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The Missing Link: Refuge works to build a bridge for pollinators—and peace for city dwellers

by Bernard BrownImagine you’re a pipevine swallowtail butterfly flying around the rowhouses of southwest Philadelphia. You look like a swatch of velvet. On top, your wings are black toward the front and an iridescent electric blue towards the back; underneath, they flash an array of bright orange spots as a warning to predators. You hatched at

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3 mins read
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Social Butterfly: Isa Betancourt co-stars with insects on her popular livestream weekly

by Bernard BrownIn a room crowded with dusty reference books and bugs—some dead and pinned neatly in glass-topped boxes, others, like the stag beetle grub, alive and growing slowly on a diet of rotting tulip tree wood—assistant entomology curator Isa Betancourt, of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, adjusts her iPhone stand, brushes

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3 mins read
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Birders document the impressive array of wintering bird species

By Bernard BrownDawn over the Delaware River painted clouds rose and orange in the frigid morning air as three participants in the Philadelphia Mid-Winter Bird Census stepped out of a hatchback.Keith Russell, Shawn Towey and Patrick McGill stood at the base of the driveway for Pulaski Park in North Philadelphia, binoculars in hand, and confronted

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2 mins read
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With the opening of the Discovery Center, the East Park Reservoir is once again an oasis in Strawberry Mansion

In 1970, the City of Philadelphia closed off the East Park Reservoir at the edge of the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood. A gate blocked the ramp up from Fairmount Park. “I grew up in Strawberry Mansion, and the reservoir was used by the community as a recreational space,” explains Tonnetta Graham, president of the Strawberry Mansion Community

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Biodiversity? There’s an app for that

On July 16, a female ruby-throated hummingbird drank from a coral honeysuckle flower at the edge of Tacony Creek Park. We know this because an iNaturalist user with the handle “digitalmirage” took a picture of the bird in the moment before it hummed away. “Recently I’ve been obsessed with hummingbirds,” explains Savannah  McHale (a.k.a. digitalmirage), who

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A wildlife center for convalescing animals finds a new home

Abrood of fledgling kestrels—America’s smallest falcons that are adorable even as adults—peer through the front of their cage, which sits at the top of shelves filled with animals on the mend. “These are ones we raised from fallen nestlings,” explains Michele Wellard, assistant director of the Philadelphia Metro Wildlife Center. Wellard is careful to make

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3 mins read
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A Troubled Optimist

There are two letters from readers sitting on my desk, each one tugging at me, competing for my mood and mindset. I may be an optimist, but I’ll start with the more negative of the two. It comes from a reader in Oreland, a response to editor’s notes I had written about the ill-conceived idea

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2 mins read
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