Some great new podcasts about the lives of birds and how to protect them
Turning over the mic for a bit and plant of the week
This summer, the newsletter will probably become a little more sporadic than it’s historically been. I mean, all the possums are using their PTO and getting out to the beach, leaving much of the work to me. And besides that, I’m very grateful to be doing some work behind the scenes for two fantastic podcasts produced by BirdNote: Bring Birds Back and Threatened. I’m focused on doing my part for those podcasts and a little less focused on the newsletter. So this week, I wanted to turn the mic over, as it were, to the amazing folks that make those podcasts.
We just kicked off season 2 of Threatened yesterday with a remarkably beautiful episode produced by Ari Daniel. The story begins with Sunny Tseng becoming inspired by a wayward Siberian Crane that landed in Taiwan after getting off course during migration.
Tseng decided to travel to Arctic Russia to record the voices of the birds that breed there. She learned how to make high-quality field recordings and how to contend with Siberia’s muck, wind, and mosquitoes as she pursued her elusive target birds. The climactic scene of the episode gives me chills every time I hear it.
And then over at Bring Birds Back, we just released the second part of two episodes on the issue of outdoor cats, their effects on birds, and what we can do about the problem. It’s not an easy issue to take on, and I give a lot of credit to our host, Tenijah Hamilton, producer Mark Bramhill, and the rest of the team in approaching this story in a good faith effort to find some answers and using the space of two episodes to make a nuanced final product. I hope you’ll check it out. Here’s part one and here’s part two.
Both of those podcasts are publishing every two weeks this summer. Give them a listen and let me know what you think! And we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled Possum programming as soon as it’s feasible.
Plant of the week: Chicory
It’s been a little cooler than usual this July in southern New England. The blue tones of chicory (Cichorium intybus) fit right into that overcast atmosphere. Introduced from Europe and western Asia, chicory is one of those rough-and-ready species that brings color to roadsides, washed-out ditches, and other disturbed soils. According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison extension office, the nice thing about this species is that—while not native to the continent—it “does not typically invade undisturbed natural habitats.” In this photo, chicory was growing on the mowed edges of a wildflower planting in Seekonk, MA, with other species flourishing in the planting’s interior.
You might be familiar with the taste of chicory root from its use in some coffees. When you order a beignet in New Orleans, the coffee accompanying the pastry is probably a nice coffee-chicory blend. Some insects enjoy sipping on chicory, too: short-tongued bees, a diverse group of miner bees and metallic bees, drink chicory nectar. The wee fella in the above picture drinking nectar appears to be a hover fly.
While this may have the look of a short-lived annual plant, chicories can live for years. In its first year, it grows as a rosette of leaves close to the ground. Only in the following years does it put up its pale blue flowers.
The first time I realized how many wildflowers have at least a two-year lifecycle—one year growing as a “basal rosette” of mere leaves, followed by a florescent adulthood—I was blown away. Since then, I’ve started noticing these basal rosettes more often and thinking about the flowers they’ll become next year.
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Possum Notes is a weekly newsletter about wildlife and landscapes around where I live. It’s produced on occupied Wampanoag and Narragansett land.