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Nature's Notebook

Gently getting rid of the voles

I have learned something important about moles and voles: Only one of them is damaging my perennial flower beds. 
The eastern mole is insectivorous and eats grubs, earthworms and other insects. The meadow vole eats plants, seeds and tubers. It is especially fond of some of the native wildflowers I have been assiduously establishing for more than 15 years in my gardens. I’ve been falsely accusing the mole of the vole’s handiwork.

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Food profiteering

Walk through a large Stop & Shop or Hannaford’s and you’ll wonder at the unending array of food available. Lots of choices.
It was well before my time, but things weren’t so comfortable in the aftermath of World War I, when food supplies were slim and profiteering was a major concern.

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Watching beloved trees wither and die

My grandfather’s generation lost the American chestnut to an exotic fungus that reduced this once mighty forest giant to old roots and hopeful shoots. 
My parents saw the American elms that used to shade our streets in broad allées felled by the one-two punch of Dutch elm disease and the elm bark beetles that helped to spread it. I am watching the next great killer of trees advancing through the woodlands today, and now that I know what I am seeing, I find it everywhere I go.

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Plastics for thought

We visited the Massachusetts town of Northampton one recent spring Saturday, lunched at an Irish pub, shopped at a used CD shop and emporiums of unnecessary but interesting goods and took in the “Plastic Entanglements” exhibit at the Smith College Museum of Art.
I had low expectations of the art show, given its name, but was pleasantly surprised. 
An international array of artists transformed found plastic objects into fascinating sculptures and “paintings.” 

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One of nature’s great migrations

The Big Night came as anticipated this year, after a warm day with steady rain. Nighttime temperatures dropped a few degrees and the rain tapered off by sundown, but across the region the amphibians took their cue and were on the move.
My son and I went out at twilight, and right away we saw evidence of wood frogs and spring peepers crossing the roadways. 

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Sappy eggs

We visited a maple sugarhouse. The sweet miasma penetrated our winter jackets and we inhaled it for several days. 
It was the first time I’d seen a reverse osmosis machine in use — it removes a percentage of the water before the sap is sent to the wood-fired evaporator to be reduced further into syrup.

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Peepers and early plants say spring is here

In another week, if we have a night with warm rain by then, I’ll be out on a country road helping salamanders and frogs get safely across to their breeding pools.  
There are certain stretches where they concentrate in large numbers, and on the busiest roadways the carnage is really awful. I don’t go to those sites, but I do stake out stretches of road with light traffic where I can do more good and am at less risk of accident myself.  

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How wild birds keep from freezing in winter

We had bird visitors at the feeder when it snowed in December. They disappeared when it rained and the ground was bare. We missed the little buddies: “Boss” Dee and two companions, juncos, Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, nuthatch and tufted titmouse. And a scattering of little sparrows, a woodpecker and mourning doves. One day only, a bluebird showed up.
What do birds do when it’s very cold? 

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Mountain Lions in New England? An Acclaimed Naturalist Discusses their Return

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Rare visitors at the bird feeder

There was a red-breasted nuthatch at my bird feeder this past weekend. I’ve lived in this house since 2002 and this is the first time one of these marvelous birds has paid me a visit. It was about the size of a chickadee or a small wren, and unmistakable with its black eye stripe and rusty red breast. 

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