The state reptile of Massachusetts is the harmless garter snake – well, mostly harmless – which is an easy one to distinguish because of three yellowish stripes that run the length of their dark bodies. They have some unusual-seeming birthing and defense methods, and that forked tongue has some remarkable aspects as well.
Connection to the mystery of the Roanoke colony is just the start of this butterfly’s fascinating tale
The first illustration of a North American butterfly – a watercolor sketch of an eastern tiger swallowtail – was by John White, who came in 1587 to explore, map and draw but lost his family forever to the “Croatoan” mystery. The species has gentler mysteries of its own, including an identity that was settled as recently as 1991.
Only about 20 percent of tree swallows survive the first year, but even for birds older than one year, the mortality rate is still high – about 50 percent per year. The trees swallow is native to Massachusetts yet cold weather causes it the most deaths, whether from a sudden spring snowstorm or a simple chill that leads to starvation from lack of insects to eat.