Jim Behnke

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This week our nature writer Jim Behnke addresses starlings, a bird with a complicated back story.  Starlings are beautiful, and dramatic.  They are also considered an invasive species by serious birders.

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Over 40 percent of the world’s insect species are under imminent threat of extinction.  Other studies in Germany and Puerto Rico have revealed steep declines in abundance and diversity in just the last few decades.  According to Dr. Anne Averill, professor of entomology at UMass, Amherst, “Loss of diversity has ripple effects.  Insects are foundational to almost all of our functioning ecosystems.” It’s happening here, too. 

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Like a string of pearls stretching from Lobster Cove to Marblehead Rock just east of Marblehead Harbor, 11 individual acoustic receivers set the perimeter of a 29-receiver array placed throughout Salem Sound by the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries (Mass DMF) as part of a groundbreaking scientific study of striped bass.  Over the last month, scientists in Mass DMF boats have set in place orange lobster buoys with acoustic receivers for a study to better understand the mortality of the striped bass released by fishermen. 

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It happens every spring.  They spawn in the freshwater estuaries of Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and the Hudson River and then migrate north to Cape Ann waters and beyond.  The “schoolies” begin arriving in May followed by the bigger fish in June.  By late September the pattern reverses as they head south to over-winter in warmer waters.  

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Many pet owners worry for the safety of their beloved animals when it comes to coyotes.  But their fear is misplaced if proper safety precautions are taken.  The real danger, writes Jim Behnke, lies in the coyote’s increasing habituation with humans and the misconceptions many have about these wild animals.

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I saw my first snowy owl in the dunes of Crane Beach just last December. There is something about this bird that commands the respect and fascination of birders and non-birders alike. 

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Wild turkeys — beloved Thanksgiving animals or traffic-blocking nuisances? For Jim Behnke, Manchester resident, Manchester Essex Conservation Trust volunteer and avid birder, the answer hasn’t always been so black and white.

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