Wild Ideas nature column

Wild Ideas: Big storm, little moments of resilience

By
0
July 12
wildPhoebe-12WF

While we humans struggled in the aftermath of the storm to deal with losing the technology most of us have come to depend on, wildlife seemed to accept this as just another day in the great outdoors.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Bunnies everywhere

By
0
July 5
wildRabbit-05WF

Lately I’ve been observing numerous eastern cottontails, large and small, in the yard at dawn and dusk. It’s that time of year when our native rabbits are reproducing like, well, rabbits – big bunnies, little bunnies, bunnies everywhere in open spaces and along forest edges.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Closer look at my phoebe babies

By
0
June 21
wildNestDayTwelve-28WF

Almost two weeks after hatching, the four nestlings in my eastern phoebe brood have pretty much filled up their nest and seem to be in danger of falling over the side.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Poison ivy, the sneaky plant

By
0
June 21
Poison ivy leaves appear to be growing out of a black locust, but a closer look reveals the branch came from huge intertwined poison ivy vines.

As a kid growing up in Virginia, I learned early to spot the trio of shiny leaves – “leaves of three, let it be” – that spelled disaster if I touched it.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: June is bustin’ out all over

By
0
June 14
wildClick-14wFront

For nature lovers, this is a great time of year, especially in Virginia’s Blue Ridge and Piedmont regions. By the first week in June, spring was going at full blast.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: The bluebird saga continues

By
0
June 7
Wild Ideas: The bluebird saga continues

As I wrote about recently, an Eastern Bluebird pair had set up housekeeping in a nesting box in my yard that my landlord had provided. A day after submitting that column, I noticed a sudden change in the birds’ behavior. I’d been watching them through my bedroom window several times a day, so I...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: The hard-working dung beetle

By
0
May 31
wildDung-31webfront

I’ve always been fascinated with beetles since I saw my first Hirschkaefer (German for “stag beetle”) on the military base in Germany where my family was stationed a year after I was born.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: A spring hike 

By
0
May 24
Shenandoah Valley

With my brother’s bringing some sunny, springlike days with him on a visit earlier this month, hikes in Shenandoah National Park seemed in order. We first took a walk on the short Jordan River Trail, which climbs up a lovely wooded slope near Flint Hill.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Young critters everywhere

By
May 17
wildWren-17webfront

The lower ponds are now coming alive with frog calls and the upper pond is now black with squiggling tadpoles. And those aren’t the only evidence of spring's wildlife reproduction cycle being well underway.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Clouds of beauty in unexpected places

By
May 10
The brightly colored Zebra Swallowtail butterfly depends on Paw Paw trees as a host for its larva, but the adults get nutrients from the nectar of several flowering forest plants as well as other sources of nutrients.

Last week, to see how spring was progressing in the lower elevations of Shenandoah National Park, I loaded my dog into the car and headed up the hollow to Thornton River Trail, one of my favorite local spots for an easy but beautiful stroll through nature.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Big black-and-yellow hovering machines

By
April 26
wildBee-26webfront

On a warm, breezy afternoon recently, I took a break from work and sat on my deck. It wasn’t long until I realized what a hub of activity it was for insects, especially for huge, yellow-and-black bees that seemed inordinately interested in me.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: The precarious existence of bluebirds

By
April 19
wildBlue-19 front

Although bluebirds will nest in tree cavities up to 50 feet off the ground, they prefer to be closer to the insect prey they hunt for on the ground. Their propensity for picking such low nesting sites enables easy predator access.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Virginia’s feisty little fish

By
April 12
wild-12webfront

The two lower ponds on the property are loaded with fish – mostly stocked non-natives, including some good-sized bass. There are also lots of one of my favorite Virginia natives, Bluegill, also known as Sunfish, Bluegill Sunfish, Bream, Brim, Bluegulli or Copper Nose.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Critter naming, from Assassins to Hellbenders

By
April 5
A nymph of the assassin bug Zelus luridus looking for prey on a peach-tree blossom. In its adult form, this bug will darken and have transparent wings and a curved beak used for piercing and sucking its prey.

