Bryan's Posts About Science

RED ALERT

When a male dragonfly changes color — going from yellow to red — it’s a scene in a racy drama worthy of Shakespeare or a soap opera. It turns out that sometimes a male might get along better in life by impersonating a female.

Ghosts and Tiny Treasures — My Essay for Aeon

Ten years ago, I walked into the swamps of Arkansas to find a ghost — and perhaps some redemption for wildlife … and for us.

Backgrounder: Where Are the Snow Geese?

The latest news on why you may — or may not — find Snow Geese here in Vermont or New York.

Monhegan Migration Report No. 5: Life and Death in Flight

Here on Monhegan Island, the north winds deliver us migrating songbirds, and the raptors take them away.

Monhegan Migration Report No. 4: Summer Weather and Summer Tanagers

Three Merlins and three Sharp-shinned Hawks chased Northern Flickers in open warfare this morning, a natural event each fall on Monhegan.

Monhegan Migration Report No. 3: The Usual Oddities

THE USUAL RARE BIRDS HAVE ARRIVED. Yeah, it’s an oxymoron. How can rare birds be usual? Well, this is Monhegan Island, after all, where oddities (avian and human) are commodities. Take Lark Sparrow and Dickcissel, which basically breed no closer to…

Spring Migration: The Surge Begins

The Black-billed Cuckoo beat its caterpillars senseless this morning before swallowing them whole. The Scarlet Tanagers sang for us in full-frontal view. And an Eastern Bluebird warbled from the top of a white pine. Another morning of spring migration.

Why the American Robin is a Badass Bird

Hardly denizens of the suburban front lawns, American Robins conquer territory with a blend of moxie and manifest destiny, kind of like another American species we know all too well.

A Blackpoll Warbler’s Daring Trans-Atlantic Flight

Two wings and a prayer carry a Blackpoll Warbler on a remarkable journey to South America each autumn. Well, actually, two wings and the audacity to pull off one of the most amazing feats of migration on the planet: a non-stop, trans-Atlantic flight lasting up to three days.

After only speculating about this amazing journey for decades, my colleagues at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies today announced the proof. Blackpoll Warblers fitted with miniature tracking devices took off from points in either Nova Scotia or the northeastern U.S. and flew south over the Atlantic, with no safe place to land, until reaching Caribbean islands roughly 1,600 miles away.

A Bobolink’s Carbon Fingerprint

What happens in South America doesn’t stay in South America. Bobolinks now migrating north will unwittingly bring back clues about what they were up to last winter. For the ornithologists working to protect these songbirds, it amounts to “better living through nuclear chemistry” — and better conservation as well.

Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin

Today, Darwin Day, we celebrate the 206th birthday of Charles Darwin. We also learn the answer to my twenty-fourth What’s This? nature challenge and get a short discourse (from me) on a philosophy of science and history made possible by Darwin.

What’s This? No. 24

Well, okay, you can probably tell that my latest What’s This? nature challenge is atypical — neither fur nor feather, fern nor fritillary. Or is it?