When the library reopened after the Covid shutdown, a small table was added to an alcove adjoining the staff lunchroom, presumably to encourage social distancing. The six-foot separations ended some time ago, but the miniature table remains . . .
A Glimpse of Nature
Snow is forecast for tonight. As with other recent storms, temperatures will be mild and the flakes will mix with rain. If we get lucky, by Sunday morning some of the snow will survive long enough to preserve animal tracks from the previous night. Not too dry, not too warm, not too deep . . . if things are just right, the neighborhood will reveal activities that are normally invisible to us diurnal humans.
It began with the tufted titmouse. As I crossed the library’s parking lot, the bird’s voice caught my attention, which seemed odd knowing that titmice live year-round in Massachusetts. I probably hear them every day, but this was February 2, the day when winter-weary humans pin their hopes on groundhogs. With no rodents in sight, I was listening to a “spring” song: “Here, here!” The bird wasn’t forecasting the weather.
Several readers identified “What Is It! #8” as an owl pellet. I expected this, but the discovery of a pellet gives me an excuse to delve into a fascinating topic.
Last April I found this particular pellet under a large pine between Queset House and the garden. It was 1 ¾ inches long by ⅞ inches wide, compact and lightweight, with a surface layer of gray fur. Before we look inside, let’s review what pellets are and why birds produce them.
A dust bunny? My cat’s hairball? What is this object?
“How lucky are we to have received so many amazing submissions!” exclaimed Megan Tully, Head of Reference & Adult Services at the Ames Free Library. The staff had just voted for their favorite “Picturing Winter” entries . . . and it wasn’t easy! Twenty-seven photographers submitted 108 photos that reflected many ways of seeing winter, especially our theme of “Ice & Snow.” Thanks to all for participating and sharing your talents and perspectives. What fun!
Now that you’ve had some practice finding crustose, foliose, and fruticose lichens, it’s time to fine-tune your observations. Let’s begin with patterns. I urge you to spend some time during the next few weeks learning a few of the most frequently-seen lichen families and familiarizing yourself with their general forms. This post will offer several local examples and two online resources to get you started.
What perfect timing! Snow and lichens are coordinated for maximum beauty and relevance to this blog.
As several readers noted, last week’s “What Is It!” was a lichen, one of those extraordinary partnerships between a fungus and an alga. I am sure many of you have seen it on the library’s Main Street wall. Yes, that yellow “paint” is alive!
Have you seen the subject of this week’s “What Is It!” game? If you recognize this organism, submit your ID to A Glimpse of Nature. Where have you seen this species? Check back next week for an ID and overview of the topic.