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The voices and behavior of birds | Essex Column

Naturalist and environmental educator Connor Stedman will give a talk this Friday evening at the Whallonsburg Grange on the voices and behavior of birds. Birds are starting to sing a bit in the mornings, although this recent cold weather has driven them into hiding, and they are becoming much more active. Mr. Stedman’s lecture starts at 7 p.m. and the suggested donation is $8. The following day he’ll lead a half-day class in the woods applying some of the ideas of the night before. The cost for this is $25 and to sign up, go to the CATS website.

On Saturday night, the Grange hall will pulsate with the sounds of the Modern Grass Quintet, an aggregation of bluegrass, jazz and folk musicians playing lively music to warm up a winter’s night. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be had at Dogwood Bakery in Wadhams or right at the door.

If all this isn’t enough to convince you that the Whallonsburg Grange is the cultural heart and soul of Essex and the greater central Champlain Valley, then plan to spend Tuesday evening, March 11, with Marianne Patinelli-Dubay, an environmental philosopher with the College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She will speak on the influences of wilderness on art and artists. Her talk begins at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $5.

This is a fine time of year to gather branches of trees and shrubs to force into bloom. The most popular is forsythia, which bursts forth with small yellow flowers, although I also like to force birch and larch branches. Birch and larch have attractive foliage but no eye-popping flowers. Branches should be soaked overnight in a bathtub of warm water, to rehydrate the stems and trigger growth by simulating a warm spring rain. Birch flowers, or catkins, will open indoors and shed pollen all over the floor, so it’s best to pick them off first. Just before placing the branches into a vase of water, trim the butt ends and for extra longevity, add a dollop of lemon-lime soda. In a couple of weeks you should have some fresh green leaves to enjoy while waiting for spring to arrive.

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