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Archive for August, 2016

Beavers Consuming Herbaceous Plants

8-31-16 beaver cutting fern 052

One associates Beavers with a fairly strict diet of bark and twigs. While their winter diet consists primarily of woody plants, they consume a variety of herbaceous and aquatic plants (as well as woody) during the spring, summer and fall months. Shrubs and trees make up roughly half the spring and autumn requirements, but as little as 10% of the summer diet when herbaceous plants such as sedges and aquatic plants become available.

Recent observation of a local active Beaver pond revealed that Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana), Jewelweed/Touch-Me-Not (Impatiens capensis) and grasses are high on the list of preferred foods of one Beaver family during the summer, although woody plants such as poplars (Populus spp.) and Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) have also been consumed in fairly large quantities.   All too soon Beavers in the Northeast will be limited to the bark of branches they’ve stored under the ice. Until this time, they take advantage of the accessibility of more easily digested herbaceous plants. (Thanks to the Shepards and Demonts for photo op.)

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Gallium Moth Larvae Burrowing

8-26-16 gallium sphinx larva 082Some of the largest moths in the world belong to the hawk, or sphinx moth family. They typically have long narrow wings and thick bodies. Hawk moths are fast flyers and often highly aerobatic. Many species, including the hummingbird moths, can hover in place, and some can even fly backwards. Mostly nocturnal fliers, hawk moths are exceptionally good at finding sweet-smelling flowers after dark.

As larvae, most hawk moths have a “horn” at the end of their body. One of the most familiar hawk moth caterpillars is the Tobacco Hornworm, found on tomato plants. Most species produce several generations a summer, pupating underground and emerging after two or three weeks. One exception is the Gallium Sphinx Moth, pictured, which usually has only one generation a year. In this photograph it is working its way underground, where it will overwinter as a pupa inside a loose cocoon in a shallow burrow, emerging as an adult moth next spring.

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Naturally Curious 2017 Calendar

ee-2017 cover

flattened blog post of monthly photos on calendar-1

It’s time for 2017 Naturally Curious calendar orders! Please specify the number you would like as well as the mailing address to which they should be sent, and mail them to me at 134 Densmore Hill Road, Windsor, VT  05089 along with a check made out to Mary Holland. Orders can be placed up until October 31st. The calendars are printed on heavy card stock and are $35.00 each (includes postage).  They will be delivered by mid-December. Thank you!


Solitary Sandpipers Migrating

8-26-16  solitary sandpiper 294Solitary Sandpipers nest in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska (in the abandoned tree nests of several different song birds!), and winter in the tropics, from northern Mexico south through much of South America.   Individuals started their nocturnal inland and offshore migration south in June. In the fall, some birds appear to fly southeast over New England towards the Atlantic Ocean, as if on direct course to South America, while others follow the eastern coastline. Although their migration over New England peaked in July, you can find them through mid-October on the shores of ponds, resting and feeding during their long flight. One benefit of the dry weather we’ve had this summer is the large number of exposed mud flats and pond banks on which migrating shorebirds can forage.  As their name indicates, Solitary Sandpipers migrate singly, not in flocks like most migrant sandpipers.

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Boletes Fruiting

8-25-16  bolete 004Boletes are fleshy terrestrial mushrooms that have sponge-like tubes, not gills, as most mushrooms have, under their caps. (Polypores also have tubes, but are tough and leathery and usually grow on wood.) Spores develop on basidia (club-shaped, spore-bearing structures) which line the inner surfaces of the tubes. Because the basidia are vertically arranged, the spores, when mature, drop down and disperse into the air.

The majority of bolete species are edible, but there are two reasons not to harvest them unless you are with an expert. One reason being that there are some poisonous bolete species. The second reason is that because they are large and fleshy, larvae can often be found inhabiting them, as well as parasites.

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Dog-day Cicadas Emerging, Courting, Mating and Laying Eggs

8-24-16 mating cicadas by wallie hammer IMG_2199

Adult annual cicadas, including the pictured Dog-day Cicadas, have emerged from their subterranean dwellings. High up in trees most males are vibrating their abdominal tymbals (drum-like organs) in order to woo female cicadas with their “song.” Thanks to an abdomen that is relatively hollow, the sound is intensified, and very audible to human ears as a high-pitched whining drone, somewhat resembling a buzz saw. We associate it with the hot, humid “dog days” of July and August.

Annual cicadas emerge from the ground (where they have been feeding off of the sap of trees through the trees’ roots for two to four years) every year as nymphs. They climb a tree, split and emerge from their exoskeleton, or outer skin, and pump their wings full of fluid. After their exoskeleton dries, the adult cicadas (also called imagoes) head for the canopy, and males commence “singing” to attract a mate. Within two weeks mating takes place, eggs are laid in slits of live branches and the adults die. After hatching, the nymphs will drop to the ground and burrow into it with their shovel-like front legs. (Thanks to Wallie Hammer for taking and providing today’s photograph. Mating usually takes place in the canopy, and therefore rarely seen.)

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Moose Affected By Global Warming

8-23-16  moose closeIMG_5459It is fairly well known that the Moose population in the Northeast (and elsewhere) has plummeted — New Hampshire has lost more than 40% of their Moose in the last decade, and this trend is occurring throughout northern New England. Global warming is at the heart of this decline. Warm winters have allowed the tick population to soar, and blood loss due to ticks has weakened Moose, making them susceptible to anemia and unable to fight off disease. The negative effect of warmer temperatures doesn’t stop there. Summer heat stress promotes weight loss, a fall in pregnancy rates and increased vulnerability to disease. Excessive warm weather drives Moose to seek shelter, rather than forage for much-needed food. This phenomenon has been described by Moose biologists as “one of the most precipitous non-hunting declines of a major species in the modern era.”

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go tohttp://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.