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EIGHT-A VINEYARD GAZETIE, MARTHA'S VINEYARD, MASS. FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2012 Jake Meegan KIND OF TRACK SPOTrED AT SOUTH BEACH. All Outdoors Trouble With Burs By SUZAN BELLINCAMPI George de Mestral stuck with it. For more than seven years, he worked on developing a material that "would rival the zipper in its ability to fasten." Clearly, he was a stickler for perfection, though not more so than Mother Nature, which provided the inspiration for his invention. We have all benefitted from the Swiss naturalist's determination and excel- lent observation skills. He developed Velcro after a walk with his dog that left them both covered in burs. Although many thought his idea strange, he had the last laugh when his creation made him millions. Burs (sometimes spelled "burrs") are the plant seed sacks that have hooks which attach themselves to passing animals in the hope of distributing their seeds far and wide. Anyone who has been in this sticky situation and then tried to remove burs from their clothes or pets can understand why this method of seed movement is so successful. Many have experienced the hellish- ness of these hooks, though some are more disturbed by them than others. In Shakespeare's As You Like It, both VINEYARD RS DOYLE Building and Rest0ring Custom 508-693-9004. FAX www.doyleconstruction Celia and Rosalind encountered burs. Celia noted, "They are but burs, cousin, thrown upon thee in holiday foolery; if we walk not in the trodden paths our very petticoats will catch them." Rosa- lind clearly had larger concerns when she replied,'q could shake them off my coat; these burs are in my heart." Her pain was deeper than the piercing plant. The most common burs that you will encounter iround these parts are from the plants common burdock and cocklebur. Cockleburs have one-inch football-shaped burs, while common burdock's burs are rounder and more hooked. These plants are just two that have those clasping claws. Other plants that could get stuck on you (whether it's Valentine's Day or not) include bur clover, teasel, and beggar's tick, though these are not the only bristly botanicals to get attached. Removing burs could make anyone go mad. It is no wonder that burdock is also called cuckoo-button. What is even crazier is the ability of burs to harm and even kill. In a 1998 Science News article by J. Raloff, a few hummingbirds got themselves into a prickly predicament. Raloff relates that common burdock was responsible for the death of four ruby-throated hum- mingbirds. They became entangled in clusters of burdock fruits, which can reach heights of six feet. Though he goes on to say that one of the birds was rescued, the others perished on the plants, unable to fly away and getting more tangled as they struggled. Death by bur is, luckily, uncommon, but burs do provide a prolonged prickly predicament for those trying to break their hold. I have heard that there is only one surefire, quick and easy tech- nique for dealing with their exasperat- ing grasp, though.it goes against my eco-sense. Throw out those socks. Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Fe- lix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown. CORP. over 18 yearsl SUMMER RENTALS Jr ..... It may be the dead of winter now, but summer's coming as it always does, and if you're looking for a summer rental home or have one to rent, take a look in the Gazette's Summer Rentals category in this week's edition and online at mvgazette.com. If you need to reach potential renters, whether you're a homeowner or rental agency, we're offering competitive pricing to reach Gazette readers who are planning their summer vacation now. Call Susan Catling at 508-627-4311 or e-mail classifieds@mvgazette.com to place your advertisement. VINEYARD  GAZETTE www.mvgazette.com Bird News By SUSAN B. WHITING We ran away.The reason was the 15th annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in Titusville, Fla. Now, Flip likes to look for birds, but fishing is his real passion. So when we first heard about this festival 16 years ago, run by a female commercial fishing boat captain, I had no problem convincing Flip to attend. Capt. Laurilee Thompson comes from a fishing family, but is also an avid bird watcher and environmentalist. She decided to start a birding and wildlife festival in the Cape Canaveral area to make people aware of the environmental problems facing both the marine and terrestrial environment Laurilee joined hands with the Brevard Nature Alliance and the rest is history. Since the start of the festival Laurilee retired from fishing and is now "the captain" of the family restaurant, Dixie Crossroads, which spe- cializes in seafood, especially shrimp. The festival consists of field trips, classes, vendors and keynote speak- ers. This year there were four keynote speakers and our favorite was Richard Crossley, who published an awesome new bird book called The Crossley ID Guide. A fabulous talk, in York- shire brogue, emphasized his goal of popularizing nature and the outdoors through multimedia and books with the hope of encouraging the youth of today to become "the game-changers" of tomorrow. Richard moved to the United States when he was 21 years old and is based in Cape May, N.J. Our favorite field trip, the "gull fly in," was full as we were bias6 and waited too long to sign up. So we attended a workshop on sparrow identification given by Adam Kent of the Florida