Praying mantis egg mass

Praying mantis egg mass

If you look closely at bare twigs and stems in the winter, you may come across a hard papier-mâché-like blob approximately an inch across. This is a praying mantis ootheca, a type of egg mass laid by a variety of species, including mollusks and cockroaches, as well as mantises. The word “ootheca” is a combination of the Greek words “oon” meaning egg, and “theca” meaning cover or container. The ootheca material is produced from a pair of accessory reproductive glands…

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Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)

Generally speaking, in the plant world, one flower will produce one fruit. Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) is one of the two exceptions. Partridgeberry, along with only one other species of plant native to Japan, are sometimes referred to as “twinberries” because each fruit is the product of two adjacent flowers. In June, pairs of fuzzy four-petaled white or pink flowers bloom at the end of each stem. Each pair of flowers is comprised of one with a tall pistil and short…

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Owl pellets

Owl pellets

Although for many this past weekend stands out as “Super Bowl” weekend, for me it was a “Superb Owl” weekend. In addition to seeing three Snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus) on Duxbury Beach, I was also able to locate Long-eared owls in Lexington. Long-eared owls (Asio otus) are known to roost in areas of dense foliage, so it made sense when I was told about a group of them roosting in a thick stand of pines at the Dunback Meadow property…

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Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis)

Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis)

Gulls are often the most abundant and visible coastal birds, regardless of the season. This is largely because they are remarkably successful at adapting to different environments and are opportunistic feeders. In the winter, ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) are one of the most common gulls in Massachusetts, perhaps even outnumbering Herring gulls and Black-backed gulls. They can be distinguished from these other two species as being the smallest of the three, and adult ring-billed gulls have a fairly short, slim…

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Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)

Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)

Ferns are among the few plants that reproduce via spores rather than seeds. The basic life cycle of a fern consists of alternating generations of sexual and nonsexual individuals. The gametophyte, the sexual stage of the fern life cycle that develops from spores, tends to be so small as to be inconspicuous. The larger, visible plants we know as ferns are actually the asexual stage of the fern’s life cycle, known as the sporophyte stage, which will produce the spores…

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Swamp dewberry (Rubus hispidus)

Swamp dewberry (Rubus hispidus)

A short-lived warm spell (mid-forties feels pretty good when it’s been below 20 degrees for weeks) allowed me to spend some quiet time sitting by the Quashnet River, watching birds, observing and drawing winter vegetation, and quietly waiting and hoping (unsuccessfully) to see the family of river otters that lives by. Besides the numerous bare woody trees and shrubs, there were two obvious and abundant plants in the river’s flood plain where I had settled down: sphagnum moss and swamp…

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Annual Honesty (Lunaria annua)

Annual Honesty (Lunaria annua)

Although not nearly as showy this time of year, the remnant membranes from the seed pods are enough to identify annual honesty (Lunaria annua), which is also sometimes called money plant. Annual honesty is native to eastern Europe and western Asia. It was widely planted in North American gardens and over time has escaped and naturalized in many parts of the U. S. and southern Canada. It can now commonly be found throughout much of Massachusetts. In the spring, the…

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Rhododendron response to cold

Rhododendron response to cold

Plants and animals that live in New England have various winter adaptations to aid in survival.  Some animals stay warm in underground burrows, while others migrate south to warmer temperatures and more plentiful food. Plants, on the other hand, are rooted in place, and are not afforded the opportunity to find a warmer place to spend the winter. The frigidly cold temperatures of the last couple weeks have allowed me to observe one of the Rhododendron’s adaptations to cold. This…

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Nature Study Goals 2017/2018

Nature Study Goals 2017/2018

For many, New Years is a time for making resolutions. For me, it’s a great time for reflecting on what I’ve accomplished in the past year and setting intentions and goals for the new year to come in terms of nature study.  Below is a run down of how I did on my 2017 goals and what I hope to accomplish in 2018. My goals for 2017 included: Post to Seashore to Forest Floor regularly. — I managed to post new…

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Little Skate (Leucoraja erinacea)

Little Skate (Leucoraja erinacea)

On a recent walk along Scusset Beach along Cape Cod Bay, the wrack line was dotted with four-pronged, dark-brown, leathery pouches. These pouches, sometimes called “mermaid’s purses”, “devil’s purses” or “sailor’s purses” are actually skate egg cases. Although many species of skate and shark lay similar egg cases, based on the size, shape and location where they were found, these dried black leathery cases are likely from the Little Skate (Leucoraja erinacea). Little Skates can be found from Nova Scotia…

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