Wooly bears are on the march. Whether on sidewalks or on trails, you can hardly walk anywhere these days without crossing the path of this favorite fuzzy caterpillar.
There’s something about seeing a wooly bear – so seemingly intent on its destination – that always makes me smile. But sometimes I feel vaguely troubled, too, because I am reminded of the countless mysteries in life that I ponder but never get around to looking up. Mysteries like: Does a blacker wooly bear really foretell a harsh winter? Or is it a browner wooly bear that does that? And how is it even possible for a caterpillar to forecast the weather?
And what the heck is a wooly bear, anyway? Continue reading
Not a birdwatcher? You could monitor turtles!
When a pair of cyclists rode past me on the bike trail recently, I was staring intently into a shrub. Maybe I looked a little bit deranged, standing there with my notebook. I was watching a baby warbler and, frankly, was having too much fun to care what anybody thought. That’s what a citizen science project can do to you. Continue reading
You’ve seen those bumper stickers: “I brake for wildlife.” I’m one of those people who stop for wildlife. But I have a confession: I am as likely to stop for a dead animal as for a live one.
I know: Eeew. But it’s not as unsavory as it might sound. Sometimes we happen upon animals from whom life has only just departed. Aesthetic reservations aside, these encounters provide an unparalleled opportunity to closely examine animals that we usually see only from a distance, if ever. Continue reading
Chip-chip-ch, d-d-d-d-dit. Two sedge wrens echoed each other’s songs in the marshy bottomland near the forks of the Baraboo River. I walked along the bike path, listening and taking notes.
A pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks came zooming down the path toward me, and then veered off into a tree over my left shoulder. The male, black and white with a scarlet bib, perched among the leaves and began to sing. I wrote that down.
Food for the kids.
A few nights ago we heard an unfamiliar sound – a persistent, high-pitched squawk – through the open dining room window. What could it be? A small mammal in its death throes? I padded barefoot around the back yard, listening, and got a surprise: the sound was coming from two directions, maybe more. Back inside, I made a wild guess and a quick internet search, which confirmed my suspicions. We had newly fledged great horned owls in our neighborhood.
The next morning, as I walked upstream along the river, an American redstart flew across my path and into a small tree where she delivered a morsel into the mouth of a waiting baby bird. Another sign of the season. Continue reading