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?
I like every element of the popular name: Early Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum giganteum). Early means the flowers appear when I most long for them—in April, when winter has just released its grip, and the soil, if not frozen, is still clammy and cold. Blue signifies a color I don’t see much of so early in the season, aside from the violets that grow in bunches just as this plant is raising its purple stalks in the air and starting to unfold its leaves with all the imperious authority of a flamenco dancer’s hands. And Cohosh, which comes from the Algonquian … Read moreRead More
Recently, I was asked to compile a checklist of the dragonflies and damselflies that frequent the Leslie Street Spit, the so-called “urban wilderness” and parkland that extends into Lake Ontario from Toronto’s east end. One thing that intrigued me about this project was the contrast between the old and new that it illustrates. On the one hand, fossil records for the insect order Odonata, which includes dragonflies and damselflies, extend all the way back to the Permian Period, about 250 million years ago, well before the advent of the dinosaurs. On the other, the Spit, in geological terms, is still … Read moreRead More
To paraphrase Thoreau, I wish to speak a word for caterpillars, if only because so few defend or find them beautiful. Maybe their unpopularity, at least in North America, stems from the ravages of the LD Moth, Lymantia dispar (formerly known as the Gypsy Moth), whose larvae appear in their millions year after year to defoliate vast stretches of forests and parks and suburban neighborhoods. Last summer was particularly bad for LD Moths in Toronto. Walking through High Park in the city’s west end, I could actually hear the noise made by hundreds of thousands of small mouths simultaneously chewing … Read moreRead More