Over the years, as I’ve plumbed the mysteries of nature, I’ve often been struck by our own peculiarly human take on it. So much of what we find wonderful, horrible or just odd in other species is often a projection of our own behavior and motives. Nowhere is this more obvious than in what...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Native plants for wildlife

By
March 29
wildMonarch-22webfront

By mid-March, spring is fully underway and ahead of schedule because of the mild winter. Trees and shrubs are leafing out, early spring wildflowers are blooming, birdsong fills the air at dawn and butterflies and bees are flying everywhere.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: The joys of frog monitoring

By
March 23
wildFrogfront-W

In my youth, the calls of the early-breeding frogs, along with blobs of gelatinous eggs in pools and puddles, had marked the start of spring and put me into a frog-hunting frenzy.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Choosing native plants to grow

By
March 15
r_wildSusan-15webfront

The planting season is rapidly approaching and, for those interested in incorporating native plants into their landscaping, the pressure is on.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Sources for native plants

By
March 8
r_wildBlue-08webfront

By February, even in Virginia’s relatively mild climate, gardeners with cabin fever start looking forward eagerly to the arrival of seed and nursery catalogs to start planning their gardening projects.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Signs of spring 

By
March 1
r_wildSkunk-08webfront

Wrigglings in the pond, weird blooms emerging from wet ground, bug bites and inflamed sinuses:  Spring is on its way.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Romance is in the (winter) air

By
Feb. 23
r_wildBeaver-23webfront

Animals have developed diverse reproductive strategies to ensure their young are born when food, shelter, weather conditions and other external factors favor their offspring’s survival. In Virginia’s temperate climate, most species are geared to reproducing in the spring.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Winter settles in?

By
Feb. 16
r_wildFirstSnow-16webfront

This time of year, as winter settles in, nature can seem quiet, even boring. Most plants have shed their leaves and gone dormant and much of the fauna have migrated south or hunkered down for a long winter’s nap.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Making mole hills in the mountains

By
Jan. 26
r_wildCondy-26webfront

While bunnies, bears, mice and myriad other animals were main characters in my childhood storybooks, only the “Wind in the Willows” featured the lowly mole. That just fed my curiosity about this mysterious animal, so one day I followed a mole tunnel and dug up its engineer. The creature looked like no other I’d...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: The romance of cloudspotting

By
Jan. 12
r_wildRapp-12webfront

“Clouds are Nature’s poetry spoken in a whisper in the rarefied air between crest and crag….Nothing in nature rivals their variety and drama; nothing matches their sublime, ephemeral beauty. “ —Gavin Pretor-Pinney in “The Cloudspotter’s Guide” Mare’s tail, mammatus, thundercloud—evocative names for clouds, actors playing out a drama over our heads we often ignore...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: The grapes of repast

By
Dec. 29, 2011
r_wildGrapes-29webfront

Winter keeps coming in fits and starts, and our migratory birds here in the Blue Ridge seem in no rush to keep moving south. Some of these lagging migrants have been taking advantage of a late-fruiting vine that’s festooning the crown of a small tree near my house. A couple of cedar waxwings – one...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Indian summer brings out the critters

By
Dec. 1, 2011
r_wildSal-01webfront

We’re not the only ones who enjoy Indian summer. Animals that seemed to have gone into hibernation suddenly pop up everywhere, taking advantage of another chance to put on fat before winter really sets in.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Identifying fungi, way more fun than eating them

By
Nov. 10, 2011
r_wildMushroomSeries2-10web

I knew as a kid that toads didn’t actually sit on toadstools (hookah-smoking caterpillars did that), although I did seem to find an awful lot of toadlets sitting under the umbrella tops of some mushrooms. Maybe they were feeding on insects that were eating the mushrooms, or maybe they were seeking shelter from weather...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Virginia’s Little Switzerland

By
Oct. 28, 2011
r_wildGorge-27webfront

A fall visit to Highland County, Virginia's "Little Switzerland," much of which lies in George Washington National Forest.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Different day, different web

By
Oct. 20, 2011
PATIENCE: A large argiope spider, Argiope aurantia, lies in her web waiting for prey along Currituck Sound on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Photo by Pam Owen.

