There are many great things about snow. You can snowshoe in it, make snowmen, go sledding, and eat it. But you can also use it to see where animals have traveled. Tracking in winter is a great pastime to help you read the story of the land.
Now, you see some tracks in the snow and they aren’t yours. Who made them? This is where tracking really gets intriguing. First it is good to have an idea of what animals may be up and about in your area. Here in the northeast, woodchucks are hibernating, bears are snoozing (although one may get up and stretch his legs for a short while), and chipmunks are pretty well holed-up underground. So you can eliminate obvious suspects. A lot of animals continue to be active during the winter. Deer, moose, fox, bobcat, squirrel, some mice, and turkey are a few hearty woodland creatures that persevere through the northeastern winter months. How can we narrow down our suspects?
Even if the footprint itself is old or difficult to make out, we can still narrow down prospects by looking at the track pattern. We can categorize our options into 4 groups:
Walkers – These animals have fairly lean bodies and long legs. Humans fit this category. Look at your track pattern. Walkers display a right – left – right – left pattern. Except for models walking down a runway, the width of the track pattern closely fits the width of the hips. Four-legged walkers often display a habit called direct register, in which the back feet land in the prints the front feet made, so when you look at the print, all you see is the back footprint. Walkers include the dogs- coyote, red fox, gray fox, wolf; the cats – bobcat, cougar, lynx; and the ungulates – deer and moose.
Waddlers – As you might guess, the waddlers have heavy roundish bodies with short legs. Oftentimes waddlers sway side to side because they move both left legs, one at a time, then they move both right legs one at a time. You can read this in their track pattern. Examples of waddlers are porcupine, beaver, muskrat, and opossum. Unlikely winter waddlers are the black bear, woodchuck, raccoon, and skunk. Don’t totally discount raccoon, skunk and even black bear for wintertime prints. Although they may hole-up for a week to a couple of months, they could possibly be found wandering about if the snow does not make traveling too energy intensive.
Bounders – These animals have long, lean bodies but short legs, so bounding through the snow works best for them. Their preferred gait is when the front feet reach out and land together, followed by the two back feet that move together and land in the front feet’s prints. The left and rights may be side by side or slightly off, but they are clearly paired. Bounders are members of the weasel family (Mustelidae) and include otter, fisher, marten, mink, and the long-tailed and short-tailed weasel.
Hoppers – Hoppers also jump through the snow, but they have longer back legs than front, and their bodies are smaller than those of the bounders. The hind footprint is very often bigger than the front print. Hoppers make an interesting track as the gait is made when the front feet reach out and land, but then the hind feet are brought up and pass where the front feet landed, making a track ahead of the front feet print. Hoppers include the rabbits – showshoe hare, cottontail rabbit; the squirrels – red squirrel, gray squirrel; mouse, vole and shrew. Chipmunks are hoppers too, but are unlikely to show themselves above the snow in winter. Although voles and shrews are active, they wander trails under the snow if they can.
Measurements of the track pattern and detail of the prints themselves offer much more in the way of identification of the track maker. Getting adept at recognizing track patterns however, is the first step in becoming a competent tracker.
It is the season for hunting bear. They are fat from acorns and ready for sleep. The fur will keep us warm for many winters to come, the meat will keep us fed all winter long, the claws will decorate the warrior whose arrow flies true and the fat will serve many uses. Our three best warriors go out, one carrying the pot in case of good fortune. Running, running, running across the sky every night, until there, the big bear is just ahead. Fly arrow, fly. It makes its mark. Red blood drips down from the heavens and falls on the leaves making them turn brilliant crimson and orange. The bear’s fat, cooking in the pot drips over the edge, turning other trees yellow and gold. The hunt was successful. Our people will survive yet another winter. We must give thanks to the great bear.
You may adhere to this Abenaki Native American legend of how our leaves turn brilliant colors in the fall. I’m kind of partial to it myself. After all, the story plays itself out in the sky every night. The hunters and bear are stars that make up an asterism known as the Big Dipper, part of the Ursa Major (great bear) constellation. You can see the stars of the dipper’s handle – the three warriors. The second star (Mizar) has a star behind it (a good test of eye acuity) which is the pot. The three are following the dipper’s bowl which is part of the great bear.
