Monday, December 5, 2022

Wild Side

Wild Side: Insects are still out there

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As November winds down, bugwatching likewise grows slow. All of the Island, by this point, has had at least one hard frost, killing many invertebrates. And even without a frost, many insects have simply...

Wild Side: Aging naturalist

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As a kid, I had astonishing vision. I can remember standing in our driveway and seeing with perfect clarity a wrought-iron filigree on a mailbox post 200 yards up the road. As a young...

Wild Side: Weird wasps

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As you will have gathered by now, there isn’t much about insects that doesn’t interest me. These animals, primitive by some measures but highly evolved by others, are endlessly fascinating in the variation of...

Wild Side: Survival of the fittest

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I write this column under the optimistic assumption that the Drought of 2022 is in the rear-view mirror. September and the first half of October brought some serious rain to the Vineyard, mitigating the...

Wild Side: Sometimes no-kill insect studies don’t work

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A lifelong lover of wildlife of all kinds, I avoid killing anything. I brake for turkeys and squirrels; spiders, and stinkbugs, and crickets that turn up inside our house get reintroduced to the great...

Wild Side: Andrena nubecula

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Yellow is the signature color of Martha’s Vineyard in late September: goldenrod is blooming everywhere! These members of the aster family — somewhere around 20 species and forms are known from the Vineyard —...

Wild Side: The cicada that sang in the morning

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On Thursday, August 25, I met with high school science teacher Anna Cotton to discuss a natural history classroom project she’s developing. We briefly toured a likely site for the fieldwork portion of that...

Wild Side: Eastern tiger swallowtail

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This has, by and large, been a pitiful season for butterflies. As I wrote in my July 12 column, I believe butterfly numbers in general are in steady decline on the Vineyard, and in...

Wild Side: Leafcutter bees

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With more than 180 species in nearly 30 genera, the bee fauna of Martha’s Vineyard presents an amazing diversity of appearance, life history, and ecology. It also presents the observer with a wide range...

Wild Side: The Carolina grasshopper

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The Carolina grasshopper, Dissosteira carolina, ranks among the most common species of Orthoptera on Martha’s Vineyard, and also among the most easily found and recognized. With notable regularity, the first adults take wing around...

Wild Side: Where are the butterflies?

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Among the most common wildlife questions that I get these days runs about like this: “I’m hardly seeing any butterflies. Are their numbers down?” It’s a question to handle with care. A lot of factors...

Wild Side: Our Vineyard bioblitz

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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,...