The Outside Story

Bark in winter
Column
February 3, 2017

Bark in winter

By Joe Rankin

It’s winter. Hardwood trees are bare. But that doesn’t mean the woods are bereft of interest. Winter, when sunlight slants in, is the time when bark comes into its own. Pause to take in the aged-brass bark of a yellow birch, or…

Mink in the middle
Column
January 25, 2017

Mink in the middle

By Meghan McCarthy McPhaul

If the river otter is the most aquatic member of the mustelid family and weasels represent the terrestrial branch of the clan, the American mink is the adept middle child, taking advantage of its adaptations both in the water and on…

Boisterous Blue Jays flock in winter
Column
January 18, 2017

Boisterous Blue Jays flock in winter

By Susan Shea

“Jay, jay, jay!” Every morning last winter I awoke to the loud cries of a flock of 17 blue jays dancing around my feeder. They gorged on sunflower seeds and suet, scaring away smaller birds, then left, only to return in the…

The arthropods among us
Column
January 11, 2017

The arthropods among us

By Kenrick Vezina

Not to alarm you, but you’re surrounded. There, buzzing stupidly into the slats of your venetian blinds, is a house fly. Nearby, nestled in a crevice of the window-frame, a ladybug waits out the winter. In a corner overhead, a spindly house…

On winter birdfeeders, many questions
Column
January 4, 2017

On winter birdfeeders, many questions

By Joe Rankin

Back in September, I put out the bird feeder. I try not to do it too early because, well . . . bears. My feathered friends emptied it in hours. A couple of refills later and I decided I couldn’t afford to…

The trees of Christmas past and future
Column
December 28, 2016

The trees of Christmas past and future

By Patrick White

You picked it out, maybe cut it down, brought it home, watered it, and decorated it. But do you know what species of tree that is, surrounded by presents in your living room? If you purchased your Christmas tree rather than cutting…

Carpenter ants: Consumers of everything but wood
Column
December 21, 2016

Carpenter ants: Consumers of everything but wood

By Madeline Bodin

Mention carpenter ants, and Declan McCabe, chair of the biology department at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, thinks about the time he got a lungful of formic acid. He had taken a class into the field to survey insects. He saw a…

Glacier-carved rocks, evidence of our Ice Age past
Column
December 14, 2016

Glacier-carved rocks, evidence of our Ice Age past

By Ned Swanberg

When I’m hiking, I like to watch for rock basins, sometimes as small as cupped hands, that appear along summits and ridgelines. These are “thin places.” When filled with water, these tiny quivering pools offer a deep plunge into time. Basins run…

The Color of Cranberries
Column
December 1, 2016

The Color of Cranberries

By Tim Traver

As a kid fidgeting at my grandmother’s Thanksgiving table, I often wondered, what’s the point of cranberries? She had a live-in Irish cook who insisted on serving whole cranberries suspended in a kind of gelatinous, inverted bog. If I ventured to eat…