Monday, February 28, 2011

Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus)

Banded Hairstreak Butterfly (Satyrium calanus)

Yes, I'm again trying to prime the pump for Spring, 2011, by posting photos from a past spring.

Range: Maine across southern Canada to North Dakota; south to central Texas and the Gulf States.

Life History: Males perch on low shrubs and tree branches during the day, watching for females. Eggs are laid on twigs of the host during the summer, and hatch the following spring. Caterpillars eat catkins and leaves.

Caterpillar Hosts: Many species of oak (Quercus), walnut (Juglans), and hickory (Carya).

Adult Food: Nectar from flowers -- in this case, an Ox-eyed Daisy.

Habitat: Forest areas and neighboring open edges and fields.

Macro Monday hosted by Lisa's Chaos.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Carolina Wren - Nesting

Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus) are cavity nesters.  In the wild, they nest in places like a woodpecker hole, the open crotch of a tree or tangled roots of an uprooted tree.  Birdhouses 101 says the male begins nest construction with sticks and then follows with softer materials like grass, moss and bark strips.  The male may start several nests so the female can choose the one she prefers.  After the female makes her choice, she often tosses out some of the material collected by the male and finishes the nest with her own choices of interior decor.

Carolina Wrens are monogamous.  The male often brings food to the female while she incubates their eggs.  Both feed the young after the eggs hatch.  One hardcopy field guild we have said males will sometimes finish raising a brood while the female begins incubating another clutch of eggs on another nest.

Birdhouses  101 says, "Carolina wrens prefer natural nesting sites located in woodlands, thickets, brushy hollows, and swamps and along the banks of streams where there is plentiful cover."  The site continues, "Due to the growing density of human population Carolina wrens do not always have the option to build nests in wild spots like that. However, Carolina wrens do not have a really difficult time adapting to their environment and are fairly tolerant of human activities. In fact they often use man-made objects..."  Both of the statements are true, but I tend to disagree with the word "prefer" in the first sentence.  We live in a very rural area with abundant natural nesting locations for the wrens.  While I'm sure many wrens do choose natural nesting sites, others seem determined to use man-made locations.

The jar-style bird feeders Jo makes are one of the Carolina Wren's favorite nesting sites.  We only feed the birds during the winter.  There is often a time lag between the time we stop feeding and when we get around to taking down and cleaning the feeders.  Wrens often take advantages of the empty feeders.

We'd watch a wren building a nest in this feeder and thought the nest was nearing completion.  As it turned out, we'd been watching a male preparing a nest for his mate's inspection.  She accepted this bird feeder nest, but then immediately began remodeling it to her satisfaction.

Once the female wren got the materials of her choice arranged the way she wanted them, she laid her eggs and incubated them.

The eggs hatched and the young wrens were fed by their parents until they successfully fledged.

The bird feeders obviously mimic the woodpecker cavities wrens might choose for nesting in the wild, but wrens also nest on the ground in dense undergrowth.  As far as wrens are concerned, a fern growing in a hanging basket is a suitable substitute for "dense undergrowth".

In this case, we'd missed seeing the wrens' nest building and remodeling activities.  Jo became aware of the nest because of the female's indignant response when watered.  Subsequently, Jo carefully watered around the wrens and these young birds also fledged successfully.

While it's easy to understand that a bird feeder mimics a tree cavity and a fern in a hanging basket seems like dense undergrowth, it takes a bit more imagination to visualize pots sitting atop a stereo speaker resembling a tree crotch or tangle of roots.

The speaker, pots and nesting wren are over in Jo's pottery studio.  "Studio" is a glamorous sounding word for an Arky cabin that was in pretty bad shape when we bought this place.  Its condition hasn't improved in the past thirty years.  The wrens can easily get into and out of Jo's studio even when the door is closed.

In past years, wrens chose to nest inside the pots.  This pair decided to build a nest among the pots.  Wrens are very tolerant of a human presence.  They fuss a little and make you feel guilty for bothering them, but don't abandon their nest or neglect feeding their young.  Jo enjoys watching wrens come and go while throwing pots.

This previous post provides more species details about Carolina Wrens and photos of a wren feeding at our suet feeder this winter.

Post photos of your favorite critters and share the link at Camera Critters.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Skywatch: Upper Pasture

Oak on our neighbors upper pasture.