The difference between utility and utility plus beauty is the difference between telephone wires and the spider web. – Edwin Way Teale, American naturalist, photographer, and writer Spiders are arthropods in the arachnid (Arachnida) class, named for the Greek mythological character Arachne. According to the myth, as related in John Compton’s “The Life of...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: A young opossum rescue

By
Aug. 12, 2011
r_wildJudy-11webfront

Driving out of my hollow recently on a brutally hot, humid morning, I saw a woman with her dog at the side of the road and an opossum dead in the middle of it. The woman seemed distressed, so I stopped to see if she needed help. She told me the opossum had babies...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Mushroom, miracle or merkle — the hunt is on!

By
April 21, 2011
r_wildMorel-21webfron-t

Merkel, murkle, morel ― a Morchellaby any other name would smell as funky. It’s that time of year when passionate Appalachian “shroomers” go a-huntin’ for this wrinkled “aristocrat of the forest,” as Czarnecki describes it.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Name that tune

By
March 31, 2011
r_wildSparrow-31webfront

The vernal equinox did not disappoint in officially kicking off spring this year. I woke that fine day to the welcome if monotonous sound of my eastern phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) signaling their return -- at least this is probably the same pair as last year, since they’re loyal to their nesting sites.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: When pruning, use the skills of a barber

By
March 24, 2011
r_wild-24webfront

“Off with their heads” is not a good idea when pruning.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Spring? Okay, found it.

By
March 17, 2011
r_wildBloodroot-17

I don’t care what the calendar says, here in the western Piedmont, spring begins March 1. This year, however, the winter was cold, dry and windy, and seemed endless.
Read More »

Wild Ideas: The woodcock’s high-courting ways

By
Feb. 24, 2011
The coloring of the American Woodcock provides good camouflage for this ground-dwelling bird. Photo by guizmo_68.

A lot of bird species have what we humans consider bizarre courtship displays (although I think Homo sapiens could easily beat them in that department). In Virginia, the strangest belongs to the American Woodcock (Scolopax minor). Belonging to the shorebird (Charadriiformes) taxonomic order, S. minor is the only woodcock native to North America. It...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Tracking more than footprints

By
Feb. 17, 2011
r_wildPossum-17webfront

When I was a kid, I fancied myself to be a great tracker. When I was roaming the forests and meadows near my suburban home, I imagined I was a Native American, since we kids learned from Westerns that they were the best trackers. The goal was to find and observe animals, and ultimately...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Quacking frogs get a jump on spring

By
Feb. 10, 2011
A young Wood Frog. Photo by Michael Zahniser.

Even as a kid, I was an avid frog watcher. Even before the Spring Peepers’ chorus heralded the arrival of spring, I’d pull on my boots and go to still-icy pools to listen for the sound of Lithobates sylvaticus, the Wood Frog, kicking off the annual frog-breeding cycle. The Wood Frog, a forest dweller,...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: The tactile masked bandit

By
Feb. 3, 2011
r_wildStand-03webfront

The North American Raccoon (Procyon lotor) is smart, curious, bold, omnivorous, and opportunistic -- like a small bear in a mask. Our relationship with them has been a conflicted one. We’ve been captivated by the raccoon’s antics, confounded by some of its behavior and annoyed at its skillful thievery. Not only have we captured...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: An old friend, back in the twilight

By
Jan. 27, 2011
r_wildResting-27webfront

A recent question about the name of my company, Nighthawk Communications, brought to mind hot summer nights in Wyoming and one warm, damp spring evening here in Rappahannock County. That evening in Rappahannock, as I was walking my dog through a meadow where I lived, I saw a vague silhouette careening through the sky...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: For memories, nothing eclipses a full moon

By
Jan. 13, 2011
Photo by Gregory H. Revera

I’m not one to sit out in the cold, especially at night, but I made an exception for last month’s lunar eclipse. The last time the lunar eclipse coincided with the winter solstice, in 1648, Gallileo “was languishing under house arrest for suggesting the Earth circled the sun,” as Slate magazine put it, so...
Read More »

Wild Ideas: Daddy longlegs, crawly but maybe not so creepy

By
Jan. 6, 2011
r_wildHarvest-06webfront

Some people fear spiders in general — or are just sure that venomous Brown Recluse or Black Widow spiders are lurking in the dark corners of our houses waiting to pounce on us. The truth is that neither of these species is common in our houses and the arachnids that are more likely to...
Read More »

frontroyalbattle on Facebook




Our weather forecast is from WP Wunderground