Winter is often perceived as a time of dormancy and inactivity, but underneath the snow, in the subnivean zone, a complex and fascinating world of plant and animal interactions exists. Weasels hunt through snow-roofed tunnels, herbivores graze on grasses, bark, and seeds, and occasionally the taloned feet of an owl punch through the roof, searching for a meal. In this episode, Steve and Bill pull back the snowy curtain, sharing recent research into what’s happening in the subnivean zone and the impacts of climate change on this intriguing and unseen winter world. This episode was recorded in the Shale Creek section of Chestnut Ridge Park, located in Orchard Park, NY.
What the flock is up with murmurations? And what's the difference between a swarm, a herd, a school, and a flock? In this first of a two-part episode, Bill and Steve explore the world of collective behavior, and take a specific look at murmurations of the European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). This species gathers in large flocks (sometimes numbering into the tens of thousands!) that dive and swoop across the sky, creating beautiful, shifting forms that delight, amaze, and mystify. Researchers from numerous fields study these formations, and this month, the Field Guides share the latest research into this stunning natural phenomenon.
Exploding seed pods?!? Flowers in the winter?! Many species have evolved unusual strategies for reproduction, and this month’s target species is no exception. Witch Hazel (Hamemelis virginiana) is a small tree of the eastern forest understory that is easy to miss. It’s small and unassuming, but closer inspection reveals an array of fascinating adaptations that make it unique among our woodland species. Join Steve and Bill as they hunt for this wonder of the woods and share what they learned about it.
Have you ever heard of Valcour Island? Bill and Steve heard tantalizing rumors about it and journeyed to Lake Champlain to check it out. Champlain borders both New York and Vermont, and one of its largest islands is Valcour, home to a number of rare plants and the largest Great Blue Heron rookery in New York. The Field Guides camped out on this special place, exploring, botanizing, and demonstrating why they are the slowest hikers on the planet. Come along for the ride and experience the fascinating finds Bill and Steve discovered.