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Archive for July, 2006

My Pet Peeve

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

I hate it when credit card forms on web sites don’t accept spaces between the groups of digits. They are obviously valid characters, since they appear on the card itself.

Bold, myrmecophagous catbird

Monday, July 17th, 2006

I saw a catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) in Kendall Square. He was on the ground behind the T stop, foraging for ants. I stopped about five feet from him and said “catbird!”. He noticed me but didn’t fly anywhere – indeed, rambled on up to within a foot or two of my feet. He was mainly pecking at the ants in the open, but also darted over to some dead leaves to upturn them with his beak. When an ant fled the leafpile, he chased it down and ate it. I’m not sure why he bothered with this, since there were a lot of ants right at his feet, but maybe he liked having the distance from me to eat.

This is interesting to me because I’ve never seen a catbird in the city at all. I think of them as birds of suburban shrublands and woods. Nor have I ever seen one so bold!

Eagle Island, July 5, 2006

Saturday, July 8th, 2006
  • agrimony (Agrimonia gryposepala) (rose family) – I’ve always liked this one’s name. Its leaves were sticky beneath and had a pleasant smell. I guess I should take the name to mean it has hook-nosed or, more generally, curved sepals, but I didn’t look carefully.
  • rough bedstraw (Galium asprellum) (madder family) – This and the following were growing right near each other and the agrimony, along the wood border at the back of the big lawn by the public dock. I’m pretty sure I’d seen this before, but I hadn’t quite straightened out the distinction between it and cleavers.
  • marsh bedstraw (Galium palustre) (madder family)
  • blue vervain (Verbena hastata) (vervain family) – I would venture to guess that verbena would be the more recognizable name these days, what with lemon verbena cropping up in herbal teas and such. This plant’s leaves had an ill smell – something like bittersweet nightshade, as best I can recall.
  • tall nettle (Urtica procera) (nettle family) – I remember getting stung when I was a kid by what was assumed afterward to be a nettle. It was fiercely painful. I let this one brush the back of my hand and got a genuinely painful but by no means overwhelming immediate sting and protracted burn. One little white lump, so I suppose I only got one stinger in me.
  • common St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum) (St. Johnswort family) – This is easily distinguishable from the following by the size of the leaves, which I failed to pick up on last season. Even that was better than the previous season, when I somehow failed to notice any of this common weed at all.
  • spotted St. Johnswort (Hypericum punctatum) (St. Johnswort family)
  • stout blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) (iris family) – “Stout” is a strange kind of translation of “angustifolium”, which would normally come out something like “narrowleaf”, but stout is what Newcomb’s calls it. This one’s stem/leaf was, in fact, stoutish (over 1/8 in.)