A favorite winter pastime of mine is to maintain a bird feeding station, observing the visitors, keeping a list of birds that show up each season. I know a lot of folks do the same, so I thought I would share a partial list of the most common birds that drop by my yard and tell a little about identifying them.
Biodiversity is a big deal in ecology circles these days. The dictionary defines it simply as the variety of living things in a particular area or region. Opinions on the importance of biodiversity vary, but to me the loss of any plant or animal species means something’s wrong, and rightfully raises some concerns.
Compared to the other seasons, winters seem pretty colorless, with the leaves off the trees and laying brown on the ground. But through closer observation you can see plants that remain green through the winter, and seeing or perhaps even identifying them can brighten up a winter hike in the woods. What follows are some of the more common green plants you will find in our area.
I may be writing this for myself, because I am a bona fide Type A person. I’m always engaged in some activity, making lists to check off, mind constantly engaged in problem solving or accomplishing some goal… pretty much from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. And worthy things do get done for church, family, and job. But there is a potential cost to all this in the form of exhaustion and burn out, unless you take time and get away to a quiet place and be still for a little while.
When the forest is laid bare each winter there is a tendency to think of it as a bleak and dreary place. But the basic structural skeleton of each tree can be seen at this time, with every branch, twig, and bud visible, thus revealing how it has grown in the past, and how it has prepared for the future. So put on a coat, go outside and go look at a tree.
A lot of folks had their first taste of snow recently, and since snow is more welcome during the Christmas season, I decided to use it as this week’s topic. Trouble is I’ve written several articles about snow in the past, so I had to dig harder to find something fresh to write about. I did find something surprising, that I’d have to classify as weird science. It involves something called heavy water, so prepare to go sub-atomic.
We often come up with mind games to pass time with our grandkids on extended road trips, and being the Christmas season, we recently did a guessing game that involved plants and animals associated with Christmas. It was interesting enough that I decided to share the list and researched how certain plants and animals became synonymous with Christmas.
I grew up using local cedar trees for Christmas trees from farm fence rows, mostly because that’s all there was. But modern commerce has allowed a greater variety of evergreen species available. So that you may be an informed consumer, here is a listing of Christmas tree species and their attributes.
Virginia pine: A popular one for growers due to its rapid growth and ability to take heavy shearing. The foliage is dense with light green needles around 3 inches long; Needle retention is good if obtained reasonably fresh; Fragrance is fair; Cost is usually lower than most.
Indian summer is a name that brings thoughts of balmy, hazy fall days and cool nights. It is a description of weather conditions rather than an actual season, for no dates exist for it. The closest time frame I could find was from Henry David Thoreau, who noted in his diary that Indian summer occurs from September 27 to December 13.
In order to survive, animals have instinctive reactions to the weather, migrating birds being just one example. By knowing how game animals react in differing weather conditions can up a hunter’s chances of a successful kill.
Deer depend heavily on scent to protect themselves from predators. They usually respond to a strange scent by bugging out before hunters get close. Deer move into the wind to better pick up scents. To take advantage of this, a hunter must move and stay downwind of his prey. This can be determined by the old wet finger trick.
To give a nod to it being Halloween season, I thought I’d share some stories that, while not spooky, have enough of the paranormal to be interesting. The stories involve people having a precognition, foreknowledge, of a future event before it happens. Several cultures call this having “a vision” and can come in the form of a dream or just come out of nowhere. There is no explanation for precognition, and I’m a stickler on finding an explanation of how and why things work, leaning heavily on science.
Large trees are a great asset in a home landscape, providing shade, beauty, and added property value. Well cared for yard trees are normally healthy and will provide these benefits for decades, perhaps a century. But trees with health issues can be potentially dangerous. These are classified as Hazard Trees that pose a threat of dropping large limbs or falling over on people or property. Poor tree health can be caused by landowner neglect, insect or disease attacks, old age, and wind or ice storms.
I’ve seen two postings with photos of Fairy Rings on Facebook this week, so there is an apparent outbreak of them, likely caused by all the rain we’ve gotten lately. Fairy rings are those peculiar sprouting up of mushrooms in a well-defined arc or circular pattern. This has caused a lot of myths about their origin to sprout up over the centuries, but there is an explanation as to what’s going on with the rings.