Showing posts from August, 2016
NATURE NEWS The white oak is full of strength and beauty published August 24 2016 in The York Weekly/Portamsouth Herald, etc. One of Aesops’ more famous fables, “The Oak and the Reed,” goes like this: "A very large
Oak was uprooted by the wind and thrown across a stream." It fell among some Reeds, which it thus addressed: "I wonder how you, who are so light and weak, are not entirely crushed by these strong winds." They replied, "You fight and contend with the wind, and consequently you are destroyed; while we on the contrary bend before the least breath of air, and therefore remain unbroken, and escape. The moral: stoop to conquer" (from Project Gutenberg, translation by George Fyler Townsend). As a kid I always liked the plucky little reed in this fable, you’re supposed to. I still like the reed but I love the uncompromising strength of an old oak tree. Those huge, ancient, cracked but not completely broken behemoths that inhabit our woods are wonderf…

Keay Brook Preserve Walk part 1: MADCapHorse, Northern Red Oaks and Wolf Pines

Nature Walk
Keay Brook Preserve Nature Walk I recently led a nature walk for the North Berwick Historical Society at the newly-opened Keay Brook Preserve .  This Great Works Regional Land Trust property comprises a total of 86 acres on the Salmon Falls River in Berwick.  The Keay Brook Preserve contributes to a total 229-acre block of conserved land along the Salmon Falls River-instrumental in protecting water quality and wildlife habitat.  

In this post I will attempt to reproduce our discussion as we walked the 1+ mile trail (in a clockwise direction).

Parking Lot
We began in the parking lot with a discussion of tree identification--I'm no expert, but know some basic rules to begin any identification of trees.  First thing is to decide whether a tree is a conifer (needle-bearing) or broad-leaved.  Second thing to look for is whether the branches are arranged in an opposite or alternate fashion.  Opposite means two branches come out from one node-opposite to each other.  Alternate…
NATURE NEWS Has this sea jelly made you  nervous about swimming?.... Fear not! published August 13 2016 in the York Weekly/Portsmouth Herald/Foster's Daily Democrat I was out on the beach at Plum Island a week ago and found a weird jelly-mass washed up in the sand. At first glance squid eggs came to mind, but that seemed somehow far-fetched, so my beach-combing friend and I decided it was a dead jellyfish. This thing was huge — over a foot in diameter, and did look like some sort of upside down jellyfish with short, fat tentacles. We were worried about getting stung so, unfortunately, didn’t prod it or try to turn it over. I snapped some close-ups of its “tentacles” and we left it. It bugged me though. I wanted to know what it was, so I looked through photos of possible jellyfish found in the Gulf of Maine. I couldn’t find a likely candidate so broadened my search to include squid eggs and found a match. This killed me — we could have picked it up, we could have tried to save the…
NATURE NEWS Slipper shells are comfortable settling on rocksPublished August 9 2016 in the York Weekly/Portsmouth Herald/Fosters Daily DemocratWe are coming into that perfect window of summer when the greenhead season is over and thoseof us who live near salt marshes can go outside again. The days are warm and breezy, the beach beckons. This time seems all the more wonderful because fall is in the air and we know these days are numbered.

While tide-pooling we found limpet-like creatures clinging to the rocks. These were slipper shells, one of my favorite snails, because they look like slippers, have an incredibly interesting life cycle and bear one of the few scientific names that I have managed to remember from my early days in marine biology. The common slipper shell looks like a flattened snail that has lost its spiraled shell in favor of a smooth cap. Somewhere between 20 and 100 million years ago snails with coiled shells uncoiled their shells and gave rise to slipper shells and…
NATURE NEWS 'Dead crabs' on beach are often just old exoskeletonsWhen my kids were little, one of their favorite things to do at the beach was to go crabbing - nothing official, no crab pots or bait, just their hands turning over rocks. As they got older they graduated to string with a hot dog off the dock. They’d always let the crabs go. They went crabbing because crabs are cool little animals, are fun to "race" and are a little scary to handle.  My kids learned early on the right way to pick them up to avoid getting pinched.
The crab-related question I get most often is about all those dead crabs that wash up on the beach, their little bodies tangled in the wrack-line. The amazing answer to that question (at least to me) is that more often than not those aren’t dead crabs but rather their shed exoskeletons. Crabs belong to a group of invertebrates (arthropods) that have rigid exoskeletons, which provide protection, are the attachment points for muscles (analogous …