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Showing posts from October, 2016

Lycopodiums - forest floor plants

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GOING NATURE’S WAY By Kate Crowley It is the first week of November, the leaves are off the trees, but the ground below is as green and lush looking as it was in August. And I still have flowers blooming next to the deck; a weird feeling for lifelong Minnesotans.  I will not complain about the mild temperatures because I know that eventually cold and wintery weather will arrive, but that doesn’t change the feeling of abnormality that this autumn weather creates, especially for those of us who study nature and the complex dance of the seasons.  Besides the green grass, which will eventually fade to brown under a layer of leaves and snow, there is green on the forest floor which will remain throughout the winter months, even as a blanket of white covers it.  I walked through our woods the other day with my friend Cindy and she pointed to some of the plants in this group.  She asked, “What are these? They’re so pretty”.  She was referring to a cluster of Princess Pine, scientifically known…

Red Tailed Hawks and turkeys - November birding

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WINGIN’ IT By Kate Crowley November arrives and with it comes the doldrums of birdwatching.  Yes, there will be birds throughout the winter at our feeders and in the trees, but the excitement of spring and summer is a fading memory.  So, I look inspiration wherever I can find it and today it was while driving to the Twin Cities and counting the red-tail hawks perched on the arched road lights on the sides of I35.  They are big birds and if they are facing towards the car you will see a white breast with a dark band below it.  If they are turned with their backs to you, they appear to be mostly brown.  There must be a lot of rodents in the grassy borders in certain stretches because there can be three or four hawks perched in a half mile. Earlier in the week my daughter and I saw two sitting right beside one another on a light pole; not typical for these solitary hunters.  We assumed they were a pair of siblings or possibly a parent and an offspring, though it is late in the season for t…

Ravens, crows and Halloween

WINGIN’ IT By Kate Crowley Stereotypes.  It happens all the time in our society.  It even happens with birds.  How else can you explain the association of crows and ravens with the evil spirits of Halloween?  Both of these birds belong to the Family Corvidae – my favorite, because of their innate intelligence and social interactions.  Like the fairy tales of the Big Bad Wolf, these glossy black birds have come down through the centuries with stories and beliefs that emphasize one behavior that we humans find revolting and ignores all others. During the Middle Ages and the scourge of the Black Plague, these predators and scavengers found easy pickings among the countless dead who lay exposed in streets or fields.  The same was true for the warriors and soldiers killed in endless wars;  people saw the wolves, crows and ravens feeding on the dead and were (not surprisingly) horrified.  It is not a coincidence that wolves and corvids would be found in the same places because ravens, lacking…

Late fall

WINGIN’ IT By Kate Crowley
Here it is the first week of October and all our flowers continue to bloom and not a hint of frost in the forecast!  We all enjoy these beautiful autumn days, maybe even more than any others because we know they are numbered.  I’ve noticed in recent days that it’s not only us humans who are basking in this warmth and unusual climatic conditions; but so are the bees. Last week when it was cloudy and moist I was surveying the flower beds and stopped by the maroon colored chrysanthemums.  All over the golden disks in the center of the flower were bumblebees.  They were very lethargic and really didn’t seem able to fly.  I tested one with a stick and it could move its wings, but did not get airborne. These bees very slowly moved from flower to flower probing the nectar tubes.  There was no pollen collecting on their bodies, which is an unintended side effect from their search for nourishment.  They only make small amounts of a honey-like substance for their own su…