Natural history

The Auk is the journal of the American Ornithologists’€™ Union, and it publishes some pretty dense material. The last few years, it has featured an increasing number of papers on phylogeny, taxonomy, and genetics. This stuff tends to sail right…

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On November 7, 1805, the Corps of Discovery reached the estuary of the Columbia River. Mistaking it for their goal, the Pacific Ocean, Corps co-leader William Clark writes in his journal: “Ocian in View! O the joy!” Although November 7…

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Legions of tiny black and white birds are moving south from Canada in droves. Consider these reports (keyed on the map): Banders in Toronto, at Tommy Thompson Park along Lake Ontario (A on map), band over 200 of these birds…

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Hurricane Wilma, a slow-moving category 4 storm, is currently spinning over Cozumel Island off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It is expected to remain there for the next 24 to 36 hours. At this point, we are all familiar with the damage…

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Any day now, American Tree Sparrows (Spizella arborea) will arrive to spend the winter. They share honors with Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Ring-necked Ducks in being comically misnamed. American Tree Sparrows (tree sparrows for short, although they should not be confused…

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Large aggregations of insects — a crop of periodical cicadas, overwhelming hatches of mayflies, or the sudden synchronous appearance of many colonies of winged ants — are most often a summertime phenomena. But fall can be an excellent time to…

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This is a Variable Cracker, Hamadryas feronia, a member of a mostly Neotropical genus of about 20 species. Variable Crackers are found from the southern U.S. through Brazil, and are one of several species of Hamadryas that can make an…

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I’ve mentioned before that my field site is a typical urban forest, loaded with invasive species. The primary woody invaders are buckthorns (Rhamnus catartica and frangula). I’ve wondered why the mono-patches of buckthorn usually had no litter layer beneath them….

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Dispatch from the road… If you’ve spent time in the neotropics in late fall, chances are you may have seen Urania fulgens, a swallowtailed, diurnal migratory moth (often mistaken for a butterfly), sometimes called the Green Page, or Colipato Verde….

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My constant companion in the garden is a male House Wren (Troglodytes aedon). Naturalist John Burroughs noted that “Probably we have no other familiar bird keyed up to the same degree of intensity as the house wren.” Indeed, as Burroughs…

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