Nature

Wild Ideas: Peepers, clackers and the sounds of spring

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March 26
The tiny spring peeper is rarely seen but often heard in late winter and early spring, peeping in chorus with others of its species in search of a mate.

Peeps, clacks and peents signal the start of the breeding season for some animals even before spring has begun, in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
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Wild Ideas: Pollinator, bird count updates

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March 12
Pollinators such as this perplexing bumblebee (Bombus perplexus), feeding on a native purple coneflower, will be the focus of a new research project in Shenandoah National Park.

In this week’s Wild Ideas column, Shenandoah National Park announces a new research project on pollinators, a new guide on managing bees and wasps is published, Great Backyard Bird Count results are in and a website is launched for a local nature preserve.
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Clark Hollow Ramblings: My new friend

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March 12

I have to tell you about a new friend I have. I mentioned a month or so ago that my firewood pile had suffered some sort of invasion by a bug that had gotten under the bark of the firewood and made a big mess. And while none of the firewood I have been using is...
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Wild Ideas: Sorting out the raptors

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March 5
wildRSHawkJones-5FB

With the tough winter, hawks have been showing up at bird feeders looking for prey, but sorting out the species can be difficult.
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Virginia deer harvest down 22 percent

Special deer hunts at Virginia State Parks this year.

Wildlife biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), after compiling the preliminary figures for the 2014-15 fall/winter hunting season, reported significant declines in deer and turkey harvests this year.
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Wild Ideas: eBird and the Great Backyard Bird Count

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Feb. 26
During the Great Backyard Bird Count, citizens are invited to submit counts of birds they see, even those found at bird feeders, such as these common winter residents.

This year Pam Owen joined other Rappahannock County residents in the Great Backyard Bird Count, a wildlife survey that takes an annual “snapshot” of the distribution and abundance of birds.
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Circles of ice

Photo by Paul Shumate

Wild Ideas: $3.2 million to restore monarch butterfly habitat

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Feb. 19
Adult monarchs feed on a variety of nectar plants, including this Liatris pycnostachya, a native of the Midwest, at Bruce and Susan Jones’ naturalized property near the town of Washington.

Help for the beleaguered monarch butterfly is on the way through a new cooperative initiative by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and two nongovernmental conservation organizations, but will it be enough?
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Editorial: Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Feb. 12
picMollyCows-15FB

To C.S. Lewis’s four types of love, a proposed fifth: Call it Amor Terrae — or “Love of the Land.”
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Wild Ideas: Be careful or bee stung

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Feb. 12
Although less than an inch long, bald-faced hornets are fierce predators and defenders of their nests.

Pam Owen’s passion for nature was tested last summer when she inadvertently entered into a war with hymenopterans — members of one of the largest orders of insects, comprising ants, sawflies, bees and wasps.
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Wildfire season begins Sunday

Firefighters use blowers to etch a fire line in the smoky woods near Midnight Lane in Woodville Monday afternoon. Photo by Roger L. Foster.

The 75-day spring wildfire season in Virginia begins this Sunday (Feb. 15), when the 4 p.m. Burn Law (which allows burning only between 4 p.m. and midnight) goes into effect.
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Clark Hollow Ramblings: Vanishing deer and invisible smoke

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Feb. 5

There has been a fair amount of speculation lately on what seems to columnist Richard Brady to be a decline in the whitetail deer population that just might have something to do with coyotes.
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Wild Ideas: When food is plentiful, animals cache in

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Feb. 5
In snowy weather, when food may be hard to find, having some cached in the ground, in low holes in trees or other places may tide them over.

When foxes keep killing prey after they’ve had a full meal, are they being wasteful or just preparing for hard times? Find out the answer in this week’s “Wild Ideas.”
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The Rapp for Jan. 29

Jake Schepps (center) and his quintet perform Feb. 7 at the Theatre at Washington.

The Jake Schepps Quintet coming to the Theatre, "Boyhood" on Feb. 6, Bland Music Contest on Feb. 8, Nature Camp signup time and more in this week's The Rapp.
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Wild Ideas: Are robins still harbingers of spring?

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Jan. 29
Although they’re considered harbingers of spring, when they are commonly spotted pulling earthworms out of yards, many American robins overwinter in Virginia, relying mainly on berries from introduced ornamental plants to tide them over until spring.

Robins were long thought to be harbingers of spring, but changes in their environment means they’re ranging further north in the winter.
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Wild Ideas: Deer down, but the sky is not falling

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Jan. 22
Acorns collected on Aaron Mountain, Castleton.

When fewer deer were spotted this fall, fingers pointed to coyotes, disease and more liberal hunting seasons as decreasing deer populations. But the main factor in why fewer deer were seen may surprise you.
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Sperryville column for Jan. 15

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Jan. 15
Campers and counselors show off the dam they built in the Hazel River at the 2011 Rappahannock Nature Camp. Director Lyt Wood is at right. This year’s camps start June 15 and June 29.

This year the Rappahannock Nature Camp, founded and run by Lyt Wood of Sperryville, will celebrate its 30th early-summer session on the banks of the Hazel River — that is, if a new sponsor can be found.
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Wild Ideas: Where are the squirrels?

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Jan. 15
Fewer gray and fox squirrels were spotted in 2014, but are they disappearing?

