Michael Good, director of the Acadia Birding Festival, wrote a letter to this week's Mount Desert Islander newspaper that I have to share:
"I was checking the chickens in the shed about 9:30 p.m last Thursday and standing very quietly. I began to hear knocking and sort of tapping coming from the side of the shed. The first thing I see is a Jiffy Peanut Butter jar followed by a skunk body. The skunk had its head lodged in the jar. I was freaking out for the skunk. I reached for and fortuitously grabbed a snow shovel with a good scoop on it.
"I began to talk to the skunk as it walked around bumping into everything and working his way towards me. I kept talking to the skunk, telling him to stop so I could try and remove the jar. The skunk then started to waddle up the hill past me, putting me behind the tail. Fortunately for the skunk, I had a chance to turn on my headlamp so I could follow him into the dark woods.
"I kept talking to the skunk trying to put it at ease until finally placing the shovel over his body, which forced his tail over his scent gland. I reached down and grabbed the bottle, which easily slipped off.
"Free from the bottle the skunk took a deep breath—I swear he sort of smiled—and ran off, never once spraying me.
"I guess you could say that the skunk came to me seeking help and he found a friendly human who could not stand seeing the poor creature die that way. This was by far one of the peak moments in my life, as it probably was for the skunk as well.
"I am sure I'll see this guy again this summer but he won't have a bottle stuck on his head."
Where's Waldo the Woodcock? I got a nice e-mail from founding Naturalist's Notebook team member Pat Johnson, who is finishing his master's degree in ornithology at Ohio State. He sent along the photo, which—even with the little red circle drawn on it—will test your visual acuity. Your challenge is to find the baby woodcock hidden on the forest floor.
"I nearly stepped on the adult who was on the nest," wrote Pat. "She flushed and feigned an injury to her wing (assumed it was a female, though not sure) and began flapping around in the woods. I knew I was basically on the nest based on her desperate and agitated behavior. I looked around and stepped VERY carefully, eventually finding the little guy amongst the leaves."
When I asked Pat how his master's thesis is going, he said, "I am trying to get a handle on the distribution of birds during migration in the Western Lake Erie basin. In a sense, I am trying to identify which 'rest stops' or forest patches are most used by birds so that I can in turn, make recommendations to land managers and conservation groups like the Nature Conservancy regarding which rest stops we should attempt to protect, where we should attempt to expand on existing rest stops, or create new ones. It's been a fun project and I've learned a lot."
Keep up the good work, Pat.
Naturally Lucky Pat's note and photo were another reminder of how fortunate Pamelia and I have been to have met and worked with so many great people since launching The Naturalist's Notebook four years ago. Ever since we opened the doors for our new season on Monday, we and our recent-college-graduate and grad-student collaborators (a phenomenal bunch) have been greeted by happy faces, exclamations of "So glad you're back open!" and even some group hugs. The day before we opened, a Notebook friend named Tom volunteered to wash our windows for us for free (and did).
When a little girl walked by the front window and said, "Hi, cow," to Milkable Millie, as if the two were old buddies, and a six-year-old boy came in and declared, "I love this place!", and people were tink-tink-tinking on the glockenspiel a song written in colors by a 15-year-old Notebook contributor (one of our first-ever high school interns), and a mother told me that the Notebook had changed her daughter's life by getting her interested in animals and science, and a woman eagerly brought in a beetle specimen for inspection, and a man from outside Boston said that the Notebook was his new favorite store in the world and he didn't see any reason why he shouldn't paint the stairs in his under-renovation house to match our new 24-color, history of the universe, timeline staircase, and someone thanked us for our great brain-teasing puzzles, and a boy got so excited while testing our button-making operation that he said he wanted to make a lot of buttons—"a thousand!"—well, I felt pretty good about our new season. And we've barely started.
About That Music-Color Installation... It was created by Melanie Ambler, a gifted cellist who later this summer will be joining Anthea Taeuber and David Eacho in our inaugural class of high-school Notebook interns. They'll be working on some big ideas for 2013.
Answer to the Last Puzzler As the color of the egg suggested, the baby birds in the nest shown below were robins.
Today's Puzzler Match the type of bird with the term used for a group of that type of bird:
1) quail a) a siege
2) ravens b) a congregation
3) herons c) a bevy
4) plovers d) an unkindness