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31 December 2016

2016 Yard List

Eastern bluebird (and its lunch, a camel cricket) Purple finch (male) At New Year’s, I post my “yard list” here. It’s a list of all the bird species observed in my yard in Fort Valley, Virginia, over the course of the previous calendar year. I have been posting this list every year since I moved here: 2012 (39 species) 2013 (51 species) 2014 (58 species) 2015 (65 species) Yellow-billed cuckoo …

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24 December 2016

A wondrous transformation

It’s bonfire season here in the Fort Valley. I live in a forest, and that forest is full of dead and downed wood. Motivated by a desire to (a) reduce forest fire risk and (b) clear out some of the area under the trees for unobstructed recreation, I gather it up and periodically burn it off in batches. We time these blazes to the weather – before or after after …

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28 November 2016

Scenes from the Wildlife Camera

Here’s a look at some of the wild critters that have been visiting my yard this year: The video’s organized in alphabetical order, so it starts with bears, and ends with a walking stick insect. See how many you can identify! Plus, here’s a compilation of 125 still photos of black bears from June of 2015:

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16 May 2016

Trace fossils in the Massanutten Sandstone

Over the weekend, my wife and I took a walk with our son at the Storybrook Trail, an accessible trail with a fine overlook to the east over the Page Valley. There, the Massanutten Sandstone shows a bunch of big beefy trace fossils at this site: both bedding-parallel (Arthophycus-like) and bedding-perpendicular (Skolithos-like) traces. Here’s Bax on a photogenic slab of the quartz arenite, showing the inch-wide bioturbation: A short distance …

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20 April 2016

Who ate the woodpecker?

Occasionally, our big windows get in the way of birds. The latest casualty was a hairy woodpecker, Leuconotopicus villosus. While it’s sad that our home being where it is caused the end of this bird’s life, its body was an opportunity to teach my son something about wildlife and ecology. We have a motion-sensitive wildlife camera trained on our compost pile, and so I put the woodpecker’s body there in …

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31 December 2015

2015 Yard List

It’s that time of the year – a time to state my “yard list” tally for the previous year. I have been posting this list every year since I moved to the Fort Valley: 2012 (39 species) 2013 (51 species) 2014 (58 species) In 2015, we had 65 species of birds spotted and definitively identified in our yard. In order of first appearance, they were: Carolina wren Dark-eyed junco American …

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17 February 2015

A decade of Lola the cat

Today is the 10-year-anniversary of the day I adopted Lola the cat. She’s been a faithful companion for a quarter of my life! Here’s the day it happened, as recorded in my 2005 calendar: Look at this historical document – Titanic opens; Malcolm Gladwell giving a talk; I was still doing woodcut block printing – and I was teaching structural geology at GMU then, too. Earlier in the same week, …

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1 January 2015

2014 Yard List

A list of birds seen in my yard this year. Lists for 2013 (51 species) and 2012 (39 species) here. Downy woodpecker Mourning dove Dark-eyed junco Tufted titmouse White-breasted nuthatch Black-capped chickadee Goldfinch Pileated woodpecker Red-bellied woodpecker Turkey vulture Hairy woodpecker Eastern phoebe Red-tailed hawk American crow American robin Cardinal Bald eagle Brown creeper Barred owl Carolina wren Brown-headed cowbird Chipping sparrow Whippoorwill Turkey Broad-winged hawk Black vulture Blue-gray gnatcatcher …

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3 July 2014

It’s a fungi-eat-fungi world out there

Spotted in the yard this morning: One fungus (yellow, cracked like a breadcrust) being consumed by another (whitish, hairy wisps). Close-up portraits…

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14 April 2014

Shadblow (serviceberry)

A sure sign of the advent of spring in Fort Valley is the blooming of the shadblow, an understory tree species with clusters of white flowers: My wife and I took our son for a hike yesterday, and the shadblow was pretty much the only tree with anything on its branches: I infer that shadblow is named for the fact that its flowers “blow” (bloom) when the shad swim upstream …

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