Fewer squirrels were sighted this year, so are they disappearing? At the heart of the mystery is a complex food web and fluctuating acorn crop.
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Wild Ideas: Scatological ramblings

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Jan. 8
The tiny and properly named wintergreen plant.

While wildlife watching is more limited during the winter, you can discover who has been out and about by what they leave behind, and monarch butterflies may be headed to the endangered species list, in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
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Wild Ideas: Gaeaf followup

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Jan. 1
TC is among the cats available for adoption at RappCats.

After Pam Owen’s Wild Ideas column about helping a stray cat engendered a few heated comments online, she clarifies the plan for him.
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Editorial: A Charlie Brown Christmas tree

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Dec. 18, 2014
Original by Quadell via Wikimedia Commons

It may get no respect, but in Walter Nicklin’s mind, the Eastern red cedar is the most authentic of Christmas trees — and the one that is most identified with Rappahannock County.
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Wild Ideas: Of Gaeaf, Golda and birds

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Dec. 18, 2014
Gaeaf, the stray male cat.

Pam Owen contemplates what to do with a stray cat that’s been hanging around.
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The Rapp column for Dec. 11

Old Rag Master Naturalists inspect the terrain on a geology field trip at Stony Man lookout in Shenandoah National Park.

Holiday concerts, local arts grants, a Constitutional advocate at Gray Ghost, a run/walk fundraiser for the “Shop with a Deputy” program, holiday-related art workshops and more in this week’s The Rapp.
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Wild Ideas: Are animals smarter than we think?

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Dec. 11, 2014
Some ants farm their food, like these ants, which protect aphids in return for harvesting the “honeydew” their livestock excrete.

Just how smart are we as a species? Pam Owen explores some of the amazing things other species can do in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
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Wild Ideas: Becoming the animal

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Dec. 4, 2014
From original by Dori via Wikimedia

Pam Owen usually goes into nature armed with a camera and other encumbrances, but sometimes meeting nature with only the clothes on our backs provides bigger rewards — a chance to become another species, if only for a few minutes.
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Eagle, eyed

By David Batchelder

May all your Thanksgivings be…

By Gary Anthes

A ‘Tree-o of Owlets’

By Denise Machado

Fall freeze

Castleton resident and photographer Gary Anthes said last week was the earliest in the season he’d ever seen his farm pond freeze over.

Wild Ideas: A little snowbird is back

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Nov. 20, 2014
Although it is only four inches long, “per unit weight, the Winter Wren delivers its song with 10 times more power than a crowing rooster,” according to AllAboutBirds.org.

Last week Rappahannock got its first dusting of snow, but our annual avian winter visitors arrived earlier, including a tiny brown bird displaying unexpected behavior at Pam Owen’s house.
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Editorial: That time of year

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Nov. 13, 2014
By Roger Piantadosi/Rappahannock News

This year’s spectacular fall foliage brought great beauty, but also great noise pollution, as leaf blowers are taken up to manage the fallen leaves.
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Wild Ideas: In the news: good guide, bad bug

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Nov. 13, 2014
Despite its beauty, the Asian spotted lanterfly, sighted in Pennsylvania this fall, could follow in the footsteps of the brown marmorated stink bug.

News recently arrived in Pam Owen’s email inbox of a new shrub and vine identification guide from the Virginia Department of Forestry and a report of yet another threatening bug invading Pennsylvania.
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Leaving a happier planet

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Nov. 6, 2014
By Roger Piantadosi/Rappahannock News

Money does grow on trees — along with health and high spirits. Don’t lose yours as autumn dwindles.
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Editorial: We want to believe

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Nov. 6, 2014
By Bas Lammers via Wikimedia Commons

Screeches and screams reportedly heard rolling across the hills and vales of Rappahannock were not wails of disappointment from residents whose favored candidates did not win on Tuesday. But could it really have been, as someone said, a mountain lion?
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Wild Ideas: Cool weather brings stick insects and furry cats

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Oct. 30, 2014
With its slim body, this male northern walking stick’s head is on the move, its antennae out.

Although more species of insects are out and about during the warm days of summer, some of the most interesting ones show up in the fall. Two appeared in the last couple of weeks that sent Pam Owen to her references to try to identify them.
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This little light of ours

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Oct. 23, 2014
Photo by Kaye Kohler

As the autumn daylight wanes, nature and the human body ordinarily adjust themselves for winter. But increasingly, we’re setting the world aglow 24/7 with all-night lighting. Liza Field takes a look at research illuminating a few of the fiscal, environmental and healthcare costs of that new light bill.
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Washington column for Oct. 23

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Oct. 23, 2014
A nice crowd at the Trinity Evensong, ending the busy past weekend in Washington.

A trip to Italy, a weekend of color and visitors thanks to Trinity, WVFR’s ham and oyster dinner and more in this week’s Washington column.
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Photo: Amissville spread

By Tom Woolman

The Rapp for Oct. 16

One of the glass-on-glass works made at Candace Clough’s last workshop at Mullany Studio School.

It’s shaping up to be a busy weekend, as “No Ordinary Person” returns to the RAAC Community Theatre with a two-night show, while Gilbert & Sullivan return to the Theatre and much more; meanwhile, Gray Ghost increases its medal count and more in this week’s Rapp column.
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When a farm turns factory, what’s a town to do?

A Pennsylvania law designed to protect farms from nuisance complaints has also allowed concentrated animal feeding operations — factory farms — to escape local land use controls, writes Tim Rowland.
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