When it comes to winter in the North Country, brown is not beautiful. Climate change has brought sudden and extreme fluctuations in weather along with a dramatic decline in the amount of snowfall that blankets the ground. This is especially marked in the Northeast, where winter is warming faster than the national average. [Read more…] about The Effects of Our Decreasing Snow Cover
Last February, several evening grosbeaks, which we rarely see here, visited our bird feeder. About the size of robins, the males were yellow with black and white wings, a black tail, and a bright yellow band above the eyes.
The females were silver-gray with tinges of yellow and similar coloration to the males on the wings and tail. Both sexes sport a massive, conical bill – the origin of the name grosbeak – used for extracting and cracking seeds. [Read more…] about A Tale of Two Grosbeaks: Colorful Winter Finches
Now that white-tailed deer hunting seasons have ended throughout most of New York State, it may be tempting to begin feeding deer to “help” them through the winter.
However, feeding deer during the winter or other times of the year is unnecessary, prohibited in New York, and can have very negative consequences for deer, your neighbors, and surrounding wildlife habitat. [Read more…] about Consequences of Feeding Deer in the Winter
In her poem “It Sifts from Leaden Sieves,” Emily Dickinson lauds the sublime beauty of snow – gossamer flakes that garnish a forest, wispy grains that infiltrate nooks and crannies, and wind-sculpted rings of snow around fence posts.
Given that the poet lived in a time before cars and stayed in her bedroom for 20 years, she never had to shovel snow, trudge through it, or drive in it. One is less apt to admire “alabaster wool” when the plow wings a mountain of it onto the driveway you just shoveled. [Read more…] about Think Snow – Gardens and Forests Need It
Bright red, soft, and velvety … no, I’m not describing a Valentine’s Day decoration, but a red velvet mite. Built like eight-legged, scarlet Beanie Babies, red velvet mites are hard to miss, even though most of them are no bigger than an eighth of an inch long. They are arachnids in the family Tombidiidae, so their relatives include spiders and ticks. [Read more…] about Red Velvet Mites in Winter
I watched the 1993 film Groundhog Day featuring Bill Murray at least a dozen times. Or maybe it just felt that way. Just as February 2 was on a nonstop loop in the film, this year’s iteration of Groundhog Day is likely to feel roughly the same as all the previous ones.
I think it’s a good metaphor for this time of year, as we stumble out each morning in the semi-dark to defrost the car, not even sure what day of the week it is. We probably don’t have the energy for an exciting holiday right now. [Read more…] about Groundhog Day, Again: A Woodcuck & Whistle-Pig Primer
Do you have a tree that needs pruning? Winter is a great time to make any necessary cuts. Not only is it easier to assess a tree without its leaves, but pruning when insects are not active helps lower the risk of a fungus or disease entering the pruning wound. [Read more…] about Need to Prune a Tree? Now Is a Good Time
In mid-winter 1988, I went contra-dancing at the Congregational Church in Lyme, New Hampshire. During intermission, I joined other dancers who stepped out of the overheated hall into a star-studded night alive with shimmering waves of color, from blue to pinkish-red. Westood in awe, while luminous curtains of light performed a pas-de-deux [a ballet dance duet] across the arch of the sky dome. [Read more…] about The Phenomenon of Winter Light
Not far from my parents’ house in Wellfleet, MA is the pedestrian-accessible Great Island. Part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, it draws both hikers and birders. My mother, an enthusiastic birder herself, says the birds most commonly seen there at this time of year are migratory waterfowl (Red-breasted mergansers, White-winged scoters and Common loons) as well as shore birds such as the Black-bellied plover, the Greater yellowlegs and the Sanderling.
Last October however, a young scientist-turned-science writer named William von Herff, spotted an Eastern meadowlark. [Read more…] about Washington County Grasslands Winter Birds
Most winters, a few sparrows visit my yard, feeding on the seeds I scatter on the ground near my bird feeder. These particular sparrows have long tails, rusty crowns and eye-lines on their gray heads, and a distinctive dark breast spot. Looking more closely, I’ve noticed buff-colored patches on the sides of their pale breasts, two white wingbars, and streaked brown backs.
These birds are American tree sparrows (Spizelloides arborea), so named by European settlers who were reminded of Eurasian tree sparrows back home. [Read more…] about American Tree Sparrows: Hardy Winter Visitors