Flora, Fauna, and Vistas of Berkshire County Massachusetts.
"The gilding of the Indian summer mellowed the pastures far and wide.
The russet woods stood ripe to be stripped, but were yet full of leaf.
The purple of heath-bloom, faded but not withered, tinged the hills...
Fieldhead gardens bore the seal of gentle decay; ... its time of flowers and even of fruit was over." -Charlotte Brontë
"The leaves fall patiently
Nothing remembers or grieves
The river takes to the sea
The yellow drift of leaves."
"When the blackberries hang swollen in the woods, in the brambles nobody owns, I spend all day among the high branches, reaching my ripped arms, thinkingof nothing, cramming the black honey of summer into my mouth; all day my body accepts that it is. In the dark creeks that run by there is this thick paw of my life darting among the black bells, the leaves; there is this happy tongue." -Mary Oliver
"January cold and desolate; February dripping wet; March wind ranges; April changes; Birds sing in tune To flowers of May, And sunny June Brings longest day; In scorched July The storm-clouds fly, Lightning-torn; August bears corn, September fruit; In rough October Earth must disrobe her; Stars fall and shoot In keen November; And night is long And cold is strong In bleak December." -Christina Giorgina Rossetti
The Three Fates
Sleeping In The Forest
I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds. I slept as never before, a stone on the riverbed, nothing between me and the white fire of the stars but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths among the branches of the perfect trees. All night I heard the small kingdoms breathing around me, the insects, and the birds who do their work in the darkness. All night I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling with a luminous doom. By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times into something better.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river? Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air - an armful of white blossoms, a perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies, biting the air with its black beak? Did you hear it, fluting and whistling a shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall knifing down the black ledges? And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds - a white cross streaming across the sky, its feet like black leaves, its wings like the stretching light of the river? And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything? And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for? And have you changed your life?
- Mary Oliver
Ginger Holser, WDFW photos
Word Play with Animals
A sloth of bears A murder of crows A romp of otters A pack of wolves A rafter of turkeys A skulk of fox A scurry of squirrels A gaggle of geese A bevy of swans A trip of goats A labor of moles A parliament of owls A convocation of eagles A nest of snakes A hover of trout A leap of leopards A pride of lions A bouquet of pheasant A cloud of grasshoppers
February we celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day, so I offer the following partial list to honor those animals that mate for life. Only about 3 percent of the 4,000 mammal species are monogamous (and Homo sapiens are not one of them).
Canada Geese Gray wolves Coyotes Red foxes Barn owls Bald eagles Mourning doves Bats Beavers Red-tailed hawks Wild pigs
And sadly, the beautiful Trumpeter swan, that will mourn the death of their mate until they die of grief.
U.S. Bats Flying Toward Extinction At least one species of bat could go extinct in the United States within the next 20 years as white-nose syndrome spreads.
A fungal disease is killing millions of bats and may lead to regional extinctions in the United States and Canada within 20 years.
There is no known cure for the disease, called white-nose syndrome, which kills all affected individuals.
Scientists are hopeful that research can save the bats, which eat insect pests and pollinate crops.
White-nose syndrome, an emerging fungal disease, is causing such massive die-offs of bats that some species could become regionally extinct in the United States within just two decades, according to a paper by some of the nation's leading experts on these flying mammals.
The disease, discovered only four years ago, currently affects nine species of hibernating bats in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States as well as in the Ontario and Quebec provinces of Canada. Up to a half million bats can die within a single cave, their thin bodies littering the floor.
"The fungus invades the dermis (skin) layer, hair follicles and sebaceous glands," said Winifred Frick, lead author of the study published in this week's issue of Science. "The immune system of bats is compromised as a consequence of the fungal infection."
There is no known cure for this disease, and all infected bats die, usually due to premature loss of fat reserves during hibernation, according to the researchers. Normally, bats rest soundly during their winter hibernation, but white-nose syndrome causes them to experience arousals and to engage in other aberrant behavior.
Frick, a Boston University post-doctoral researcher, and her team focused their study on the little brown myotis, previously one of the most common bat species in North America. The scientists looked at data from the past 30 years to establish that regional populations of this bat were healthy and thriving before the fungal disease struck. Frick and her colleagues think the disease originated in Europe and was spread via human trade or travel. "At this time, there is no evidence that bat populations in Europe are suffering declines comparable to what is happening here in North America," she said. "One possible explanation is that the fungus has been in Europe a very long time and the bats have evolved with it and are resistant, but it is too early to offer anything more than working hypotheses."
She and her team next combined the 30-year data with current information on winter mortality of the little brown myotis. Their grim conclusions reveal that the population of this bat will drop to just 1 percent of what it was before the disease came to North America. They also say it's possible white-nose syndrome could spread further west and south, killing more and more bats.
"Each of the bat species affected by white-nose syndrome are obligate insectivores -- many of which feed on insect pests of agriculture, garden crops, forests, and at times on insects that annoy or pose risks to human health," said Thomas Kunz, a Boston University biology professor, noted bat expert, and one of the co-authors. "The little brown myotis is known to consume up to 100 percent of its body weight in insects each night," he added. "This level of insect consumption provides an important ecosystem service to human kind, and to the balance of natural and human-altered ecosystems, which in turn can reduce the use of pesticides often used by humans to kill insect pests."
Kunz and the other researchers say there are many challenges now in dealing with the disease, such as not knowing precisely how it is transmitted, whether it will mutate, whether caves serve as environmental reservoirs for the fungus, and more. Nevertheless, they are hopeful that research, supported by such organizations as Bat Conservation International and the Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, can help to eradicate the devastating disease.
While bats themselves may be suffering, they are not major carriers of disease to humans, suggests a separate study in the same journal. Many people kill bats, thinking they are dangerous, but viruses like rabies sometimes carried by bats do not easily jump to humans, due to genetic constraints.
In an accompanying "Perspectives" commentary within the journal, Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, wrote, "The two studies demonstrate the value and importance of monitoring wildlife diseases, which can have major impacts on both human health and ecosystems."