Showing posts from July, 2017

Glossy Ibis

by Sue Pike  published weekly in these seacoast newspapers The York Weekly/Portsmouth Herald/Fosters Daily/Exeter Herald
Glossy ibis are a bird I never expect to see around here-they look like they should be hanging out in the tropics, wading through some Amazonian mudflats with their long spindly legs or swooping over a crocodile-infested watering hole in the African savanna.  They are close cousins to the more commonly recognized great blue herons and egrets.  There is something very “New England” about a great blue heron or a snowy egret regally perched on the edge of salt marsh.  People have weather vanes on their houses and lawn art that depict herons in this regal pose or flying overhead, necks tucked in, still stately in flight.  Ibis somehow don’t conjure up the same image.  However, since I first saw some drop down into a New England salt marsh, I was in love. 
Glossy ibis are tall, dark, slender, wading birds, and while they look different enough that it would be hard to co…

Northern Flickers

When I was a kid we had yellow-
shafted flickers on the East Coast and red-shafted flickers on the West Coast.  Now they've been lumped together as one species-the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus).  Flickers are common around here and easy to identify-they are large tannish-brown woodpeckers with a prominent white rump patch that is easy to see when they are flying away from you.   Not as easy to see is the beautiful yellow coloration of the undersides of the tail and wing feathers.
One neat thing about them-you're as likely to see them on the ground as in a tree digging for ants and beetles with their slightly curved bill. They have barbed tongues that they use to snag the ants.


Buttonbush  (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is an awesome summertime shrub typically found in wetland areas.  This one was along the Cocheco River in Dover, NH.  

The flowers are like little pincushions, beautifully symmetrical spheres-dense clusters with protruding pistils.   They like water, they like shade.  The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center calls them honey plants---I hadn't heard that term before, but according to the interweb a honey plant is one used by honey bees to make honey---makes sense.  I guess the implication is that they don't use the nectar from all flowers to make honey.

This is a great shrub to plant in your garden--they have interesting blooms, are native, attract a variety of pollinating insects, birds and bats, are easy to grow (mine has survived a bit of neglect) and will do well in a variety of soil types--not just waterlogged wetlands.

Brown and Black Bears

Some Interesting Observations about Brown (and Black) Bears
by Sue Pike July 11 2017  The York Weekly/Portsmouth Herald/Foster's Daily Democrat/Exeter Herald
One of the most remarkable sights I’ve seen in Alaska (my new backyard for a short time this summer) has been the large coastal brown bears grazing on the meadows of sedges and grasses that ring the tidal inlets.  They move around like cows - grazing!  I didn’t think bears did this.  These brown bears (Ursus arctos) are cousins to our local black bears (Ursus americanus).  Brown  bears are what we usually think of as grizzlies, but this isn’t always true.  A grizzly is a brown bear, but a brown bear isn’t always a grizzly.  According to the National Park Service “brown bears and grizzlies are the same species (Ursus arctos), but grizzly bears are currently considered to be a separate subspecies (Ursus arctos horribilis).  Brown bears are generally considered to be those of the species that have access to coastal food resourc…

Alaska's Muskeg

Visiting Alaska and its grassy bogs By Sue Pike  / York Weekly/Portsmouth Herald/ Foster's Daily/Exeter Herald
July 4 2017 I was just up in Alaska (my first time!) visiting the Alaska Whale Foundations’ Center for Coastal Conservation in Warm Springs. Warm Springs is in the heart of the Tongass National Forest. The Tongass is the largest national forest in the United States, a whopping 17 million acres, covering much of southeast Alaska - in particular the part surrounding the famous Inside Passage. Famous for everyone expect me I suppose.  I had never heard of the Inside Passage.  But now I understand why I should have - it is a wonderful place, rich in both human and natural history.  I was excited to learn about all the whale research going on in this remote part of the world, but I was just as excited to hike around avisit the bogs that dotted the mountains that loomed over the Center.  I wanted to see how similar they are to the bogs around he…