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Matt Pelikan

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Wild Side: Pygmy grasshoppers

One of the stranger insects I’ve encountered on the Vineyard is Nomotettix cristatus, sometimes called the crested pygmy grasshopper. Pygmy grasshoppers in general compose...

Wild Side: Spring brings the red-winged blackbird.

The approach of spring is signaled by a host of changes: longer days, stronger sun, the onset of bird song, plants breaking dormancy. But...

Wild Side: Birding misidentifications

Birders really want to get it right: Correct identification is the central challenge of birding, and especially with less common birds, reports shape our...

Wild Side: Begin with the ring-billed gull

Casual observers often lump all gulls together as “sea gulls,” which infuriates birders, who view gulls as one of the most interesting groups of...

Wild Side: The flies of winter

Insects, of course, are primarily warm-weather friends. And with flies in particular — the order Diptera — summer is rife with familiar examples. Mosquitoes...

Wild Side: Christmas Bird Count

Last Saturday, Jan. 5, I participated in the annual Vineyard Christmas Bird Count, part of a vast national survey coordinated by National Audubon. Dozens...

Where is Martha heading?

If your mind dwells much as mine does on the natural world, it’s easy to give in to despair. Every day brings new insults:...

Wild Side: The red-bellied woodpecker

Things are always changing in the world of wildlife. Sometimes the process is slow and subtle; in other cases, though, things happen more quickly...

Wild Side: The common merganser

Work, medical woes, and off-Island travel have curtailed my birding in recent months, making most of my enjoyment of birds vicarious. I was happy,...

Wild Side: Finches, both true and otherwise

Winter has hit us suddenly and hard this year, with a series of coastal storms and an early onset of cold weather. One could...

Wild Side: Cowpen daisy

When I arrived on the Vineyard in 1997, moving into a relatively new house with conventional landscaping in Oak Bluffs, I knew very little...

Wild Side: The brant are back

Surprises are all fine and well. But one of the most satisfying things about observing nature is the predictable recurrence of events. The planet...

Wild Side: The pearl crescent

Mid-October is nearing the end of the season for butterflies on the Vineyard (indeed, insect life of all kinds is winding down for the...

Wild Side: A snappy fly

Regular readers will know that I have a certain fondness for flies. While some flies are justifiably detested by humans — blowflies and mosquitoes,...

Wild Side: Orthoptera news

We’re still in the peak season for orthoptera — crickets, katydids, and grasshoppers — and the past few weeks have shown that there is...

Wild Side: A naturalist visits America

As much as I love the wildlife of Martha’s Vineyard, I have to admit that mainland America has a lot to offer as well....

Wild Side: Less regal milkweed eaters

Everybody knows the monarch butterfly, that most charismatic of lepidopterans, depending exclusively on milkweed plants to feed its caterpillars. It’s one of the most...

Wild Side: Broad-headed bugs

Broad-headed bugs are fairly large insects, with big individuals approaching an inch in length. The common name for the family comes from the shape...

Wild Side: Erythrodiplax, the lazy dragonfly

I have a special fondness for species that have evolved to exploit conditions that would that would be inhospitable or even harmful to near...

Wild Side: Amphipods’ turn in the spotlight

After decades studying insects, I suppose I’m habituated to noticing things that are too small, too quick, or too inconveniently positioned for normal people...