Natural history

(Cross-posted at Transistions, the Evolution of Life) I spend a lot of time in forests. As an ornithologist, I spend a lot of time looking up in forests. With luck, I see the bird I am searching for. If not,…

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This must be my Saturniidae summer. After experiencing the quiet wonder of the emergence of two Polyphemus and lamenting that I rarely see wild silkmoths anymore, I spotted my first Cecropia in over 20 years, and now I’ve encountered my…

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In part 1 of “invisible birds” I described one of the often-heard-but-rarely-seen species I’ve encountered during my breeding bird atlas work, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. In keeping with the theme of yellow body parts, let me introduce the Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria…

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You rely a lot on your ears when doing bird surveys, especially in the summertime. Thick foliage obstructs views, females are tending nests or young, and unless they are singing from an exposed perch, males may be hard to locate…

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I came across this attractive land snail while doing some gardening. I was curious, as usual. For me, it doesn’t seem right not to know and understand the creatures sharing my property. And while I don’t want to become too…

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As a kid, I used to find caterpillars and raise them to adulthood. Nowadays, I don’t even see many caterpillars. Gone are the days, or so it seems, when every tomato plant had to be monitored for sphinx moth larva…

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Some years I don’t catch many Tennessee Warblers (Vermivora peregrina), but this year seemed to be a good year for them. Their populations surge and wane with outbreaks of spruce budworms (Choristoneura fumiferana) on their northern nesting grounds. The budworms…

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“The soft color tones combine to make a most charming picture of pleasing loveliness. He appears to be a well groomed aristocrat among birds.” So Life Histories of North American Birds author Arthur Cleveland Bent described the Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo…

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Another installment in Things One Finds Under Rotting Logs. It still surprises me that I lived for decades, including a long childhood (not yet complete) spent thoroughly exploring the yard and neighborhood and its more secretive non-human denizens, before I…

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As I mentioned, on Saturday I participated in the North American Migration Count, in which individual counties are scoured by teams of birders each year on the second Saturday in May to produce a “snapshot” of spring bird migration. I…

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