Browsing Bliss Awaits You

It appears you're using Internet Explorer or an early version of Edge, which is a bit like watching a black-and-white TV with "rabbit ears." You're missing symmetry, joy and actual knowledge — not only here on my website but across the internet. I suggest you upgrade to Chrome or Firefox. You’ll discover a lot more nature, maybe even actual rabbit ears.

— Bryan

Selected Essays and Articles

My Fading Serenade

The Boston Globe September 19, 2021

From his perch high in a red spruce, a Blackburnian warbler reminds me of my age. This has nothing to do with the fact that every June for 30 years — nearly half of my life — I have bushwhacked the same route through woods in northern Vermont, stopping at the same five trees for exactly 10 minutes apiece to count every bird I see or hear. Nor does it have anything to do with my diminishing ability to see a Blackburnian warbler, whose face, throat, and upper breast glow like fire. This is instead about my aging as a field biologist, coming to terms with it — and finding new ways to save wildlife and wild places on a damaged planet. Read it at The Globe »

Poweshiek Skipperling by Bryan Pfeiffer

The Extinction of Meaning

Medium August 16, 2018

One of the most imperiled animals in North America isn’t big and furry like a polar bear. It has neither the charisma of an ivory-billed woodpecker nor the elegance of a prairie fringed orchid. It has incited no eco-wars like those over the gray wolf or the spotted owl. It is not even a tool in the machinery now gearing up to weaken the Endangered Species Act. No, this endangered animal is only a butterfly named Poweshiek skipperling. And when it's gone for good, who will even care? After all, what good is a butterfly that doesn't tweet, titillate or turn a profit? Read my essay on Medium »

Poweshiek Skipperling by Bryan Pfeiffer

Ghosts and Tiny Treasures

For AEON Magazine

Ten years ago this spring, in the darkness before dawn, I switched on my headlamp, dialed in my compass, and set forth into a chilly Arkansas swamp. Dressed head to toe in camouflage and lugging an arsenal of camera gear, I wandered alone that day through lowlands of oak, cypress and sycamore, through muck and icy water, and through my own hopeful apparitions. After about 10 miles of this, in the golden hour before sunset, I found a dry rise in the land, propped myself against a fallen tree, and waited for a resurrection. On this final evening in the swamp, like every other, I waited for an ivory-billed woodpecker to return from the dead. And on this day, like every other, the woodpecker never came. Read this essay on AEON's website. »

Bryan Pfeiffer on Victory Bog

On Bogs

for ORION Magazine

On my way to work in Peacham Bog I am blood walking. Black flies swarm in a frenzy at my ears. Deer flies turn my right hand into a lobster claw. Mosquitoes are rendered quaint by comparison. But this is the least of my problems. At age 55, here in the woods of Vermont, I now need eyeglasses to read my compass. And I fall more often while bushwhacking. It’s a matter of my clinging to a pace I kept in these forests three decades ago. My brain wills me forward faster than my legs can respond. Read on »

Snowy Owl by Bryan Pfeiffer

Snowy Owls and Us

for AEON Magazine

Perched on a rocky point along the Maine coast, the snowy owl is languid, a predator without country or concern. The wind and the sleet don’t matter. Crashing waves don’t matter. You don’t matter either. The snowy owl doesn’t care that you’ve driven halfway across winter to see a bird on a rock. The snowy owl doesn’t even know you exist. So you peer through binoculars and watery eyes at a creature from a place painfully colder than Maine or Ohio or Minnesota, or anywhere else in the US that these Arctic owls are showing up in huge numbers this winter. As it rests, or naps, the owl ignores its role in the Harry Potter legend or even in the drama of a warming planet. Then you cough or curse the wind chill, and the owl spins its head your way. From a snowy owl’s eyes, the Arctic speaks. Read it on AEON's website. »

Hillary Clinton and Bryan Pfeiffer

Hillary and Me

for the Valley News and VTDigger

Hillary Clinton’s secret service agents were on to me. I knew it the moment one of them began talking into a microphone hidden in his sleeve. As I maneuvered through a crowd toward Hillary, two agents advanced on me. “If you don’t leave now,” one of them, the tall one, said politely, “we’ll take you out of here.” And so ended my chance to interview First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in Woodstock, Vermont, on June 18, 1993. Or so I had thought. Read on »

Kindle reader

Killing My Kindle

a commentary for Vermont Public Radio

Not long ago, Ruth and I were browsing at Bear Pond Books when she came upon Carl Safina’s latest masterpiece, The View from Lazy Point, still in hardbound. “Well, I guess I’ll read your copy,” she said. I looked back with a sheepish grin. And then Ruth announced: “Oh, right … it’s on your Kindle." Shoppers stopped shopping. Employees stopped working. Their looks were like arrows through my heart. I withered. I shriveled. Right there in non-fiction. It was as if Ruth had announced at a PBS party that I watched Fox news. Yeah, it’s true. I own a Kindle. And it’s finally weighing on my conscience. Read or listen on VPR's website »

Red-winged Blackbird by Bryan Pfeiffer

Avian Infidelities

for Northern Woodlands Magazine

Blackbirds do it. Chickadees do it. Even educated emus do it. Some birds are cheaters. Their trysts, dalliances, one-morning stands, and other infidelities would constitute a racy script for a wildlife soap opera. Among the rest (or the restless, as the case may be), polygamy, or “many marriages,” ranges from casual to calculating. Read on »

Calypso orchid by Bryan Pfeiffer

The Breakup: A Very Short Story

Our ending had a beginning, a night fixed in my memory like every other event in our life together. On that night he didn’t reach for me, didn’t wake me with the caress that had always made us glow. This is an essay about love and distractions. Read on »