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Immature Little Blue Heron Shows us its Fishing Technique

IMG_8363 three lillies bestI had the pleasure of watching an immature little blue heron fish at Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area.  Little Blues almost never get this far north and when they do, they are usually only found along the coast.  What a treat!  And it posed for some get pictures as well.  Click on images to enlarge.

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Fitzgerald Lake Butterflies!

An endangered Dion Skipper
An endangered Dion Skipper

I celebrated a beautiful morning on the 4th of July at Fitzgerald Lake with Butterfly Club of Western Massachusetts.  Led by Tom and Bill, we went out looking for the Dion Skipper, an endangered butterfly here in Massachusetts.  It can be found on marsh milkweed, especially on the dam.  Success, we found a beautiful specimen hanging out right where they thought it would be.  But along the way, we saw an Appalachian brown, great spangled fritillaries, a monarch butterfly and a caterpillar, and a silver spotted skipper.  As we were leaving, a red admiral showed up on the parking lot to add to the fireworks of the morning!  Remember, if you click on a picture it will expand it:

The group at the dam.
The group at the dam.
The appalachian brown
The appalachian brown
A monarch caterpillar
A monarch caterpillar
A female monarch
A female monarch
a silver spotted skipper
a silver spotted skipper
Another picture of a dion skipper
Another picture of a dion skipper
A great spangled fritillary
A great spangled fritillary
two frits side by side!
two frits side by side!
A red admiral guarding the parking lot...
A red admiral guarding the parking lot…
A splash of fireworks to end the hike!  Thanks Tom and Bill!
A splash of fireworks to end the hike! Thanks Tom and Bill!

 

Things are looking up, its Spring! But also look down!

Look down because there are wonderful early spring wildflowers just asking to be admired!  Take a look, and remember, click the image to enlarge…

Spring Beauty is a cute little flower that ranges from white to almost purple. Native americans cooked their roots like a potatoe
Spring Beauty is a cute little flower that ranges from white to almost purple. Native americans cooked their roots like a potatoe
IMG_5578 spring beauty grove
A grove of Spring beauties.
IMG_5585 spring beauty group
Spring beauty
IMG_5577 spring beauty
Spring beauty
IMG_5406 hepatica
And then there is the incredible hepatica!
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Hepatica
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Hepatica. Click on this image and zoom in!
IMG_5396 hepatica grove
a hepatica grove
IMG_5399 blood root
The blood root catches everyone’s eye!
IMG_5387 blood root with leaves as a jacket
Doesn’t it look like the blood root is using its leaves as a coat?
IMG_5389 blood root grove
A grove of blood root. Sap from the roots is blood red in color. Native americans would use the sap as war paint or to dye baskets.
Blood root keeping warm...
Blood root keeping warm…

Tracking Trees! What?

A yellow birch.
A yellow birch.

I had the pleasure of going out on a hike with my good friend and fellow nature nerd, Michael Wojtech, author of BARK!  Since there wasn’t fresh snow for tracking animals, we decided to track trees!  Its not a simple as it sounds.  They may not move very quickly, well not at all, but there are so many kinds! He gave me a quick tutorial on how to identify four of the many trees we were seeing.  Take a look:

The crackling of a sugar maple, almost like crackling in old china.
The crackling of a sugar maple, almost like crackling in old china.
a yellow birch with its horizontal ridges called lenticels.
a yellow birch with its horizontal ridges called lenticels.
The smoooth bark of the American Beech.
The smoooth bark of the American Beech.
A white ash, notice the intersecting ridges creating diamonds!
A white ash, notice the intersecting ridges creating diamonds!

Tracking at Marble Brook

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Bobcat prints before we entered Marble Brook! Notice the asymmetrical toes and the heel pad with two lobes on the top and three on the bottom. Nice!

