Take a second look …
The yellow eyes of the Saw-whet Owl are so startling, their gaze so steady, that we tend to ignore everything else. It’s easy to miss the trace of blood just below the owl’s bill, a smear of something that changes the way we look at the bird, that deepens our understanding of it. What discoveries might we make if we took that second look more often, if we trained ourselves to see?
At some point over the long course of its evolution, the Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) developed the peculiar habit of staring at its reflected image in the still waters of the swamps that it calls home. This mirror gazing does nothing to advance either of the bird’s main aims in life, which are to eat and reproduce. We have to assume that the Prothonotary, like many of its human admirers, is subject to the vice of vanity. Like Narcissus in the ancient myth, this warbler is infatuated with its own reflection. But how is it possible to fall in love … Read moreRead More
Over the past summer, I became fascinated by flower-visiting wasps, especially the solitary kind that build individual nests, either by burrowing into the ground or by fashioning small mud-nests that they attach to plants or artificial constructions. For one thing, these wasps are plentiful where I live in Toronto, Ontario. Throughout the summer and into the fall, I see dozens of them, and usually of several different species, every time I visit one of the local parks or natural areas. All I have to do is find a stand of milkweed or boneset, or goldenrod and asters, and there are … Read moreRead More
I first read about Tennessee Coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) in the catalogue I get every year from Salt Spring Seeds on Vancouver Island. The notice described it as a rare and uncommonly attractive wildflower that was thought to be extinct until 1968, when researchers discovered a surviving pocket in a cedar glade in central Tennessee. Tennessee Coneflower then spent 32 years on the U.S. Endangered Species List. Thanks to conservation efforts led by the Nature Conservancy and the State of Tennessee, this wildflower was finally removed from the list in 2011 and is now available to home gardeners through a number … Read moreRead More