Category Archives: Moon Challenge

New Moon Challenge: Mushroom Moon

Photo of Birch Polypore

As yesterday was the New Moon, today I invite you to begin a Moon-long Challenge. Perhaps you'll commit to keeping a gratitude journal, taking 5 minutes each day and night to  check in with the sky, or eating at least one Common Dandelion leaf (or a wild food of your choice) each day. I've begun a Mushroom Moon, where each day I'll seek out a wild mushroom to appreciate and (at least attempt) to identify. I invite you to share your challenge in the comments for today's post.

Photo caption: Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) growing on Gray Birch.

Foraging Wild Fruit: Blueberry

Photo of Blueberries

July and August are prime blueberry picking months here in Maine. Did you know there are nine species of Blueberries in New England? All are classified in the genus Vaccinium along with three species of Cranberries -- Large (V. macrocarpon), Small (V. oxycoccos), and Mountain (V. vitis-idaea) -- and a shrub with supposedly (I've never tried it) cranberry-flavored fruit called Deerberry (V. stamineum).

In 2013 (during my Wild Berry Butterfly Moon Challenge), I wrote about the four most widespread blueberry species in New England: Common Lowbush Blueberry (V. angustifolium), Highbush Blueberry (V. corymbosum), Hillside Blueberry (V. pallidum), and Black Highbush Blueberry (V. fuscatum).

Another four species are largely restricted to northern New England where they often grow at high elevations: Northern Blueberry (V. boreale), Dwarf Blueberry (V. cespitosum), Velvet-leaved Blueberry (V. myrtilloides), and Alpine Blueberry (V. uliginosum). One final species, known as New Jersey Highbush Blueberry (V. caesariense), occurs locally in coastal wetlands.

You can learn more and see dozen of photos of these Vaccinium species at Go Botany. Of course, it doesn't matter which species of Blueberry you gather; it simply matters that you get out and enjoy some of these blue fruits of summer.

I've already visited a loaded patch that family members introduced me to last year, and have enjoyed handfuls of sun-ripened goodness. Have you checked your patches yet?

January is for Birding

Photo of Red-shouldered Hawk

What is a New England forager to do in January? Go birding, of course!

Each January 1st marks the start of a new year of birding. I set aside the previous year's bird list and begin anew. I see each species with fresh eyes, and the ever-present possibility for avian surprises nudges me to get outside in all but the most severe weather.

As of this morning, I've observed 87 species in 2015, including many unexpected ones (American Pipit, Bohemian Waxwing, Brown Thrasher, Eurasian Wigeon, Killdeer, King Eider, Rough-legged Hawk, Western Tanager, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker), and one major surprise (Gyrfalcon). Many of these birds were first found by other birders who shared their sightings via eBird or the Maine Birds forum. Thank you to those birders! The following photos were all taken this month. (To view them in full-size, click here.)

This year, in addition to roaming nearby towns for year birds, I've started most days off with a morning backyard bird sit (a type of Sit Spot Moon Challenge that I began on the new moon back in December and ended yesterday). From my backyard perch, I observed nearly 25 species of birds, including three types of hawks (Red-shouldered, Red-tailed and Cooper's), three types of finches (American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, and one fly-over Common Redpoll), four types of woodpeckers (Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, and Pileated), and a Common Raven.

Photo of Red-bellied Woodpecker

One week into the challenge, it became clear that both a female Red-bellied Woodpecker (above) and a male Hairy Woodpecker (below) were spending their nights in my backyard (in side-by-side Necklace Poplars). Most mornings, I'd watch them peer out of their respective holes around 7am, and, somewhere between 7:05 and 7:45am, I'd watch one or both take flight to kick off the day. These two neighbors and all of the other winged ones of winter have helped me to kick off another great year of nature-based learning!

Photo of Hairy Woodpecker

Top photo caption: Red-shouldered Hawk in Necklace Poplar on 1/11/15.

New Moon Challenge: Digital Detox

Photo of American Crow flock

Yesterday's New Moon marked the start of my Digital Detox Moon Challenge. Here are my self-imposed rules for the challenge:

Days one through five: No e-mail checking, website editing, or internet surfing. In fact, no at-home computer use. I rarely watch television, use a cell phone, or listen to the radio, but I'll be sure to abstain from these activities, too.

Day six until New Moon: Rather than using the computer in multiple small doses throughout the day, I'll check e-mail and update my website in "batches." I'll likely limit computer time to no more than one hour in the morning and a half hour in the early evening.

Have you ever digitally detoxified?

Note: My next post is written and scheduled for Friday.

New Year New Moon Recap

Photo of Northern Shrike

I'm baaaack. Did you miss me?  Taking a break from blogging gave me just the shake-up I needed to usher in the new year. A few turns of the sun (i.e., days) into the challenge, I began sitting in my backyard early each morning.  Often heading outside before sun-up, I'd sit still and take in the sounds of the birds as they became active -- a Chick-a-dee-dee-dee here, a Cheer-Cheer-Cheer there. On several mornings, a Common Raven called (once flying directly over my home), and other mornings I saw flocks of American Goldfinches, Am. Robins, Am. Crows, and Eastern Bluebirds moving overhead, though on any given day, more than a dozen species typically made a vocal, if not visual, appearance. On just one morning, a Northern Shrike (pictured above) caught me by surprise, briefly singing from a high perch before vanishing from view.

In the depths of winter, with frigid temperatures for much of the moon, various birds managed to lure me out of my brick cave, if only for short stretches at a time. How did you spend your New Year New Moon?