Poem of the Week: O Swallow

from The Princess: O Swallow
By Alfred Lord Tennyson

O Swallow, Swallow, flying, flying South, 
Fly to her, and fall upon her gilded eaves, 
And tell her, tell her, what I tell to thee. 

O tell her, Swallow, thou that knowest each, 
That bright and fierce and fickle is the South, 
And dark and true and tender is the North. 

O Swallow, Swallow, if I could follow, and light 
Upon her lattice, I would pipe and trill, 
And cheep and twitter twenty million loves. 

O were I thou that she might take me in, 
And lay me on her bosom, and her heart 
Would rock the snowy cradle till I died. 

Why lingereth she to clothe her heart with love, 
Delaying as the tender ash delays 
To clothe herself, when all the woods are green? 

O tell her, Swallow, that…

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Book Review: Extraordinary Insects by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson

If you know me, follow me on Twitter or read my writing, you probably have a pretty good idea that I’m a huge bug dork and partial to anything without a backbone. When Norwegian entomologist Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson’s new book Extraordinary Insects: Weird. Wonderful. Indespensible. The ones who run the world. showed up in my Twitter timeline, I naturally tracked it down and ordered it immediately. It has just been translated into English and published in the UK, the US release comes in July. In Norway, where it was originally published, it has become a best-seller.

The very day the book arrived I began reading it and finished in just a couple of…

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Poem of the Week: The Stolen Child


WHERE dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water-rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
 


Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
 


Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,.
In pools among…

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Field Journal: Caddisfly Swarms

There are downsides and upsides to walking the same route with great frequency. Sometimes it can become tedious and feel repetitive, but then there are the times when I get to see things that only happen for a brief time. Yesterday I got to witness something I’d never seen along my walk before, a mass of caddisflies.

I noticed them almost immediately, swarms of small, black insects dancing right on the shoreline over the water. At first I didn’t know what they were, so I went down to the beach and watched them flying around. They were close enough I could reach out and grab them. When I did I found an insect with very long antennae and slender black wings that extended past the abdomen. The eyes were set on the sides of the head, similar to damselflies and they had a…

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: The Day of the Dragon

All week long, as I worked outside, I watched teneral dragonflies, those that had just made the transformation from larvae to adult, fly away from my wildlife pond. But I had yet to catch any in the act of emerging. Earlier last week I had agreed to take dragonfly larvae into my daughter’s school to share with the kids. No big deal I thought, I’d go scoop some out of the pond in the afternoon before heading to the school. I had been catching larvae with nearly every scoop of the net as I removed algae over the last couple of weeks, so it should be easy. But when I went out that day, I scooped and scooped and was starting to worry I would have nothing to show the kids. After a good twenty minutes I finally found one. I then changed my scooping methods and…

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Poem of the Week: The Fly

How large unto the tiny fly
Must little things appear!—
A rosebud like a feather bed,
Its prickle like a spear;

A dewdrop like a looking-glass,
A hair like golden wire;
The smallest grain of mustard-seed
As fierce as coals of fire;

A loaf of bread, a lofty hill;
A wasp, a cruel leopard;
And specks of salt as bright to see
As lambkins to a shepherd.

by Walter De la Mare

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: Sawflies

Being a naturalist often illustrates an interesting phenomenon. When I first learn about something, likes slime molds for example, I suddenly start finding them everywhere. Although it feels like they suddenly started showing up all over, they have, of course, always been there. What’s changed is my observation skills. It’s simply mind-boggling to me how many things I’m sure I still overlook simply because I have not yet noticed, learned or otherwise discovered them.

My backyard presents a more complicated picture though. Because I’ve created habitat where there was once only grass and a deck, new things do arrive regularly. But is the first time I notice them the first time they showed up, or have they been visiting far longer than that? Case and point, this spring I have noticed many different sawflies in my wildlife garden.

Sawflies…

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Poem of the Week: The Snail

To grass, or leaf, or fruit, or wall,
The snail sticks close, nor fears to fall,
As if he grew there, house and all
Together.

Within that house secure he hides,
When danger imminent betides,
Of storm, or other harm besides
Of weather.

Give but his horns the slightest touch,
His self-collecting power is such,
He shrinks into his house with much
Displeasure.

Where’er he dwells, he dwells alone,
Except himself, has chattels none,
Well satisfied to be his own
Whole treasure.

Thus, hermit-like, his life he leads,
Nor partner of his banquet needs,
And if he meets one, only feeds
The faster.

Who seeks him must be worse than blind
(He and his house are so combined),
If, finding it, he fails to find
Its master.

by William Cowper

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