Thom Smith | NatureWatch: Readers recap what they learned this year



Box Elder Bugs

I was plagued with box elder bugs until I figured out they were coming in through cracks in my sunroom's foundation. There would be hundreds in there, too many to vacuum and a never-ending chore. I remembered my success of getting rid of earwigs with diatomaceous earth. I sprinkled it liberally all along the foundation of the house to a span of about a foot from the house. Worked like a charm. But, of course, you have to know where they are coming in. In my case it was easy — just look where the most of them are. I hope this will help someone!

— Alice, Hoosick Falls, N.Y.

Pine Grosbeak

Once you tipped me about looking for pine grosbeaks on 8A going for the salt, sand, or both (?) the first thing I had to do was look 'em up.

So, it's with some trepidation that I report possibly seeing one here on Cheshire Road the other morning. Looked a little like a big purple finch as far as coloration on the front side (it was facing me as I drove toward it). It was pecking at something in the road but flew off before I got a good look.

Reddish breast and head, bigger than a purple finch, munching away in the middle of the road. Sounds like what you told me to look for. No sightings since, but I'll keep you posted and try for a picture if I do, for verification.

— Paul, Windsor

(The answer to your question about their reason for being on the road is both!)

Bear's Visit

Our shepherd's crook feeder with seed block and suet feeders sure showed us how right you are about no rhyme or reason to bears' denning. We awoke this morning to bent crook and missing feeder. My husband recovered the seed block feeder and part of the block out in the front yard, nothing but paw prints in the snow in back heading west and then disappearing out front so maybe he then walked down Harvest Hills (North Bennington/Shaftsbury Vt.) and hit the neighbors as well. Don't know that yet, but that happened perhaps two years ago when it was supposedly safe to be feeding the birds. Now we will only use our two feeders inside the fenced in the yard and bring them in at night hoping our bear only wanders at night. We really don't want to quit feeding the birds as we do enjoy seeing them.

Thanks for all your great articles. I keep almost every one — your Tuesday article was sitting on my desk waiting for me to file it.

- Carolyn, North Bennington, VT


With yet another year coming to an end, we can't help but hope for the next to be saner and safer for all Earth's creatures, us included. And to begin the New Year with respect and enthusiasm, enjoy what Mother Nature has in store for us:

January will be exciting, at least as the full moon in concerned. There will be two, Jan. 1, and Jan. 31. The Wolf Moon on the night between Jan. 1 and 2, is also a Supermoon. The following Full Moon, also in January is on the 31. It has no given name, which makes it a Blue Moon. However, this Blue Moon will likely look red in some areas, because it will cause a total lunar eclipse, also known as a Blood Moon. Ours will be a partial eclipse beginning in Pittsfield and surroundings Jan. 31 at 6:48:27 a.m.

According to European folklore, "on Twelfth Night, wild and domestic animals can speak."

During some winters northern birds like pine grosbeaks, pine siskins, redpolls, and even the odd looking crossbills will arrive. This is often called an eruption; they come south, often in surprising numbers looking for food in years with a poor "mast."

If you are looking for color, check the red osier dogwood; its red stems are especially noticeable along the edges of wet places, especially with a snow covered background.

During some winters a "January Thaw" may arrive about the middle of this month.


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