IMG_4436 group on the trailI knew it was going to be a great day when we spotted bobcat tracks before we even got to the trail!  Plus a river otter slide as we crossed the bridge.  Then, 10 feet in, we saw great tracks of a porcupine going from a hemlock tree to its den in a culvert.  Over the course of the morning, we saw Deer, turkey, bobcat, and coyote tracks!  And the weather was just stunning!  Thanks everyone for a great hike!  It was sponsored by Kestrel Land Trust.  Below are some pictures, click on them to enlarge:

A bobcat track before we even got to Marble Brook!  Notice the asymmetrical toes with a forward lead toe (Catitude) and the heel pad with two lobes on the front and three lobes on the back.
A bobcat track before we even got to Marble Brook! Notice the asymmetrical toes with a forward lead toe (Catitude) and the heel pad with two lobes on the front and three lobes on the back.
IMG_4429 river otter slide
Here is a river otter slide below the bridge.
IMG_4430 porcupine den
A porcupine den
IMG_4431 turkey
Turkey track.
IMG_4432 group on the field
We found turkey and deer tracks all over the cornfield!
IMG_4435 deer
Here’s a deer track.
IMG_4437 coyote
A coyote track. You may be able to just make out the X in the middle. This is the negative space created by the symmetrical two front and two side toes. Plus the claws are apparent. Remember X marks the spot, Spot marks the X.
IMG_4438 marble brook
Marble Brook!
IMG_4441 raccoon
A racoon track near where I put my remote camera. They kinda look like human feet.
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I was hoping to get pictures of river otter. These are their slides heading down to the brook.
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Scientists have found that river otters are such effective hunters that they only have to hunt 5% of their time. Which leaves 95% of their time to play! In my next life, I want to come back as a river otter!
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Well, the only pictures I got from my remote camera was this curious raccoon.

Tracking at the Bullitt!

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Well, tracking season has officially begun with lots of snow on the ground!  I had the pleasure of hanging out at the Trustees’ Bullitt Reservation with some great people over the weekend.  The program was sponsored by The Hilltown Land Trust and featured a presentation by Laura Marx, forest ecologist for The Nature Conservancy of Massachusetts, focused on the very important Wildlife Corridor in the Berkshires.  The Nature Conservancy has been researching this are for some time now.  Here is a link to a very cool map.  We then went out tracking with Jess Applin, a master tracking who actually worked on the Berkshire Corridor project!  Below is the presentation and some pictures of the hike.  I also set up my remote camera and got some great shots of a hefty raccoon and a beautiful red fox!  Click on the images to enlarge:

Laura presenting about the Wildlife Corridor in the Berkshires.
Laura presenting about the Wildlife Corridor in the Berkshires.

A very cool species map of the corridor.
A very cool species map of the corridor.
Jess Applin out on the trail with our budding trackers.
Jess Applin out on the trail with our budding trackers.
Start tracking young!
Start tracking young!
A very healthy racoon.
A very healthy racoon.

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The red fox!
The red fox!

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The Bullitt in winter...
The Bullitt in winter…

 

David Foster on Conservation in New England

IMG_4303I had the pleasure to video-tape David Foster from Harvard Forest speaking on New England Conservation in the Era of Global Change.  Fantastic!  His presentation was sponsored by Kestrel Land Trust and the Environmental Studies Department at Amherst College.  Check out Wildlands and Woodlands website as well.  I’ve included a couple of very cool graphs below (click on them to enlarge), as well as the video.  Enjoy!

Very cool graph showing the forest cover of New England states from colonial time to now!
Very cool graph showing the forest cover of New England states from colonial times to the present!
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The Northeast is heating up faster than any other region of the country! Yikes!
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Incredible goals from Wildlands and Woodlands.
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Percent of land protected from development by state.

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Coming Soon: On the Plains of the Serengeti…of Florence!

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An eight point buck was hit by a car on Ryan Road so I set up my remote camera.  I’ll be working on a Nature Nerds Short on Bobcats!  The video will focus on the natural history and give tips on tracking.  Remember, click on any of the images to enlarge, Enjoy!
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Doesn’t this one look like a female lion on the Serengeti Plains!?
Always on guard!
Always on guard!
A coyote stopped by for a meal.
A coyote stopped by for a meal.
But interestingly, the bobcat was more dominant than even this large coyote and drove it away!
But interestingly, the bobcat was more dominant than even this large coyote and drove it away!
I love the black and white backs of its ears! I wonder why these colors evolved when everything else is designed to camouflage?
I love the black and white backs of its ears! I wonder why these colors evolved when everything else is designed to camouflage?
Bobcats have extra rods on their retina's with an added layer of reflective cells to increase depth perception in the dark. That's why their eyes glow from this infra-red camera. Did you know that bobcats are color-blind? They can only sees shades of gray!
Bobcats have extra rods on their retina’s with an added layer of reflective cells to increase depth perception in the dark. That’s why their eyes glow from this infra-red camera. Did you know that bobcats are color-blind? They can only sees shades of gray! I love their black-tipped bobbed tail (hence their name).