AMC Field Guide Series

The writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau famously mourned how tame the wilderness of his day had become. On his rambles in mid-19th century Massachusetts, he saw no cougar, wolf, bear, moose, deer, beaver, or turkey. These and other animals had been displaced or killed outright, their forested habitats transformed into active farmland. Now, as…

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For budding young marine biologists, or even just animal or ocean lovers, tidal pools offer oodles of opportunity for exploration. Found along the shore, these pools form in depressions in the sand or in pockets between rocks when the tide recedes, leaving small temporary habitats for all sorts of marine life. As with Leave No…

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When hiking in the mountains, you’re often reminded to stick to the trails to protect alpine plants. But it’s not just diapensia or dwarf cinquefoil that’s eking out an existence in these high elevations. The rare northern bog lemming also calls some of our alpine environment home. This small mammal weighs just an ounce and…

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It’s easy to skip the local playground during the summer, when so many beaches beckon—especially on Cape Cod, which can seem like one giant sandbox. Certainly there’s no lack of choices, but for those who might like to avoid major crowds of vacationers, Sandy Neck Beach Park, a 6-mile-long barrier beach in Barnstable County, is…

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The way water striders skim across the surface of ponds has earned them the nickname “Jesus bugs.” But this seemingly miraculous ability—a signature of the mostly freshwater-dwelling Gerridae family of insects—has a perfectly natural explanation. POSITIVE TENSION Surface tension helps make the water strider’s leaps and glides possible. Water molecules are attracted to each other…

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My first visit to the alpine zone in New Hampshire’s White Mountains was on Mount Washington. I was 15 years old, surviving day three of a high school orientation camping trip. The challenge of climbing several thousand feet to stand atop an iconic peak filled me with a sense of accomplishment. While the summit view…

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The mushrooms you see on a woodland hike are like the tips of icebergs, heralding something much larger below. Some species of fungus boast networks beneath the soil that can extend for miles. These subterranean webs also play an outsize role in the forest ecosystem. “It’s hard for us to imagine there are such large…

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One of the earliest signs of spring is the Eastern skunk cabbage pushing up through thin ice and snow-covered ground. This remarkable plant actually produces heat as it grows. Look for it in early March while walking near swampy areas in woodlands or near creeks and ponds. Sniff Around Skunk cabbage gets its name from…

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Flipping pancakes with my 11-year old daughter Tasha on a cold December morning recently, we saw a group of wild turkeys outside pecking at the bittersweet berries along our stone wall. I grabbed my cup of coffee after breakfast and we headed out to watch them. We quickly found their three-toed tracks in the driveway,…

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February is National Bird Feeding Month, and naturally Mass Audubon is a place I look to for ideas and activities to help celebrate our feathered friends, from bird-feeder workshops to the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Mass Audubon formerly ran a program called Focus on Feeders, but this year it phased that independent project out…

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