Thursday, February 19, 2015

Things to Look for at the End of Winter

We skipped town for over 6 weeks this winter. Little did we know the worst of the cold was yet to come. Here are some things to look for out there in the winter wonderland, and some to give you hope for spring to come...it will be here before we know it!

>> What have you been noticing in nature this winter? Leave a comment below.


Vulpes vulpes from Wikimedia Commons
When we got back to town, our neighbor let us know he's seen foxes coming and going from under our shed. He thinks we may have a den. The snow has revealed many noturnal comings-and-goings, and our neighbor seems to be right. Do we dare to hope for pups this spring? For now, see our guide to some common footprints in the snow.


Ice at Scott's Run by the Natural Capital
Even when it doesn't snow, looking for beautiful ice formations can be enough to entice me out into the cold for a good walk...usually. This might be a good time to check out your favorite body of water.

In the Swamp
Skunk cabbage by Rupert G.
Skunk cabbage is one of the select group of plants in the world that attracts pollinators by imitating rotting flesh. And, it's just about the only native flower you're going to find blooming at this time of year. It's prehistoric-looking and stinky, but it's a flower. In January and February. It's said that they generate their own heat and can even melt snow, but I've never seen it...now might be the time to check.

maple sap bucket
Photo credit: Lolly Knit
Before this recent cold snap, Matt collected several gallons of maple sap from a few nearby trees. When it warms up this weekend the sap should start flowing again.

For those of us (myself included) who tend to feel a little house-bound as it gets colder and colder outside, we wrote a Southerner's Guide to Staying Warm Outside in the Winter.

We also put together a list of Nature Centers in the DC area, in case you need a nature fix when you really can't stand to be outdoors for too long.

Stay warm!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Things to look for in October

I've been distracted from the Natural Capital but I haven't totally forgotten about you guys...Here are some of the other things we try to take time to enjoy in October. What have you been noticing lately?

Maryland Shore
Maryland shore of the Potomac by Todor Kamenov
Fall foliage will start becoming more apparent soon. See our list of favorite local places to enjoy the color, and leave a comment with your own favorite spot. Or try our quiz of 10 fall leaves.
Wild Grapes
Wild grapes by Memotions
Wild Grapes are tart but tasty trailside treats -- if you can reach them. Have you found any lately?

Acorns on tree
Acorns by VS Anderson
Acorns have been dropping. We've been playing around with making acorn flour: take off the shells, grind the nutmeats into coarse flour, then put them in a filter and let them soak in repeated changes of water over several days. Then dry and grind into finer flour. Use it to replace a little flour in any baking recipe that doesn't require a lot of gluten. We love it in pancakes.

Virginia Creeper
Virginia Creeper by Rene J
Virginia Creeper has started to turn a brilliant red. It's the harbinger of fall color.

New England Aster
New England Aster by giveawayboy
New England Asters are lighting up our backyard right now, and on a sunny day they're covered in pollinators. Do you have a favorite spot that they grow in the wild? We'd love to hear about it.

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar waxwing by Kelly Colgan Azar
Cedar waxwings are beautiful but gluttonous birds that come through our yard every fall and feast on our holly berries. I love to find them by their high-pitched calls, which you can hear on a video in our post.
Stink Bug
Stink bug by fangleman
Marmorated stink bugs will probably start coming into your home as it gets cooler, if they haven't already. These bugs just came to Pennsylvania around 1998, and have been spreading through the eastern United States with stinky abandon.
chicken of the woods
chicken of the woods by zwavelzwam
It seems like every year we find a few pounds' worth of  chicken of the woods in October, and this year is no exception. Plenty of other mushrooms out there, too, with all the rain!
We always love to hear what other people are noticing out there...leave us a comment below about your favorite things or new finds for this time of year!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Things to Look For in August

There's still plenty to see outside, if you're in town and you're willing to put up with a little sweat. Links are to previous LOOK FOR posts:

meteor
Photo credit: Rongem Boyo
The Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak August 11-12. The moon will be just past full, so it's not a great year to catch them, but keep an eye out.
ruby-throated hummingbird on cardinal flower
hummingbird on cardinal flower in our yard
In August we often see hummingbirds in our yard nearly every day. What a treat to watch them go from hovering in mid-air, to zipping away, fast as lightning.


Greater Anglewing by Jerry Oldnettel
Even more common are the katydids, who chirp just about everywhere in the evening. Even when we lived in Dupont Circle, there was one in the tree outside our apartment building. In the woods you'll hear them by the thousands...and in this post, you can learn to tell apart the calls of the five different species.

monarch caterpillar
Monarch larva by The Natural Capital
Monarch butterflies are laying their eggs, and if you look closely on milkweed, you may see some stripey caterpillars. Every year, we bring a few inside and raise them. It's a pretty amazing process. (This post on raising monarchs has been one of the all-time most popular posts on the Natural Capital.)

joe pye weed
Joe Pye weed by Garden Beth
Joe Pye Weed is another butterfly magnet at this time of year -- not so much for the monarchs as for the swallowtails. Keep an eye out for Joe Pye weed in wetland areas and then watch for the butterflies...look closely and you'll find lots of other pollinators, too.

Passion Flower Close-Up
Passionflower by Texas Eagle
Joe Pye is one of our tallest flowers; passionflower is surely one of the most exotic-looking. The tropical look of this flower may lead you to think of steamy nights of passion, but the 17th century missionaries who named it claimed to have religion in mind.
duck potato
Sagittaria by Tom Brandt
Katniss, namesake of the character from the Hunger Games, blooms in August. You won't find enough to subsist on as she did, but if you're a fan of the book it's fun to know the plant.

Halloween pennant dragonfly
Dragonfly by afagen
Dragonflies are common sight this time of year. They hang out around water, because they lay their eggs there and spend their nymph stage as aquatic creatures. In our post we highlighted 6 common species, and shared a video of a dragonfly shedding its aquatic skin to become an adult.

Sumac berries by billmiky
Sumac has extremely distinctive clusters of dark red, hairy berries in the late summer. They're great for making pink lemonade! Check out our post to find out how.
We really enjoyed watching a sphinx moth nectar on jimson weed by the Potomac River a couple of years ago, and may head back to try again. If we end up just watching the sunset by the river, that's not so bad either.

Polyphemous moth by Jason Sturner
Also out this time of year are the giant silkworm moths, and their large green caterpillars. So beautiful.

What have you been seeing lately? Leave a comment and let us know!