Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bald Eagle Trip-Saturday Jan. 23rd

The majestic Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, is our national bird. Not too long ago, in 1991, we only had one nesting pair in Indiana. One! Prior to that, we zero nesting pairs from 1897 to 1991. Through efforts that began in 1985, the eagles bounced back. And now we have over 200 nesting pairs! What a great recovery!

Amos W. Butler Audubon Society will have a free field trip to Parke County to view eagles this Sat., January 23rd. On past trips, we have viewed 40-60 eagles in one day. It should be a great opportunity for any nature lover.

We will meet at 5:45 am at the Marsh at 6965 W. 38th Street, Indianapolis. We will carpool to the West Union bridge to view the eagles at dawn as they leave their overnight roost. We will also visit nest sites in the area to view eagles and waterfowl. We plan to visit the power plant in Cayuga, and if time permits we will visit Universal Mines. We will stop for a fast-food lunch in one of the neighboring towns.

Hope to see you Sat. for a great day of wildlife watching!
(Photos from Wikipedia)StumbleUpon

Friday, January 8, 2010

"Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer"

Last night, Jan 7th, 2010, the University of Alabama won the National Championship beating Texas 37-21. You are probably thinking, "Where is she going with this? This isn't nature related." Ah, but that is what is so interesting. It is!
The University of Alabama has a winning cheer that contains the phrase "Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer". Do you know what a yellowhammer is? I didn't until today. I was doing a little research on woodpeckers and ran across the name. It is the state bird of Alabama and one of the coolest woodpeckers out there-the Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus!
Female Northern Flicker
Northern Flickers have an amazing tongue specialized for capturing ants. Their tongue is long, approximately 5 inches from tip to base. The tongue is covered with a sticky saliva and barbed to aid in ensnaring insects. Acting in a similar way as an anteater, they locate active ant hills and slurp up the six-legged critters like no tomorrow. About 45% of their diet consists of ants! Northern Flickers also consume berries. (To see a Northern Flicker's tongue up close, visit Jim McCormac's blog.)

Northern Flickers also perform a unique behavior called "anting". Ants secrete a natural insecticide and fungicide called formic acid. Flickers will flatten out over ant mounds, allowing the ants to crawl through their feathers. They will also apply the insects to directly to their feathers as they preen. The formic acid protects their feathers from wear caused by mites, fungus, lice and other such maladies. They get a treat and a bath all in one!
Male and Female Flicker-male has the red moustache
Alabama has been known as the "Yellowhammer State" since the Civil War. A company of cavalry soldiers from Huntsville, AL, under the command of Rev. D.C. Kelly, arrived at Hopkinsville, KY in 1861. The officers and men of the Huntsville company wore fine, new uniforms, compared to the soldiers who had long been on the battlefields and had faded, worn uniforms. Bits of brilliant yellow cloth adorned the sleeves, collars and coattails of the Huntsville uniforms. As the company rode by, it was remarked they looked like a flock of yellowhammers, the nickname for the Northern Flicker. A greeting of "Yellowhammer, Yellowhammer, flicker, flicker!" rang out.

Northern Flicker in flight displaying the yellow

feathers that earned it the name "Yellowhammer".

Soon, the Huntsville soldiers were known as the "yellowhammer company." And, before long, all Alabama troops were referred to unofficially as the "Yellowhammers." Veterans would wear a yellow Northern Flicker feather in their caps or lapels during reunions to show pride.

Such a beautiful bird with a rich history. Watch for one "anting" near you.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Flying Squirrels

Over the holiday break, my friend, John Howard, captured these wonderful photos of Southern Flying Squirrel, Glaucomys volans. I just had to share them!

Southern Flying Squirrel is found throughout the Eastern United States. Though considered uncommon in Indiana and Ohio, they may be more plentiful than the data indicates. The species is nocturnal and usually is not out and about during the day. Mammals of Indiana, by Mumford and Whitaker, does not have them listed in Marion County, but my friend Dawn VanDeman has rehabilitated some Southern Flying Squirrels that were found in Indianapolis a few years ago.

Southern Flying Squirrels frequent mature woods with dead snags. They will also take over trees with woodpecker holes and natural cavities. They utilize multiple trees in the area to cache food and for dens or nests to hide and sleep. They line their nests with dried grasses and finely shredded bark. They have also been known to inhabit abandoned Fox Squirrel and Gray Squirrel nests. One source found a Southern Flying Squirrel occupying a bluebird box.

Photo from Wikipedia

Southern Flying Squirrels don't actually fly, as the name indicates, but glide from tree to tree. They leap into mid-air and extend flaps of skin on either side of the body called a patagium. The patagium extends from the wrists and ankles of the squirrel and acts like a parachute. The direction and speed can be controlled by the squirrel positioning its legs. In one of the sources I read, the author had seen one glide from the top of one tree to another that was 90 feet away!

Look at that face! Those eyes aren't just for cute points. Since they are nocturnal, the large sized eyes are essential for capturing available light so they can see in the dark. The long whiskers help them sense the edges of cracks and crevices while they are scurrying about, as well as juicy moths and beetles they readily snatch up. Southern Flying Squirrels eat mostly nuts, seeds, ripe berries, insects, eggs and fungi. They are also known to gnaw the bark of maple trees and drink the sap. Yet, these little munch monsters with their ravenous appetites weigh less than 3 ounces! Hmmm... eats a lot, yet weighs 3 ounces...maybe some of us should consult the Southern Flying Squirrel about our New Years resolutions. Look for The Flying Squirrel Diet at a bookstore near you! ;)

Thanks, John, for once again sharing your wonderful photos!StumbleUpon