Attack of Occom Pond

April 27, 2017.

Wow. What an exhilarating day of class. What started out as an ordinary Thursday morning quickly turned into a hands-on, alien encountering experience as I showed up to and was reminded that we would be having a lab in class.

Professor Smith and an enthusiastic, knowledgeable guide from the nearby Montshire Museum of Science brought out buckets full of pond water collected from Occom Pond. What happened next was intense.

Aliens attacked.



Who knew this much life was going on under the surface. A few minutes of acclimating and ‘testing the waters’ (pun intended) was necessary. Tadpoles and “water aliens” darted across the water. I was truthfully terrif– apprehensive at first. These creatures were the real deal. After a few minutes, we gained confidence and began to really get up-close and personal.

We began capturing a few of these micro-species and put them under a microscope for further observation.


(editor’s note: I misplaced my field journal and unfortunately can’t tell you the species’ names but alas these images are still cool!)

The first species pictured at the top was by far my favorite. It’s jaws open and closed like the plastic vampire fangs for Halloween. Our guide even picked up the critter and opened it right in front of us. Apparently, this little guy is the top dog of the ecosystem and eats the other swimming species nearby.

Of course, the class didn’t go without its fair share of screams and gasps. Again, it took a little bit to acclimate ourselves, but once we did, people were picking up and catching these animals left and right. It was an exciting day filled with exciting little creatures. Little does the class know, I stole a tadpole that day and took it to my room. I now have a pet frog named Jerry.

Keep Exploring,

Botany Brandon

Stop and see the flowers

Hello fellow nature people,

I would like to talk about several of the many amazing flowers we are lucky to have on Dartmouth campus and their significance to me. These flowers caught my attention because when I saw them, they reminded me of my childhood and home.

The first flower is the dandelion. Its lemon-yellow color can brighten any dark or gloomy garden instantly. The dandelion is meaningful to me because I remember in the seventh grade when I picked a dandelion for a special girl I had a crush on. She was so happy when I gave it to her and had the most radiant smile that could brighten up any room. I will never forget her thankfulness and sheer joy.

Upon researching the dandelion, I learned that the yellow dandelions transform into what was known to me as the “wishing flower”. I remember as a child running around my grandmother’s cabin in Munds Park, Arizona and seeing flowers every where in the playgrounds and grassy fields. My siblings and I would often have contests to see how many we could pick and blow the seeds off of in a certain amount of time. Anytime I see these “wishing flowers”, I begin to smile as it reminds me of these memories.

The second flower I would like to mention is the tulip found in front of the Hopkins Center.  This elegant, red flower reminds me of my mother. While visiting during Dartmouth Parent’s Weekend, my mother shared with me that the tulip was the flower she specifically chose to carry in her bouquet on her wedding day.  After my family left Dartmouth, these tulips were more than just another flower, they signified a happy memory of my parents. I was glad to see my parents enjoy and be reminded of their special day.

I am very grateful of these flowers on campus because they do bring back a positive type of nostalgia. Any time I am going through a rough assignment, I am able to take a walk across our wonderful campus and be calmed by the flowers’ beauty and the many significant memories that are associated with them.

Remember to stop and see the flowers,

Christian Trejo

Spring has Sprung

May 16, 2017. Clear blue skies. Spring foliage has arrived (edit: and left – May 28).

If you’ve been outside on campus recently (which may not apply to a few of you given midterms and finals looming just around the corner), it’s hard not to notice that something has changed lately. Something appears a bit different… like seeing a friend for the first time after a haircut. Except your friend doesn’t look different, it’s the trees. And they didn’t get a haircut; they bloomed. Spring foliage has arrived on Dartmouth’s campus.

Now I could just show you a bunch of pictures I took a couple weeks ago and let you ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the pretty color of the flowers. Like the one above.

Or the one below.

But what fun would that be? (A lot.)

Instead, I will take you along on an identification field trip from my sister’s room in the McLaughlin clusters to my humble abode in the Choates. We begin our journey outside the Moore Psychology Building:

Our first species (pictured above and below):

The bright pink white flowers of this hawthorn tree were in full bloom. Hawthorns are known for the small fruit that grow on their branches, sometimes used to make jam or wine. Nicknamed the “May-Tree” for its breathtaking foliage and ripe fruits, the Hawthorn is home to many birds and mammals especially in the Winter. I remember just weeks ago, this same plant was a mundane green shrub on the side of the street. Now, it underwent a full makeover. That kid in the back of your fourth-grade class who had braces and wore a hoodie all the time is now in college and models for PacSun. I named this tree PacSun.

