Showing posts from September, 2016
Nature News
Catch shearwaters before they migrate southby Sue Pike the York Weekly/Portsmouth Herald/Foster's Daily While in college in the early 1980s, I spent a summer out a the Isles of Shoals taking the Field Marine Research class. It was a great course, we helped band birds, studied tide pools, scuba-dived in the cold Atlantic water and learned about the raucous gull colonies that made walking on some parts of the island a perilous venture. One of my favorite things was a whale watch - I had never been on one. This was a long time ago, but two things stand out crystal clear in my memory of that trip: the humpback whales feeding, breaching and diving right next to the boat and the shearwaters flying low over the waves.
The whales were certainly awe-inspiring, but I have to say that the shearwaters captured my imagination more than any animal I have ever seen. I love the way they fly. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the term “shearwater” refers to “any of numerous oc…
Nature NewsHow a pitcherplant catches its dinnerby Sue Pike The York Weekly/Portsmouth Herald/Foster's Daily Democrat
I experienced the exhalation of nature last week.  I was in a bog in  Farmington NH, crouched down low over a patch of brilliant scarlet and chartreuse pitcherplants, trying to take photos into their water-filled orifices (yes we had just had rain for the first time in a long time!) in the hopes of catching one of these carnivorous plants slowly consuming some luckless insect.   My camera lens kept fogging up and I realized it was caused by condensation of the water vapor evaporating out of the pitcherplant---not a true exhalation, but something close.

Because of the drought I was able to walk out into the bog, much further than I normally would have without hip waders. While the soil still held enough water for the ground to be damp, it lacked its normal squishiness-the water level should be near the surface in most bogs, in the midst of a drought it is not (the ter…
Nature NewsPuffballs: Mushrooms that house powdery sporesBy Sue Pike I really like puffballs, not the huge football-sized ones that are starting to show up in the lawns around my house (those are very cool) but rather the smaller, ping-pong sized ones that grow in the woods. The ones that ask you to touch them and shoot a puff of spores up and out into the world. Puffballs are an interesting group of mushrooms (the Gasteromycetes) that instead of exposing their gills and forcibly expelling spores into the wind, rely upon external forces to release and disperse the spores from the mushroom. Puffballs, as the name suggests, are typically spherical, ball-shaped or often pear-shaped mushroom that houses a mass of powdery spores inside. Most fungi that we typically call mushrooms are the reproductive part of a much larger underground network of cells (the mycelium), long strands of branching, thread-like hyphae that inhabit the soil or rotting logs (they’re in…
NATURE NEWS Ripple marks tell quite a storySeptember 7 2016
I was at the beach this past Labor Day weekend enjoying the sun and wind before Hurricane Hermine hit. As the tide receded, it exposed a nicely rippled beach that was fun to walk on – it felt like a massage of sorts. I had recently read parts of an old paper by a Mrs. Hertha Ayrton published in 1910 in the "Proceedings of the Royal Society of London" entitled “The Origin and Growth of Ripple-mark.” I love old scientific papers. They often reflect a delightful, old-school sense of wonder and curiosity.
According to Mrs. Ayrton, “To anyone who, for the first time, sees a great stretch of sandy shore covered with innumerable ridges and furrows, as if combed with a giant comb, a dozen questions must immediately present themselves. How do these ripples form? Are they made and wiped out with every tide, or do they take a long time to grow, and last for many tides? What is the relation between the ripple and the waves to w…
NATURE NEWSSoon hummingbirds will migrate thousands of miles southSeptember 1 2016
When I lived in California, I always worried
about hummingbird identification. There were at least four different species, and they were all so little, moved so fast, and the females were indistinguishable to the untrained eye. We have it easy here in New England. There is only one species of hummingbird you are likely to see here (aside from the rare sightings of black-chinned, rufous and Allen’s hummingbirds): our only breeding hummingbird, the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). They zoom into my garden at least a couple times a day to check out the flower offerings, ignoring the zinnias and cone flowers, preferring the more tubular flowers like bee balm and jewelweed. My co-teacher wanted to know where ruby-throated hummingbirds go in winter. As usual, I had no idea, just the vague notion that they must go somewhere south. I knew they followed the sapsuckers north in the spring, drinki…