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Nature's Notebook

Mountain Lions in New England? An Acclaimed Naturalist Discusses their Return

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Rare visitors at the bird feeder

There was a red-breasted nuthatch at my bird feeder this past weekend. I’ve lived in this house since 2002 and this is the first time one of these marvelous birds has paid me a visit. It was about the size of a chickadee or a small wren, and unmistakable with its black eye stripe and rusty red breast. 

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Ode to snow

Give me a blanket of new-fallen snow, suitable for stopping by woods in the bleak midwinter. I want the kind that bends the birches and buries our earthly scars in pearly white. Let the wind drop with the temperature, the clouds draw back to reveal the milky edge of our galaxy spilling out across the moonless sky. Or, if there is a moon, let it be the color of new ice, so that the trees throw their shadows with a suggestion of blue across the stark white snow. 

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Works for me

It’s surprising we’re not a healthier nation. Historically, we cured most common afflictions decades ago. In the 19th century, as now, we put stock in the experiences and recommendations of others — not necessarily physicians.
Samuel H. Jones of Salisbury gave testimony — I found it in the Dec. 11, 1821, issue of Vermont Watchman & State Journal — to the curative value of Anderson’s Cough Drops.

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2018: wet and wild in the NW Corner

What a difference a year makes. In 2017, Connecticut experienced widespread drought conditions, with Litchfield County receiving only 32 inches of rain — 18 inches below the yearly average. 
Through mid-October 2018, streams and rivers were running high in our area and we were nearly 6 inches above average. Welcome to the new normal. We can expect wide fluctuations in precipitation, not to mention temperature and weather severity, as the climate continues to change.

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An irruption brings new birds to feeders

There was a significant crop failure in Canada that may bring us some unusual visitors in the coming weeks. These migrants include the red breasted nuthatch and the bohemian waxwing, but are predominantly a group of winter finches that rely on spruce, fir and hemlock cones and birch seeds.

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Trust your sensors

We are such an electronic society. I’m not a Luddite, but I’m cautious.
Home smoke detectors, for example, at least in our home, are known to ignore fumes from blackening onions but blurt loudly at 1 a.m. because their batteries are low.
So I change the batteries twice yearly when I change the clocks.

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As daylight becomes scarce

That chocolate brown river is still running high after weeks of rain. Two weeks ago, the air was so warm that the Housatonic steamed, as it sometimes does in winter when the water is much warmer than the air. This time the fog rose when conditions were reversed. Hip-booted anglers looked like wraiths out in the stream; but the water is turbid with runoff again and no good for fishing until it clears.

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The oak and the maple and our dashed hopes

I should have known better. Daring to predict the quality of the autumn foliage in New England is an act of hubris that seldom goes unanswered. Alert readers of this column will have noticed that despite my assertion in September that we had the potential for an outstanding display of fall color, we have instead experienced one of the drabbest, most muted and altogether lackluster leaf peeping seasons in recent memory. 

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The garden gets a B-

Autumn’s arrival prompted a veggie garden evaluation: B-minus. Tomatoes did very well, basil too. Potatoes could have grown a little bigger before the tops died down. Green beans were enormously prolific. But the vine produce — peas, cucumbers and zucchini — were victims likely of the heat and munchy worms. Carrots are stubby and apparently too wet: they started to grow roots. Kale was happy. 
We’re tempted to skip the beans next year; the two of us can only eat so many.

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