Category Archives: Environment

Loving Doves at Creekside

By Ashton Nichols

Lovey and chick make the best of their accommodations at “Creekside.”

Lovey (a.k.a. Lovey Dovey) is in residence at “Creekside,”  our c. 1840 farmhouse. Lovey is a mourning dove, of the family Columbidae, and this year she has had the misfortune—largely self-imposed—of moving into last year’s sparrow’s nest for her spring mating and rearing of chicks.

She is twice the size of the sparrows who built this well-made nest last spring in our screened-in-porch. One morning Lovey’s head is hanging over the edge of the nest tucked into the brick wall of Creekside. The next morning her tail is hanging out of the nest, so far in midair that it looks as though she might plummet to the ground at any moment. But she stays firmly at her task, sitting tightly on top of those eggs, keeping the center of her small, down-lined nest at least close to her own body temperature.

The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura)  is one of the most common birds of wildflower fields and suburban lawns, evident in in almost all of the lower forty eight states all year round, and in summer well into British Columbia in the West—along the Alaska passage—and in the East to the top of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The call is a muffled oo-wooo-coooo-wooo, and it lasts a long time; the book says often from four to six minutes. The birds also make a loud, flapping whistle every time they take off.

Chandler Robbins’s wonderful Birds of North America (a Golden Guide to Field Identification) reports that while these doves nest singly, they feed “in flocks.” Whether in a nearby flock or off completely on his own, Lovey’s mate showed up for the first time this morning, looking extremely well fed. He sat on the nearby waist-high metal fence for a long time. Then, he flew back into the neighboring maple tree, cooing all the while, and suddenly he flew up to Lovey’s nest, landed directly on top of her, and pushed her off into the air. She flapped twice and landed nearby in the yard’s largest maple tree.

Mourning doves are one of those bird species in which the male shares egg-sitting duties with the female: she typically sits all night and he during the day. He literally nudges her out of the nest when he lands. She acts almost surprised, and yet this must have happened every day since she laid her eggs. Now he sits there quietly, turning his head from side to side, and she flies off across the yard to gather food for herself and her offspring to be.

Yesterday, for the first time, we realized that two eggs had hatched in the sparrow/dove nest and that two newborns were lying still in their down-lined space. Lovey looked as though she could not get comfortable for most of the morning. She would stand, turn around, flap her wings — singly, or in unison — then peck toward the center of her nest as though something was annoying (or pleasing) her? By the afternoon, we could see two balls of fluff, their heads barely visible amid each feathery ball.

By noon today, Lovey as mother was feeding them for the first time. She disappeared without her mate replacing her and returned within the hour to begin feeding her magic dove’s milk. Mourning doves, like their close relatives — pigeons — make a milk-like substances in their digestive tract to feed their young. It looks more like cottage cheese and it has more proteins than cows’ milk; it also has more antioxidants and immune-producing substances. So Lovey is now putting her closed beak into her squabs’ tiny mouths, opening her bill, and regurgitating this life-giving fluid into each chick’s waiting gullet.

It is a spring full of birds at Creekside this year; some mornings we virtually feel like an aviary. A nearby robin occasionally fly out from her chest-high nest into the wide yard, coming back with a worm that she swallows. Soon these worms will not be for her. So far this spring, in addition to countless robins, we have seen the usual starlings, grackles, blackbirds, and sparrows, also several cardinals, mockingbirds, nesting house wrens, and—excitingly—a fluty-throated wood thrush, the flash of two Baltimore orioles and one gorgeous brilliant bluish-violet indigo bunting.

So, keep your eyes open all spring and—with any luck—you are likely to have ornithological sights galore surrounding you!

Ashton Nichols is the Walter E. Beach ’56 Distinguished Chair in Sustainability Studies and Professor of Language and Literature at Dickinson College

 

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Filed under Environment, General, Nature, The Roost

Touchdown!

Lawrence Millman (blue jacket) leads mushroom foray in Estabrook Woods on February 3 as an alternative activity to the Super Bowl.

By Lawrence Millman

Thoreau Farm and the Thoreau Society sponsored the 2nd Annual Super Cup Fungus Foray on Sunday, February 3, in order to provide citizens of the Commonwealth with a healthy alternative to watching a bunch of grown men smash repeatedly into each other in an event known as the Super Bowl.

Cup fungi are somewhat smaller than a football stadium, but considerably more interesting.

This fungi flashcard showcases some of the fungi found in Estabrook Woods during the Feb. 3 foray.

We found several on the Super Cup Fungus Foray that was held in Estabrook Woods in Concord, Massachusetts.

Altogether, we found 41 different fungal species — not bad for the dead of winter.

