Posts Tagged 'Nantucket'

Feral

SerengetiHeading towards ‘Sconset on the Milestone Road will take you past the Middle Moors, which are nicknamed “the Serengeti” on Nantucket.SerengetiThis nickname is probably the result of too many nature documentaries and the lesson that they usually teach: nature exists somewhere else and is exotic, something to sit back and enjoy from your living room without having to put up with foreigners and suspect plumbing. In fact, though, these 400 acres are maintained in coastal heathland and sandplain grassland, both rare habitats on the island and elsewhere. This landscape is exotic enough and doesn’t need external referents, thank you very much.

Once sheep grazed this area, making sure nothing ever grew very high. Left untended by those Mesopotamian herbivores (bought in after whaling lost its preeminence for the island economy in the mid 19th century) or, now days, human wielding mowers and fire, the land would quickly become a dense scrub thicket. Habitats are always in flow. Why should we stop them? In this case it’s largely because of the Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) and some other invertebrate and plant species that make this rare habitat home. 9780226205557Did you catch that reference to “Mesopotamian herbivores”? I picked that up in George Monbiot’s Feral, where he rages against sheep as the “white plague,” an invasive species which has devoured the British Isles and remains the main obstacle to re-wilding. Monbiot argues persuasively, because he calls up the science, that the British Isles, particularly the wet western edges of Wales and Scotland, used to be lush rain forest. Temperate rain forest, like our Northwest, which often takes second place to the glories of tropical rain forest, but are just as rich and wonderful. (The skirts of Dartmoor felt like rainforest when I trod under them last year.)

This is a very interesting book. I will admit to be bogged down in the initial chapters where the author seemed to be in the midst of mid-life crisis and an urge to find his inner animal and challenge the elements. Written very well, but I can take that or leave it. But his ultimate point kept me through to the far more exciting later chapters: we need to re-wild, largely by letting it alone, our world.

Mantid

Tenodera aridifoliaChinese Mantid, Tenodera aridifolia, on Elvira’s window. Easily four inches long. This is a late summer classic, at least since 1896, when these Asian natives were first introduced into North America. There have been many introductions since, as these all-purpose predators will eat anything they can get their “preying” hands on; of course, that also means insects beneficial to your garden, too.

Winged Ones

antsHymenoptera, the insect order that includes the wasps, bees, and ants, are named after their “membrane wings.” But ants don’t have wings, at least not in the colony, where such appendages would get in the way. The reproductives, males and virgin queens, however, do have wings. The queens break their wings off after mating flights and start new colonies. The males, or drones, die off after their work is done. Last week, a subtle glittering in the grass caught my eye. It was this colony all a-flutter.

Primrose Path

PrimulaPrimroses, although they don’t seem so prim to me. Genus Primula, much hybridized. Picture take last week; an early bloomer indeed. A native of western Eurasia, these are in the garden of another native of western Eurasia.

Wooly

Pyrrharctia isabellaThe familiar caterpillar of the Isabella Tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella), better known as the Wooly Bear. We usually run into these in the fall, around the time of the first frosts, often crossing the road. (Why did the Wooly Bear cross the road?) But they have several generations a year on the East Coast, and this inch-long specimen may be the first of the spring. Or it could be one that has over-wintered.

As with all elaborately patterned caterpillars, the coloring here suggests this might not be so good for you. Warning, warning! Caterpillars not so defensive opt for camouflage. Some people are allergic to the hairs, or setae, of this species.

Seen earlier this week on Lover’s Lane, Nantucket. Why did the Wooly Bear cross Lover’s Lane?

Winter Walk

the woodsA return to Squam Swamp.LichenWhile silvery gray predominates this time of year, there are other colors of note:
ice, leavesA scrim of ice over autumn’s leftovers.
green stainBlue-green stained wood, caused by a fungus.
mossMoss gone wild.

Beach Things

blue crab leg"Nantucket bamboo"Great Black-backed GullSanderlings, Ruddy TurnstonesSpider Crab, barnacle motel


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