Natural Connections is a weekly newspaper column created by Emily Stone, the Naturalist/Education Director at the Cable Natural History Museum in Cable, Wisconsin. In each episode, Emily reads her fun and informative weekly column about Northwoods Nature.
307 - Germinating Seeds and Excitement in Hawaii
6:26Wings, wind, and humans are three of the most common ways that life has arrived on Hawaii since the volcanoes rose above the ocean. But besides the obvious humpback on a whale watch, I hadn’t noticed many who had arrived on the waves. As I descended the trail back to the black sand beach, a tiny white flower caught my eye. Recognizing it as Beach Naupaka, or Naupaka kahakai from my nature guide Wind, Wings, and Waves by Rick Sohren, I stopped to take photos.
306 - Nenes and Blueberries in Hawaii
6:53Just like the ʻApapane and ʻIʻiwi I wrote about last week, the ancestors of nene geese were blown off course to the Hawaiian Islands and then stayed there, although the geese only arrived about half a million years ago, vs. five million for the honeycreepers. Besides being handsome, with buff-and black diagonally striped necks and black faces, nēnē are the state bird of Hawaii, and one of the most endangered waterfowl in the world.
305 - Hawaiian Honeycreepers
6:49A bright red bird with black wings hopped among the flowers, probing for the 'Ōhi'a’s prolific nectar with a sharp black beak. While the bird looked a lot like the scarlet tanagers who nest in the Northwoods, I knew it was not. ʻApapanes’ scarlet feathers match the red of the blossoms they rely on. A little farther down the trail, we spotted more movement in the trees. Another red bird masqueraded as a flower, but while the red body and black wings looked just like an ʻApapane to me, the beak was bright orange and strongly curved. Having studied our field guides, I knew that this was an ʻIʻiwi (pronounced ee-EE-vee). These two endemic birds who live only in Hawaii birds share more than a love of ‘Ohi’a nectar. They both descended from the same flock of rosefinches from Asia who got blown off course roughly five million years ago, and found refuge on the young island of Kaua’i. That refuge is shrinking.
304 - Lava in Hawaii and at Home
6:39I’m a big fan of basalt bedrock shorelines. Basalt is the type of dark, igneous rock that forms when lava oozes out of volcanoes and cools quickly near the surface. Hawaii is mostly built from basalt, but then, so is the North Shore of Lake Superior. They don't look quite the same, though. Why?
302 - Lichens and Kipukas in Hawaii
6:45Whenever I visit the smooth, gray rocks on the North Shore of Lake Superior, I find myself crouching low to examine the colorful patchwork of lichens who have made their home in such a seemingly perilous place. I never expected to do the same thing on Hawaii!
301 - Riding the Wind to Hawaii
6:18From out of a vast, dark sea, a small area of lights appeared below. The landing went smoothly. As my parents and I descended the stairs onto the tarmac, steamy air made us regret our long pants and sleeves. With almost magical speed, we’d just arrived on the most isolated populated landmass in the world: Hawaii. As different as this tropical paradise is from the Northwoods, I still found plenty of natural connections.
300 - Iron and Life
7:20Continuing past the concrete ruins, my friend and I followed the scar of the old road to the top of a cliff. Smooth, dark rock peeked out from beneath dry leaves and grass. Kneeling for a better look, we found stripes of red, black, and gray with smooth, waxy, and sparkling surfaces. Crustose lichens had found toeholds in each tiny crack, so the surface was also decorated with little blobs in shades of brown, white, and yellow. These lichens may be much younger than the outcrop, but the rock itself is no stranger to photosynthesizing friends. In fact, iron formations like this one record a major milestone in the history of life on Earth.
298 - Orion, An Old Friend
6:46Orion has been my favorite winter constellation for many years. Sometimes subtitled “The Hunter,” it seems apt that Orion is lying on his side these days, perhaps resting up from early mornings of deer hunting. Traditionally, of course, his quarry was more mythical—chasing the beautiful seven sisters of Pleiades, doing battle with Taurus the Bull, fighting a scorpion sent to tame his ego, or hunting the constellation Lepus the Hare.