Thursday, October 22, 2020
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Wild Side: Pine siskins coming to feed

One of the more exciting types of avian events is a finch irruption — a large-scale movement of one or more finch species south of their usual range, usually in fall or winter, and...

Garden Notes: Taking the long view

I like the thought, “The wind is the forest’s pruner.” The piles of leaves, twigs, and branches raining down in these gales of wind are assets to bank in compost bins, tumblers, piles, and heaps,...

Wild Side: Changing seasons

As autumn progresses and the natural world begins shutting down for winter, I like to play a game of “the last X of 2020.” The last chimney swift. The last meadow katydid. The last...

Garden Notes: Fall finish-up

The seasons come and go in their sequence, and now it is autumn. Gardening too is a series of sequences, both gardening for ornament and gardening for food, through our circle around the sun....

Wild Side: Predatory beetles

While I have my favorite places to look for insects, I’m always alert for habitats that look like they might hold something interesting. This tactic recently took me onto a vacant lot in Edgartown,...

Garden Notes: Fall weather

The Island has been lucky so far; even luckier would be to receive rainfall — nothing more — from a passing tropical disturbance. If you contemplate donating to relief efforts, and there are many,...

Wild Side: Long-winged katydids

The straight-lanced meadow katydid, Conocephalus strictus, is a very common insect on Martha’s Vineyard, inhabiting dry habitats with a mix of grasses, other herbaceous plants, and, often, low shrubs. In favorable habitats, I sometimes...

Garden Notes: Golden September

Reds and russet prevail later on; the color of the present is golden. The light’s quality shifts to golden tints. Beautiful September days themselves seem golden; we sense their inherent ephemerality. Yellowed leaves scatter...

Wild Side: Katydids

A green insect with very long antennae and long hind legs gets posted on social media with a request for identification. “Katydid” is inevitably a quick reply. It’s usually an answer that is both right...

Garden Notes: Dry gardening

We wanted more — we would be at Illumination Night, the fair, the O.B. fireworks. We would be buying back-to-school clothes. We would be putting our children and summer friends on the boat. Nope. The...

Bee happy, they’re flower lovers

The wasp genus Philanthus is blessed with an appealing name: it means “flower lover” and refers to the fondness members of the genus have for feeding on flowers. They’re not unique in this, of...

Garden Notes: Protecting your garden

Meadowsong and the trill of cicadas are the sounds of summer’s turning. Bats at dusk keep places lucky enough still to have them remarkably free of mosquitos. Flowerheads of Queen Anne’s lace decorate tawny...

Wild Side: Counting butterflies

Perhaps the type of wildlife inquiry I receive most often is about abundance: “Butterflies (or birds, or dragonflies) seem especially scarce (or especially common) this year. Are their numbers declining (or increasing)?” These are fair...

Garden Notes: Sunlit pollinator love

The heat has hit: I stand in hot sunshine near a patch of last season’s leeks. Their tall stems list crazily, spherical pink and lavender flowerheads abuzz with insects. You would not believe their...

Wild Side: Metamorphosis

Most everyone knows the basics of insect metamorphosis: It’s the way a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. We don’t often think, though, of how thoroughly the fact of metamorphosis governs the lives of insects....

Garden Notes: Oh, July!

The Fourth of July Island garden of 50 years ago was a limited palette of tawny daylilies, rambler roses ‘Excelsa’ and ‘Dorothy Perkins,’ honeysuckle, and privet. Oakleaf hydrangeas make superb hedges and backdrops, and...

Wild Side: Robber flies

Among my favorite groups of insects are the robber flies, the predatory members of the family Asilidae. Ranging in length from a half-inch or so to well over a full inch, these formidable hunters...

Garden Notes: Solstice days

Summer is officially here, with the summer solstice this year on June 20. Fireflies announced the fact a little earlier: They have flashed for almost two weeks. Trees are in full foliage, which now...

Wild Side: Fledgling season

However screwed up the world may be, certain things keep chugging reliably onward. Pandemic? Protests? Birds don’t care. Their focus is elsewhere, and their lives proceed in a totally predictable way. Mid-June is fledgling season....

Garden Notes: Lovely June

“A garden that is designed only to look pretty barely skims the surface of what landscapes can offer.”  –Toby Hemenway, “The Gardener Says” June is the month when even the smallest, unpretentious garden has something...