Birds that move south or to lower elevations in the fall are now settling in for the winter, in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
In July, when my friend and I first moved to Red Gap, three-plus acres of oak-hickory forest, I hoped this fall the acorn crop and the leaf color production there would be great. But fall brought some surprises.
The barred owl, the most common owl in forests, has an amazing repertoire of vocalizations, in this week's Wild Ideas column.
When I first moved to west of Mount Jackson in early July to share a house with a friend, a water feature on the deck had a broken pump and was filled with tadpoles. The plastic “frog pond,” as we refer to it, looks like a livestock trough and had less than a foot of water in it when we arrived, along with one potted aquatic plant. Such shallow pools are desirable breeding habitat for many amphibian species.
While I saw few animals other than birds in early spring on Briar Ridge, the diversity of critters grew as summer approached. On the reptile front, I had the pleasure of watching a small eastern ratsnake (about 3.5 feet long) shed its skin on the cabin’s deck, weaving against the iron balusters in the fence surrounding the deck to scrape off the old skin.
While I’m always curious about the behavior of animals, my monitoring of birds breeding this spring has been sporadic for several reasons, leaving me with more questions than answers.
It’s a rare Virginia spring that progresses steadily toward summer. Rather, especially in La Niña years like this one, spring comes in fits and starts.
As the first snowstorm of 2022 blew in, on Jan. 3, I went out to clear off some snow around the firewood rack. As I looked down the ridge, I could barely make out F.T. Valley through swirling clouds of snow.
The cedar waxwing, an elegant native frugivore, can form flocks at any time of the year to seek out and strip trees of small, sugary fruits, in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
News about the effect of climate on trees’ mast-production booms, bison revealing petroglyphs, and a promising mRNA vaccine for Lyme disease, in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
Some of Virginia’s most iconic, sexiest wildlife have been foraging around Pam Owen’s temporary digs high on a ridge south of Sperryville, in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
I usually try to do my best in my writing to bust myths about nature, which often stem from anecdotal information that’s not accurate to begin with and is then passed on to others, sometimes for generations.
Those of us who feed birds tend to do it for two reasons: to enjoy observing and learning about birds, and to help them survive. But birds that congregate at feeders are also running the risk of sharing diseases and parasites; finches, for example, can spread a form of conjunctivitis. This spring, when common backyard birds started dying in several mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia, the issue of feeding wild birds once again came into focus.
Even the smallest backyard naturalizing project can boost biodiversity and offer better opportunities to enjoy nature, as I was reminded recently in Gid Brown Hollow.
After living in the bizarro times of Covid-19 for more than a year and tiring of the icy weather at the end of winter, I was looking forward to the warmth and increased opportunities to view nature that spring usually brings. But this spring, cold, dry weather has presented challenges to wild species and we winter-weary humans.
Find out how an unusually large number of bluebird eggs ended up in one nest in Amissville this spring, in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
After overwintering eastern black swallowtail caterpillars as chrysalises, Pam Owen eagerly awaited their transformation into adult butterflies this spring, in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
Over my many years of rambling in nature, Pam Owen participated in a few morel hunts, but it wasn't until last month that she finally found her first wild morel.
With the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) looming over us, now is an especially good time to step outside and enjoy the natural world and the health benefits it offers.
Pam Owen goes hunting for salamander and frog eggs, in this week's Wild Ideas.
For the second year, volunteers participating in Rappahannock’s Christmas Bird Count to document the health of winter bird populations in the county, in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
Rappahannock couple John Beardsley and Steph Ridder help conserve grassland birds on their farm and through serving on the steering committee of Virginia Working Landscapes, in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
Find out how to help stop the alarming decline in wild birds in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
Scientists are finding that wild birds, even common “backyard” species, are disappearing at alarming numbers, in this week’s Wild Ideas.
Many insect populations boomed this summer, some going out with a flourish as the autumnal equinox approached.
Pam Owen ponders the question of why some pupae of spicebush swallowtail butterflies are green and others are brown, in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
An empty bird nest found when a tree was cut down leads Pam Owen on the hunt for which species built it, in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
Plants have evolved strategies for lure in the best pollinators while discouraging destructive ones, while some animals develop workarounds to get to the nectar, in this week’s Wild Ideas column.
The ninth annual county butterfly count, held last Saturday (July 20) during the recent brutal heat wave.
This year, as I’ve tried to improve my birding skills, I’ve found I often have more interesting sightings sitting comfortably on my deck.
In talking with me a while back about how Rappahannock Nature Camp evolved, Lyt Wood, its founder and director, suggested some books for broadening our understanding about nature. Most of these have just been added to the Conservation Collection at the Rappahannock County Library.
I’m lucky to have landlords who alert me to the presence of interesting wildlife where I live, such as a large, mostly brown caterpillar my landlady found down by one of the lower ponds early in June. I thought it was probably the larva of a eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly, judging by th…
This spring, a tiny, vibrantly colored spider that spins a round web seems to be everywhere in my yard and on the exterior of my house.
While I’m still trying to keep up with spring as it unfolds, notices of several events featuring pollinators and other “bugs” have been landing in my email inbox:
Last week, as I was getting increasingly frustrated in trying to take bird photos, a jaunty little bird gave me encouragement.
The past week has been one of wonderful surprises and great frustrations, the latter mostly because of dark, rainy weather.
This time of year, sorting out the many bird species that are vocalizing can be overwhelming. Not having ambitions of ever being a dedicated birder, I’ve worked my way all the way up to, at best, average at identifying local birds by sight. This year, I’m trying to get a better handle on bir…
Last year, along a trail I hike frequently in Rappahannock County, I found a trillium that is rare in Virginia and a bit hard to spot. This year, I went looking for more.
Up around my house on Oventop Mountain, the spring wildflower show started last week (Mar. 24), when five bloodroot buds popped up along a trail dubbed the Spring Road, a few starting to bloom.
Lyt Wood and I have been sending messages about nature sightings back and forth for years. Recently, we got into discussing the evolution of Rappahannock Nature Camp, a summer day camp Lyt founded in 1986 and continues to serve as the director.
Although spring just officially starts March 20, here in Virginia the season usually arrives earlier — but not this year.
Along with skunk cabbage, a lot of nearby nature events, indoor and outdoor, are coming up over the next couple of weeks:
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