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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fern Fanatics: Why You Should Love Ferns

They’re lush. They’re soft. They can carpet the forest floor. Whether you’re in swamp, field, or on rocky ledge, they are there. Ferns add a vibrant texture to our landscape, and when we begin to look more closely at them, there is a lot to discover.

Ferns occupy a unique niche amongst the plants of our world. Unlike many of our plants that reproduce by flower and seed, ferns are derived from a more primitive lineage that, like mushrooms, use spores to spread and multiply (although like some flowering plants, they can also spread underground via rhizomes). Flip over the frond of a fern (the leaf-like blades that protrude from the ground) and you may discover the ferns’ sori, or “spore packets”.

While we often think of ferns as occupants of dark, dank forests, many types can thrive in almost every crack and crevice of Vermont. Royal Fern may line the edges of lakes and ponds, while Common Polypody clings to the rocky surfaces of boulders and cliffs. While some are easy to identify, like the elegant Maidenhair Fern which grows in limestone soils of rich, moist forests, others can present quite a challenge to tell apart.

Flex your fern skills and join us for a woodland walk in Middlesex Notch with former botany professor Murray Evans. This will be a leisurely walk to explore some unusual species including Silvery Glade Fern and Maidenhair Spleenwort. No experience is necessary, and we hope you’ll take this opportunity to revisit some familiar ferns or explore a whole new facet of the natural world. This event takes place Please call 229-6206 with any questions and to register.

Bonus Question: Can you identify the fern photos in this blog post? Below are some resources to help get you started:

Winooski Valley Park District Fern Guide
Common Ferns of Vermont

Friday, July 1, 2011

What to Do if you Find a Baby Bird

Every summer, we receive numerous phone calls at NBNC from people who have found baby birds out of their nests, wondering what they can do to help. Not only is info on baby birds often lacking, but there is a lot of misinformation with regards to the proper course of action.

It is a natural part of most songbirds' development for them to spend some time out of the nest before they are capable of full flight. During this time, they are often still cared for by their parents (who are often watching from a bush or tree where you can't see them). If the bird is fully feathered, it is likely at this stage in its life and no intervention should be necessary, aside from keeping dogs and cats away.

If the bird is not feathered, returning it to its nest may be the best option, so look up and see if you can find/reach the nest. Contrary to popular belief, baby birds will not be rejected by their parents if handled by humans. It can be very difficult to tell if a baby bird was abandoned as parents will often stay away if they see you nearby, and go through every effort not to draw attention to their young. If you know for sure that the bird is abandoned (ie, mom was eaten by the neighbor's cat) you should find a trained wildlife rehabilitater, as baby birds require specialized care. You can contact the Nature Center for this info.

This short post gives a brief introduction to a few of the different scenarios that can unfold when a baby bird is found, but should you need further advice, please see the additional resources provided below: Mass Audubon