Ted Levin

Commentator

Ted Levin is a nature writer and photographer. His latest book is America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattlesnake, University of Chicago Press, May, 2016.

Five years ago, when St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire built a new science and math building, a decision was made to suspend a nearly six-foot diameter, white latex-painted globe called Science-on-a-Sphere from the ceiling of the third-floor conference room.

On December 15, I joined twenty-four other birders in Woodstock for the forty-second, Annual Christmas Bird Count. Collectively, we recorded twenty-five hundred and nineteen birds, representing thirty-five different species.

Levin: College Reunion

May 4, 2016
Cindy Crawford

Certain birds arrest my attention. A streaking peregrine falcon... a bittern standing stone still in a marsh … a scarlet tanager or indigo bunting doing anything, anywhere... the effervescent song of a winter wren. Red-headed woodpeckers make my list, as well.

Levin: Owl Rescue

Apr 14, 2016

Encounters between a barred owl and a moving car can be hard on the owl, which despite deceptive appearances is really no heavier than a large gray squirrel... or put another way, the average female barred owl - females are heavier than males - weighs twenty-five percent less than a quart of skim milk.

Except for the twice-yearly pulse of migratory birds that pass through Mesoamerica and a roster of New England birds that winter in the tropics, Vermont and Costa Rica are quite literally a world apart. But recently, while I was roaming nine days through the cloud forest and along the humid central Pacific coast, I discovered a rather profound similarity between my home state and the Central American isthmus.

Levin: Coyote Genome

Feb 26, 2016

It’s the beginning of mating season for the coyotes that share our valley. And when they howl from the valley rim, my dogs reply - as if they recognize a relative and their response is visceral.

Levin: Cannabis Sativa

Jan 21, 2016

Back in the nineties, my late mother-in-law, a Bohemian artist, owned a home-studio in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, not far from the center of town. Her sloped backyard supported a hapless vegetable garden, which eked out its existence in sandy, nutrient-poor soil, typical of much of Cape Cod. In the center of her garden grew a truly impressive pot plant that loomed over the vegetables the way the World Trade Center once loomed over Wall Street.

Now that deer season is almost over, I’m getting ready to reenter the woods in search of lingering waterfowl and early arriving winter finches. But my old and excellent binoculars, bought in the early nineties, light and durable, that yield a crisp, bright image, even in fading light, have been sent away to be repaired.

Levin: Homecoming

Oct 19, 2015

Autumn is the time of Homecoming, on college campuses and family gatherings. In the natural world, it’s the time when birds fly south, and other animals return to dens where they’ll sleep until spring. Among them are the rattlesnakes I monitor. Their home is in a rockslide, where they’re gathered en mass around the doorstep of their den.

Levin: Mowing The Lawn

Aug 31, 2015

Mowing the lawn under the weight of the summer sun is a wearisome chore - around the house, the garden, the barn; between the upper pasture and the riding ring. But, when the dew lifts from Coyote Hollow, which gets later and later in September, I set my course and begin. And sometimes, if I’m energetic, I’ll mow the entire yard in a single outing.

Levin: Cooper's Hawks

Jul 24, 2015
Tig Tillinghast

My mother was one of eleven siblings, born to parents from Eastern Europe, neither of whom spoke much English when they arrived at Ellis Island.

Levin: Nesting Turtles

Jun 22, 2015

This time of year, painted, wood, and snapping turtles all over the region are excavating nest holes in sandy fields and along roadsides. At the same time, their cousins, the giant sea turtles, some more than a thousand times larger than ours here at home, are doing the same thing along shorelines around the world.

Levin: Merlin Watching

May 18, 2015

My father was a passionate golfer. Throughout my childhood he played on weekends, sometimes thirty-six holes in a day. When he retired in 1982, he played five days a week, until he died in ‘97. And though I’ve never cared much for the game myself, lately I’ve been spending a lot of time on a golf course - or to be more precise the fifteenth fairway at the Hanover Country Club.

Levin: Spotted Turtles

Apr 28, 2015
Dirk Stevenson of the Orianne Society

Of the nearly 330 species of turtles, none is more beautiful than the spotted turtle - itinerant visitor to vernal pools, flooded meadows, swamps, and clear, slow-moving streams. But most likely you’ve never seen one because Vermont has three separate populations. They’re as dark as obsidian with bright yellow spots on the black upper shell, neck, and head, in distinct patterns used by biologists to identify individual turtles.

Levin: Childs Pond

Apr 10, 2015

Childs Pond, a small, deep, kettle hole lake in East Thetford, is the beneficiary of a block of ice that separated thousands of years ago from the retreating glacier.

I’ve been anticipating spring, despite lingering ice in my veins. Despite the wind, the snow, the forty-three consecutive days of below freezing temperatures, I see and hear signs of an embryonic season.

Levin: The Walnut Tree

Dec 3, 2014

Twenty-eight years ago, when my wife was pregnant with our first son, she decided that we should collect walnuts from a large, sweeping black walnut tree that grew on a nearby dairy farm. Linny had eyed the tree for several years, or, perhaps more aptly coveted it. Pregnancy somehow galvanized her into action and I became her willing accomplice.

Levin: Sue Moves On

Aug 28, 2014

At 90% complete, Sue is the largest, most intact and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever found. The Chicago Field Museum, after using an industrial CAT scan to examine the fossil, purchased Sue for $8.6 million at auction. Once the bones were painstakingly removed from their stone overcoat, each was cast in plastic. The fossil itself was assembled for exhibit in Chicago, and exact, full-size replicas of the nearly complete fossilized skeleton were created to tour around the United States and the world. One of them has been on display at the Montshire Museum in Norwich all summer.

The name deer tick - although perpetuated by the media – hasn’t been in vogue among arachnid cognoscenti since 1993, when biologists determined that the vector for Lyme disease was not two separate species - northern and southern - but a single widespread species. And since the southern form had been classified first as the blacklegged tick, the rules of scientific nomenclature determined that as the name for the entire species. Of course, taxonomy quickly devolves to a footnote if you’re afflicted with Lyme disease.

Levin: The Bounty Hunter

Apr 30, 2014

On June 10, 1995, snake hunter Rudolf Komarek, led a camera crew across a ridge west of the Susquehanna River near Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. It was the opening day of rattlesnake season and the crew was there to film Komarek capture two pregnant timber rattlesnakes for a CNN documentary.

At that time, the bag limit in Pennsylvania was one snake per day. The following March, immediately after the documentary aired nationally, Komarek was arrested for exceeding the state’s bag limit. It was his seventh bust in Pennsylvania.

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