Field Guide

Since the beginning of time, snakes have gotten bad press. In fact, according to self-described “Snake Man” Rick Roth, “There’s no animal about which there’s more misinformation.” Thankfully, there are people like Roth, who is devoted to the reptile. The director of the Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team and a carpenter by day, Roth frequently…

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It’s spring and a young male bumblebee’s fancy turns to, well, not much, actually. Because he doesn’t exist yet. Males don’t come along until later in the year. If you do happen to see a bumblebee zooming around this month (you’ll know it by the black and yellow “fur”), it’s most likely a queen. Fresh…

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Like mute swans and purple loosestrife before it, Oriental bittersweet reminds us to be content with what we’ve got. Unfortunately, as compelling as such beautiful strangers can be, they often end up wreaking havoc on our lives. The name “bittersweet” gives a pretty good indication of what life with this plant is like. In the…

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When citizens of the newly established United States were getting down to business in their unfamiliar surroundings, they had a long to-do list. One of those tasks was figuring out what all the species around them were. So, in the late 1700s, a group of Boston physicians and other educated men created a society dedicated…

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Don’t judge the kleptoparasitic bee; she’s just doing what she’s programmed to do. But a quick glance at the first part of her name—”klepto”—gives you a sense of this insect’s style. Yep, she’s basically a thief. Let’s look at the big picture. The female kleptoparasitic bee (a.k.a. cuckoo bee because of behaviors similar to the…

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Some biologists believe that beaver-like animals the size of black bears once roamed North America. A variety of evolutionary forces may have shrunk them to the 40– to 100– pound range, but the continent’s largest rodents have still earned a jumbo reputation for destruction. And that often makes them unwelcome critters on the block. In…

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Smokey Bear might have a tough time getting his head around this one. It’s no longer only lightning strikes, untended campfires, and errant cigarettes that spark fires on public lands—it’s land managers with drip torches. But such “prescribed” burns—fires that are set intentionally to burn brush and other fuels that have built up over time—definitely…

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More than a century ago, J. Sterling Morton, secretary of agriculture under Grover Cleveland, founded Arbor Day. Celebrated on the last Friday in April, the holiday is simple: Just plant a tree. On the first Arbor Day in 1872, a million-plus trees took root across the United States. No doubt many of them survived the…

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Stygian shadowdragon. Ringed boghaunter. Elfin skimmer. Mythical creatures from the Land of Gondor—or commonplace insects darting around New Hampshire wetlands? These colorful monikers belong to three of the 160 species of dragonfly known to inhabit the Granite State. But just a few years ago, we didn’t know these numbers for certain. Thanks to the New…

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Antlers are more than just decorations. The fastest growing bones in the animal world, they serve as weapons, snow shovels, pedigrees for parenthood, air conditioners, and gigantic hearing aids. All males in the deer family, Cervidae, including elk, moose, and caribou, grow antlers. Caribou females are unique in having antlers, though theirs are slightly smaller…

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