The Outside Story: Woodpeckers are well adapted to winter

Measuring only 6 inches in length and weighing less than an ounce, downy woodpeckers are the smallest of North America’s 22 native woodpecker species.

The Outside Story: Crows in Winter

During winter, I catch glimpses of crows as they fly swiftly over our valley, cawing, or gather in small groups to feed on roadkill along the highway.

The Outside Story: Snowy owls irrupting

Here’s a quiz for Harry Potter fans: What kind of owl played Hedwig in the movies?

The Outside Story: Balsam Fir — A Favorite Christmas Tree

Every year my husband and I cut a Christmas tree on family land. We look for a young balsam fir growing in the power line right-of-way or in a forest clearing. Fir is our favorite type of Christmas tree because of its delightful, pungent fragrance. While … (read more)

The Outside Story: How to preserve a snowflake

Wilson Bentley (1865-1931) lived his entire life in Jericho, where he developed a passion for snowflakes at an early age.

The Outside Story: As summer wanes, fawns lose spots

I have often been stopped in my tracks by the sight of a white-tailed doe standing in the lush summer grass.

The Outside Story: Ant-mimic spiders are masters of disguise

I put the small brown ant I had mounted (but never identified) under a microscope and peered down at it. Two huge, headlight-like eyes stared back at me. That couldn’t be right; ants don’t have eyes that size and shape. I took the specimen to my professor … (read more)

The Outside Story: How flowers get their color

To quote the French dramatist Jean Giradoux, “The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life.” Flowering plants fill our summer fields and gardens, bring bright spots of color to our woods, and — since thei … (read more)

The Outside Story: Stars of the spring woods soundtrack

This spring, as you walk outside, keep an ear open for two distinctive bird songs: zee zee zee zee zo zee or zee zee zo zo zee. If you hear them, you’ve identified a black-throated green warbler (Setophaga virens), a bird that is often heard but rarely se … (read more)

The Outside Story: Brown creepers: Denizens of the bark

On certain afternoons, if I time it just right, I may spot a brown creeper (Certhia americana) on the trunk of a tree in my front yard. Moving stealthily, almost imperceptibly up the tree, the brown creeper hunts for food among the bark. I watch this avia … (read more)

The outside story: Wetlands filter, enrich the landscape

One spring, following heavy rain, I visited the Saint Michael’s College Natural Area hoping to capture exciting photographs of the rushing Winooski River. Rather than raging floodwaters, however, I found the river’s floodplain was efficiently — and slowly … (read more)

The outside story: The secret lives of salamanders

On a warm, rainy April night a few years ago, I drove up our muddy, rutted dirt road through the mist, steering around the wood frogs hopping across the road. As I approached the vernal pool, there were more frogs in the road, so I parked to avoid hitting … (read more)

The Outside Story: Bluebirds flock to feeders in winter

On Valentine’s Day, as I sat down to write, I noticed a burst of blue outside my upstairs window. Looking out with my binoculars, I counted six eastern bluebirds. Clustered on and below my suet feeders, they were a wonderfully pleasant surprise on a chill … (read more)

The outside story: Owls are fascinating forest residents

On frigid winter evenings, the hooting of a barred owl (Strix varia) serves as a reminder that the darkened forests of the Northeast are still very much alive with activity. Their nocturnal calling emanates from favorite forest haunts, including along lak … (read more)

The outside story: Tufted titmice flock to feeders

As winter approaches and snow coats the ground, the tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) will again become a ubiquitous backyard visitor. Familiar to even the most casual observers of nature, titmice readily come to feeders, especially those filled with s … (read more)