Showing posts from October, 2016
Blue Mussels in Decline
by Sue Pike October 15 2016  The York Weekly/York County Coast Star/Portsmouth Herald/Fosters Daily/Exeter News
My neighbor’s brother lives along the coast in Ipswich Massachusetts.  All of his life he has gathered oysters, clams and mussels from the mudflats and rocky shoreline near his house.  He had noticed their population declining over the past couple of years but as of this summer all of his mussels were gone. 
I like to mussel, it’s easy and I love those chewy orange nuggets, especially steamed with garlic and butter and wine.  Like my neighbor’s brother, I too have been having to search farther and farther afield for these tasty morsels, but I didn’t really think about it being a widespread problem until my neighbor called and asked about what was happening at her brothers.   I had missed a report that came out back in July; researchers (Sorte et al., Global Change Biology) compared modern population sizes of blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) in the Gulf…

Nature News: Witch Hazel

Nature News: Witch-hazel a very late bloomerBy Susan Pike
I was up in the White Mountains last weekend and found witch-hazel blooming along the riverside trails. I was excited to see the flowers so early because witch-hazel flowers are a harbinger of winter. Witch-hazel is probably my favorite shrub, primarily because witch-hazel is such a rebel in the way it stands up to the elements. It waits until the surrounding trees have dropped their leaves, when most other plants have battened down the hatches and begun to seriously prepare for winter to burst into bloom. Things happen earlier up north than they do down here — you won’t be seeing witch-hazel bloom around here until late October or early November, perhaps even later. But, it is something to seek out now so that you can watch for its spectacular late-fall display; a bloom of bright yellow at a time when the forest is turning gray and monotone as winter approaches. It is thought that witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) evolved thi…
Nature News: Beach rose invasive, but seems so nativeBy Susan PikeOct 29 2016   A quintessential image associated with the rocky coast of Maine south to the long sandy beaches of the Cape is the beach rose. Long hedgerows of this prickly shrub guard the backs of beaches and nestle into the glacier-dropped stones that litter the coast. The scientific name for beach rose (also called scrub rose) is Rosa rugosa. Rugosa is Latin for “wrinkled,” referring to the wrinkled surfaces of the dark green leaves. The stems are covered with thin sharp spines and the flowers are fairly big (as wild roses go), up to 5 inches across and range in color from white to dark pink. Most notable, to my mind, are the huge fruit — the rose-hips — shiny, orange-red, fleshy rose-hips, which are ripe and at their peak right now. Like so many of us who call ourselves New Englanders but weren’t actually born here, beach roses are not native to this area. They are native to China, Japan and Korea and were first intr…
Nature News Whale feeding research important to understanding ocean October 8 2016 by Sue Pike  Portsmouth Herald/Fosters Daily Democrat/York Weekly

A recently published scientific paper titled “Kinematic Diversity in Rorqual Whale Feeding Mechanisms” (in Current Biology, Sept. 2016, Cade et al) caught my eye for a number of reasons. I had just been on my first whale watch in more than 20 years and had watched humpbacks feeding off of Stellwagen Bank. This article made me realize I didn’t know much about how whales feed or what they eat; I didn’t even know what a rorqual whale was.
The easiest question first: Rorqual whales are a family of baleen whales that includes the blue, humpback, minke and fin whales. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word rorqual comes from an Old Norwegian word, “røyrkval” that means furrow. Members of this family have longitudinal grooves (furrows) of skin running from their mouths down their bodies towards their naval which allow their mouths a…