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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Feisty Egrets

Here's a lovely snowy egret with gold feet on display and plumes blowing in the wind.  It's  in a great fishing spot near the outflow from a water gate at one of the ponds at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Oceanville, New Jersey. 
It's a spot worth defending, apparently, and any unwary egret that gets too close gets chased.  The  one on the right looks cowed, doesn't it? "OK OK -- I'm going already!"
But egret #2 did not move fast enough and ended up getting a kwok-yelling, wing-beating, flying jump directed at him. 
Then a couple of others showed up and got the same treatment. "Go on, get out of here!"
Ok. Alone at last. Back to fishing. 
Until the next interloper arrived! 
There were interludes of unexpected synchronized flying. Very nice! 
Then finally alone again. This bird looks to me like it would grumble if it could. I'll bet  more challengers showed up after I left. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Blueberry Robber

I learned something interesting about the eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica. I was walking in the woods in south Jersey in a place near blueberry farms where lots of blueberry bushes grow wild in the understory. There were also lots of carpenter bees hovering around every wooden structure I passed that day; no doubt recently emerged from their overwintering chambers. Some of the bees were visiting blueberry flowers. No surprise there -- who wouldn't want some delicious blueberry flower nectar?                                Click to enlarge.  
Looking closer, you can see the famous white face of a male eastern carpenter bee. Click on this sentence to go to an earlier blog of mine that describes the carpenter bee's life cycle.  Carpenter bees are coming out of their winter homes right now, just as the blueberry bushes are flowering. Great timing! 
I found later that carpenter bees are famous for “robbing" blueberry flowers of nectar. They call it robbing because instead of sticking their heads in and getting covered with pollen, carpenter bees make slits in the sides of the flowers and go straight to the nectar at the base. In the picture above you can see some of these vertical slits on the flowers. Signs of bee robbery! And it doesn’t stop there. Honeybees come to the slits and take nectar. It’s not a total loss for flowers, though, because some pollen gets transferred.

You can click on this sentence to read the abstract of a paper in which it was experimentally demonstrated that the pollen transferred in about three robbery style visits equals that transferred by a blueberry pollinator doing it the conventional way. The study also found that carpenter bee robbery might actually be beneficial because of the large number of honeybees it attracts to the flowers. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Opossum!

I met this opossum at an outdoor event in South Jersey last weekend.  He's a wildlife ambassador for a conservation group, helping to promote good will toward opossum-kind by posing for photos and looking cute. He is cute, right? Click to enlarge. He was full of personality, too. 
Here he is eating a raw brussels sprout. The Virginia opossum, Didelphis virginiana, is the only marsupial that occurs naturally in the United States. Like other marsupials, mother opossums have a pouch to carry nursing baby opossums. Fun facts: the babies are called joeys, adult males are called jacks, and adult females are jills. LoL! 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Spring Flower Edition

Spring flowers are open all around today. Yay! A quote from Iris Murdoch: "People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us." Click to enlarge. 










Sunday, April 15, 2018

Northern Shoveler Ducks

Here is a pair of northern shoveler ducks, Anas clypeata. The female is in front and the male behind. Shovelers are famous for their larger-than-duck-average bills, which are flattened on the ends, like shovels. The bill shape and their habit of using them to "shovel" food from the water gives the birds their common name. 
You often see them as in this picture, with their bills barely submerged. They sweep their heads from side to side to filter food from the water, finding algae and plant material, aquatic insects, crustaceans, and more. Click to enlarge. 
Shoveling. Makes it look easy, doesn't he?
Shovelers also sometimes up-end like this in a move called dabbling.  It distinguishes them and the rest of the surface feeding or dabbling ducks from ducks that dive underwater to feed. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

New Neighbors

One gray squirrel in the maple tree hole. Click to enlarge.
Wait ... there's two!
Make that three! Cuteness overload!