Sunday, February 26, 2023

International Tongue Twister Day -- Not

i was misled into thinking that today was International Tongue Twister Day. Hard to believe I could get something like that wrong, eh? But it turns out that ITT Day actually falls on the second Sunday in November. Never mind how I became confused about it. I woke up this morning ready to write about how hard it is to say “Imagine an imaginary menagerie.” Or "No need to light a night-light on a light night like tonight." The good news is that we have 11 months to practice for the real holiday. In advance I offer a few tongue twisters with wildlife pictures. That's Coney Island, NYC in the photo above.

Starting with something short and simple: "Zebras zig and zebras zag."

"She sells seashells by the seashore." Classic! Click to enlarge the gooseneck barnacles.

This one is challenging and icky: "The crow flew over the river with a lump of raw liver."

Apparently five swans have left already. "Six sleek swans swam swiftly southwards."

And here is a tongue twister I composed for the occasion. "Round-eyed raccoons recline and commune in a rough-hewn treetop raccoon cocoon." Try saying it fast three times.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Lunch in the Park


A passerby offers seeds to a tufted titmouse. Click to enlarge.

Seems impressed by how big a human is up close, right?

Chancing it!

Got a nice one.

Thanks! Bye!

Starring the tufted titmouse, a year-round resident in the eastern United States famous for bold encounters with humans like above. And among the cutest of birds.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Spotted Lanternfly Control

The spotted lanternfly (SLF) is an invasive insect first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014 and is currently spreading through the eastern United States. It feeds on many kinds of woody plants including grape vines and other fruit crops, maple, walnut, and birch trees, and more. SLFs use piercing-sucking mouthparts to suck sap from their hosts, which is stressful and damaging to the plants. They also excrete sticky honeydew that promotes the growth of sooty mold fungus on plants (or anything else -- like patio furniture). Click to enlarge.

This is a SLF egg mass on the side of a tree. I recently spent a few hours with local county park staff and USDA educators learning how to spot egg masses and remove them to help reduce the spread of SLF in my area. A typical egg mass contains 30 to 50 eggs and has a protective coating which cracks like this as it ages.

Scanning the branches in the park revealed many SLF egg masses. The only hard part was differentiating them from lichens and the other kinds of tree bark blobs and blotches.

Here are a few uncovered masses from a previous year from which the insects have hatched. Note the exit holes.

We used complimentary SLF egg-removal cards to scrape and crush egg masses. A credit card will do fine for impromptu SLF egg-scraping whenever the urge arises. An alternative method to crushing is to scrape the eggs nto a plastic baggie filled with alcohol.

We removed egg masses from beyond arm's reach with scrapers on poles. There were a lot of them on the structural supports of this wooden gazebo in the park. 

I estimate that our squad of three people removed about 100 egg masses during the two hours we spent scraping. I think there were 5 squads altogether so our whole group dispatched as many as 500 egg masses that day. At 40 eggs per mass, that's 20,000 fewer spotted lanternflies that will be sucking on that park's trees come spring.

Click here for a recent report on the state of the SLF invasion from the Penn State Extension Service.