Thursday, August 13, 2020
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Matt Pelikan


Answers from the Wild Side

Got a question about the natural world?

The duskywing identification challenge

They’re neither helpful nor harmful from the human perspective, and their disappearance would likely have little ecological effect. But I value my acquaintance with them: knowing these insects, I feel like I have a secret perspective on the Vineyard landscape. And the season’s first Juvenal’s duskywing, bopping across a path or clearing, is always a welcome sign that spring is here to stay.

Patience, diligence trump assumptions

These grayish mystery critters were perfectly camouflaged against the sand. Unable to get a decent look, I had no idea what they might be.

It’s a bee; it’s a fly! It’s a bee-fly!

The legs of Bombylius are long and delicate, and protruding from the front end is a fearsome-looking spike that might suggest a blood-sucking habit.


It’s a time when the world still looks dead and it’s hard to imagine any insects stirring, until you look more closely and see that, in fact, a surprising variety of hardy bugs are on the move. Even with frosty nights still lingering, ground beetles like this gnarly black Meloe are out and about, doing their thing.

Mill Brook presentation described the natural possibilities

The Island’s streams have always struck me as a bit incongruous in the Vineyard landscape: cold, gravel-bottomed, and often flowing quickly down fairly steep gradients, they seem like bits of Vermont transplanted to the coast.

Winter wanes, vagrant arrivals wax

Island birders will be out in force, looking for the southern, western, or even Eurasian bird that took a wrong turn.

Turkey vultures have taken hold on Martha’s Vineyard

Twenty years ago they were a true rarity here, but no longer.

Rodents are key players in our ecosystem

Not so likeable, perhaps, but rodents are versatile, resourceful, and necessary.

Intriguing birds can be found, even in bitter cold

The unceasing ebb and flow of migratory bird populations ensure that every season offers specialties that can’t be found at other times of year.

Poet-turns-novelist pens Martha’s Vineyard thriller

Martha’s Vineyard poet-turned-novelist Michael West writes a Shark Tournament thriller.

Rain — one of nature’s main elements

The current composition of rainwater is altering the ecology of our aquatic systems, helping some forms of life, and hurting others.

Five New Year’s resolutions to better appreciate the natural world

Rediscover Martha's Vineyard in 2014, you might be surprised what you find.

Snowy owls put on a show

They have been seen from Gay Head to Chappy and many spots in between.

Partners in oyster restoration

The Nature Conservancy thanks our partners in this past year's oyster restoration project in the Tisbury Great Pond, straddling the Chilmark/West Tisbury town line at the mouth of Town Cove.

Survival of the flimsiest

Kinglets are tiny, a good inch shorter and half as heavy as our black-capped chickadees, and by all rights, they should freeze solid at the first taste of winter weather.

Wild Side: Away at home: the backyard naturalist

You never know what kinds of critters you're sharing the landscape with, and there is always something surprising out there, ready to be discovered.

Tech support for nature lovers

Experts regularly peruse new postings to verify the IDs, making the information on BugGuide almost as reliable as that in old-fashioned, fully edited, paper-based field guides.

Worth their weight in gold

Combined with a goldfinch's small size, plump shape, and twittery flight notes, the roller-coaster flight makes these birds easy to recognize.

The wrong kind of fishing

"I hate the reliance of the shark tournament on expensive boats, expensive gear, and the climate-trashing combustion of vast quantities of fossil fuel."