They have a scary name, but ‘cicada killers’ are harmless helpers

Categories: General News Tags: Habitat, Insects

With fewer cars on the road and airplanes in the sky, I’ve enjoyed the sounds of summer even more, namely the chorus of cicadas in my leafy neighborhood. The male’s love song is loud and urgent – more Def Leppard than James Taylor – but to my ears, it is the soundtrack of lazy summer […]

How to help fireflies — and save a bit of summer magic

Categories: General News Tags: ENVIRONMENT, Habitat, Insects

A bobwhite quail calling from the edge of a stubbled hayfield. Honeybees buzzing in every patch of clover. Fireflies hovering just beyond reach as dusk gives way to night. These are the images that come to mind when I think back to summers outdoors in the Uwharries when I was young. Little did I know […]

Finding the exceptional in the ordinary: Goldenrod galls

Mama has a knack for finding four-leaf clovers. We’ll be strolling along, chatting, and she’ll stoop down and pluck one. She doesn’t break stride to stop and search – they just jump out at her. She doesn’t focus on finding the oddity. Instead, she takes in the sameness of the masses until something different catches […]

Some mountain conifers make the Piedmont their home

In December, the familiar Fraser fir population reaches its fleeting peak in the Piedmont as Christmas trees are harvested from farms in the North Carolina mountains and brought to market. But two other species of conifers largely restricted to the mountains have found surprising refuge in our region — at least for the time being. […]

Celebrating creeks, the ‘capillaries’ of our water system

Think of an important waterway: You’re probably picturing a rushing river, a huge lake or a roaring waterfall. But what about the humble creek running through the woods near your house? That’s where most of our waterways start, and if those creeks aren’t healthy, our larger waterways won’t be healthy either. Creek Week is a […]

Finding the beauty in a bagworm

The overall cluster was about the size of my fist.  A woven cylindrical core was decorated with willow oak leaves, some of them whole and others torn.  They had been applied in an intriguingly symmetrical pattern, creating the effect of wings and a tail.  Tiny twigs with swollen buds had also been incorporated into the design, their weight providing a ballast.  The creature twirled and fluttered in the breeze, a sylvan ballerina.

This Piedmont field guide will take the mystery out of identifications

Mid-spring is a heady time for naturalists in the Uwharries. The diversity of flora and fauna often sends us reaching for a field guide. Thanks to Mama’s month-by-month acquisition of the entire Peterson Field Guides series, I have 42 books at my fingertips. Some we consult on a regular basis: Eastern Birds, Eastern Forests, Eastern […]

A mysterious glow lights the night

Categories: General News Tags: ENVIRONMENT, Insects, Nature

We have an evening routine in the Uwharries. We wait until dark to saunter down the driveway and close the yellow gate. Even on a moonless night, we can usually find our way without flashlights. We tip our faces toward the sky, drinking in the stars, the planets and the Milky Way. In fall, we […]

The mystery of the missing garden cats

As I left town for a quick trip over Labor Day weekend, a dozen hungry monarch caterpillars were munching away on my swamp milkweed. When I returned 32 hours later, they had vanished. Many stems had been denuded, so the cats had apparently eaten a lot of leaves before they disappeared. Most had been fifth […]

Make your own luck with clover

Growing up in the Uwharries, my sister and I were country girls through and through, right down to the soles of our feet. We went barefoot much of the summer. The red clay stained our feet the color of rust. Our calluses allowed us to traverse the gravel driveway and cross the gooey asphalt on […]