Sunday, April 24, 2016
Friday, April 22, 2016
2016 Purple Martin Season 2
In the past I've had lone SY bachelor males actually build a nest along with the adults in the colony. Naturally there were no eggs since it had no mate. This can be harmless and it can also be a problem. At times SY males will go into the nests of adult martins and destroy eggs and kill nestlings. It's all about competition.
As I've written before- Infanticide by definition is basically the killing of young by adults. This behavior occurs in other bird species as well such as House Wrens, Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, Cliff Swallows, English Sparrows and European Starlings. It is believed that unmated SY male martins perform this act because of limited nesting sites, mates, and food, which then is intensified by the urge to mate. By removing and/or killing the young or destroying eggs it causes the mated pair to “divorce” so to speak due to reproductive failure. This gives the SY male the chance to take advantage of the situation and possibly mate with the now “free” female. During the time that this has happened before there was only one subbie present. Now I'm seeing three so this could make for an interesting season. Stay tuned.
Thursday, April 14, 2016
2016 Purple Martin Season 1
See these prior posts: (1) (2) (3)
Thursday, February 04, 2016
Jaguar in Arizona
What wonderful news to find out that a jaguar was caught on a game camera in the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson, Arizona. If I remember correctly, the last time they were seen in the Arizona area was back in 1996 when two jaguars were chased and cornered by cougar hunters and their hounds in two southern Arizona mountain ranges. According to the Defenders of Wildlife website there is “a small population of 80-120 cats in the remote mountains of Sonora, Mexico bordering Arizona. Defenders played a key role in helping establish the Northern Jaguar Reserve in Sonora, Mexico, to protect the northernmost remaining jaguar population. The properties are owned by Naturalia, one of Mexico’s leading conservation organizations, and managed in cooperation with Northern Jaguar Project with technical and financial support from Defenders of Wildlife.”
“Jaguars are being killed because of perceived conflicts with livestock, and overhunted for their fur and for trophies. Habitat loss is also a big problem for the northern population and the U.S.-Mexico border wall threatens to block jaguar migration routes. The Northern Jaguar Reserve, now at over 55,000 acres, is the result of major binational cooperation to help save jaguars in their northern range. Initiated in 2003, the growing reserve protects key habitat for the last breeding population of northern jaguars—offering hope for their recovery in the United States. Groundbreaking research being conducted on the reserve today will also help us better understand jaguar behavior and habitat requirements—information that’s helping experts pull together a stronger recovery plan.”
Hopefully these protections and other efforts will lead to an active population in the U.S. once again.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Sunday, November 29, 2015
Searching For Nature Treasures
"The most effective way to connect our children with nature is to connect ourselves with nature. If mothers, fathers, grandparents, or guardians already spend time outdoors, they can spend more; they can become birders, anglers, hikers, or gardeners. If children sense genuine adult enthusiasm, they'll want to emulate that interest..." Richard Louv
The circular area around the base of the large oak in our vacant lot is covered in desiccated leaves- the same leaves that were created by this very tree. This detritus is also a mish mash of small branches, acorns, bark, and the gnawed upon shells of peanuts from a nearby squirrel feeder. This spot has gotten the undivided attention of my 7-year old grand-daughter. She is on her hands and knees looking for something that most people would either not notice or would wonder why she is looking for them in the first place. “Here’s another one paw paw!” she cries excitedly- an excitement that only a child or a nature-obsessed old man can savor. I take the crinkly remains from her and add it to the rising pile inside a large plastic peanut butter jar. “That’s number 25”, I reply, as if we’re trying to break some sort of record.
Cicadas (in this case the annual or "dog day" cicada) emerge from their chambers in the ground as nymphs, latching themselves to a tree or any other nearby object. They then, over a course of several hours, emerge from their nymph exoskeleton, dry their wings out and then fly away to find a cicada of the opposite sex to mate with. This exoskeleton is what she is looking for. Just another treasure to add to her nature collection.
Seeing them amongst the leaf litter isn’t easy, especially for my old eyes. It’s greatly due to their color which allows them to blend in quite nicely with the leafy surroundings. For some odd reason their color and consistency remind me of fried pork skins. yum..........
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Granddaughter told me of a mud wasp nest her Dad had found that was attached to their bbq pit. We harvested it and began opening the cells to see what type of prey the adult had gathered and stored for its prodigy. When we opened the first cell a fully developed mason wasp (Euodynerus apopkensis) began to crawl out. It flew a short distance and landed nearby, and began twitching its thin, cellophane-like wings to and fro as if to stretch them following its long nap inside the lump of dirt, before flying away.
We both felt a sense of guilt for disturbing it, so we decided to placed it back into its cell and then we collected some dirt, which we wetted and sealed the hole enclosing the pupa inside. We then took the nest and placed it in one of her bug boxes. We’re hoping that it will continue to develop and then dig its way out, then we’ll release it.
Not sure what it was looking for. I later found out that these wasps will utilize or “repurpose” paper wasp nests. Maybe it was repurposing the exit hole/tunnel of the beetle.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Nest Checking With Grand-daughter
This is the first time she actually participated instead of just watching. I was so proud!
I allowed her to hold her first purple martin. She was so excited to hold a tiny, living bird in her hand- and so was I. She was very excited to participate and can't wait to do it again. I hope my enthusiasm for the this bird encourages her in the future to have her own purple martin colony and use what I've taught her to maintain it and help this wonderful bird continue to exist.
