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Crow’s Path
Crow’s Path

The Wild Burlington Newsletter

The Wild Burlington Newsletter2021-12-06T12:22:18-05:00

Welcome to the Wild Burlington Newsletter

The (mostly) weekly newsletter covers a wide range of natural history topics. You’ll discover the wild world around you with the help of professional naturalist, Teage O’Connor. So if you’re interested in tracking the changing seasons, connecting to your local landscape, and learning more than you ever wanted to know about twigs, then this is the newsletter for you!

Plus, you’ll also get nature quizzes, notes on upcoming events (like the Wild Burlington Lecture series), contests, and awareness activities that will engage you with the wild world. And it’s all delivered right to your inbox.

The newsletter is the perfect learning tool for naturalists of all abilities!

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The Wild Burlington Archives

You can also check out the blog for more natural history and the natural history section for field guides, essays, and other explorations of Vermont’s natural history.

The Wild Burlington Blog
1911, 2021

Easy Peasy Plant ID-Zee

By |November 19, 2021|Autumn, Identification, Natural History, Plants, Trees + Shrubs|

I never liked the colloquial Vermont term for late fall. Stick Season just seems so pejorative, like after a beautiful fall we're just waiting in purgatory before we can throw on those more useful sticks and ski down fluffy white mountains. Maybe I get so ruffled because in my book there's nothing better than a stick! They're endlessly fascinating - lenticels, prickles, and pith, oh my! - each feature a clue into the clever adaptations trees have for fending off predators, desiccating winds, and deadly cold. Twigs are also useful - as spiles (sumac), whistles (boxelder), snares, baskets (willows), teeth whitening (dogwood) - and they're even tasty! A few plants out there are reluctant to give up on fall and hold their leaves much longer.

1407, 2021

The Lymantria dispar moth

By |July 14, 2021|Invertebrates, Natural History|

A couple weeks I was teaching a professional development course on Vermont’s Natural History based out of St Mark’s church here in Burlington. On our first day, we were outside working with compasses when someone pointed out all the dead oaks in the parking lot. When I looked up, I was shocked at the barren canopy. The surrounding neighborhood seemed totally oblivious to whatever had plagued the dozen or so white and red oaks lining the property.

202, 2021

Black lights and Wood

By |February 2, 2021|Experiment, Natural History, Skills & Activities, Trees + Shrubs|

I was recently listening to a podcast and the guest said that natural history is largely descriptive while ecology explores the reasons why things are the way they are. In my newsletters I've tried to blend the two worlds, taking descriptive observations I make out the field and texturing them with a layer of research. My research is often focused on the adaptive significance behind why something happens. It's interesting to know that beaver teeth grow at different rates throughout the year, but I'm more fascinated by the adaptive reasons for the variation. And in discovering the answers, I come to a keener sense of how my world operates.

1101, 2021

Wolf Trees

By |January 11, 2021|Growth Patterns, Natural History, Trees + Shrubs|

It's a common sight in New England - you're walking through a young, scraggly forest and then in the distance there's a tree as though from an ancient and distant land. A single stumpy trunk that promptly splits into multiple large, gnarled branches that extend out and up. You have some sense that the cells at the heart of the tree - if they have not yet rotted away - were laid down before any voices could have wondered out loud in French or English whether or not to cut the tree down.

1101, 2021

Beaver teeth

By |January 11, 2021|Animals, Mammals, Natural History|

I spent the last 10 weeks of college obsessing over mammal skulls thanks to Eric Larson's mammalogy course. From some blueprint mammal skull perched at the end of a Permian cynodont neck as the beast scoured the swampy horsetail forests for food, arose the great and endless variety of mammal skulls we find today. Our lab was well stocked with dozens of mammal skulls that represented this diversity, from crabeater seals to kangaroo rats, and I spent countless hours studying occipital condyles, turbinals, auditory bullae, and zygomatic arches, comparing the differences across species lines.

812, 2020

Love Trees

By |December 8, 2020|Growth Patterns, Natural History, Trees + Shrubs|

One of our patrons, Nina Jaffe, sent me the photos below and wrote: “I snapped both of these pics in the [Jericho] UVM Research Forest…the beech on the left this past Sunday and the hemlock (I believe) back in Sept. 2012. How does this phenomenon occur?” So I thought I’d follow up with some info on how these “love trees” form.

1905, 2020

Stinky Plants

By |May 19, 2020|Flowers, Mutualism, Plants, Spring, Symbiosis|

Generally speaking, animal-pollinated (zoophilous) flowers are more effective at effecting the transfer of pollen than wind (anemophilous) because they rely on animals to take pollen directly to another - and hopefully - receptive flower rather than relying on chance. But with all mutualisms, there's a trade off, and flowers must produce enough nectar to entice pollinators into spending enough time buzzing around their flower to pick up stray pollen grains. They then walk, fly, or buzz directly to another flower, often of the same species, bringing pollen right from plant A to plant B (interestingly, most plants have individual flowers or entire individuals within the population that cheat the system and are entirely nectarless). To advertise that nectar is present and ripe for the taking, flowers are often bright, showy, and/or fragrant.


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