Wild blue phlox and Virginia bluebells carpet the banks of the Roanoke this evening, the air intoxicating with phlox perfume and rushing water.
Don’t tell me Porgs are the Star Wars version of puffins. Puffins don’t have huge eyes and camo brown colors. Clearly Porgs were inspired by woodcocks.
“Puffin? You’re kidding, right?”
In February and March I’m often out tramping in the twilight, where meadows meet woods, in hopes of witnessing what Aldo Leopold called the Sky Dance of the American woodcock.
Here in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, by mid-February these Porg-shaped, foot-tall, nowhere-near-a-shore shorebirds are already excitedly deep in spring courtship.
Painting by C. Ford Riley.
In late winter’s milder, tranquil evenings, about twenty minutes after sunset, the woodcock hen strolls to the edge of her woods to judge the males’ seductive song and dance, performed just beyond in an open field. Her bizarrely huge dark eyes. set near the top of her head. give her an incredible 360-degree view, allowing her to hunt earthworms on the dark forest floor while watching for predators behind. Equally bizarre is her extraordinary long bill, more elephant’s trunk than bird’s bill, whose tip she flexes to grasp her prey. Continue reading
Thousands, maybe millions, this week will recall this gorgeous book with profound affection and tears in their eyes. I can attest, as I seem to be having a bit of trouble myself writing this.
Chandler S. Robbins, co-author of the classic Birds of North America (1966), more widely known to birders simply as “The Golden Guide,” died yesterday, March 20 — a legend of ornithology and citizen science.
Let me tell you about this man and his work, even if you know nothing of birds.
For me, the tears are less about sadness -– 99 years is a marvelous run — than of gratitude for the incredible and lasting joy this book brought into my life.
I created this GIF from the Crane Trust’s documentary, Nebraska’s Great Sandhill Crane Migration.
There is no more thrilling sound in nature.
One of my most memorable experiences was a spring day in Gainesville, Florida, when I noticed a crowd of people outside the building I was in; they were all gazing upward. I hurried out to see a seething mass of sandhill cranes circling overhead, their rippling cries filling the air. They had risen up from nearby Paynes Prairie, and were massing for their annual return to their breeding grounds on midwestern and Canadian rivers and wet prairies.
Apparently they were awaiting the emergence of the right leader. Eventually one crane left the group heading north. A few birds straggled after in a ragged V that aimlessly dissolved back into the group. Soon another crane made a failed bid. After four or five false starts, a leader emerged that drew the wheeling flock into a solid line aiming northward, the leader who would start them on the long journey with that ancient knowledge that must be taught to each succeeding generation.
Arguably the largest living thing on earth, this is the giant sequoia, Sequoiadendron giganteum, of the redwood family.
This individual tree still lives, and is named the Grizzly Giant. It’s only middle-aged at a mere 1,800 years old or thereabouts, in a species that can live for over 3,000 years.
A stunning and dramatic animation that I’ve converted to GIF form, originally created by Tom Randall and Blacki Migliozzi of Bloomberg. It shows 135 years of Earth’s climate, using monthly land and sea measurements. Notice how 13 of the 14 hottest years are in the 21st century.