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Nature's Notebook

Young birders

Nature's Notebook

Young birders
A couple weeks ago we ran our Audubon Bird-a-thon. It’s a typical “-thon” in most ways, but instead of collecting pledges for how many miles we walk, people pledged based on how many bird species our various teams saw. Here in northwest Connecticut, with among the highest diversity of breeding birds in the country, we can often accumulate quite a list.

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The (bird) band plays on

Nature's Notebook

What a difference a week makes. My wife and I went out of town for a few days. When we left, brown was still the predominant color. When we returned, green was sprouting up all over! The buds had broken on most trees and young leaves were emerging in every direction. Daffodils were in full color and the smell of freshly cut grass was in the air. This all happened in a matter of days, or so it seemed.
The symphony of bird song that had just started when I wrote my Nature’s Notebook column two weeks ago is now in full volume, with all the players contributing to a melodious fanfare.

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Now is the month of Maying

Nature's Notebook

Spring is now in full swing. Kestrals and kingbirds swoop and soar above the meadow. The woods are awash in wildflowers, and the grass in my yard is full of violets and dandelions. The apple trees outside my window host furtive warblers and flashing orioles.
The blooms of bloodroot have already come and gone, to be replaced by trillium and columbine and wild geraniums as the season advances. Marsh marigolds quiver like yolks in the swampland, and in deep secret places the tips of yellow lady-slippers have emerged from the fens and will grace the next few weeks in golden glory.

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First fruits

Nature's Notebook

There is a hemlock tree on Factory Brook in Cornwall with bark that looks as if it’s been gone over with a giant rasp. The outer bark has been chipped away like kernels on an enormous cob of corn, with the bits lying in a great heap by the tree roots. The tree will survive, and so will the very satisfied porcupine that feasted on its soft inner layers.

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Signs of the Season

Nature's Notebook

Well it’s finally here. After a cold snowy winter, the signs of warmer weather and green surroundings are upon us. Don’t get me wrong; I like winter, and this last one was one of the best I can remember in a long time. OK, I hear you grumbling, but you have to admit that there is something beautiful and peaceful about our hills covered in snow, the shadowy blue tinge of the farm fields with their wind-swept drifts and our streams with water just barely visible through the extended banks of snow and ice.

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Spring fever

Nature's Notebook

The water is high, and with all the snowmelt I can see bare ground for the first time since the turn of the year. The frozen earth has a skin of deepening mud, as those who travel our unpaved country roads will discover anew as the weather warms in the coming weeks.
I can remember mud season from when I was growing up in Millbrook, N.Y., when dirt roads became impassible to anything smaller than farm machinery, and these left deep gummy ruts, rimmed overnight with brittle ice teeth.

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Extinction of the Eastern Cougar

Nature's Notebook

I thought writing a column on the recent announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that the Eastern Cougar was extinct would be easy; the cougar was here and now it is not. Simple; 20 minutes and I would be done.
Wrong! Aside from the usual confusion over the common name for the same animal (cougar, puma, catamount, mountain lion, etc.), what I did not count on was the disagreement among scientists on species and subspecies names.

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Butternut syrup

Nature's Notebook

There is a sad, shabby butternut in my backyard. Like virtually all of its kind since a devastating fungus took hold across its range, it festers with weeping cankers, and a number of its branches are bare and broken. The diseased wood beneath the bark is probably dark and spongy, which is a real shame for a lovely furniture wood, and it makes me sad for the tree.
Still, it has been this way for nearly a decade and it struggles on from year to year.

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