Thursday, December 31, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Two male and two female Northern Bobwhites, Colinus virginianus, visited our bird feeding area and hung out for a couple days. We have heard them call a few different times in the last couple of years, their classic "Bob-white"call announcing their presence. Once, we spotted them scurrying into the grasses near the wetland. This is the first time we had a opportunity to really look at and study them. There are three of the four in this photo.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Photo from Wikipedia
The young are called poults and are cute little buggers. I saw a group of poults with mama turkey on a hike in Shawnee forest. Almost stepped on one. They are very camouflaged and will hide amongst the leaves and detritus on the forest floor.
The female turkey is called a hen.An amazing thing I just learned-turkeys can have virgin births. Yep, called parthenogenesis. This has been discovered in domestic turkeys. This is uncommon and I am uncertain if it occurs in our Wild Turkeys. All the poults coming from the unfertilized hens were male.
Turkeys have weird names for their parts. Hence, the title of my post. The snood hangs over the beak, the caruncles are the warty protuberances on the head and the wattle is the flap of skin under the neck. If someone says you have nice caruncles, it is not a compliment.
Three bearded males strolling for hens. Photo by John Howard.
The male turkeys also have beards that could make ZZ Top jealous. The long hair-like feathers grow from the center of their chest. They can grow an average of 9 inches long with a record of over 18 inches long. Ten percent of females can grow beards, too. These may be the poor hens who have to resort to parthenogenesis :)
So I hope you learned a few more facts about the everyday turkey. I sure did. :)
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
What I learned was a larger gull, the Great Black-backed Gull, Larus marinus, will take even bigger prey. From Wikipedia I found the following quote "They generally target chicks since they are easily found, handled, and swallowed. They can swallow puffins, terns or small ducks whole."
After reading this, I thought, surely not. I was very skeptical. But then I followed one of the links showing a Great Black-backed Gull devour a tern whole. Nope, didn't pull it apart. It couldn't, it was on the water. The article from the Manchester Bird Watching Examiner is here and has a slide show to go along with the article. Amazing!
The powerful beak of the Great Black-backed Gull
Digging a little more, I found this. The following link will show a Great Black-backed Gull kill and start eating an American Coot. The American Coot may look small in the photos compared to the gull, but they weigh a little over a pound and are 16 inches in length. This is not a tiny bird by any means.
And finally I found a photo from Flickr by Recycled Teenager of a Great Black-backed Gull munching on a bunny. I had no idea they would take that large of prey.
So I learned something new about gulls! Hope you did, too!
Photos from Wikipedia and by Recycled Teenager on Flickr.
Monday, November 16, 2009
The ever-moving cacophony of gulls took on a life of its own. I could still hear and see them that night in my sleep! Some called these birds seagulls, which is a misnomer. These are more appropriately called lake gulls or bay gulls. (Get it? Bagels? Sorry... that was bad.)
Very little slipped past this birding power trio who were stationed at the front of the boat. Left to right is Dan Sanders, Jim McCormac and John Pogacnik. I got on every bird since these three were close by.
We had a bit of a detour at the end of our voyage. The bridge was down and could not be raised to allow us to pass. But happily, since the docking plans were altered, we were treated to excellent views of a Merlin. (The bird, not the wizard :) )
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Just the other day, I came across an article that had to be a hoax, somewhere up there with newborns singing Christmas carols. I figured it was probably put out by The Onion, but was intrigued to find out more. After reading the story in a few more reputable sources, I realized it was indeed true. There are spiders that are herbivorous, meaning their primary diet is......PLANTS!
I am a lover of spiders, an arachnophile, if you will. I am not an expert, but thought I knew quite a bit about the critters. In all my life, I had NEVER heard of a spider that ate plants. I was quite excited about it.
And here is a picture of said critter. The species is Bagheera kiplingi, a type of jumping spider. Its name comes from The Jungle Book. Bagheera was the name of the black panther and kiplingi is in reference to the author, Rudyard Kipling. This species of spider has been found in Costa Rica and in Mexico. The population that is causing all the recent fuss is located in Mexico and is believed to have a diet of 90% plants. This is unheard of in the arachnid world.
So what is the spider in the photo above eating, you may wonder? The small orange item looks much like an aphid, but actually it is the spider's favorite food called Beltian bodies. Beltian bodies are scrumptious parts of the acacia tree. They are located on the very tips of the leaves and are guarded by ants. Beltian bodies, named after their discoverer Thomas Belt, are rich in proteins and lipids (fats). The spider spends most of its time scurrying around stealing the Beltian bodies and avoiding the ever wary ants.
The picture above shows some ants guarding the Beltian bodies. There is a symbiotic relationship between the acacia tree and the ants. The ants protect the tree from predators and destroy any neighboring plants. In return, the tree gives the ants housing within the thorns, tasty Beltian bodies and nectar .
Besides feasting on Beltain bodies, Bagheera kiplingi also eats nectar from the tree and a few ant larvae. Ant larvae look very similar in shape to the Beltian bodies. I wonder if ant larvae primarily made up the spiders diet at one time and then, maybe by accident, a spider started eating the Beltian bodies. Just a theory... Nature truly ceases to amaze!
For more info on this amazing little spider, visit these sites.
And, not to blow your minds all in one day, there is also a carnivorous butterfly in existence and it lives right here in Indiana. One of my friends even had one visit his back yard. This is a horror story that will curl your toes people! You will never look at those cute little butterflies in the same light. But I will cover that story in my next post. (How is that for a teaser? ; P )
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Here the snake has really expanded its jaw to swallow the toad. They can unhinge their jaw to swallow prey much larger than their head. If we could do this, we could swallow a melon whole. It also looks like the toad has given in to its fate.
This photo is great because it looks as if the snake has arms. By now, I would think the toad knows it is a goner.
This photo shows the large lump the toad has made in the snake's belly.
This last look shows the toad's leg pushing against the side of the snakes belly. Is he kicking? Waving goodbye? Or possibly another common American hand signal... Poor toad!
Thanks, Mike for the great pics!
For more critters from all over, visit Critter Camera.
Friday, September 25, 2009
When I first picked her up, she tried to nail me. She reared up and threw her front legs toward my hand. If you look at her front legs, she has wicked raptorial spines on her legs. She uses these to reach out with lightening fast quickness and snatch her prey. Then she will squeeze it like a pair of pliers while the spikes impale the hapless victim. She usually eats the critter while it is still alive, struggling to get free. What a way to go! Large Chinese mantids, like this one, can even kill hummingbirds with those spines.
Here is a closeup of the raptorial spines on the legs. If you
are a bug, you are NOT escaping those.
I let her go on my hand and after she realized I wasn't going to eat her, she calmed down and just explored. Such a curious animal! I then let the kids take turns holding her. When I explained what she was doing and how to react to her, they were no longer afraid of her. It was great to see so many of them that had never held a big insect like that, grin with delight. It was great to see them conquer their fear of bugs.
After the program, I snapped some pics of her and set her free behind our building on a False Sunflower. I hope she lays her eggs back there, so I can watch for the little praying mantises this spring!
For more Camera Critters, go here.