All posts by Josh

Tree ID: Hop-hornbeam

Photo of Hop-hornbeam

Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) is a short-lived understory tree with dense wood and fruits that superficially resemble those of Common Hop (Humulus lupulus). The bark starts out smooth but before long becomes rather shaggy as it splits into narrow, partly exfoliating strips. As with other members of the Betulaceae (Birch) family -- like Speckled Alder, Beaked Hazelnut, Gray Birch, and the similarly named American Hornbeam -- Hop-hornbeam has pollen-bearing (male) and seed-bearing (female) flowers arranged in separate clusters known as catkins.

To learn more about Hop-hornbeam, visit Go Botany. To view the following images in full-size, click here.

17.32 | Nature Notes (Aug 6-12)

Photo of Blue Dasher
Blue Dasher | Biddeford, ME | 9 Aug 2017

Highlights of the Week

I recorded the calls of two juvenile Bald Eagles at Pleasant Point Park in Buxton.

A juvenile Cooper's Hawk was vocal near my home throughout the week.

In two brief visits to a local cemetery pond, I saw the following types of dragonflies: Slaty Skimmer, Blue Dasher, Dot-tailed Whiteface, Widow Skimmer, Calico Pennant, Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Common Whitetail, and Eastern Pondhawk.

Wild Edible of the Week

I snacked on sweet Blackberries (Rubus sp.).

Nature Challenge of the Week (for you, the reader)

Spend 30+ minutes observing shorebirds. (If you don't live near the ocean, visit inland locations with exposed mud, like pond or river edges, or try scanning plowed or grassy farm fields.)


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Poisonous Plants: Glossy False Buckthorn

Photo of Glossy False Buckthorn

I occasionally receive emails from people eager to know the identify of a particular fruit-bearing plant. Some have wondered if they've found Black Huckleberry. Others have guessed Choke Cherry. But all too often photos reveal their mystery plant to be Glossy False Buckthorn (Frangula alnus), a poisonous plant (or at least one with strong medicinal properties) as far as humans are concerned.

While there are many ways to tell these three species apart, one simple way is to examine the seeds. Each Choke Cherry contains one hard, central pit; each Black Huckleberry has ten small, crunchy seeds; Glossy False Buckthorn berries have __________. [I could tell you the answer, but it's more fun to go and find out for yourself. Report back with your findings.]

To learn more about this shrub, visit Go Botany. To view the following images in full-size, click here.

Rare Bird Alert: Little Egret

Photo of Little Egret (25 Jul 2017)
Falmouth, ME | 25 Jul 2017

For the 5th year since 2011 (and the 3rd year in a row), a rare Little Egret has been observed in southern coastal Maine. First reported this year on July 11th, I tried several times over the next two weeks to find the bird, who looks very much like a Snowy Egret, but kept coming up empty. Finally on July 25th, thanks in large part to the reports of other birders, I managed to locate the bird with 9 Snowy Egrets near the north meadow blind at Gilsland Farm in Falmouth.

To learn more about this white wading bird, read How to see a Little Egret by Doug Hitchcox. To view the following images in full-size, click here.