Fly Wars

head of deer fly

IT’S GOTTEN TO BE that season here again in southwest Florida, that maddening season of the flies. These are the close, heavy days of August when the biting bugs are out in force and hungry for blood. These are the humbling, soul-testing days when the tolerable annoyance ramps to the relentless assault that will slap…

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Gotcha Day, Every Day

Towpath on gotcha day

  JUNE 15, 2021. Nine years ago today I came upon a wounded puppy standing in the middle of the trail. He was a doe-eyed, bull-headed creature who reeked of rotting flesh as I lifted him to my chest. (We would later learn that he’d most likely been doused with acid.) The veterinarians who examined…

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And Still the Song Dog Sings

coyote howling

  IT IS GOOD to hear the coyotes singing again. For a few weeks last month we were awakened now and then to their yips and wails coming from someplace across the canal where they’d been prepping for this season’s litter of pups. We hadn’t expected to hear from them this year because of the…

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Mountain Lions Can Rebuild Nation

mountain lion caught on trail camera

AS WE SIFT THROUGH THE RUBBLE of a four-year blitzkrieg on the country’s air, water, wildlife and climate, we’re heartened to see the Biden administration articulating bold ideas about repairing the wreckage. Most impressive is his commitment to protecting 30 percent of the Earth’s landscape in nature reserves by the year 2030. In this spirit…

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My Octopus Teacher

Craig Foster swimming with and the octopus

  AGES AGO, I visited the invertebrate house of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. to meet Hercules. Hercules was the zoo’s resident giant octopus, whose first impression I would later record as “a fleshy confusion of serpentine limbs and baggy head, a tentacled wreckage with a disturbingly human eye peeking out from within.” There…

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Ode to a Dead Rat

dead rat illustration

  THERE’S A RAT lying dead beneath the back porch. He announces himself as I’m sitting on the steps taking a moment of sun with a cup of tea, when that morbid little waft of him sours the ambience. And there he lies, down by my feet in the dark beneath the stairs, stretched out…

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The Family on the Curb

homeless man and his dog

  A FEW DAYS AGO I was driving along a frontage road near a busy intersection, when I passed a woman and her dog sitting on the curb. The woman was holding a cardboard sign, hand-scrawled with the message that’s become all too common around town these days: “Please help.” I took a u-turn and…

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Here Comes the Sun

Sunrise over sea

This year’s winter solstice started auspiciously, behind clouds. A few minutes before dawn, on December 21, a bank of gray on the southeastern horizon was dousing any hopes of my greeting the first rays of sun on its shortest flight of the year. My custom here is to honor this day from its beginning, with…

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The Merlin

Merlin in flight

THE BIRD IS PERCHED atop the spire of a towering Norfolk pine. Normally I wouldn’t raise my binoculars. But there is something odd about this bird, something suggesting a departure from the neighborhood’s cast of usual suspects. The head and body are too big and stout for a dove or a shrike or a mockingbird,…

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Playtime!

  Last summer, once it had become abundantly clear that covid was not the harmless little brushfire we had naively hoped, but a global inferno raging to no end, Kathy and I decided to start rescuing dogs again. We would take them in—those collateral victims of the virus who’d been abandoned or surrendered by families…

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