Pamelia woke me from a deep sleep at 4 a.m. "Sorry," she said. "But we have to drive to Bates." I was too groggy to process this unexpected announcement, but an hour (and two cups of coffee) later, as we began the 150-mile drive south to Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine, to scout the location of our upcoming TEDx conference outdoor installation, I knew we were off on a worthwhile adventure.
Bates is a small school (1,700 students) that has been recognized as one of America's greenest colleges. I had never been there, but immediately liked the feel of the compact campus and the brick buildings. The TEDx conference will be held at the Olin Arts Center, which sits next to a stone-and-grass outdoor amphitheater and pond-sized Lake Andrews. Between sessions at the conference (which will focus on the theme of villages and will feature a variety of compelling speakers), attendees will go out onto a stone terrace overlooking the amphitheater and the lake. We hope that many of them will be drawn to our fun, color-coded, lakeside walk through the history of the universe.
We hope to see some of you at the TEDx Dirigo event at Bates. The group's slogan is Maine Ideas Worth Sharing, but the talks and conversations will reach far beyond the Pine Tree State in their insights and importance. Even the walk around the lake will (we hope) be memorable.
Wildlife Back Home We've had many distractions lately—pretty much anytime we step out the door or look out the window. Our house and its surroundings are a hub for black bears, raccoons, skunks, foxes, migrating birds, frenetic fish, butterflies, dragonflies and a flock of wild turkeys that is growing in number, as it does at this time each year. A few pictures:
Back to those foxes. Julie, who's living with us, had the wits scared out of her the other night by a screaming red fox when she got out of her car in our driveway. You laugh? Listen to what a fox scream sounds like:
Birding Tips from the Cornell Ornithology Lab The lab e-mailed me this video link the other day about the methods it uses to track the small birds we find in our backyards:
Worrisome Words From a story in last week's Ellsworth (Maine) American on the lack of cod and other groundfish in the eastern Gulf of Maine—an area that MacArthur Fellow Ted Ames, a longtime Maine fisherman and historical fisheries ecology researcher, calls "a depleted suite of fisheries":
James "Howdy" Houghton, a Bar Harbor lobsterman, said the bottom temperature around that Frenchman Bay harbor had been "45 degrees forever," but has increased significantly over the past few years. Five years ago, he said, the temperature had risen to 50 degrees.
"Now it's up to 60. We're seeing all kinds of squid around we never see."
The U.S. Forest Service sent me a press release this week saying that it will be co-sponsoring a live educational webcast about bats on Tuesday, September 18, from Bracken Cave near San Antonio. Twenty percent of the world's known mammal species are bats, and if you'd like to learn more about them, tune in (or tell your local school to tune in) by going to http://www.batslive.pwnet.org. The webcast will take you on a field trip to view millions of Mexican free-tailed bats and find out the latest on the white-nose syndrome that has killed off more than 6 million bats, mostly in the eastern U.S.
Here's a link to a very good Q-and-A about bats:
Bottle Cap Art Anne, our Russian correspondent, sent along this link to a story about a woman who has taken recycling in a different direction. She has covered her house with art she has made from plastic bottle caps. The piece is written in Russian, but you can get the basic idea from the photos:
Answers to the Last Puzzlers
1) How much salt is in the average human body? Answer: c) enough to fill two salt shakers
2) What is the name for that crown-like, five-pointed star on top of a blueberry? Answer: b) calyx (from a Latin word meaning outer covering)
1) What is the insect shown above? a) a two-striped grasshopper b) an Eastern locust c) a yellowback katydid
2) A very smart five-year-old girl visited The Naturalist's Notebook and told us a joke she had made up:
What do you call the time in history when dinosaurs were eating candy?
Can you guess the answer?