Bryan's Posts About Science

Fertility and Flight

In the angled light of November, a moth crossed my path through barren woods. Yeah, a moth, in the cold – a lesson in adaptation, fertility, and feminine sacrifice going by the name Bruce Spanworm.

The Second Sunrise: A Final Monhegan Migration Report

He flashed yellow like an autumn sugar maple. When he launched from the meadow, the sun rose a second time over Monhegan Island. And as we left the island Monday for a wild boat ride, this star of fall migration – a young male Yellow-headed Blackbird – was still flying sorties and issuing his kuh-duck flight calls to the departing birdwatchers.

Hello, Yellow

A Yellow-headed Blackbird has been traversing the skies over Monhegan Island, Maine, for the past couple of days. This westerner heads east now and then, more commonly reaching the Midwest. Occasionally one or two will land here on this small rock off Maine’s midcoast.

The Spineless on Monhegan

On north winds Wednesday morning the songbirds came to Monhegan – and then they left. Our gentle rain of migrants included newly arrived Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-winged Warbler (thanks to Tony Vazzano) and Cerulean Warbler, an extraordinary bird for the island. Blue Grosbeak, Lark Sparrow and Clay-colored Sparrow, the usual Monhegan oddballs, entertained the besotted birders.

Opening Day

To borrow an entire chapter from William Faulkner: My favorite is a fish. Even though we saw more Cape May Warblers than Yellow rumped Warblers; even though Northern Gannets are plunge-diving everywhere offshore; even though Philadelphia Vireos present themselves with such elegance; even though Philadelphia Vireos make me swoon and happy; even though a Sharp-shinned Hawk chased a Belted Kingfisher by our deck during brunch; and even though we watched a couple of Minke Whales drift past Black Head; my favorite encounter during our first day with fall migrants on Monhegan Island, Maine, was the Ocean Sunfish off White Head.

Going Nuclear for Dragonflies

On a crisp, sunny day in September, after what was probably a typical summer for a dragonfly, a Common Green Darner took off and began to migrate south. As it cruised past the summit of Vermont’s Mt. Philo, with Lake Champlain below and the Adirondacks off in the distance, the dragonfly crossed paths with a Merlin.

Zebras and Us

When I saw this dragonfly, I wet my pants. Okay, I was standing in Lewis Creek, so that’s actually how I wet my pants. But this dragonfly makes me euphoric. And I’m not entirely sure why. So I’m developing a theory on wildlife and aesthetics.

Upland Sandpipers Doing It

Feel good about these Upland Sandpipers not only because this photo offers us a cheap thrill. Feel good any time this grassland species reproduces. These are birds in trouble.

Got Milkweed?

Now drifting back into northern sections of the United States, Monarchs face a perfect storm of threats. But you can plant the seeds (literally) to help America’s favorite insect.

DSA Update No. 4: Gomphicide

PICK ANY SCENE FROM THE DRAMA OF LIFE ON EARTH: birth, growth, courtship, sex, subterfuge, betrayal, murder. Find them all expressed in the lives of dragonflies. Shakespeare could write the script on these predators.

Desperately Seeking Rusty Blackbirds

By Bryan on April 9, 2014 It is basic black with an inelegant voice. It nests in places we rarely visit. And in relative obscurity, the Rusty Blackbird has suffered one of the most dramatic population declines ever recorded among…

Snowy Owls and Us

My essay on finding opportunity and humility in this winter’s irruption of Snowy Owls. For Aeon magazine.