, birds, landscapes, cats, babies, sunsets, ourselves – we are endlessly saturated with images of what we like (and what we don’t). Our first response to most anything is to point a phone at it, but could it be this habit is actually lessening our powers of observation? Read More

7/23 She’s a Survivor


The first time I met this turtle was about eight years ago. We were walking in the forest with our then pre-teen children and trying to get them to take an interest in their surroundings. So we offered five dollars to the first one who spotted a Box turtle. I already knew a goodly number of boxies lived in this little forest, and was not surprised when ten minutes later my son yelled in triumph upon finding this big old female. Read More

7/5 Spring is a Birdy Memory


Young male Indigo bunting in a grapevine tangle

It was a glorious spring, long and cool as it rarely is in the Ohio valley. The woods were filled with singing birds and families with nothing else to do. Warblers, thrushes and other neotropical travelers rested and foraged, affording a rare chance to see the many birds that don’t nest here. Read More