Next, I found myself on the infamous Webster Avenue. The fraternity houses weren’t the highlight of the street this afternoon; the trees planted in their front yards were. This one, planted on the lawn of Tri-Kap, was the best of the bunch (pictured below and the third picture from the top). Unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck identifying this tree, so, like that song you’ve heard once or twice that you really like but don’t know the name of, I named this tree “what’s this song called?” What’s this song called was buzzing with bees as the little stinging critters fed from the nectar of the bulbous flowers

Last but not least, I headed back to my room located in the small but cozy Choates Cluster. I was done taking pictures, or so I thought until I stumbled across this behemoth parked on the side of a trail.

Much to my chagrin, and like the plant above, I could not identify this darn thing. If you can point me in the right direction or know what these plants are, please contact me at my blitz. This tree was approximately 50 feet tall and easily was the largest plant in the vicinity. The paper white flowers grew in clusters along equally dense leaves. Its dark brown, black branches provided a nice contrast to the bright aesthetic of the flowers and leaves. If only I knew its name. This tree was named “The Really Tall Guy.”

This concludes my small journey across campus. Just this 20 minute walk produced some of the most beautiful plants I’ve seen all year. So please:

Go outside. Take a break from studying. Take a walk around Occom. Take your foco to go on the Green. The Sun has come, Spring has sprung here at Dartmouth.

Signing off,

Botany Brandon

Stay Froggy

Hello nature friends!

Last week, a few of my friends and I walked to the golf course around eight o clock at night to observe the stars. We had heard from many of our classmates that the night sky was truly unbelievable and strongly suggested to go at least once before freshman year ended. So, after a full day of studying in preparation for our final exams, we trekked over to the Hanover Golf Club.

As I stared up into the sky, I could hear all of the sounds of the night. A few birds chirped, as if they were talking to each other. I heard the rustling of the trees as a slight breeze from the north rolled in. Even the distant night time sprinklers could be heard whirling around, promising golfers a beautiful course to play on in the morning. But one sound seemed to trump them all, the croaking from the many frogs. Their croaks echoed off the trees, disrupting the peacefulness of the golf course

After a half hour, we decided it was time to return home. I turned on my phone light and instantly caught sight of one of the many frogs croaking all around me. The frog was no bigger than a cue ball and was light green in color. Across the body, there were dark green spots that were symmetrical across a visible white line running along the spine of its back. This distinct coloration allowed the frog to be well camouflaged with the golf course grass and it was by chance that I discovered this frog. Another apparent characteristic was its hind legs. They were clearly more muscular than the forelegs, giving an illusion that the frog was thicker in the back. I now realize how these frogs are able to jump so far. Their back legs provide all the strength needed to jump a measureable distance on any terrain.

Remembering our nature assignments, I halted my friends and took pictures of the frog, but every time I approached it, the frog would jump at least three to five feet away. One time, the frog jumped towards one of my friends and she freaked out. We all laughed and continued in pursuit for more pictures. Here is a picture of the frog mid jump to show that the frog was camera shy.

After following the frog for five minutes, we all headed home to sleep.

The next day, I decided to do some research on the frog. Although I was unable to specifically identify this frog, I found a native species that resembles it. This species is the Fowler’s Toad or Anaxyrus fowleri, which is native to and is distributed throughout all of New Hampshire. It is usually two to three inches long, similar to the frog I observed, and has an analogous color pattern.

I am glad to have seen the New Hampshire starry night with my friends and spot one of the many frogs at the Hanover Golf Course. I will definitely be more vigilant when at the golf course late at night in order to see more frogs.

Till next time,

Christian Trejo

White-Tailed Deer: Masters of Camouflage

I was walking to the golf course with a friend to complete a nature journal. We were walking from East Wheelock, and were just below the BEMA. A very light rustling caught my attention. Expecting a small squirrel, or perhaps a robin, I turned my head and looked into the forest. To my surprise, the light rustling was not caused by a small bird or rodent, but a rather large deer.

Can you spot the deer?

Although I had only recently seen the deer, I could tell the deer had been watching me for quite some time. The deer looked to be in a state of total alertness – its body was tense, its tail was slightly raised, and its ears were perked up. The deer was perhaps 5 feet long across and 4 feet high. It’s coat was darker than many of the deer I had seen, and was monocolored rather than freckled.

I almost didn’t notice the deer. The deer was almost the exact same color as the dull bronze leaves strewn across the forest floor, and its thin legs blended in with the narrow trees of the Bema. The deer’s patchy fur broke up its outline and made it blend in with the leaves.

