The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 5/24/2015.
The small bird my boys found in the backyard last weekend was olive green with an orange crown like a dirty hunter’s hat. It showed no signs of violence, but it was definitely dead. No rigor mortis, so it wasn’t a winter casualty emerged from the snow. …that’s as far as our “CSI: South Portland” investigation went before I got a shovel and buried the bird six inches under. My seven-year-old placed a cantaloupe-sized rock over the grave and we went on with our day.
It was only after going back inside that evening that I began to wonder what species of bird it had been.
Perhaps you have noticed the young people dressed in distinctive khaki pants and NCCC-labeled tee shirts working individually or in groups on the grounds at Laudholm. They are members of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, an organization based in Washington DC.
I recently had the opportunity to sit with four AmeriCorps members at one of their newly constructed picnic tables. They and five others arrived at Laudholm on March 27 and worked until April 17.
The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 5/10/2015.
Because I love science, and because I have kids, I watch a lot of nature films. My favorite bit of animal cinema involves day-old ducklings emerging from a hole in a tree trunk and plummeting 50 feet down to the leaf-strewn ground below. Their stubby wings flap in vain, but the baby wood ducks all survive. Ducklings bounce, it turns out. Their mother, who had been waiting (anxiously? nonchalantly? impatiently?) for them to emerge, guides them to a nearby lake. Their real lives begin.
On Thursday, May 7, a little bit of history was made at the fish ladder located at the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District. For the first time since restoring the fish ladder in December 2013 we successfully caught a fish that we had previously captured and tagged downstream at our Route 9 Branch Brook fishing net. Now, sea lamprey #181 is famous here in the research department!
One April long ago, my ornithology instructor took our class to Bowerman Basin to view an annual sandpiper spectacle he helped discover and document. Dr. Herman delivered us to an enormous flock of shorebirds and, as science students "seeking patterns in nature," we were charged with tallying them.
"How do we count such a huge flock of birds?" we asked the sage.
"Count the legs and divide by two," was his wisdom.*
Ever since, I've strived to get good looks at bird legs whenever I've got binoculars in hand. No, I'm not counting them; I'm checking them for bands. Steve also taught us the value of studying birds as individuals and as populations — and how both approaches are aided by a scientist's ability to identify specific birds reliably. To do that requires marking them and legs are the go-to appendage.
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