Or- nithological Society. Adam's presenta- tion made it clear that we should learn to recognize similar groups of sparrows first by their habitat and a few basic characteristics and then narrow them down to species. Adam noted there are always exceptions to the rule and that he couldn't cover all the northeastern sparrows in the time allotted. The first group includes the large sparrows with long square tipped tails, clear breasts and streaked heads that prefer bushy habitats. These include the white-throated and white-crowned sparrows. The second are small spar- rows with long notched tails, small bills and unstreaked breasts that prefer open fields. Chipping, clay-colored and field sparrows belong to this bunch. The third groups contain small spar- rows with short tails and flattish heads and are weak flyers of fields. They included the grasshopper, Le Conte's and Henslow's sparrows. The fourth are sparrows of the marshes and adja- cent shrubby areas, are medium sized, Lanny McDowell RECORD-SETrlNG WINTERING YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER. chunky and have longish tails. They have streaked breasts. This includes the song and Lincoln's sparrows, as well as the swamp sparrow, which has streaks on its flanks, not breasts. Sounds confusing but try it out and see if this grouping doesn't shed some light on the "little brown jobs!" We highly recommend the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival as a post-holiday getaway -- a great bird-watching opportunity as well as an educational experience. Bird Sightings The hot bird this week was seen by Gary Mirando on Jan. 30. He saw, and luckily photographed, a yellow-throated warbler in his Tisbury yard.This is a rare visitor to the Vineyard with only about 25 total records. Before Gary's sighting the latest record was Dec. 3, 1956! This is a southern bird and very common in Florida and I figured we sent it north while we were at the festival. An ovenbird is still around as of Jan. 30 residing at Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stevens's Pilot Hill feeder.These two birders also found a yellow-bellied sapsucker, a brown creeper and four pine warblers at the Phillips Preserve in Tisbury the same day. Lanny McDowell counted three chipping sparrows at his Tisbury feeder on Jan. 21. Good sized flocks of cedar waxwings have shown up in several locations on Jan. 21; one near the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury and another seen by Kate Greer on Poucha Road on Chap- paquiddick. Phyllis and Bob Conway had quite a scene on Jan. 25 what with a large flock of cedar waxwings, eastern bluebirds and American goldfinches all crowding into their birdbath. But the bonanza was a flock of 80 cedar wax- wings seen by Laura Murphy drinking water in the puddles at the parking lot between Up-Island Cronig's and Fella's Fri. 2/3 - Martha's Vineyard Boys BKB @ Coyle-Cassidy - 5:30 Tues. 2/7 - Martha's Vineyard Boys BKB @ Bishop Stang - 5:30 Thur. 2/16 - Martha's Vineyard Boys BKB @ Bourne - 5:30 on WMVY 92.7~FM SPONSORED IN PART BY THE VINEYARD GAZETTE INSURANCE TIP OF THE WEEK If you are a Plymouth Rock customer and you have too much fun at a Super Bowl part, you can still get home safely. Plymouth Rock's GET HOME SAFE PROGRAM will reimburse your one-way cab fare home, up to $50 per policy year (except for mechanical breakdown). For details, please call us. GO PATS!! I www'mvinsurance'cm I (508)693-2800 STOP THE BLUE/G00EN STAINS! Acid Neutralizers Protect against acid water corrosion. Island Water Systems Neutralizers feature dual motor controls for dependability and double walled, filament wound tanks for extraordinary strength. We use crushed southern marble as a neutralizing media for its purity and superior filtration characteristics. Each and every Neutralizer "is built to order and assembled here on the Island to provide you with years of clean, delicious, and trouble free water. Please Call For A Complementary Water Analysis and Consultation. WATER FILTRATION FOR HOME AND BUSINESS 'SALES * INSTALLATION * SERVICE P.O. BOX 420 * Chilmark. MA 02535 phone: 645-2750 / 696-0087 fax: 645-2752 in West Tisbury on Jan. 25. Unfortunately, a dying barn owl was found by the Granary Gallery Jan. 21. It was presumed a young bird from owlets fledged in October. On a brighter note, Tara Whiting spotted a barn owl alive and well at tuenames on the same day. Cynthia Boomquist spotted a pheas- ant in her Skiffs Lane, West Tisbury yard and figures it probably wandered over from the Manuel E Correllus State Forest on Jan. 25. Tom Rivers reports seeing hermit thrushes on Tea Lane in Chilmark on Jan. 30. On Feb. 1, a glaucous gull was glean- ing food off the scallop pile at the end of Skiff Avenue in Tisbury, as reported by Rob Culbert. And speaking of Rob, he spotted a loon that didn't seem to fit any loon he had seen before. His description was upturned bill, appear- ing larger than a red-throated's bill, and the bill was very pale ivory all over. No darkness or black on the bill at all. The top of the head, back of the neck, wings and back were all pale grayish/brownish, separated from the lighter undersides by a continuous and relatively straight line. There were no darker or lighter bands around the neck, and the back appeared to have light wavy lines across it (side to side, not front to back).There were also two common loons diving and feeding a little bit farther into the pond, and they were obviously different (darker, heavier straight bill held