The author’s crude rendition

After I got to the golf course, I sketched out the deer I had seen. I observed some crows, and several interesting pines, but nothing else of interest. Still, I thought I had pretty good luck for my nature journal – it’s not everyday you see a deer. When walking home, I decided to take a different route back. Rather than walk under the Bema, I decided to walk along the statue of Robert Frost and Bartlett Tower.

How about now?

I decided to sit down next to my companion Robert Frost and saw another(!!) deer. This deer was even more elaborately camouflaged. I don’t think it was the same deer I saw earlier because it looked a good degree smaller, and was slightly darker. The light of the setting sun gave the deer freckled spots, and made the grove of trees glitter behind it. This deer was very difficult to see, and I only noticed it after it moved towards me.

This deer did not seem even mildly alarmed by my presence. It briefly looked at me, but as soon as I stopped walking, it put its head down and resumed eating. It was in a grove of young trees with uneven terrain, yet walked gracefully without making a sound. After observing it for some time (and taking lots of photos) I crossed the street and walked back towards my dorm.

Deer are all around us on the Dartmouth campus, but they are often very difficult to spot. They are quiet, blend in with the fall landscape, and like to rest behind shrubs and trees. The next time you go to the bema, be very mindful of your surroundings, and you’ll likely see one or more deer!

Have a good summer!


Inescapable Geese

Hello beloved nature lovers,

As some of you may or may not know, I spent the last half of this term observing the Canada Goose. During my observations, I actively had to search to find these birds around Hanover. I ended up spending most of my time walking to the river where I would seek them out at Foley Park. As many of my fellow classmates (who were observing other species) know, tracking down a certain animal at a certain time is often frustrating. I have had the pleasure of taking several walks without spotting any of the geese (though I have always been able to find something to write about in my nature journal). But, ever since I completed this assignment, Canada geese seem to be haunting me, popping up where I least expect to find them.

This morning was a perfect example of such a find. On my way back to campus after depositing load #2 of my stuff from Dartmouth at my house, I drove by Maple Leaf Farm, my favorite childhood hangout. I have been in love with this farm’s “moo moo cows” since as long as I can remember. So naturally, as my family and I passed the farm field in the car, we had to stop to say “hi” to my favorite friends. My mom immediately pointed out the calf that was sticking to its mother. As she and my younger sister fawned over the baby, my eyes rested on a group of grey-blobs in the distance that was all too familiar. Ah yes, I was looking at a flock of Canada Geese.

Adorable calf and cows featuring Canada Geese (grey blobs behind the cows)

I have literally been driving by this farm for nineteen years and have never seen a single goose. I guess now that I have been paying attention to them, they are paying attention to me by following my every move.

This flock only had 11 geese and they stuck to the outer part of the field, probably keeping their distance from the the other animals. The closest animal that they ventured to was a baby goat, who couldn’t harm a fly.

Baby goat & geese

Now many of you may be wondering, “Well Jenny, what’s the problem with the geese hanging out on the farm?” If you look carefully at the picture, the geese are not simply “hanging out,” they are actually feeding on the grass. “Eat, poop, repeat,” is what I like to call this observation. This is the most common (and annoying) cycle of the Canada Goose. These birds will often spend a majority of their day voraciously eating grass, only to poop it all out (up to three pounds a day, to be exact). So the geese are not only consuming the farm animals’ food supply, but they are also ruining the field with their overwhelming amount of poop! These poor farm animals! Get the geese out!

We screamed from the car, trying to scare them off the field. They didn’t move an inch. The only thing that our shrieks accomplished was attracting a nearby cow.

At least the cow came to say hi. If you look carefully, the geese are the blobs in the distance behind the cow.

I was promptly informed by my sister, a cow fanatic, that cows happen to be very curious and are drawn to many noises. This of course was proven as the cow continued to stare at us as we continued to yell. I guess my next research project should include more geese scare-tactics.

I am off to Beijing for the summer- let’s see if the Canada Goose follows me there!

Love & Geese


A Sunrike to Remember

Hello nature fanatics,

Where are my bird lovers at? I have a little story that I know you will appreciate…

Last week a couple of my floormates and I decided that we would go on a sunrike (sunrise hike) as a pre-finals de-stressor. Don’t worry, we didn’t hike anything fancy, just the quick 30-minute walk to Gile Tower. It was a crystal clear morning and a view that I will never forget. But surprisingly, the sunrise was not my highlight of the trip.

