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Fireflies talk to each other by coded blinking patterns

Fireflies talk to each other by coded blinking patterns

What could be a more iconic image of the summertime experience of children in the Northeast than the joyful pursuit of fireflies on a warm summer evening?

Sounds, telltale features can help identify frog species, sex

Sounds, telltale features can help identify frog species, sex

In our area, there are only two large frogs that you are likely to find in the warm waters of a lily pond — the green frog (Rana clamitans melanota) and the bullfrog (R. catesbeiana).

House wrens may be tiny birds, but they have big personalities

House wrens may be tiny birds, but they have big personalities

As birds go, the house wren is on the small side. Any shortcoming in stature is more than compensated for in the personality department, however.

Chipmunks use cheeks to move food, tunnel system to store it

Chipmunks use cheeks to move food, tunnel system to store it

Summer is a time for picnics, swimming, camping and chipmunks. Chipmunks live in elaborate tunnel systems that they excavate for many uses. There are latrines and sleeping chambers, but the most important use of tunnels is food storage.

On first-name basis with visiting hummingbirds

On first-name basis with visiting hummingbirds

Summer is here and I find myself filled with great optimism. The flowers are blooming, the grass is lush and thick and wonderfully suited to barefoot walking, and my good friend Bert is back in town.

Bittersweet nightshade is close relative of the tomato

Bittersweet nightshade is close relative of the tomato

As I sat on my porch last weekend, enjoying a day without any rain, I noticed a new development over by the stairs. A new plant had made an appearance up to the level of the deck boards.

Crises of identity behind name of eastern towhee

Crises of identity behind name of eastern towhee

A male eastern towhee is quite dashing in appearance.

Baltimore checkerspot soon to arrive

Baltimore checkerspot soon to arrive

Today, I introduce you to one of our most dazzling local butterflies — the Baltimore checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton). I am starting this challenge early so you have a chance to keep your eyes out for this little treasure during its short flight time.

There’s no legitimate reason to despise snapping turtles

There’s no legitimate reason to despise snapping turtles

John Muir once wrote that “none of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.” One could easily extend that thought to “Nature’s creatures.” I speak of this so you might be more open-minded the next time you see a snapping turtle.

Rose-breasted grosbeaks beautiful, bashful

Rose-breasted grosbeaks beautiful, bashful

Recently, my frantically excited wife announced that she had spotted a bird that left her momentarily speechless. It was a male rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) and I couldn’t blame her. The elegant black-and-white dress of the male, flamboyantly accented with a triangular necklace of red, makes it a beautiful sight indeed.

Most snakes are harmless, interesting additions to garden

Most snakes are harmless, interesting additions to garden

With the arrival of warm weather, it is likely that gardeners and yard workers may soon come into contact with snakes. I am writing this week’s column on behalf of the snakes and asking that you who see them give them the benefit of the doubt before grabbing a shovel.

There’s method in red-winged blackbirds’ mating behavior

There’s method in red-winged blackbirds’ mating behavior

This week we’re looking at the world through the eyes of a female red-winged blackbird. What kind of challenges does she face? What decisions does she have to make?

Red-winged blackbird has soap-opera private life

Red-winged blackbird has soap-opera private life

The red-winged blackbird is an iconic symbol of spring. To teach you about the lives of these beautiful birds, let me tell you the story of a typical male of the species.

Song sparrows can be difficult to spot and identify

Song sparrows can be difficult to spot and identify

Of all of the birds that I have ever seen skittering about in thickets, song sparrows are among the sneakiest. They are designed for stealth, and they are very good at it.

Spring peepers are about to begin their song

Spring peepers are about to begin their song

Spring is finally here and it won’t be long before the soft ice cream stands are open. Soon we will be driving at night with the windows down and that is when we’ll hear it — a chorus of tiny voices drifting out of ponds, fields, and hidden pools in the forest.

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