Archives for posts with tag: natural history

The story unfolds revealing all kinds of surprises. But if you don’t look around for a week or two in May, you miss it. This May I was obsessed with tree blossoms. One day I ran excitedly from Beech flower to flower; for the first time in my life I saw their bloom. At first I didn’t understand what I was seeing… many flowers hanging down and one pom pom like flower coming up in the other directions. Then I got it: The male flowers drooped down and the females flowers bloomed upward, pistils to the sky.

Last Sunday I hiked through a hemlock forest to a sunny hilltop. I looked at one oak tree and saw many inhabitants. There was a hole with mysterious scat, many lichens, some fungi, and inside a crevice there was a group of beetles sheltered from the cold. They appeared to be dark fireflies. Similar to light producing fireflies but with no light producing organs, these beetles live through the Winter. A tree is more than a tree. We are all more than ourselves.

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Photo by Rebecca Arnoldi

Thanks to the Boston Mycology Club and our fearless leader, Lawrence Millman, sixteen of us braved cold air and strong winds to see all kinds of fungi that are able to survive the drying cold winds. Most, like this Olive-toothed Polypore, inhabit wood. Wood holds more moisture than the ground does, and the real challenge of freezing temperatures and cold winds is the lack of moisture *( *Lawrence Millman)

DSCN4161 I would say no, a pigeon is no less beautiful than a thrush, or any other bird. Yet when I see a thrush, or other less common bird,  I might watch it more attentively, with more excitement. We are fascinated with the exotic. . Down South on the rivers of South Carolina and Georgia I watched the Brown Pelicans dive for fish, fascinated with what is for Southerners along the coast a common bird. They fly up, scan the water for fish, dive down into the water after after their prey, swallow, and float for a few moments, and repeat.When they dive, they remind me of a cartoon character.DSCN4138 It seemed courageous and skillful. I watched an adolescent pelican and indeed, it seemed that diving for fish does take  more than instinct… there were a lot of failed tries and the dives were not as spectacular.The adults were in breeding plumage, so attractive, I wondered if I was a pelican in a past lifeIMG_0193IMG_0197

This has been a difficult Winter in New England. More for wildlife than for us. Snow storms kept coming, taking away heat, food sources, shelter, water. I ran into some of those that didn’t make it along the muddy river… a Black Duck and a Mallard.IMG_1538IMG_1152  One day after passing those past, I entered the museum and saw Kathe Kollwitz’s sculpture of a young girl in death’s grip.  Later I walked outside, by the river, and saw a female Mallard, looking very weak, with a male staying close and seeming to support her along.IMG_1308IMG_1309. Winter is a time of loss. Those that don’t die may hibernate or remain dormant. After loss, sometimes there is a pause before new life emerges. This pause, between Winter and Spring, is for some the most challenging time. It is when we feel the loss, but the new life seems still abstract and elusive. I think this is the time that we need to let our dreams burn bright… let ourselves be completely immersed in what is clear, deep and ready to flower inside us. Barbara Kingsolver writes,” The sky was too bright and the ground so unreliable, she couldn’t look up for very long. Instead her eyes held steady on the fire bursts of wings reflected across water….” Here’s to the hopes and dreams…  we can let them grow strong inside us.  Spring and its fertile ground will soon be ready to welcome animals, plants and our truest dreams to live and flourish.

 

I lay under the Maple tree in a  yoga stretch my breath keeping rhythm. Suddenly a titmouse landed on the privet bush beside me. It began squawking loudly. I lay still, but watched and listened as the bird continued to squawk agitatedly. Another titmouse came over to check out the scene. Then three chickadees came in. Then a  White Breasted Nuthatch,flew to the Maple, walked down it toward me, came in close…they all called, seeming to support the riled up squawker. S/he came over to the Maple, just above my head. We looked at each other; I looked into eyes big, dark, beady. Are you telling me something? Or telling your companions about me? It seemed like  the birds were actually going to perch on me. I moved and they flew off … I wondered, what this bird’s message could be. Did it think I was dead? ;a potential source of insects to eat? Did it think I was in trouble and altruistically trying to notify others to help me? The message I took was this- this old Norway Maple, a tree we have considered cutting down , is old, considered a “weed tree” and could fall on our house. Yet it is full of life and possibility, especially for insect-eating birds like the chickadee, Nuthatch and Titmouse. I took the visit as a plea to leave the tree standing- let it die slowly- let life continue on inside and around it as long as possible… perhaps even after its death, (as dead trees actually have more biomass than live trees and provide great habitat for cavity nesters). And look at yards as habitat. They are home for urban and suburban dwelling wildlife. May we preserve green space in the city. Maybe this was not what the titmouse was saying, but it’s the message I took. Tufter TitmouseNatural history note: Titmice and Nuthatches live mostly off Acorns in Fall and Winter ( there is an oak in the yard) Titmice form long-term pair bonds ( so it could have been a couple). Titmice, nuthatches and chickadees  form mixed species flocks outside of breeding season for enhanced feeding purposes…

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