After wary house sparrows watched braver sparrows interact with new objects, the wary ones became more bold, even when the brave ones were not around. Once again, birds are more capable of learning new things than we usually think they are.

Skunks are making a real mess of the lawn but maybe their digging and grub eating will result in fewer Japanese beetles next spring. Maybe.

We shouldn’t have been surprised by the light frost last night, knowing that, despite a longer growing season, large variations from year to year are the rule, not the exception.

A newly released study from the University of Illinois shows that neonicotinoid insecticides are causing declines in bird populations across the country. Birds suffer from both contaminated seeds and from there being fewer insects. Eating just a few bad seeds causes long-term damage to birds. Neonicotinoids are more harmful to birds than other pesticides and many of them have been banned by the European Union and other countries.

At some friends’ garden, chipmunks carried off all the sungold cherry tomatoes. What on earth were they thinking? I’m thinking mold.

Pileated woodpeckers are too heavy for alternate-leaved dogwood branches but they must really like the fruits because they thrash around, fall off, flap, and regain their footing over and over again.

The churippy sounds of bluebirds are heard again in the yard as groups of four or five flutter around and nail down the location of possible rental units for next spring.

“Bear hunters welcome” says a sign by a cornfield near us. Bear season began in Vermont on September 1. There are more bears around here nowadays, not a lot more, but enough to make their rampages in cornfields a worse-than-usual problem. “Bears are after food.” Period. Says our game warden.

Sponsorship Opportunities

Vermont Almanac is looking for like-minded businesses and organizations who are interested in supporting our work through sponsorship. We’ll highlight our sponsors at the end of each chapter in the book — full page and half page slots are available. Please contact Amy Peberdy ( to learn more.

After analyzing the fate of almost 1.4 million tagged monarch butterflies, Monarch Watch Director Chip Taylor and colleagues are throwing a widespread theory about monarch decline out the window. They conclude that the decline in monarchs isn’t because of food shortages during migration. Instead, it’s the size of the summer population. More milkweed is needed in the north to build and sustain the monarch population. Here at home, there seem to be more monarchs than last year, but there are never enough.