parallel with the water) from this individual." Without a photo or others seeing the bird we will have to presume it was a red-throated loon, not a yellow-billed loon. On Jan. 28 William Waterway walked along South Beach to the Edgartown Great Pond opening and spotted a snowy owl. Too bad the bird wasn't around during the Christmas Bird Count! Jeff Bernier photographed a snow goose in Allen Farm field in Chilmark The Vineyard Gardener By LYNNE IRONS It is becoming increasingly difficult to call this a winter. Last week's impressive snowfall was gone overnight and the temperatures have been almost con- sistently balmy. I have bulbs poking up everywhere, mostly crocus and daffodil. I have yet to notice my snowdrops in bloom but they are on the north side of some trees. My quince is covered with buds that have begun to open. I already have some forsythia in the house. I forced a bloom from them last week. Usually by now I have tackled a few neglected cleaning chores, (my least fa- vorite and often avoided activity).This winter has simply been a continuation of fall projects. I moved some peren- nials around this weekend. Who can imagine the ground has yet to freeze? I have completely filled my green- house. All the onion and leek seedlings are coming along nicely. Some are over three inches tall. It is wise to give them a bit of a haircut. I snip them to one and a half inches. It causes them to plump out and become stronger. I think I'll move them into some coldframes soon. I need the space for perennial seedlings that are in need of transplanting. I probably mentioned this before, (I raised children, repetition is a given, they never listen) do not use regular garden soil in pots or flats. Yru not only get tons of weeds but the pos- sibility of bacteria and/or fungi. Once, on Jan. 30. Ken Magnuson sent a fine photo of an eastern bluebird taken on Jan. 25, and Marie Laursen watched two east- ern bluebirds bathing in her bird bowl on her back porch in Tisbury on Jan. 19. Bert Fischer heard a northern car- dinal singing in his Aquinnah yard on Jan. 30. Happy Spongberg watched an American crow in her bird bath com- bining taking a drink and cleaning his feet. A crow pedicure? Please report your bird sightings to the Martha's Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to birds@ mvgazette.com. Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds 11. Her Web site is vineyardbirds2.com. Please report your bird sightings to the bird hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail birds@mvgazette.com. in the seventies, I tried sterilizing soil in huge baking dishes in my oven. I would never recommend the practice. It took weeks to get the smell out of the kitchen. Every "don't ever" I tell you is from personal experience. I hesitate to say I've done everything wrong but I'm still learning from my mistakes. Anyway, I use a layer of Vermont Com- post's manure topped with number 360 metromix. Any sterile potting soil of your choice would work. Vermont Compost also has a product, Fort V, which is great. It is pricey but cheaper than the nursery-grown seedlings and certainly beats the buying of greens grown in California or foreign coun- tries. I encourage you to think about the energy used to ship produce thousands of miles. Once again, leave it to Ellie Kohane. She clipped the following from Fine Gardening Magazine, Forecasting Sun Patterns. "Predicting the angle of the sun can be a difficult and challenging task. I re- member planting tomatoes against the south-facing wall of our house one year. A full sun exposure in April turned into full shade by June because of the roof overhang. Here is a trick to help anticipate the sun's pattern. Go outside at midnight on the night of a full moon and note where buildings and trees cast shadows in the moonlight. This is approximately where the sun's shadows will fall at noon six months later. If you check the full moon's shadow in December, for example, you will have a good idea of where the shadow of noontime sun will fall in June." I have run out of my stored onions from this past growing season. Granted, I use them everyday but I hoped to make it until March before, needing to purchase any. Luckily, I still have a few rows of leeks standing in the garden. I guess I should pick several this week. I .can't help thinking about our ancestors and how difficult it was to get through a long winter with no supermarket as a next best choice. By February it must have been, if nothing else, extremely borfflg. Mitt Romney has boatloads of money. His wealth is two times the combined assets of Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Papa Bush, Clin- ton, Forty-three and Obama. While I neither envy nor begrudge him, it is interesting to note he pretends he can identify with me. Right! Jon Stewart ran a segment about Bain Capital heavily lobbying Con- gress to keep the carried interest tax rate under 15 per cent. Needless to say, they won. Every time the Mittster says something stupid, irritating, or conde- scending I send the DNC $10. I should be broke by summer. 1 ti 17! --./,./// Winter is here but you don't have to hibernate. Support our local businesses - their doors are open and they've got deals to blow your winter doldrums away! Our NEW Open For Business feature starts in this week's Gazette! Baths Un d ra I/IBertch fisit he Manha3 Vineyord 6,:/,'ery c-: 25 East Line Rd., Edgartown, MA 508.696.9930 Supply New England's Kitc00 BathGal[ery r www.KitchenBathGallery.com ' , l ,t i