Thursday, June 30, 2022

Wild Side

Wild Side: Our Vineyard bioblitz

0
For centuries at least, there has existed a tradition of amateur study of nature. During the 20th century, observing nature achieved real popularity as a hobby, first in the forms of birdwatching and botany,...

Wild Side: The Breeding Bird Survey

0
For about 20 years now, I’ve spent one morning every June running the Vineyard’s Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) route. Coordinated by the U.S. Geological Survey, the BBS is a continent-wide, long-term monitoring program for...

Wild Side: Hitchhiking grasshoppers

0
My friend Margaret Curtin is a top-shelf naturalist. I closely follow her posts to the “citizen science” platform iNaturalist.org, where she helps me and many others identify plants and where I’m no longer surprised...

Wild Side: Face to face with bees

0
You probably think about bees from time to time. Their role as pollinators has come increasingly into the public eye in recent years, while apparent declines in bee numbers and diversity have focused public...

Wild Side: One for the books

0
There is some really weird stuff out there. Take the insect order Strepsiptera, commonly known as “twisted-wing insects” because of the bizarre wing form shown by adult males. The front wings are knotted up into...

Wild Side: Eastern carpenter bees

0
Pretty much everyone, I expect, has at least a nodding acquaintance with our large carpenter bees. Our sole species, Xylocopa virginica, the eastern carpenter bee, is a conspicuous beast, resembling a very large bumblebee....

Wild Side: The willow

0
Saturday, April 2, could have been disappointing for an insect photographer. True, an early overcast gave way to a strong, early spring sun, and the day looked warm enough. But a cold, persistent northwest...

Wild Side: It’s here!

0
The ebb and flow of the seasons ranks among the most predictable aspects of the natural world. Astronomers can pin, to the second, each solstice and equinox for decades or centuries into the future....

Wild Side: The blue jay

0
For various reasons, I’ve stuck pretty close to home this winter, doing most of my naturalizing in or near our tiny yard in Oak Bluffs. This is not to complain: Like Henry David Thoreau,...

Wild Side: Ode to wasps

0
Amid all the gloom that currently dominates the national media, the New York Times ran a real day-brightener (for me, at least) on Feb. 17. Writing for the “Trilobites” science series, Sabrina Imbler summarized...

Wild Side: Tracking the elusive fox sparrow

0
I wouldn’t call the fox sparrow a rare bird on Martha’s Vineyard. I can’t think of a winter that yielded no records at all of this species, and at times this colorful sparrow can...

Wild Side: To feed or not to feed

2
Longtime readers know my ambivalence about the practice of feeding wild birds. By concentrating birds around an unnaturally rich food supply in a human-modified setting, birdfeeding alters bird behavior, elevates risk of disease, exposes...

Wild Side: Making a strong showing

0
The 62nd annual Martha’s Vineyard Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was held amid drizzle, fog, and an incredibly high tide on Sunday, Jan. 2. My own effort, counting birds from West Chop to Vineyard Haven...

Wild Side: House finches

0
Perhaps the strongest trend evident this fall among the birds frequenting my yard in Oak Bluffs has been a resurgence in the number of house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus). House finches in our immediate neighborhood...

Wild Side: White-throated sparrows

0
An endless source of mirth among birders is the way common names for birds often ignore obvious traits and focus instead on obscure markings. The eponymous tinted tummy on a red-bellied woodpecker, for example,...

Wild Side: Wolf spiders

0
“Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” urges the poet Dylan Thomas. The target of his petulance, I expect, was mortality. But as a bug enthusiast, I feel the same way about winter....

Wild Side: Farms as habitat

0
In addition to pecking out Wild Side columns for the MV Times, my working life includes roles with BiodiversityWorks and the Betsy and Jesse Fink Family Foundation. Both entities share my interest in sustainability...

Wild Side: The buzz on bumble bees

2
Everybody knows what bumble bees are: big, hairy, black-and-yellow insects flitting from flower to flower. At least eight species occur on the Vineyard, with two others known from historical records and a couple others...

Wild Side: Fuzzy fly mystery

0
A typical field season generates more questions than answers for me, producing a lamentable sense of backward progress: As the years go by, questions accumulate, and I feel like I know steadily less about...

Wild Side: Island bees

0
Everybody has received the basic message about native bees: they are ecologically vital, and populations of at least some species have declined markedly, often without an obvious explanation. These are good reasons for learning...