Nicholas Lund

nature and science

Birds on the Battlefield

On September 17, 1862, during what became known as the Battle of Antietam, Union troops needed to cross Antietam Creek to flank the Confederate Army. Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside had orders to take a stone bridge crossing the creek, even though it meant his forces would be wide open to Confederate fire from troops entrenched on high bluffs on the far side. The hours-long battle was expectedly fierce, and more than 500 of Burnside’s troops were killed or wounded in the attack. More than 20,00

Secrets of the Seabirds

The birds are the first thing many visitors notice when they arrive at Dry Tortugas National Park. Clouds of sleek brown noddies wheel and screech between the keys, massive brown pelicans plunge into the shallow water after fish, and magnificent frigatebirds, prehistoric and alien with their enormous wings and long forked tails, drift ominously overhead. In the middle of it all, forming unruly flocks thousands of birds strong, are handsome black-and-white seabirds called sooty terns. Though mos

My Maine

It wasn’t until I left for college in upstate New York that I discovered how little most people knew about my home state of Maine. A few of my friends had been there, but only to the coast, and all anyone could say about Mainers was that we talked funny and ate lobsters. I took it as a civic duty to educate my peers on Maine’s glories and haven’t stopped evangelizing yet. When I first started working at NPCA as our Civil War Associate in 2011, I didn’t have much of a chance to flaunt my Maine b

Founding Mother

At first she was just a young seal swimming alone in unfamiliar waters. When she came ashore onto an empty beach on the island of Molokai, scientists assigned her a number, R006. Later, she gave birth to a pup on that beach, part of Kalaupapa National Historical Park. No seal had done that in recorded history, and it earned her a new name: Mama Eve. Mama Eve doesn’t look like much. If you saw her asleep on the beach, you’d be forgiven for mistaking her for a big rock, or a 450-pound lump of gra

The Beaver That Didn’t Give a Dam

Pioneering ranchers moving into Sioux County, Nebraska, in the mid-1800s began finding odd structures sticking out of eroded prairie hillsides. They were rocks, it appeared, but unlike any rocks the cattlemen had seen before: tubes, about as tall as a man and as thick as his arm, wound up into perfect spirals like fusilli pasta. According to an early account, these whorls were so dense in some places they appeared to form “a veritable forest” along the prairie. The ranchers began calling these s

Early Birds & Night Owls

We started our day at 4:30 a.m. at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens along the Anacostia River on the east side of Washington, D.C. Though the area had at one time been a landfill, it looked wild enough to us in the darkness, with the moonlight casting a silver edge onto silhouetted rows of trees and long-grass fields. The park didn’t open officially until after dawn, so we parked outside the gate and took the pedestrian path, walking in silence so we could catch the slightest squawk or chirp. I

Cracking the Nut

Southwestern Pennsylvania can be a messy place in the spring, but the students, scientists, local community members, and family members of those who died on September 11 were undeterred. “There’s no place these volunteers would rather be,” says Donna Glessner, a participant from nearby Shanksville. For the last three years, Glessner has joined hundreds of volunteers who have come to help re-create natural woodlands on the grounds of Flight 93. In the process, they’ve become part of an innovativ

A Wing and a Prayer

First, get yourself to El Paso, Texas. Then, drive five hours south through sun-beat scrub desert to the boundary of Big Bend National Park, proceed through towering rock spires and into the Chisos Basin, and get a good night’s sleep. In the morning, put on some sunscreen and haul yourself up the rocky switchbacks of the Pinnacles Trail (“Difficulty: Strenuous”) to its junction with the Emory Peak Trail. There, over the sound of your own panting, listen for a particular bird call: a fast-paced,