Me featuring a beautiful sunrise

On our way back, at around 5:45 AM, our group was welcomed to the day by an overwhelming chorus of birds. The songs seemed like a melody of never repeated notes as they cascaded through the branches. Immediately, I turned on my bird-detective ears. I wanted to use the identification knowledge that I had gained over the course of the term and identify as many birds as possible (thank you nature journaling)

At first, my friends laughed at me as I paused to pull out my phone and record the calls that were echoing around us. I figured out throughout the term that recording the calls first helps me to isolate each bird’s song.

The first call that I was able to point out was a mourning dove. Although this call is one of our most familiar bird sounds, most people do not know that it comes from the Mourning Dove. Its soft, drawn out call sounds like moans or wails. Although we couldn’t see the bird from our position in the woods, we guessed that it had to be close to us based on the loudness of its call. As soon as I identified the mourning dove, the jokes from the peanut gallery stopped. My friends were begging for more.

The next bird that I identified was the Robin. This familiar, cheerful song sounds like a succession of short whistles. There were several Robin calls ringing around us and they only got louder as we made our way down the mountain. My friend Tyler asked me how I could remember these calls and I responded with “it’s like remembering the tune or beat of a song.” Identifying a bird by its call is like figuring out the title of a song from the words in its chorus. Knowing the name of a song makes listening to it even sweeter.

Finally, the last bird I pointed out to the group was a Cardinal. Its call is very loud and sounds like a string of two-parted whistles. The bird almost sounds like its saying “birdie, birdie, birdie” with each set of whistles. As we continued on our walk, we made a game out of calling out the names of each of these birds as their songs came on.

I would say that my friends were more than impressed with my identification skills. I got a lot of “Woah Jennys” and “I want to take this class” comments. So, nature lovers, embrace your knowledge and make sure to share everything you know about our world and its lovely organisms with people you enjoy. I promise it’s a good time.

Peace, Love, and Birds,



Here’s a link to a great website that has a ton of different bird calls from NH that I found useful if you want to get your own pair of bird-detective ears.


Check out this radical salamander we found halfway down the trail!

What a firey little dude!

Fake News: The Squirrel who lived


Fake News: The Squirrel who lived
This is a response to “in memoriam: the Fayerwheather Squirrel.”
I know that many of you were disheartened to find out about the untimely demise of the North Fayerweather squirrel. I grieved daily, and yet, I needn’t have. For I have seen him, alive and well, scurrying around, not once, not thrice, but two times, and I have the pictures to prove it.
The first sighting occurred at 5 a.m. on a Thursday morning, nearly three weeks after the alleged death of the N-fay Squirrel. I had not yet slept, for I had just crammed an entire semester of economics into my head in preparation for an exam I had in three hours. I was on my way back to my dorm, North Fayerweather, when I spotted movement out of the corner of my half-closed eyes. I stood still and slowly turned my head to see what, at the time, I figured was just some random squirrel retrieving his nuts out of the ground at this ungodly hour. However, as I looked a little closer I noticed his long and thin tail. I would’ve recognized that tail anywhere; it was so distinctive. It matched perfectly the tail of the squirrel that was photographed for Sami’s blog post and presentation. I believed perhaps it was just my sleep deprivation playing tricks on my eyes, and yet still, when I rubbed them, the squirrel did not disappear. It stared at me, and I stared at it. It’s a ghost then, I thought, sent back from the dead to haunt me for my small role in its death. So, I started approaching it, and I realized it was very much real. I leaped for joy, for I had not killed the beloved squirrel. Of course, my squeal of happiness startled it, and it ran away, but not before I snapped a picture.

The image on the left is one taken from Sami’s blog; the one on the right was taken last Thursday morning. The tail is very clearly the same.
One may think it’s impossible to distinguish from one squirrel to another, but if you look hard enough, as I have learned to do, you will see the difference and the similarities. Luckily I had taken a picture of the accident, so I compared it to the photo of the squirrel I had just spotted.

The tail on the left  (from the deceased squirrel) is bushier, and short. The squirrel I saw has a much longer tail proportional to its body, as pictured on the right (the squirrel curled up his body in this photo, but one can still tell the length of it is rather long). The other day, as I was moving out, I saw it again, watching me pack up my car. Perhaps it had come to say goodbye, to wish me well, or to remind me to be careful on the road.

Nature is all around us, we must be mindful of it, not just for our pleasure or relaxation, but to protect it. If we are not watching for nature, whether a squirrel running into the street, or a parking lot being built over an old park, then it will disappear, and by the time we notice, it will be too late to save it.