Nevertheless I am plagued with an annoying logical mind that calls for a scientific explanation to the changing colors of the season. Yellow, orange, red, crimson, and bronze replace the once green woodland landscape. What causes these changes?
Leaf, stem, petal, fruit, and all plant colors are made by pigments of various sorts. We all know chlorophyll. It is the primary pigment involved in absorbing light energy for the process of photosynthesis, which fuels all food chains. Chlorophyll excels at absorbing light in the yellow and blue wavelengths, while reflecting green, which we see. But plants have other pigments as well. Carotenoids are accessory pigments, gathering wavelengths not absorbed by chlorophyll. There are hundreds of types of carotenoids. Carotene gives carrots their distinctive orange color. Lutein gives a yellow color you see in squash, corn, and other fruits and vegetables. Lycopene gives tomatoes their red color. Anthocyanins are another class of pigments that give plant parts their red, blue and purple colors. pH determines the shade. You see it in grapes, plums, apples, berries, flower petals, and many other parts of plants.
Yellow and Orange colors
So how does this all work in the fall? At this time of year, when the day length is shortening (actually, when the nighttime is lengthening – there is a difference to a plant) plants undergo many changes. Chlorophyll is dying off at a faster rate than it is made, and eventually chlorophyll manufacture shuts down completely. This then unmasks the hardy carotenoids, which have formerly been hidden by the dark green of chlorophyll. Yellows and oranges are now visible in the leaves until eventually they, and the whole leaf dies and drops.
Corky cells at the intersection of the leaf petiole and twig start to accumulate, shutting down water flow to the leaf. Now sugars, made during photosynthesis, accumulate in the leaf. These sugars, plus the anthocyanadins in the leaf together form anthocyanins, giving the leaf its red color. There are environmental factors that aid in this production. Acid sap, from a plant growing in acidic soil; dry weather; many bright sunshiny days; and low nighttime temperatures (but not below freezing) contribute to make high concentrations of anthocyanins and therefore brilliant reds in our landscape.
Poor Red Year
This year, reds are not abundant. What’s missing? For one, here in the eastern US, our dry summer has been followed by plenty of rain this fall. Also, nights have been quite mild. We’ve only had one night near freezing so far. I suspect that the abundance of water and lack of cold nighttime temperatures have prevented brilliant reds from forming in our landscape this fall.
Nevertheless, here in New England, our fall color show has been beautiful. It will soon be over, but this whole cycle will allow deciduous trees to leaf out again in the spring after a fine winter’s nap.
I like my hemlock. It lords over my backyard, sentinel to the hemlock forest beyond. My hemlock is the most majestic Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) I have ever seen. I cannot quite touch my fingertips together when hugging my tree. The lower limbs emanate downward from the trunk then take an elegant swoop upward. Each limb bears needle-laden branches that hang down like fringe. With increasing height the limbs get shorter each reaching skyward giving my tree a stately, conical shape. In winter, the lower branches, laden with snow, lay right down on the ground, demonstrating resiliency in a way only a snowbelt tree can. When I come by to sweep away the snow, the limber branch springs back, relieved of its burden, none the worse for wear.
I’ve seen robins, hummingbirds, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and many other birds visit or roost in my hemlock, not to mention a barred owl and a screech owl. I really like my tree, but now I fear for its life.
About six years ago I spotted the tell-tale white woolly exude from a nasty hemlock predator, the hemlock woolly adelgid, on a tree by our driveway. My husband quickly took it down to eliminate any spread. We monitored neighboring trees and found no further infestation. Crisis averted. Even years later, all our backyard hemlocks looked fine, until this year.
Every single hemlock I’ve checked on my property has white cottony tufts at the base of the needles. Even my majestic guard of the woods. As the summer has progressed, I’ve seen my tree defoliate, looking more and more barren and less and less robust. It has been a trying summer with very little rain putting additional stress on my hemlock. Will my tree make it?
Hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) is an aphid-like insect. It is well known in Asia, but was first discovered in the US as early as 1907 in Washington State. It didn’t show up in the East until around 1951 near Richmond, Virginia. The origin of this eastern strain has been traced to a lineage directly from Japan, and is distinct from our western strain. The adelgid has spread fairly unabated since 1951, covering more than half the eastern hemlock’s native range from Maine to Georgia. The predator also affects Carolina hemlock, which is found only in the southern Appalachians.
Although the western lineage has predators to keep it in check, this eastern type does not. Having not evolved with one another, the tree has no defenses against this insect. Although hemlocks have developed defenses against chewing insects, the adelgid pierces through the plant tissues and sucks out stored nutrients, to which the tree has no resistance. It also induces reactions in the tree, affecting the tree’s ability to transport water.
The most tell-tale sign of the pest is the cottony white exude that can be seen usually on the underside of the foliage at the base of needles. This is a substance the adelgid produces to protect themselves and their eggs from drying out. The adelgid itself, depending on the stage in its life cycle, can be yellowish-tan to black and only 1/16-inch (1.5-mm) long.
For treatment, there are insecticides that can be injected directly into the trunk or roots of a tree. Also, insecticidal soaps can be sprayed directly on a tree, but it has to be thorough and cover each insect to be effective. Obviously these measures can’t save a forest. The best hope lies in natural predators released into infested areas. Several beetles are good contenders, one from Japan, one from China, and one from the western US. A good candidate is one that eats only Hemlock woolly adelgids and nothing else.
I went for a walk in a park recently at a lower in elevation than my home. I walked along a stream and examined hemlocks there. I didn’t see nearly the infestation I saw up on my mountain abode. A couple tufts here and one there (I picked them off and ground them into the dirt) but most trees were clean. Hemlocks are, among conifers, the most prone to drought, and this summer has been a dry one here. I’m thinking the park’s riverside trees have not been stressed to the extent my mountaintop trees have. My trees are weaker and more vulnerable allowing the adelgid to gain a foothold. Cold winters have in past years, kept the adelgid at bay, but this past winter was not much of a deterrent. Scientists have found that over time, the adelgid is able to withstand colder temperatures, allowing it to creep ever northward.
I like my hemlock. But what will become of it? Maybe hemlocks will develop some chemical resistance. Maybe a native beetle or other predator will develop a taste for adelgids. Someday, this predator/prey dance will come into balance when this rampant pest can be deterred. But will it be in time for my tree? Not likely. In the meantime, hopefully my tree will demonstrate some of its winter resilience and find a way to spring back, when relieved of its burden, none the worse for wear.
Did you see the last transit of Venus in 2004? It was quite something – if you’re into those things. I am referring to the alignment of earth, Venus and the sun (no, it does not usher in the age of Aquarius and don’t break into song.) If you missed it you have another opportunity to see earth’s closest planet pass between us and the sun once again. But if you miss this one, you will not see another unless you can find a way to live for another 105 ½ years.
What is so fun about this alignment is that we can see Venus as a small black dot seemingly moving across the surface of the setting sun. Those of us in North America can set our calendars to the evening of June 5th to see this spectacle. Eastern Africa and Europe will witness it at sunrise on June 6th. So here’s some things to remember in order to appreciate the show.
Protect your Eyes
Looking into the sun is damaging to your eyes. Even though the sun is setting during the transit and a thick blanket of earth’s atmosphere is filtering its rays for you, you should still take precautions to see the event safely. Here are some things you can use.
*A pinhole projector
Rays shining through a tiny hole projects the image of the sun on a piece of paper where viewing is safe. This can be as simple as using 2 pieces of cardboard, one white, to act as a screen, and another with a pinhole through which the sun will shine. There are more elaborate pinhole projector set-ups available at this website, www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse/how.html but still within the realm of those willing to play with cardboard boxes and tape.
*A solar filter on a refracting telescope
The use of a reflecting telescope is highly discouraged, as the suns concentrated rays can destroy the telescopes mirror holders.
*#14 or higher welder’s glass
If you happen to have one lying around the house, you can be the most strangely dressed observer at your viewing party.
*Specially made solar sunglasses
These are available commercially and look like those 3-d glasses you get at the movie theater.
*A sun funnel
This is a device you can easily make yourself to attach to the eyepiece of a telescope allowing a group of people to see the event at the same time.
*Watch the live webcast
In the event the weather doesn’t allow for outdoor viewing or if you are unwilling to go outside, you can watch from your computer or smartphone. The webcast is provided by NASA and University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy and transmitted from Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
Where to see the Transit of Venus
Find a clear view of the western horizon during sunset on June 5th of this year.
