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Category Archives: science in the parks

Field Entomology/Natural History of the Berkshires

The Field Entomology/Natural History of the Berkshires course starts Tuesday July 5th. Sign up is over BUT we will be night collecting at the Pittsfield State Forest on Wednesday July 6th. This is a free event and open to the public. Get there around dark and be ready to be WOWed! You can find us by following the light.moth collecting

night collecting

 

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Slug in a Gall

slug in gallThis might be my curse phrase!

What is this slug doing in this gall? Eating it? Eating its inhabitant? Taking refuge? The world may never know.

 

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The Infant

the infant mothThat early little orange and brown flier found last week has been identified. It is a moth. I first thought it was a butterfly for a few reasons, 1. It was out during the day 2. It flew zig-zag like a butterfly 3. It was orange, white and black and moved too fast to get a good look at it. Yesterday after noticing three flying in the forest, one landed on my hand! What luck. It is called “The Infant” species: Archiearis infans, its a geometer moth, AKA an inchworm moth. These little moths overwinter in the chrysalis and emerge late March to early May and fly during the day. So keep an eye out for these little beauties if you are near a stand of birch trees.

 

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Mini Bioblitz with the Berkshire Museum

museum bioblitz 2015This June the Berkshire Museum held a small bioblitz at Onota Lake with Egermont Elementary School students. It was a great day, lots of collecting and sharing. The weather was perfect the kids were well behaved and the teachers were great to work with in the field. Thanks to Joann Batman for inviting Dr. Augie’s to participate.

pond collecting kids collections crawdad collecting pond

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2015 in backyard science, Berkshire BioBlitz, Children's Art & Science Classes, insects, Science, science in the parks

 

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The Power of Cellular Respiration

skunk cabbage flowerLast weekend, when the ground was still covered with about 2 feet of snow, we went looking for flowers. We found them in the wetlands by Conte Community School. Symplocarpus foetidus, common name around here: Skunk Cabbage. The interesting thing about this stinky plant, and yes it smells like boiled cabbage probably to attract early spring insects, is that it can generate its own heat and melt the snow around it. We found a hole in the snow about 2.5 inches across, down below in the muck, was a flowering skunk cabbage. skunk cabbage flowers in snowNot the prettiest of flowers, but fascinating. These plants make heat through cellular respiration. Remember that from high school biology? Remember it never made any sense? Well what this plant does is take CO2 from the air and make it into sugar to use for energy, this process of making energy gives off heat. Its called thermogenesis. Pretty cool eh? Also in the picture is a small clump of crouch grass, or crab grass. This grass uses CAM photosynthesis or Crassulacean-Acid metabolism. In this process the CO2 is taken up only at night then stored in vacuoles for energy during the day. Tough plants the both of them.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2015 in backyard science, Science, science in the parks

 

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SAVE THE DATE! BERKSHIRE BIOBLITZ 2015

bees 1We apologize for the late notice but we would be thrilled if you could participate in the Berkshires BioBlitz scheduled for 12pm Friday June 19th to 12pm Saturday June 20, 2015 at Canoe Meadows, part of the Pleasant Valley Bird Sanctuary in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Canoe Meadows is part of a wildlife corridor from October Mountain and abundant in flora and fauna.

http://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/canoe-meadows/directions

You are being asked to participate in the BioBlitz in your capacity as an expert in your field. If you cannot participate, we would welcome suggestions of who else I might contact instead.

The goal, as with every BioBlitz (sometimes called “Biodiversity Day” in some towns), is to see how many species we can find in a given area in the 24 hour period of the BioBlitz.

We will send you more information via email over the next month.

We hope you can participate again this year!

Sincerely yours,

Lisa Provencher, BioBlitz Coordinator
Jane Winn, Berkshire Environmental Action Team
Scott LaGreca, Curator Cornell University

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2015 in backyard science, Berkshire BioBlitz, Science, science in the parks

 

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Crow Show!

crowsThe crows are gathering! You may have noticed that in several places in Berkshire County the crows have been gathering by the thousands! They are not planning a crime scene, its not a ‘omen’, it is more likely a survival technique. When it gets cold they congregate in huge numbers and its called “roosting” just like with chickens. The hypotheses are they do it for warmth, companionship and discussions about where food can be found and as my friend Laurie Brown says, “for sex”. Yes, sex, breeding season for crows in this neck of the woods, according to the folks at Cornell, is in March. There is a hypothesis that they are checking out their potential mates.
Crows have been roosting for as long as there have been crows. What is interesting is that they congregate in some area away from the final roosting site, as pictured here a hundred or so where in the Black Locus trees by the food pantry garden at sunset, spending a lot of time calling, talking, chasing, and fighting, then just before dark then they join the main group for a final roosting spot for the night. Its quite a scene they make. Its wonderful to watch. I sat in my car shivering in the 5 degrees F just to watch this impressive ‘Crow Show’.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2015 in backyard science, Science, science in the parks

 

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