Wild Side

Wild Side: Oystercatchers

American oystercatchers have an interesting history on the East Coast. Originally, they probably occurred across much of the region, from the Gulf of Mexico possibly as far north as Maine, where John James Audubon...

Wild Side: Summer tanagers

Spring migration is a hit-or-miss proposition for a Vineyard birder. It never brings the sheer volume of birds that fall migration brings, and to a large extent, it takes the unexciting form of the...

Wild Side: Bee happy

As the weather starts to warm in April, one of the first and most obvious groups of insects to become active are the bees. The earliest species are already on the wing; in the...

Wild Side: Hawks and doves

As usual for this time of year, the production of more mourning doves is in full swing in our small Oak Bluffs yard. But it’s not going well. Things did get off to a great...

Wild Side: On the road

Breaking a decades-old tradition of wallowing in seasonal affective disorder and grumbling about late-winter weather on the Vineyard, your intrepid Wild Side columnist and his better half spent the first week of March in...

Wild Side: Wintering with us, the hermit thrush

On Friday the 21st, I surprised a hermit thrush as it fed on multiflora rose berries next to the building I work in. The next day, I spotted one as it darted across Lambert’s...

Wild Side: Phormia regina

Winter, naturally, is a slow season for insect observation, with only a modest variety of particularly hardy or specially adapted species active. Some of these, though, can be plentiful, especially in mild winters like...

Wild Side: Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day might be my favorite holiday. It’s not that I have any particular fondness for rodents. And the six more weeks of winter business is, of course, utter nonsense. But the start of...

Wild Side: A new perspective

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a human being. As such, while there are exceptions, you’re likely more than five feet long and weigh more than 120 pounds. With the exception of decent-size white-tailed...

Wild Side: Unsolved mystery

Ah, there are few things better than a natural history problem solved! A tough ID nailed down, a droll bit of ecology revealed. Such a feeling of accomplishment! About the only thing better is an...

Wild Side: Belted kingfishers

A bit larger than a blue jay, belted kingfishers are chunky birds with a scraggly crest on their head that gives them their regal name. Blue-gray above and white below, males are marked by...

Wild Side: Short-eared owls

I could never pick just one favorite bird. But surely on the short list would be the short-eared owl, a crow-size, brownish bird of tundra, rangeland, and grassland. Once a well-established species in our region,...

Wild Side: Low on the food chain

A high percentage of the meadow voles that I see are in a difficult situation indeed: dangling from the talons of a red-tailed hawk or a northern harrier. Small rodents about the size and...

Wild Side: Stranded leatherback

On Wednesday, Oct. 30, word of a dead leatherback turtle beached on Cape Poge turned up on social media. I was one of several who passed word of the find onto Massachusetts Audubon’s turtle-stranding...

Wild Side: Blue jays

When it comes to migration, the blue jay, among our most familiar and recognizable birds, plays by its own rules. By and large, the species is a permanent resident of most of its vast...

Wild Side: American copper

As the days shorten and the butterfly season begins to wind down, the Vineyard appears to be enjoying an unusually good late-season showing by one of my favorite butterflies, the American copper, Lycaena phlaeas....

Wild Side: On the hunt

Where have you been all these years, Encoptolophus? That’s what I want to know. Clouded grasshopper (Encoptolophus sordidus), a boldly marked, grayish insect, turned up in a bluestem meadow last Saturday as I was bug-hunting...

Wild Side: Counting katydids

When it comes to what’s happening in the natural world, you don’t know what you’re missing. No, really: If you know you’re missing something, you aren’t truly missing it, right? The natural environment around us...

Wild Side: Meadow katydids

When the average person thinks of katydids, which isn’t very often, they likely have in mind the true katydid, Pterophylla camellifolia. A species that is scarce and apparently recently arrived on the Vineyard, it’s...

Wild Side: Wiley robber flies

Everyone knows that evolution can take one basic design for a plant or animal and diversify it into scores, or even hundreds, of specialized life forms. Evident anywhere you look carefully in the natural...