The Notebook

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1 June 2023 – The Japanese beetle is among the most notorious of invasive species. After being unintentionally introduced to New Jersey in 1916, it has continued to spread westward, causing millions of dollars in crop damage. Its implacable reproductive and survival skills endure in the adage that the only rule that applies to Japanese beetle control is that they can’t be controlled, only coaxed sometimes to relocate. For the full beetle story.

A Japanese beetle is unmistakable with its green and brown wing covers.

1 May 2023 – From the mad honey of Xenophon’s march to the Black Sea used by Mithridates of Pontus to poison Roman soldiers, rhododendrons span the globe from their origin in Asia to the tangled, dense understory of Appalachian trails. The “rose tree” is aptly named for the vibrant clusters of white blossoms limned in pink that decorate its extended branches. The details about mad honey?

1 April 2023 – The starling was introduced to North America in the nineteenth century for good reasons but not because Shakespeare wrote about them. Their remarkable ability to mimic sounds like human voices and musical notes was noted by Mozart, who kept a starling as a pet and wrote both poetic and musical tributes when it died. While starlings have become somewhat invasive due to their numbers, a shape shifting murmuration is a sight to behold. Details here.

1 March 2023 – It was the fourth warmest winter ever recorded which has resulted in an early spring; the daffodils or narcissi have emerged. Many associate narcissus with Greek Mythology and falling in love with your image (and in psychiatry with yourself). Not so – it is derived from the Greek narke meaning numbness (the same goes for the word narcotics). This is because it was used as a potent cancer medicine by Hippocrates. The full story of narcissus is here.

The Harbinger of Spring

1 February 2023 – Solar Energy is widely touted as the answer to the climate change problem. The sun radiates billions of watts, many times the supply needed to match global demand. While solar panels are important, they are limited by chemistry, physics, engineering, and economics. The details are in the article here.

1 January 2023 – Happy New Year – The issue of climate change deserves attention. It is relevant to everything that we do and is integral to hiking. A primer on the basics of the greenhouse effect and greenhouse gases is a subject that is worth knowing so that, when the subject comes up for discussion, you can better understand and become an advocated for action. The Article is entitled Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming Gases. It explains the diagram below.

15 December 2022 – Moose are metaphor for strength and solitude. Subsisting on tree bark and aquatic plants, they survive the rigors of winter without hibernation. While their numbers have rebounded from the depredation of the last century, they are threatened by the warmer temperatures of climate change. The reasons are complex. The moose story, including Bullwinkle, can be found here.

Bull Moose feeding on aquatic plants in Cascade Canyon,

17 October 2022 – The Parasol Mushroom is named for its appearance as the near perfect umbrella. But the shape is deceiving as it is not to protect the spores on the underside of the cap from water, but to provide an atmosphere with enough water vapor under the cap to provide a droplet to launch the spores. The explanation of the surface tension catapult is in the article here.

The Parasol Mushroom is the epitome of an umbrella with a wide cap and narrow stem.

17 September 2022 – The Wooly Bear Caterpillar is the counterpart to the groundhog‘s spring forecast. The width of its brown band is an alleged harbinger of the severity of the upcoming winter. It is often seen trundling furiously on trails in autumn to find a good place to wait out the cold, which it will do in a near frozen state. For more information about the astounding larva of the Isabella moth, read the article here.

Woolly Bear on the move.

15 August 2022 – Yarrow is one of the most well-known herbals globally as it is native to both Eurasia and North America. It is widely disbursed and common along old fields and roads; easily recognized for its lacy leaf structure. Mythologically, it was used by Achilles to treat wounds during the Trojan War, one of its current primary uses. There is more to learn.

Yarrow growing in clusters beside the trail in an open area.

15 July 2022 – Bald Eagles need no introduction. Their survival story involving DDT and the Migratory Bird Act is augmented with the true story about Benjamin Franklin’s alleged aversion, favoring the turkey as the national symbol. Article in depth.

A soaring bald eagle is the epitome of freedom.

15 June 2022 – Ring-necked snakes are small, common, and supposedly harmless. But like many of the rear-fanged snakes in the Colubrid family, they produce venom that causes pain, hematoma, and swelling. And why the neck ring? More information in the article.

Ring-necked snakes can be up to two feet long, subsisting mostly on salamanders.

16 May 2022 – The Eastern redcedar is not a cedar. It is a juniper. Junipers have “berries” that are not berries but small blue cones that attract birds to spread the seeds, which is why there are so many of them. More about the marvels of red cedar.

The Eastern red cedar is rarely seen alone in a field, as they are normally spread across wide ranges of open areas by birds.

18 March 2022 – Just in time for spring, the wood frogs have unfrozen and the males are madly searching wetlands for a mate to fill the water with thousands of eggs. The question is, how did they survive the ice? An interesting story of cryopreservation in the article.

The most notable feature of the wood frog is the black “robber’s mask” eye stripe.

14 February 2022 – Greenshield Lichens are most notable in the winter when they are one of the few things that contrast the drab grays and browns of denuded deciduous trees. They need only sunlight and water for the algal portion of the lichen to provide nutrients to the fungal portion. More on lichens and how they survive in the full article

Rock Greenshield lichens in a winter snowscape.

15 January 2022 – It is still winter but a new year. White-tailed deer are wearing their darker coats and seeking out food that is scarce, wandering farther afield. This contributes to the deer population that poses an ecological problem in forests. A full discussion of the white-tailed deer, their habits, and ways to deal with them are in the full article.

This white-tailed deer doe has become so accustomed to humans that she stares blithely at the camera without a hint of alarm; the tail is in the fully lowered position.

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