Stay vigilant, stay caring,

Evan Kelmar

Beautiful at all Seasons

Hello readers,

Have you seen the Korean Mountainash next to the Chapel? It is not as majestic as the pine but it is delicate and pretty in its own way, aesthetically pleasing throughout the year.

Spring is all about green. When I met this ornamental tree on the tree walk on May 18th, its crown was thriving in an elliptical shape with luxuriant foliage. It seemed young since it’s about 3 meters tall, far from its height potential of 12-15 meters. The dark green leaves are simple, toothed, smooth with an acute tip and a round base. White buds, growing on inflorescences, are cloaked with green sepals. Scarlet globose fruits can be seen hanging from the twigs, with dimples on sides and white little dots on the surface. These fruits are pomes, the same type as apples, but much smaller with a diameter of about 1 cm.



Come with summer are the pure white flowers. When I walked past it about 2 weeks later, it had already put on a creamy white cover-up unawares. The five-petal flowers were grouped in corymbs. The stamens looked ethereal in the middle of the flowers, which made me think of the beautiful crest on a white peacock.

From Google Images

Then when fall brings yellow to the world, it won’t leave the Korean Mountainash out. I haven’t seen its look in autumn but I’m sure the mix of orange-red flowers and red mature fruits will look fantastic. Can’t wait to see it in the fall term!

From Google Images

From Google Images

Which look of the Korean Mountainash is your favorite? Have you seen the Korean Mountainash elsewhere on campus?

One strange thing about the observation during the tree walk was that the red pomes were already present when the flowers were still in the form of buds. But my source says that the flowers should be followed by the fruits. I haven’t found the reason behind this during research. What do you think?

Until next time!




Dancing with the Devil(’s Coach Horse Beetle)

It was a bright and warm Friday, and I was on a nature walk around Occam pond. The pond, which was barren in our first class visit, was now a bright shade of green. The atmosphere was uplifting, despite the bleakness that always surrounds finals week. I saw animals everywhere: sparrows and songbirds flitted through the bushes, crows cawed overhead, and squirrels ran through the grass.

I had planned to walk a full circle around the pond, but I decided to sit down so I could soak in the scene. Finals is a stressful time, and nothing is a better destresser than just sitting in the sun. Unable to sit near the pond because the flora was so thick, I sat on a large pothole cover by the road. A small chipmunk darted back and forth from where I was sitting, and I managed to snap a few photos. It was a chestnut brown color, with three stripes running down its back, and about 5 inches long.

As I was photographing the chipmunk darting in and out of the grasses, I noticed a small black insect lumbering towards me. From a distance it looked like a large ant, because it was a dark shade of black and had 3 distinct body segments, each with 2 legs.

As it moved closer, I realized it wasn’t an ant. It’s body was too wide, its tail too long, and its back was too gray. It also didn’t look like any beetle I had ever seen before. The beetle was the length of a penny, but its spiky black tail accounted for half its length. It had a broad head and clearly visible jaws, and legs that seemed thick for its size.

Curious about what this species might be, I prodded near it with a stick. It sprung into attack mode! Rather than run away from me, it curled its tail towards me, like a scorpion would. It’s entire body was contorted into a u-shape; both its jaws and tail (stinger?) were now angled at me.

“What kind of fearsome insect would try to fight a species thousands of time its size?” I thought to myself. “Is it trying to sting me?” I even thought it might be some kind of scorpion.

As it turns out, the insect I was obliviously prodding was a Devil’s coach horse beetle, a carnivorous insect with a swiss-army knife of tools. The Devil’s coach horse beetle is ready to take on humans (and insects) because it has two powerful tools at its disposal. It has disproportionately powerful jaws that can deliver a painful bite to unsuspecting humans or unlucky insects. It’s tail lacks a stinger, but can emit a foul-smelling odor gross enough to deter predators.

The beetle is named for its long running association with the devil. Its original name, the dearga-dol, is Irish for “devil’s bug.” British folklore says that the beetle ate the core of Eden’s apple, and that by killing one of the bugs, one is forgiven for 7 sins.

My Journal Entry Recording the Incident

After I learned what this species was, I was relieved that I hadn’t poked the creature more than once! I easily could have ended up with a nasty bite or a noseful of odiferous gas. If you ever run into one of these insects, don’t poke them like I did! They are not aggressive towards humans, but they will defend themselves if threatened. They are also nocturnal, so you aren’t likely to see them during the day.

Tread safely, fellow naturalists.

Leo W.