Why do species have scientific names?

If you’ve looked at any field guide or read a scientific paper in ecology or biology, you’ve probably run into scientific names. These are the fancy, often Harry-Potter-sounding words written in italics and describing a species. Often times you’ll hear them, or read them, after a species’ common name. A friend of mine once told me that to be a …

Is it better not to rake your leaves?

Trees, shrubs, and other plants make a lot of mess when they drop their leaves in the fall. All of the leaves, twigs, branches, and other plant matter can pile up quickly over the course of a year. Within a few weeks or months it can cover a well-groomed lawn. Biologists and naturalists call all this mess “leaf litter”. Although …

Catkins: When Trees Make You Sneeze

Observing nature is a fantastic way to track the seasons. After a long winter, most people are eager for signs of spring. We may find ourselves looking for the first robin in our back yard, or for trees to start leafing out. In today’s Wildlife Spotlight, I’m focusing on a poorly known but very early sign of winter’s end: catkins. …

5 Household bugs that you should know about

Despite our best efforts, invertebrate visitors are common in our homes. As explained in the first installment of this mini-series, household bugs can be charming, harmless, or potentially dangerous depending on the species. These posts will help you get to know some of the usual suspects and whether or not they’re worth worrying about. As with part 1, I’ll be …

Why are there suddenly so many bugs in my house?

Even if you like spiders and insects, it can be unsettling when they show up at home. It is always worth knowing whether or not bugs in your house could potentially be harmful. However, most invertebrates in our homes are pretty harmless. Despite what profit-driven exterminator and pest control companies would like you to think!  Nonetheless, when a handful are …

How to use field marks for birdwatching

Let’s talk about field marks for birdwatchers. Here’s a hypothetical situation to start: You’re walking to your car after work, or starting a hike on a gorgeous Saturday morning. Or maybe you’re stopped at a traffic and looking out the window. You see a bird that you don’t recognize. It’s there for maybe for a few seconds or a minute …

How to use binoculars

Whether or not you’re a birder, binoculars can really enhance time spent in nature. Animals are often wary of people, making it hard to see them up close. Binoculars can bring you up-close and personal with animals at medium distances, or help you find or identify things at longer distances if they are inaccessible. I’ve used my binoculars for everything …

Vernal Pools and why they’re totally awesome

Spring is a fleeting and fickle season. Warm weather often comes and goes a few times before it finally settles in for good. Flowers start to bloom on trees and out of the ground as it thaws. In many temperate areas and higher latitudes, melting snow from the winter, and increased rains, lead to a wetter landscape. Many of us …