An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide – maryholland505@gmail.com

Archive for April, 2021

Bloodroot In Flower

One of our earliest spring ephemerals, Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), a member of the Poppy family, greets the longer, warming days by having its short-lived flower emerge from within its protective leaf and spread its white petals wide open on sunny days. (The flower only opens on days when the temperature reaches 46 degrees, as that’s when pollinators are active.)

To encourage cross-pollination, when the flower opens it is in the female stage, relying on pollinators covered in pollen to land and drop pollen to the receptive stigma. Within a few hours of opening the stamens begin to release pollen. The flower will open for up to three days or until cross-pollination has occurred. Once pollination has taken place the flower begins to drop its petals.

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Ospreys Courting & Copulating

Ospreys have returned to their breeding grounds in New England, where both courtship and copulation is taking place.  The males engage in an undulating courtship display flight high over the nest site, often with fish or nesting material clutched in their dangling legs while they repeatedly issue forth screaming calls.  This can go on for up to ten minutes or so before they descend to the nest.  In addition, “courtship feeding” often takes place with the male providing his mate with food, often just prior to breeding.

Although an osprey pair copulates frequently (an average of 160 times per clutch), nearly half the time there is no cloacal contact. Most of the breeding takes place at or near the nest site. (Note the protective positioning of the male’s toes and talons as he mounts his mate.)

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Silver Maples One Of Earliest Trees To Flower

For several weeks the red flower buds of Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) have been swelling, preparing to open and expose their flowers to the wind, their pollinating agent.  While Silver Maple can have both male and female flowers on the same tree, (monoecious) it much more commonly has flowers of only one sex (dioecious).  Less than 10 percent of flowering plant species have male and female flowers on separate trees — the other 90 percent combine both sexes in one plant.

The pictured branch of Silver Maple bears only male flowers, each possessing several pollen-loaded stamens.  Like many wind-pollinated flowers, Silver Maple’s flowers have no flashy petals to attract insects, rather they lack them entirely, as they would only get in the way of pollen dispersal.  Like other maples, if fertilized, the female flowers develop winged fruit referred to as samaras.  Silver Maple samaras are larger than those of any other native maple species.

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Wood Ducks Returning To Northern New England

A welcome sign of spring in northern New England is the return of the Wood Duck to wooded swamps and wetlands.  There are seven species of North American ducks that regularly nest in cavities and the Wood Duck is uniquely adapted for doing so.  Its slim body allows it to use Pileated Woodpecker cavities for nesting and the acuity of its large eyes allows it to avoid branches while flying through wooded areas.  Even so, it still tends to make one look twice to see ducks perched up in a tree!

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