Saturday, March 29, 2014
Click on the label to show the area before and after.
That means that under the drifts of leaves and the remaining drifts of snow the frogs and salamanders were waking up from their winter's sleep and heading to the nearest water. Driving the back roads on rainy nights in early Spring is the best way to see them.
|A wood frogsicle|
Wood frogs in particular respond to that first rain. Wood frogs spend the winter frozen solid. Really.
When the warmish rains of early spring soak into the leaves where the frogs are buried, they thaw out, start breathing again, and make their way to ponds to breed.
|A wood frog with his black mask|
On this morning's walk I went by the old mill raceway. The streams were full of snowmelt and were thundering down the gorge. The air was full of bird song as pairs of crows and robins and chickadees flew by. It seemed like every male bird in town was screaming the bird equivalent of 'hey, bay-bee!'
|Wood frog eggs from my frog pond|
last year. Soon they will be there again.
The raceway was full of water. There were lots of ripples as the wood frogs moved about. Soon there will be masses of eggs.
Most of the eggs will never become frogs. Ducks will fly in and eat some of them. Then the raceway, which is no longer connected to the brook, will dry up. Only a few will survive to return to the raceway next year.
Friday, March 28, 2014
However, robin song is a true sing of spring, and I heard it for the first time today! The lengthening days have worked their wonder on the brain chemistry of the male robins (they have darker heads).
And while about 80% of my yard is till covered with snow, in a few places it has melted and is covered with crocuses.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
That would send cold, wet winds over us from the northeast.
As of right now the upcoming storm will go too far to the south and east to really affect us. Rhode Island and Cape Cod will be buried.
I am predicting a regular school day on Wednesday, with increasing chances of a late opening the further east you go.
I will update this Monday night.
Friday, March 21, 2014
Evolution is not random. (Take that, anti-reality people!)
|Lady with pocket-rat.|
People have turned one species of dog into hundreds of different breeds depending on their wants. Want a larger dog? Take advantage of natural differences in individual dogs. Breed only larger dogs until you get a Wolfhound or a Great Dane. Want a little yap-dog? Breed only the smaller dogs until there are people walking around with dogs in their handbags (yuck).
|Hamburgers, not milk from this breed|
People have turned one species of cow into many different breeds. Some produce more meat, some more milk. The process is the same. Take advantage of natural differences in individual cows, and breed the ones that have what you want.
Unless you hunt for meat or wild plants, everything that you eat every day has been modified over thousands of years by farmers.
|Charles Darwin at the time|
he traveled around the world
In the early 19th century, many scientists were puzzling over how evolution works. There were several hypotheses (a hypothesis is an educated guess, based on observations). Charles Darwin and many others came up with the theory (an explanation of facts based on testing) of natural selection - that nature chooses among individual differences.
In other words, nature does the same thing as any farmer or dog breeder. Nature chooses among differences in individuals, based on their ability to survive and breed.
The faster antelope escapes the lion and lives to breed. The sneakier lion gets the antelope and lives to breed. The plant that can spread its seeds further has more babies.
The reason why Darwin gets credit for this explanation is that he had both the wealth (no need to work) to devote his life to research and the influential friends to make sure that his voice was heard above the others.
|Conservatory at the NYBG|
Yesterday I visited the orchid show at the New York Botanical Garden.
|Snowdrops, not snow!|
Orchids are fascinating. There are an uncountable number of species, and they do some very kinky things. Many orchids are shaped like and smell like female insects.
|What species of insect could love this "female"?|
Most of the orchids at the show are hybrids, man-made versions of wild orchids (choose among the individuals that show some trait you want, and keep doing that over many generations until you get something you like).
But then there was Darwin's Orchid.
A scientific theory must not only explain what we have observed, it must also be able to predict what we will see in the future.
For instance, Darwin would not be surprised that as we add antibiotics into the environment we get more and more bacteria that are resistant.
|Darwin's Orchid, with a foot-long nectar spur|
When someone showed Darwin an orchid with a very long nectary (that long green tube behind the flower in the photo), he predicted that there was an undiscovered moth out there with a foot-long tongue that could pollinate this orchid.
|A moth with a foot-long tongue. Photo from|
Houston Museum of Natural Science
That's what science does.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
|The low winter's Sun|
|What we expect to see on March 20|
June 20, 2014. The Summer Solstice. The northern hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun and we have gained another 3 hours of light. Then the light recedes.
So on March 20, we are halfway between the shortest and the longest day in Connecticut.
The talking heads on television and radio will be screaming about the first day of Spring. You already know what I think of that.
|Mr. Opossum is looking for love|
It is halfway between December and March that the amount of daylight increases enough for nature to take notice - that's February 2.
That is when maple sap runs, the skunks and
Who can pay attention to traffic
when you are in love?
So, despite being buried in snow during an extremely cold spring, it is the middle of spring now, not winter, and March 20 marks the middle of the season. Only 6 more weeks until things start to bloom all over, marking the beginning of nature's summer.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Friday, March 14, 2014
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The reason for opening late tomorrow will be the ice.
The temperature will be dropping about 30 degrees overnight. Everything will be frozen.
Be careful. And bundle up.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
|Thursday's storm as of Tuesday morning. We will be on the warm|
side on Wednesday and the cold side on Thursday.
(modified from Weather Underground)
Sunday, March 9, 2014
|This male cardinal knows that Spring is here. He is outside|
my window, singing his fool head off.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
|Red maple buds are swelling|
Pileated woodpecker in my back yard this afternoon. I have been
trying to get a photo of one of these giant woodpeckers for years.
They are very shy.
Friday, March 7, 2014
There has never really been any controversy about climate change. There have simply been those who can understand the facts and those who make money by denying them. So...
As for temperature, Connecticut will be fairly normal, while the northwest is warmer and the Gulf Coast is colder.
Longer term (but not all that long!): According the the US Navy,by 2030, the Arctic’s Northern Sea Route could be ice free and navigable for at least nine weeks each year. The Bering Strait could be ice free for a whopping 27 weeks a year.
And right now...! The snow is melting, the birds that normally stay here all winter (chickadees, crows, woodpeckers) are pairing off and looking for nest sites, the buds on the maple trees are swelling....
And as of right this minute there is a 40% chance that there will be no school next Thursday. Stay tuned for updates.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Also, during the highest tides the main streets of Miami are under water.
A less obvious sign of the warming planet is the number of plants and animals that are on the way north. I now see birds at my feeder that would not have been seen north of Virginia years ago. Southern plants are becoming northern plants. Crocodiles have moved another State further north. And tropical diseases are now being found in Connecticut.
|Opossum, showing his frost-bitten ears|
The Opossum is famed for the defensive trick of flopping down on the ground with its tongue out and eyes closed when threatened. That, along with its foul body odor, make it unpalatable to predators who like fresh meat.
That the Opossum is not really adapted for northern winters is obvious by the loss of ear tips and tail tips to frostbite. Also the fact that they like to freeze to death in my woodshed.
|Here you can see that the tip of his tail has frozen off|
Opossums are lone creatures except in early March when, of course, it is mating season. My bird feeders seem to be serving as singles bars.