Here’s the species list:

  1. Angelina rufescens (cup fungus — uncommon)
  2. Apiosporina morbosa (Shit on a Stick — a parasite of Prunus species)
  3. Bisporella citrina (cup fungus)
  4. Botryobasidium sp. (crust)
  5. Camarops petersii (Dog’s Nose Fungus — uncommon)
  6. Cerrena unicolor (Mossy Maze Polypore)
  7. Chlorosplenium chlora (cup fungus)
  8. Crinula caliciiformis (asexual form of Holwaya mucida)
  9. Daedaleopsis confragosa (Thin Maze Polypore)
  10. Daldinia concentrica (Cramp Ball)
  11. Diatrype stigma (pyrenomycete)
  12. Diatrypella sp. (pyrenomycete)
  13. Exidia recisa (Brown Witches Butter — everywhere!)
  14. Holwaya mucida (ascomycete — uncommon)
  15. Hydnochaete olivaceum (Olive Toothed Polypore)
  16. Hymenochaete rubiginosa (crust)
  17. Hypomyces pallida (on Tyromyces chioneus)
  18. Hypoxylon fragiforme (pyrenomycete)
  19. Irpex lacteus (Milk White Toothed Polypore)
  20. Kretschmaria deusta (pyrenomycetre)
  21. Nectria sp. (ascomycete)
  22. Lachnelulla resinacea (ascomycete on pine resin)
  23. Panellus stipticus (Night Light — bioluminescent)
  24. Peniophora meridionalis (crust)
  25. Phaeocalium polyporaeum (ascomycete — on Trichaptum biformis)
  26. Rosellinia sp. (pyrenomycete)
  27. Sarea resinae (cup fungus on pine resin)
  28. Sarea difformis (cup fungus on pine resin)
  29. Schizophyllum commune (Split Gill)
  30. Stereum complicatum (Crowded Parchment)
  31. Stereum ostrea (False Turkey Tail)
  32. Trametes cinnabarina (Cinnabar-Red Polypore)
  33. Trametes concyifer (Tender Nesting Polypore)
  34. Trametes hirsutum (Hairy Turkey Tail)
  35. Trametes pubescens (Pubescent Turkey Tail)
  36. Trametes suaveolens (Anise-Smelling Polypore)
  37. Trametes trogii (Big Pored Polypore)
  38. Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail)
  39. Tremella lutescens (Witches Butter)
  40. Trichaptum biformis (Purple Toothed Polypore)
  41. Tyromyces chioneus (Cheese Polypore)

Lawrence Millman is an adventure travel writer and mycologist.

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On The Concord River

By Tom O’Malley

“The life in us is like the waters in a river,” HDT

What is it about rivers?

Tom O’Malley, with daughter Nora and wife Meg.

They pull us in and push us along. Sometimes, rivers will sweep us away, but I think that is only because they get excited when we accept their invitations. Rivers can be sociable, but can get out of control in their enthusiasm. Funny, I live right near a famous river, the Niagara. I have swam in it, boated on it, walked along it and have been hypnotized by it. My wife Meg and I love to drive along the Canadian side of the Niagara from Fort Erie to Niagara on the Lake. It is a time machine with passing glimpses of British forts and quiet villages. Such a slow and pretty drive.

Still, I don’t feel the warm attachment to this river that I do for the Concord River in Massachusetts. The Niagara is a powerful god, a Poseidon the earth shaker, a ribbon of fear that sweeps toward oblivion at the Falls. If the Niagara is a time machine, then the Falls are the fearful Apocalypse that lurks in the darker pages of the Bible.

The Concord is the river of peace, as its name suggests. I prefer its Algonquin name, the Musketaquid or river of grassy banks. This river moves so slowly that Nathaniel Hawthorne, an avid boater, was never sure of the direction of its current when he lived up at Emerson’s Old Manse in the 1840’s.

I have walked and paddled on the Concord many times. It is never a fearful place, even when I was caught in a rainstorm a few years ago. The trees and bridges seem to spring up whenever shelter is required. The gentle river is always inviting , protective and generous.

As I floated down the Concord just a short time ago, I couldn’t help but recall my secret image of this river as a concrete image of time. In fact, the Concord is timeless. We floated past 18th Century farm houses shaded by trees that were seeded during the American Revolution. I could clearly feel and see Emerson walking along the banks with Henry Thoreau. Their poetry was written on these waters and continues to nourish the generations that spring up along its shore. Geese still jet over our heads while frogs sit meditating on logs.

Soon we approach the Old North Bridge, surely the birthplace of American independence. It is hard to imagine that an epic battle was once fought in these pastoral fields. To our right, we see the Old Manse, a house built by Reverend William Emerson and home to his grandson Ralph Waldo Emerson and later to Nathaniel Hawthorne, who enjoyed writing haunting stories while watching the river float by his window.

Back on land, time seems like a straight line as we mark off the days, months and years. While we are carried along by this mystic water, time has no meaning. The Native peoples still make treaties near Egg Rock, while up ahead, stout Concord farmers trade their plows for muskets. The transcendentalists learn to see heaven on earth, and I float along through all of it in the company of those I love the most. Here there is no dreary human time, only the bells of shared experience and visible manifestations of wonder. Every time.

Tom O’Malley is an adjunct professor of English at Canisius College. 

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Filed under Environment, Henry David Thoreau, Nature, The Roost, Thoreau Quote