Join the fun at Skywatch Friday.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nature Notes: Daffodils Will Bloom Soon

Photo by Jo (2/22/11)

Our daffodils will soon bloom.  These are a hardy group of bulbs scattered about at the edge of the woods.  They were transplanted to this location when our water line was laid (i. e. dug up by a backhoe and replanted by a bulldozer).

To see more nature photos or participate in Nature Notes, please visit Rambling Woods.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

ABC Wednesday: Frog (American Bullfrog - Lithobates catesbeianus)

"F" is for Frog.

In this case, an American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus or Rana catesbeiana), sitting at the pond's edge and waiting for prey to come within range.

Food:  Bullfrogs are carnivores.  They will eat anything they can subdue and swallow, including insects, fish,  snakes, small mammals and other frogs.  They often use their front legs to help shove food down their throats.  Bullfrogs (and other frogs) even retract their eyes as an aid to swallowing.  (Eye retraction helps push the prey toward their esophagus.)

Range:  The native range of bullfrogs was eastern North America.  However, they've been introduced and naturalized throughout much of the continental US, and as far south as Mexico and Cuba. They have even found their way to Europe, South America, and Asia.  Introduced bullfrogs often cause ecological problems because they eat all the native frog species.  In the wild, bullfrogs can live up 7-9 years and a female can lay as many as 20,000 eggs.

Habitat:  Freshwater ponds, lakes, and marshes.  The bullfrog in the photo above was in a small stock pond on our neighbor's cow pasture.

Respiration:  Frogs in the family Ranidae absorb oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide through their moist skin, the lining of the mouth, and the lungs.

Territory:  Males are highly territorial and will aggressively guard their plot of pond.

Hearing:  The circular disc on the side of the frog's head is a tympanum which functions like a eardrum.

Human uses:  Fried frog legs and dissection specimens for school biology labs. 


Monday, February 21, 2011

My World: Rock Bluff (Ozarks Geology)

Rock bluff along the route of a recent afternoon walk.

I usually say I live in the Ozark Mountains, but "mountain" is a generic term largely based upon appearance.  If you have hills and valleys, the combination of the two is called "mountains".  In geologic terms, it would be more correct to say I live on the Ozark Plateau because the Ozarks are actually a dissected plateau.  Most mountain ranges were formed when geologic events -- like the collision of tectonic plates -- caused the earth's crust to buckle and fold, uplifting mountains and leaving valleys between them. By contrast, the entire area known as the Ozarks (northern Arkansas, southern Missouri, a bit of eastern Oklahoma and a tiny corner of southeastern Kansas) was uplifted as a plateau with relatively little buckling and folding..  Over millions of years since the uplift, valleys eroded into the plateau leaving hills behind.  

Being a dissected plateau gives the Ozarks some unique features.  Our mountain tops tend to be flat.  The decent into valleys is rugged and steep.    The various strata of sedimentary rock deposited before the Ozark Plateau was uplifted remain in place just like they were laid down millions of years ago. There is little of the scrambling of strata that occurs when the earth's crust is folded and buckled.  Geologist can easily follow a particular rock stratum over a wide geographic area.

Overview of the Ozark Plateau and its four main regions.  (Wikipedia)

Side Note:  The origin of the name "Ozarks" is disputed.  Many think it is a linguistic corruption of  the French abbreviation aux Arks (short for aux Arkansas, or "of Arkansas" in English) which originally referred to the French trading post at Arkansas Post, but eventually came to refer to all Ozark Plateau drainage into the Arkansas and Missouri Rivers.  Other possible derivations include aux arcs meaning "of the arches" in reference to the dozens of natural bridges formed by erosion and collapsed caves in the Ozark region.  (Source:  Wikipedia)

Join the fun by posting photos of your world.  Please visit My World Tuesday to participate.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Macro Monday: Johnny-Jump-Up

Heinz thought she was referring to ketchup.
She told NPR the song was about waiting on Cat Stevens,
AKA:  Steven Demetre Georgiou
AKA:  Yusuf Islam

No matter.

My anticipation is spring
and early spring wildflowers 

"Anticipation, Anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting." 

Join the Macro Monday fun at Lisa's Chaos.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Shadow Shot Sunday: Tree Shadow

Though our snow is long gone, I'm still working on a backlog of shadows in the snow.  In this image I was taking a shot of the tree shadow and the thousands of little bird prints in the snow when a bird (a Dark-eyed Junco, I think) decided to contribute its shadow too.

Please visit Hey Harriet to join in the Shadow Shot Sunday fun.


Sweet Gum Ball

Sweet Gum Ball
Sweet Gum/Liquidamber styraciflua

The fruit, popularly nicknamed a "space bug", "monkey ball", "bommyknocker", "bir ball", "gumball", "conkleberry", "cukoo-bir" or "sticky ball", is a hard, dry, globose, compound fruit 2.5–4 cm in diameter and composed of numerous (40-60) capsules. Each capsule has a pair of terminal spikes (for a total of 80-120 spikes), and each capsule contains one to two small seeds. When the fruit opens and the seeds are released, each capsule is associated with a small hole (40-60 of these) in the compound fruit. The seeds are mostly spread by wind.

The dried ball, an inch to an inch and a half in diameter, hangs on the branches during the winter. The woody capsules are mostly filled with abortive seeds resembling sawdust.
(Source:  Wikipedia)

Guest post by Jo Smith.


Celebrate a tree in 2011.  It's easy:  Observe, photograph, sketch, or discuss and share with other tree huggers.  Please visit The Tree Year 2011 to participate or find other blogs post dedicated to trees from around the world.



Tree Year 2011: American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) #4

"My" American Persimmon and "Jo's" Sweetgum tree in the fog.

A weak cold front moved through our area on Friday.  Heavy fog accompanied the slight drop in temperature.

Celebrate a tree in 2011.  It's easy:  Observe, photograph, sketch, or discuss and share with other tree huggers.  Please visit The Tree Year 2011 to participate or find other blogs post dedicated to trees from around the world.

Previous American Persimmon posts here.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Camera Critters: Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

"The Carolina wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus, is mostly brown with a light yellowish-beige belly. It has large white stripe over each eye like an over-extended eyebrow and has a white throat. Its wings and tail are barred with black and it has thin white bars on its wings. Its legs are pink. Carolina wrens have long tails which they hold upright frequently especially when perched. The adult wren’s average length is 5 to 6 inches and it stands at approximately 4 inches in height. Carolina wrens of different sexes look similar with the males only slightly larger in size."  (Source:  Birdhouses 101)

Range:  Most of the eastern United States, north into southern Ontario and south into northern Mexico.  Carolina Wrens do not migrate.  They are sensitive to cold weather.  During warmer winters, individuals may shift their range northward, but then suffer high mortality during colder winters.  Some researchers speculate that the "normal" range for Carolina Wrens is gradually shifting north as a result of climate change.  Their range has expanded significantly since the early 1900s.  (Source:  Cornell Labs   Range map:  Cornell Labs)

Habitat:  "Found in a wide range of habitats, from swamps to forest to residential area. Requires moderately dense shrub or brushy cover."  (Source:  Cornell Labs)

Food:  In the wild, Carolina Wrens eat mostly insects and spiders.  They glean insects from the ground, tree trunks and tree branches by probing with their bills and turning over vegetation.  At bird feeders,  they will occasionally sample almost anything offered, but have a preference for suet.

Mating:  "A pair bond may form between a male and a female at any time of the year, and the pair will stay together for life. Members of a pair stay together on their territory year-round, and forage and move around the territory together."  (Source:  Cornell Labs)  Males present nesting sites to females, but the female makes the final choice.  "After the eggs are laid the male Carolina wren remains attentive to its mate and helps it by bringing food for the incubating female. After the eggs are hatched both birds help in the care of the young birds."  (Source:  Birdhouses 101

Nesting:  When it comes to to nest locations, Carolina Wrens may be the least picky of all birds.  Nesting will be the subject of a second blog post.

Post photos of your favorite critters and share the link at Camera Critters.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Skywatch: Fall Clouds

A little time traveling back to late fall when a herd of clouds was moving across our sky.

Join the fun at Skywatch Friday.


Nature Notes: Snow Stories

There are many things not to like about the ground being covered with snow, but one of the good things is being able to glimpse the previous night's events written in the snow.  Rabbit, deer and even coyote tracks are fairly common, but this was the first time I've seen evidence of an owl pouncing on prey.

To see more nature photos or participate in Nature Notes, please visit Rambling Woods.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Shadow Shot: Cow Trails

Cow trails through the snow.

This is our driveway, which is around .8 of a mile long (1.3 km).  We are snowbound until the snow melts.  Three days of sunshine and daytime temperatures above freezing have melted a lot of the snow, but there's still much left to melt before we can make a trip out.

Please visit Hey Harriet to join in the Shadow Shot Sunday fun.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Nature Notes: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

Identification:  A medium-sized woodpecker, white strip running up its side and "messy" black and white barring on its back.  The throat and crown are completely red on a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker while the female throat is white.  Both have a pale yellow underside.  (These are not very good ID photos.  Cornell Labs has much better.)

Range:  The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory.  Females tend to migrate farther south than males, often traveling as far south as Panama.  Here in the Ozarks, we are in the bird's winter range.

Food:  A sapsucker eats fruit and forages in tree bark for insects, but is most noted for consuming tree sap.  It bores distinctive rows of holes in tree trunks and limbs.  From these holes, it laps (not sucks) sap with its brush-like tongue.  In the summer, a sapsucker feeds on the “phloem” sap, the sticky fluid that carries the nutrients produced in the leaves downward to other parts of the tree.  This sap is much thicker and contains more nutrients than the “xylem” sap tapped by humans in the spring for making syrup.  Researchers speculate that a sapsucker's saliva contains some kind of anticoagulant that inhibits the tree from sealing over the holes and stopping the sap flow.  A sapsucker will often choose to tap a wounded or weakened tree.  The sap of these trees may contain more amino acids and proteins.  Many other birds and other critters partake of the sap flows created by sapsuckers. (The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has much more information on Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.)

Photo by Cephas via Wikipedia.

The White Birch above shows the distinctive rows of holes bored by a sapsucker.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers overwintering here readily eat from our suet feeder.

To see more nature photos or participate in Nature Notes, please visit Rambling Woods.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Downy Woodpecker - Female (Picoides pubescens)

At around 6 3/4" (17cm) long, the Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) is the smallest of North America's classic-shaped woodpeckers.  It is found throughout almost all of North America in a variety of habitats.  The Downy is the woodpecker most likely to visit backyard feeders.  It is by far the most common woodpecker at our feeders here in the Arkansas Ozarks.

The Downy Woodpecker looks very similar to the Hairy Woodpecker, but the Hairy is larger -- around 9 1/4" (24cm) long.  The Hairy also has a proportionally larger bill, (usually almost equal to the depth of the head).  Finally, the outer tail feathers of the Downy usually have faint dark bars or spots while those on a Hairy are pure white.

 A male Downy Woodpecker has a red patch on the back of its head.  A juvenile has a red cap.

The Downy Woodpecker sharing our suet feeder with another "D" bird, a Dark-eyed Junco.

The Downy Woodpecker partaking of the pseudo-suet mixture of peanut butter, cornmeal and lard we provide.

Please visit ABC Wednesday and Camera Critters to participate and/or enjoy other photos from around the world.


Monday, February 07, 2011

My World In Black and White

An "X" in the snow marks the location of my world in recent days.  

How was the "X" formed?  Ice accumulated on the power lines above, forming an ice tube around the line.  When the sun came out, it melted the top off the tube and the remaining ice fell to the ground.  These two pieces just happened to land on the snow in the pattern of an "X'.  The rake-like tines on one side were caused by icicles hanging down from the tube's bottom side.

An additional couple of inches of heavy, wet snow fell overnight.  This photo was not converted to black and white.  My world IS black and white on Monday morning.

Please visit My World to participate and/or find links to other photos from around the world.



Macro Monday: Fruticose Lichen

Fruticose lichen covered with ice after freezing rain.

Fruticose lichens are the most three-dimensional lichen type.  They're usually round in cross section, and most are branched, looking like small shrubs.  The lichens in the lower right are foliose.  They are leaf-like and look something like foliage.  Neither are harmed by ice nor freezing temperature, though dry conditions will cause them to go dormant.

Fruticose lichen with apothecia (fruiting bodies).

The same type of lichen a few inches up the branch are "blooming", producing fruiting bodies called apothecia.  All lichens are an alga and fungus living in a symbiotic relationship.  Most (but not all) of the fungi involved in producing lichens are Ascomycetes, which reproduce by growing a cup-like fruiting body called an apothecium.  The apothecium's spores will only reproduce a fungus.  To form a lichen it must combine with the appropriate algae.

Macro Monday is hosted by Lisa's Chaos.  Please visit this site to participate and/or see more macros.


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Tree Year 2011: American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) #3

Our American Persimmon enjoyed a variety of weather over the past week.  Tuesday (2/1/11) began with light rain.  Our temperature dropped below freezing mid-morning, the rain became freezing rain and ice began accumulating on everything that was up off the ground.  The freezing rain lasted for several hours, but fortunately, there was not enough ice accumulation to cause any limbs breakage or other visible damage to our trees.  Sleet and the a light dusting of snow followed the freezing rain.

Wednesday was mostly clear and cold yielding lots of sparkling ice, but little melting.

Snow began mid-day on Friday (2/4/11) and kept falling throughout the afternoon and evening.  We were predicted to receive a couple of inches of snow, but about twice that amount actually fell.  It was a wet, sticky snow that clung to the trees, but caused no damage.  Saturday was sunny and our temperature climbed up to around 40°F/4°C.  There was much snow melting, but plenty of it is still around.

Celebrate a tree in 2011.  It's easy:  Observe, photograph, sketch, discuss and share with other tree huggers.  Please click the logo above for participation details.


Saturday, February 05, 2011

"Frozen" Birdy

It was so cold last week the birds kept freezing up in mid-air.
White-throated Sparrow ( Zonotrichia albicollis)
(For more species details on the White-throated Sparrow, please see this previous post.)

To participate in Camera Critters and/or find links to other critter photos, please click the logo above.


Shadow Shot:: A Shadow in Black and White

The remnants of our last snow were reduced to hiding in the shadows when I took this photo.  Now we have 6+ inches of new snow on the ground.

To participate in Shadow Shot Sunday and/or get links to more shadow shots, please click the logo above.


Friday, February 04, 2011

Skywatch: We Need More Sunshine

We need more sunshine before the ice will melt.

Click the logo above to participate and/or find more SkyWatch photos from all over the world.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)

Recovering from striking a window.  Flew away soon after this photo was taken.

The White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) is a common species.  At one time or another during the year, it is found throughout most of North America.  It over-winters here in the Arkansas Ozarks.  White-throateds are the only sparrow among our yard birds during the winter.

Habitat:  Cornell Labs says, Look for White-throated Sparrows in woods, at forest edges, in the regrowth that follows logging or forest fires, at pond and bog edges, and in copses near treeline. In winter you can find these birds in thickets, overgrown fields, parks, and woodsy suburbs. They readily come to backyards for birdseed.  We have several weedy, waste spaces at the edge of our yard.  During the fall and early winter, flocks of White-throateds forage in these dried weeds.  As winter wears on, we see more of these sparrows under our tube bird feeders and in our tray feeder.  While primarily ground feeders, these sparrows also partake of the pseudo-suet (cornmeal, peanut butter and lard) mixture we offer.

White-throated Sparrow scratching through the debris in our tray feeder.

According to the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center these common birds exhibit a characteristic that is rare in birds, they show genetically-based plumage polymorphism. In other words, these sparrows come in two different color forms, or morphs.

During the breeding season, the morphs are most easily distinguished by the colors of their crown stripes. The "white-stripe" morph typically has distinctly contrasting black and white crown stripes and bright yellow lores (the area between the eyes and the base of the bill), while the "tan-stripe" morph has duller black (or dark brown) and tan (or pale brown) stripes and less vivid lores.

...both male and female white-throated sparrows exhibit this polymorphism. Moreover, an individual almost always pairs with another of the opposite color morph for breeding. And despite the fact that images of the white-striped morph are more frequently presented to illustrate the species, the two color morphs actually occur in relatively equal numbers in the population. Most interesting is that behavior differs between color morphs, especially during the breeding season. Both male and female white-stripe birds are more aggressive than tan-stripe birds. In fact, white-striped females will even sing and contribute to territorial defense, whereas tan-striped females do not. In contrast, tan-striped birds of both sexes provide more care to their young than white-striped birds do.

Since the White-throated sparrows I've photographed are in their winter plumage when it's more difficult to distinguish morphs, I'm not really sure if they are white or tan stripe.  Perhaps my more experienced birder readers can make that determination.

White-throated Sparrow diving into our suet feeder.

To participate in Nature Notes and/or find links to more nature photos, please click the logo above.