Monday, April 13, 2015
First Death of the 2015 PUMA Season
"Intraspecific Fighting" and "A Death in the Colony"). Then again a European starling could be the culprit. It's really a shame that this bird survived its long arduous journey across the Gulf of Mexico to get back here, only to die in this fashion. I checked for bands, but none were found.
Thursday, March 05, 2015
Hawk vs. Mockingbird
After getting a few photos of her I crawled through the thick underbrush that skirted the base of the tree and was able to position myself below the branch the hawk was perched. This permitted me the opportunity for photos of the underside of the tail feathers of the prey bird, which I knew would help with its identity. It was a surreal sight- the tail bobbing up and down with each tug of the hawk’s hooked beak. At that moment I felt sympathy for the bird it had captured, but at the same time I was amazed at the power and grace of the accipiter as it fed.
I lay there quietly beneath the raptor as feathers continued to rain down around me. I collecting several of them that I knew would also aid with identification.
I eventually left the hawk to its feeding and returned about two hours later to find it was still perched it the same spot with what remained of its prey in its talons. It sat quietly looking directly at me, still without a care that I was so close.
I went to a website I came across awhile back produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called “The Feather Atlas” and laid out all of the feathers I collected and began searching the image database. It wasn’t long before I came across the answer I was looking for. What I had collected was several tail feathers and a couple primary wing feathers of a Northern Mockingbird. The next day I returned to the kill site in hopes of finding more remains, such as the wings or a head, but found nothing. More than likely she may have taken what was left of the mocker’s carcass to another area to finish.
Other hawk blog posts: (1) (2) (3)
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Shelf Life Series From AMNH
Friday, January 09, 2015
Black and Yellow Mud Dauber Nest
Inside I also found two fully developed individuals who apparently were unable to free themselves and ultimately died where they were born.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
I watched as they cackled and jerked the berries free in a feeding frenzy that shook the entire crown of the tree. And as fast as they arrived they left in a woosh of wings.
Nest Site Competition
2011 Purple Martin Notes 4
The Impact of Starlings
Starlings And Woodpeckers: Eternal Enemies
House Sparrows and Starlings Are Super Competitors
Friday, November 14, 2014
Camp Time With Grand-daughter
eastern phoebe, one showed up and landed in the ash tree out front about ten foot from where we were seated. What wonderful experience that was.
We also looked at some fresh mounds created by the diggings of our local pine voles. These mounds are a part of an extensive tunnel system below ground. We sat and watched hoping one of the beady-eyed mammals would appear, but never did. In a sandy area we came across a nice set of fresh deer tracks. I explained to her what had made them and then told her to “feel” the edges and interior of track with her finger. I wanted her to get up close and personal with a mark in the sand that had been produced by a living, breathing animal. I wanted her to feel its essence.
Later in the afternoon right before we went inside my wife spotted a white-tail doe about 40 yards away from the house on the edge of the woods. We sat still and watched as she watched us. The look in grand-daughter's eyes as she watched this beautiful creature in front of us was incredible.
I was able to get a nice photo before she trotted off. Then, to our surprise, the next morning when we got up I looked out in the hay field and saw a white-tail buck foraging on the hay. Grand-daughter got a kick out of that. We were able to slowly open the front door without spooking it to get some good photos. It was really cool that we were able to not only make a casting of a deer track, but to also get to actually see the animal that made it. I hope and pray as she gets older she retains this love of play and the outdoors. That she remembers and cherishes the time the two of us have spent exploring this wonderful world that God created and that she passes along her knowledge and experiences to her own children and grand-children.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Chrysalis vs. Chalcid Wasp
Note in the first photo how the back end of the chrysalis is relatively straight. In the second photo it is bent. This is one of the signs of chalcid infestation. Once the eggs of the wasp develops inside and begins to consume the developing butterfly within, the chrysalis dies and the muscles that once held it straight relax causing the bend to form.
Check out this cool video showing how this wasp develops:
References and Suggested Reading:
1) Spicebush Butterfly Post
2) Chalcid Wasp Links (a), (b)
3) Caterpillars of Eastern North America
Friday, August 15, 2014
Hackberry Emperor Butterfly Eggs
If you were able to look at these eggs under a microscope you would notice a spot known as a "micropyle", which is a "little door" where the spermatozoa of the male enter to fertilize the egg. The micropyle also allows water and air to enter the egg as it develops. Just like a chicken egg, there is yolk inside which nourishes the growing caterpillar.
As the caterpillar reaches maturity it frees itself by eating its way out of the egg and then feeds upon the host plant's leaves until its ready to transform by metamorphosis into a chrysalis or pupa and then eventually into a new butterfly. What a nice find!
Friday, August 08, 2014
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Well today the bottom fell out for most of the morning leaving the ditches and neighboring yards swollen with rain. My grand-daughter and son came over and I thought this was a perfect opportunity to try out her new wading boots and to get outside for a little adventure. As I've said before- I want my grand-daughter to grow up learning and knowing that nature is not all bad and scary. That nature is beautiful, inspiring, and something to be cherished. She grabbed her boots and net and we searched the ditches up and down our streets. In the distance I could hear the loud trill of gulf coast toads coming from my neighbor's backyard. His property is low and collects lots of water following a good rain so I called him and asked his permission to enter.