Q:All the ash trees, every single one, on my property and in the immediate neighborhood is dead or dying. I doubt it is the emerald ash borer, so what's happening? What is the cause? CHARLES, West Stockbridge
A:I really do not have an answer, but if as widespread as you suggest, I would not suspect this problem to be caused by the emerald ash borer without going unnoticed earlier. Nevertheless, now that the destructive emerald ash borer has been detected in Dalton (on Aug. 31), and confirmed by federal officials, it is worth following up. Massachusetts is the 18th state in the country to detect this invasive insect that is bright, metallic green beetle. It is about a half-inch long with a flattened back. For more information about emerald ash borers: www.emeraldashborer.info. This invasive insect has killed tens of millions of trees, from forests to neighborhoods in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The adults are strong flyers, but usually don't fly more than a half mile, so they don't spread far or fast on their own. Most new infestations are caused by people unknowingly taking infested ash to an uninfested area. So keep and use your fire wood locally.
I strongly suggest that you contact your local tree warden. Or, to report suspicious tree damage, go to: www.massnrc.org/pests. Better yet, phone (866) 322-4512.
Q:A few weeks ago, we saw some small hawkish birds flying over our house pretty low. They reminded me of the hawks that once was common in Pittsfield 20 years ago. Do you know their name?
A:I suspect you refer to the common nighthawk, although it is not so common now, and is not a hawk but a relative of the whip-poor-will. Nighthawks are aerial foragers like bats and dragonflies. Just why it is in decline in many parts of the country is somewhat of a mystery. Adapted to city life, this bird once nested commonly on flat gravel roofs. With many such roofs being replaced with plastic or rubberized like materials, the birds find them unsuitable. Increased predation by the many crows now living "downtown" may also contribute, as perhaps do man-made towers, and maybe even climate change.
COMMENT: I read your article today (Sept. 10) and had to reply.
My wife and I recently went to Westfield. We saw three black squirrels in the span of no more than two to three minutes. I have not seen that many of these in my life. I thank you for that little bit of trivia on how they got to be there.
Email your questions and comments to Thom Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.