Wild Wisdom

As you pause near Cragway Spring along the Mount Washington Auto Road on a sunny day, your gaze might land on a small moth-like insect drawing nectar from a goldenrod bloom. Higher up, you might spy a dull-colored butterfly nearly invisible against a rock in the sparse meadows of Bigelow’s sedge. And you might keep…

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No walk in the New England woods is complete without a scramble over a ragged, lichen-covered stone wall. It’s estimated that 250,000 miles of walls once wound through the birch stands and cleared meadows of the Northeast, the majority of them likely built by farmers between 1775 and 1825. Though constructed fairly recently, stone walls…

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Not so long ago, northern New Englanders could earn pocket money by catching and killing slow-moving porcupines and bringing the severed feet or noses in bags to the town clerk. After inspection, the clerk would hand the hunter a quarter or two along with a certificate for each porcupine tendered. The porcupine bounty was in…

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For more than a century, the Liberty Tree grew unnoticed on Boston Common. The innocuous elm’s claim to fame came in 1765, when the British imposed the Stamp Act, which instituted a tax on printed materials in the colonies. Calling it censorship, colonists began to demonstrate and one activist group, the Sons of Liberty, gathered…

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Seven black-fly seasons have passed since I moved away from the Northeast. This time of year, when I am missing the Red Sox and the swimmable ocean, I find comfort in thinking about the black flies. Though black flies’ thick swarming, painful chomping, and blood-sucking have ruined many a Memorial Day outing in the North…

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Starting in the middle of May, female horseshoe crabs ready to spawn heave their tank-like bodies onto the moonlit sands of Delaware Bay. In what’s known as “spawning aggregation,” the crabs ready to lay eggs arrive en masse, often numbering more than 300,000 in a single spot on a single evening. “They are shell-to-shell and…

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Easter’s on its way, but you’re probably not going to spot Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail anytime soon. That is, assuming he is a New England cottontail, a species unique to our region whose population has plummeted over the last four decades. The creation of author Thornton Burgess, Peter was likely inspired by…

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