Learn about foraging and preparing seaweed Saturday

Seaweed croppedMore than 250 species of seaweed thrive in the waters along New England’s coast, and many of them are edible. Learn which ones to forage and how to prepare them Saturday, Jan.25 when Focus Yoga in East Greenwich RI presents “Our Garden Under The Sea.”

Seaweed is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Many of the species that are edible thrive in the area between the tides, so you can pick them by wearing chest waders.

Katherine Conte of Focus Yoga will explain how to use the nutrient rich plants. Her class is scheduled to run from noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday; it costs $40. For more information visit her website here, or call 401-354-9112. I hope to see you there.

If you can’t make it, you can download an excellent “Field Guide to Economically Important Seaweeds of Northern New England” here. It’s fee, and contains some great recipes (including pickled seaweed, casseroles, and more) as well as foraging tips.

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Beekeeping classes start soon in #RI

honey bee 1 new cropIt’s time to sign up for beekeeping classes in Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association is offering four course options for convenience.

The classes are scheduled to meet at Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island. Betty Mencucci will lead classes at Rhode Island College on Friday mornings from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28, and Mar. 7. She will offer another set of classes on Saturday mornings Feb 8, 15, 22, March 1, 8.

Beekeeper Evelyn Vose will lead classes at URI’s East Farm on Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Feb. 6, 13, 20, 27, Mar. 13. She will offer another course at URI on Saturday mornings from 9 to 11 a.m. on Feb 8, 15, 22, March 1, 8.

The course will cover everything the beginning beekeeper needs to know. Subjects will include getting started, the honeybee life cycle, choosing an apiary site, buying bees and equipment, and more. A variety of beekeeping equipment will be displayed and demonstrated each week.

The cost for the five-week course is $65 per person. It includes all course materials, a textbook and membership dues in the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association through April 1, 2015. Additional family members at the same address may attend for $10 each. (The entire family will be a member of the organization but will receive only one textbook and one set of handouts). Advance registration is required. To enroll, print out the 2014 registration form and send with your check payable to: RI Beekeepers Association , PO Box 64, Greenville, RI 02828.

For more information, call Betty Mencucci at 401-568-8449 or email bmencucci@cox.net

Creating young forests to save the N.E. cottontail rabbit

Twenty four girls and boys hunted pheasants over some of the finest bird dogs in Connecticut Sunday when the Groton Sportsmen’s Club opened its land for the annual youth hunt.

Mike Marchand photo, N.H. Fish & Game

Mike Marchand photo, N.H. Fish & Game

Inside the club lodge, meanwhile, the conversation was about rabbits. Bill Salisbury and Ray Thiel, two of the club’s committee chairmen, were discussing how they have been working with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to manage club land for the threatened New England cottontail.

It’s being displaced by the eastern cottontail, a rabbit which is much more tolerant of humans and their suburban sprawl, Bill says.

necottontail.org

necottontail.org

Working with foresters and wildlife biologists — and supported by government grants — the club and other private landowners have been restoring woodlands to provide the native plants and the coverts New England cottontail need. Some areas required clear cutting.

When the old trees were felled, new brush appeared, and in other spots, state workers, biologists and club volunteers planted native shrubs that were grown in Connecticut nurseries.

It’s too early to tell how much the New England cottontails will benefit from the work, but Ray says that birders already are noticing that songbirds such as the eastern towhee, have moved in. The population of this beautiful sparrow has declined dramatically, due, in part, to forests maturing and the lack of new shrub growth.

Deer also love the new growth. They like it so much that the sportsmen’s club had to erect fences to keep the deer out of certain areas.

If you’re interested in learning more about Connecticut’s Young Forest Initiative, click here.

Track bird health with Project FeederWatch

bird bath croppedA nuthatch shares a wall-mounted bird bath with a tufted titmouse outside our kitchen window, close enough for an iPhone photo.

The 2013 edition of Project FeederWatch has begun. It offers families an opportunity to experience nature up close as they help scientists keep track of birds.

FeederWatch also has a new look for its 27th season, plus new web tools that make participation and exploration even easier and more fun.

“We have a new interactive tool called ‘Common Feeder Birds’ that allows people to learn about the food and feeder preferences of nearly 100 species, based on data collected by participants,” says FeederWatch project leader Emma Greig. “The tool can be used to predict what birds can be attracted to an area so you can offer foods strategically to attract desired species.”

Observations from a record number of participants last season helped scientists follow the changes in woodpecker and nuthatch populations in the Midwest where trees were infested with invasive emerald ash borer beetles.

“We need continued FeederWatch data on woodpecker and nuthatch populations throughout North America to better understand the long term consequences of this beetle invasion,” Greig says. “We also need renewed FeederWatcher effort to monitor the health of House Finches, which are susceptible to a disease that causes swelling around the eyes. Our participants will be asked to report whether they looked for the disease and whether they saw sick birds.”

To learn more about joining Project FeederWatch and to sign up, visit www.FeederWatch.org or call the Cornell Lab toll-free at (866) 989-2473. In return for the $15 fee ($12 for Cornell Lab members), participants receive the FeederWatcher Handbook and Instructions with tips on how to successfully attract birds to your feeders, an identification poster of the most common feeder birds, and a calendar. Participants also receive Winter Bird Highlights, an annual summary of FeederWatch findings, as well as the Cornell Lab’s quarterly newsletter, Living Bird News.

Project FeederWatch is a joint research and education project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.

Capturing a snowy owl on camera

Capt. Ed Hughes photo

Capt. Ed Hughes photos

Wildlife photographer and harbormaster Ed Hughes headed out to Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Middlwtown RI this weekend to photograph a snowy owl that had been reported by Jeff Hall of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.

Ed soon found the bird and got several shots of it, including these.

“Friendly owl,” he said in a text message.

Maybe, but it doesn’t look all that friendly in the next picture.

Many of Ed’s photos are displayed at the Beach Rose Cafe on Brown Street in Wickford RI where he is the harbormaster.

snowy owl 2

NOAA: Warmer winter ahead for So. New England

Winter scene croppedA winter white-out in southern Rhode Island last year.

Southern New England is in for a warmer than normal winter, according to climatologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific have been near average since spring 2012, and forecasters expect that to continue through the winter. That means that neither El Niño nor La Niña is expected to influence the climate during the upcoming winter.

It’s a challenge to produce a long-term winter forecast without the climate pattern of an El Niño or a La Niña in place out in the Pacific because those climate patterns often strongly influence winter temperature and precipitation here in the United States,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Without this strong seasonal influence, winter weather is often affected by short-term climate patterns, such as the Arctic Oscillation, that are not predictable beyond a week or two. So it’s important to pay attention to your local daily weather forecast throughout the winter.”

The forecast calls for below-average temperatures in the Northern Plains and the Alaskan Panhandle. Rge forecast predicts above-average temperatures in the Southwest, the South-Central U.S., parts of the Southeast, New England and western Alaska. The rest of the country falls into the “equal chance” category, meaning that there is not a strong or reliable enough climate signal in these areas to favor one category over the others, so they have an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and/or precipitation.

NOAA’s outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon the strength and track of winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance.