Saturday, March 30, 2013

La Bombus!

La Bombus! The Bumble bee.

I've always admired bees. I love watching them working away in my garden. They are hard, focused workers. And, when I found out the females put the pollen they are collecting in "baskets" on their back legs, I was a goner! How darn neat is that?

Bumble bee with full pollen basket. Photo Credit: Tony Willis, wikipedia

They are the greatest pollinators on the planet. Virtuosos. We can thank them for one-third of the food crops we eat.

And now's your chance to give back.

Many species of native wild bumble bees are in decline. The Xerces Society is asking for your help through a citizen science project by identifying those species who may just be in your area. It's easy. They provide materials to help you ID the endangered bumble bees and you send them photographs of bees that you suspect may be the species.

Find all of the materials at this link. Don't wait! Get your buzz on.

Project Bumble Bee

Sunday, March 24, 2013

**Plant Milkweed**

**Plant Milkweed**  **Plant Milkweed**  **Plant Milkweed**  **Plant Milkweed**

That beautiful emblem of summer. The elegant Monarch butterfly. Scientists studying their over-wintering grounds in Mexico have reported a serious decline in Monarch colonies. Once inhabiting 44 acres the colonies are now less than 3 acres. A troubling report.

What is the suspect in the decline in the number of Monarchs? Fluctuations in weather coupled with us and our demands for crops. In the ever incessant need for more and more acreage to grow crops, farmers are spraying herbicides on Milkweed, a plant that is a crucial food for the butterfly.

During their long and amazing migrations, which spans several generations, the female lays her eggs on Milkweed and when the eggs hatch, the larvae feeds on the plant.

Less Milkweed equals less Monarchs and a declining population leaves them open to a greater chance of extinction. And that is indeed troubling.

**Plant Milkweed** ** Plant Milkweed** **Plant Milkweed** ** Plant Milkweed**

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Young American Bald Eagle

Both of us were simultaneously startled while I was walking along the Rocky River west of Pittsboro, NC.

He suddenly took flight from a hidden place on the river flying at a steep angle to a tree branch forty feet above the water. I quickly shot a series of photos.

He kept a single eye on me and remained where he was as I continued along the river in his direction. I could tell he was a raptor of some sort but not sure which, but I was certain he was not a Red-tailed or Red-shouldered hawk.

Returning home, I downloaded the photos to my computer and immediately tried to identify just what it was I had spotted. In the photos, I could see that the feathers were brown with streaks of white. And, there was a distinctly curved beak. After searching the web for a bit and comparing images, I came to the conclusion that I had stumbled upon a juvenile American Bald Eagle.

As I was indulging in the satisfaction of a correct ID, I did have to chuckle. I should have been able identify him by his behavior alone. That steady one-eyed gaze and unwavering courage I experienced, as he stood his ground, when me, the intruder, entered his domain.

That's an American Bald Eagle for sure.

Mature Bald Eagles attain their adult colors somewhere around the fifth year of age, although some rarely at three or four years.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

It's coming

There's lots of activity occurring outside. Insects are emerging from winters' cold as are snakes, turtles and salamanders. I hear frogs calling from the woods nearly all day and night now. And birds are flying to and fro with renewed purpose as they work on building nests while chattering and calling for mates. 

You hear it. You see it. You sense it. A cacophony of activity and joy. And the big green out has started.

New leaves emerge on a rose bush as it gets ready for flowers . . .

new buds on a tree branch . . .

a tiny daffodil flower. . .

 and a fragrant hyacinth . . .

a new small pad on a prickly pear cactus . . .

. . . and a bird nest from last year, a feat of engineering that's survived winters' rain, ice, snow and winds, cradled in tree branches waiting for new occupants and new life . . .

 . . . it's the biggest, boldest, burst-out of life of the year. 
March 20 7:03 a.m. EST.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Pileated Woodpecker

You tend hear their calls before you see them, if you get a chance to see them, as they tend to be a bit elusive.

But during an early morning hike, at one of my state parks, I sighted a Pileated Woodpecker.

I hear their calls in my neighborhood but have never had the luck of seeing one. And the only time I did, was at state park in South Carolina. It was early morning when I heard a call, then saw three flying low through the trees. Three. It was spellbinding as they are impressive birds. But, I was not camera-ready. This time I was.

I heard the call, quickly located the direction of the sound, then spotted him flying through the forest. I followed with my eyes and watched him land about three-quarters up the height of a tree.

The early morning sun was at a low angle, illuminating the top branches, leaving his head in light and his body in shadows. 

In the glint of the morning rays, his red crest glowed.

He stayed motionless, except for his head, which he turned back and forth in the light while he listened to the calls of another Pileated Woodpecker.

He was magnificent. 

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in the United States, as large as a crow, with beautiful white, black and red markings. It was not always the largest woodpecker. 

That title was held by the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, which is now believed to be extinct.

Here's a comparison of the Pileated Woodpecker (top) and the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (bottom).

My first blog entry was a sad lament about the loss of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Ode to the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

It was hunted for specimens and for its long chisel-like beak. Its home, the southern bottom land hardwood forests, was taken, when the forests were logged out in the early 1900s. It had no where to live, which is the demise of many species when their habitat is destroyed.

Trees are the lifeblood of woodpeckers and many other species. Take the trees and you take whole worlds.

I, too, speak for the trees and for the worlds they sustain.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax