Earth Almanac: Witch

Earth Almanac: Witch

Michele Berger
Published: 02/24/2010

        Roseate spoonbills (Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

“Witches dance in the Pacific breeze, their long locks sending shards of moonlight across the forest duff,” writes Ted Williams, about Alectoria sarmentosa (better known as Witch’s Hair), in Earth Almanac from the Jan-Feb 2010 issue of Audubon. This lichen—food for woodland caribou and black-tailed deer—is extremely sensitive to airborne pollutants, “making long-term changes in its abundance an accurate indicator of air quality.”

Williams also describes elephant seals, the dark-eyed juncos you’ll see on your backyard feeder, the oar-like bill of the roseate spoonbill, where the harmless snow scorpionfly gets its name, and bayberries (food for tree swallows, grouse, quail, turkeys, woodpeckers, pheasants, and many songbirds). Find out more here.

Curious about a particular flora or fauna? E-mail your suggestions to with the subject line “Earth Almanac.”