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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Happy Memorial Day!

Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly, New Jersey. Click to enlarge.
Soldier rest! thy warfare o'er,
Dream of fighting fields no more;
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Morn of toil, nor night of waking. 

from Soldier, Rest! Thy Warfare o'er
by Sir Walter Scott 

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.