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.

Want to be Happier? Take a Walk in Nature

On an icy winter day, we are connecting with visitors to the bird feeder outside the kitchen window today.

Chronicles of a Suburban Nature Mom

Within moments of beginning my walk around the grounds of the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley this morning, I began to experience that wonderful feeling of peace and calmness that washes over me me when I’m out in nature.  Whenever I begin to feel stressed, overwhelmed, quick to anger, or anxious, I’ve learned the best thing for me to do is head outside.  It doesn’t really matter what I do there.  It could be a hike in nature, a walk around my neighborhood, photographing flowers at a botanic garden, doing a bit of yard work, or simply staring out the back window, watching the birds at our feeder.  Science is finally beginning to back up what I’ve always known… that time in nature improves mental health.  Studies have found that…

  • spending time in nature increases happiness.
  • walking in nature fights depression.
  • time in nature improves the ability to concentrate.
  • exposure…

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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.

#Stripers are nailing flies on the Narrow River in #RI

Ed Lombardo at Middle Bridge in November.

Ed Lombardo at Middle Bridge in November.

Striped bass are still biting in southern New England, so don’t put your fly-fishing tackle away.

Geno Rapa caught a fat 25-inch fish late last week on the Narrow River in Narragansett RI, reports fly-fishing guide Ed Lombardo.

Geno and Ed started around 3 p.m. near the Sprague Bridge on Route 1A where they spotted baitfish that appeared to be sand eels, according to Ed. “We didn’t do anything there, so we worked our way to the rocks at the mouth of the river. That didn’t work out either, so we headed to Middle Bridge, and that’s where we found the bass,” he said.

Heavy fog fell on the river, forcing the anglers to head home, but before they left around 5, each had caught four “footballs,” Ed said. He was fishing a sky-blue streamer, and the other anglers were casting shrimp patterns.

As good as the fishing was, it may get better, Ed said. His fishing log from 2011 shows a banner day on Dec. 18.

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.

The joys of walking slowly

About a month ago, my friend, Ed, and I rode the train to New York to hear Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh talk.

We arrived at Penn Station about thee hours before the dharma talk, and rushed to the Broadway theater where he would speak about slowing down to be more mindful.

That’s right, we rushed to hear about slowing down.

Travels cover croppedSince then, I have been reading “Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life” by Daniel Klein.

In his 70s, the author visited his dentist. “He said I had to get these implants over the course of a year [or] I would look older with denture plates …and my teeth would pop out once in a while,” Klein recalled. “And I thought, ‘what do I care if have a goofy old man smile? I am an old man!’”

So began his quest to find the way to grow old pleasurably. With a bag of philosophy books, he traveled to the Greek Island Hydra to study the wisdom of Epicurus and of modern day Greeks who age in grace and the pleasure of companionship.

On the island’s hills, Klein also discovered, at first by necessity, the pleasure of walking slowly.

Writing in Ladies Home Journal, Carol Mithers says, “Most of the time you walk with a destination in mind and the urge to get there as fast as possible. You hurry, head down, eyes anxiously scanning the phone for messages, fingers frantically typing a text, completely oblivious to your surroundings. But walking slowly…ambling…strolling…whether you’re going somewhere or nowhere in particular is a whole different experience. Slow walking — no iPods or cell phones allowed — isn’t a workout; it’s an exercise only in observation, a way to look at the places and people around you as a small child might, with curiosity and wonder.

Thick Nhat Hanh frequently writes about the rewards of walking meditation. Since his talk in New York, my almost-daily hikes have become strolls, saunters. I do carry a phone because I am seeing so much more than I ever have, and I want to make photographs. And I try to follow the Zen master’s advice:

Smile, breathe, and go slowly.”