When to see the Transit of Venus
The time it takes Venus to transit from edge to edge across the background of the sun differs slightly from various locations on earth. Viewed from Westfield, Massachusetts, Venus will begin its cross-solar trip at 6:03pm, and will leave the edge of the sun at 12:51 that night, well after we will be able to see it since the sun will be below our horizon. The event will be 6 hours and 48 minutes long. Whereas in Seattle, Washington, Venus touches the edge of the sun at 3:06 pm and departs at 9:48pm, 6 hours and 42 minutes later. This 6-minute difference, and other calculations, allows astronomers to calculate the size of our solar system. The length of this article, as well as my understanding of astrophysics, doesn’t allow me to go into detail about this, yet knowing it can be done is still fascinating.
So how will you celebrate this exciting event? Check it out somewhere, because it won’t happen again until the year 2117.
For all the information you could probably need, visit www.transitofvenus.org
The arrival of warm temperatures already here in the northeast is a welcome event to many, including ticks. Don’t let fear hamper your outdoor excursions however. Just go outside prepared to prevent a tick encounter, and aware of what to do if you and a tick should meet.
Ticks are not insects. They are arachnids, along with spider and scorpions. They are dormant during the winter and become active and start looking for their first blood meal when the temperatures rise significantly above freezing. This spring’s premature temperature increase has stimulated early activity.
The black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), is the transmitter of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi. Mouse tick may be a better name, as the white-footed mouse, and a few other small rodents, are the reservoir for the bacterium. A tick becomes infected after feeding on a mouse harboring the spirochete bacterium. A tick is infected with the bacterium usually during its larval stage or nymphal stage.
White-tailed deer are not transmitters of the disease, but are the preferred host of the adult female black-legged tick. Tick populations mirror deer populations – more deer; more ticks.
Ticks are transmitters of several other diseases. Check out the Center for Disease Control to paint the happy picture for you. Here I want to concentrate on prevention.
Here’s what to do to avoid tick bites:
*Wear insect repellent. DEET is the ingredient to look for. It can treat skin and clothing. Pay particular attention to legs and socks. Be aware that it may not prevent a tick from walking over treated areas to find an untreated area of the body.
*Treat clothing with Permethrin. It is an insecticide, not a repellent, and is very effective in protection from both ticks and mosquitoes. It is for your clothing, not skin.
*Stay in the middle of trails. Don’t bushwhack or brush up against overhanging branches. A stick used to shake branches ahead of you might help. It can shake off ticks waiting to drop.
*Tuck your pants into your socks. This will prevent ticks from getting under your clothes. You may not be a fashion-ista, but you could wear fun socks and make a statement.
*Light colored clothing helps you spot ticks easily. A hat is a good idea too.
*After your hike, do a tick check. If you feel a little tickle, check it out. This is how I find ticks on me, but you may not necessarily feel them. Have a buddy check places you cannot see. Pay particular attention to…
joints: behind the knee, crook of the elbow, in the armpit
where clothing constricts: waistband, collar, etc.
hidden spots – hairline, behind ears, bellybutton
Here’s how to remove a tick that has attached:
*Have a fine-tipped tweezers on hand for proper removal of an imbedded tick. Hair-plucking tweezers are not narrow enough for the job.
*Grasp the tick’s embedded head end, as close to the skin as you can. Be sure not to grasp the body, which will cause the tick to regurgitate some unsavory fluid – and perhaps bacteria – back into you.
*Pull straight out without twisting or jerking. You want to get the whole tick, mouthparts and all.
You can also make your yard a veritable tick-free zone. Establish a boundary between the play area and tick-zone with a 2 foot mulch or stone boundary. Also, keep your yard free of brush piles or places where mice might like to live and keep deer from visiting by not providing food sources. Visit here for more specific ideas on tick-proofing your yard.
Just get into a different routine before going outside on your hike and don’t let these little buggers spoil your fun. There are too many flowers to see and too many birds to hear this spring.
This might be one of the most cataclysmic die-offs in recent history. It is happening now as we speak. Bats populations are plummeting. We are losing our hibernating bats in alarming numbers.
Just 6 years ago, in a cave in New York State, biologists discovered bats infected with a fungal disease previously unknown to this area. Because of the most obvious symptom, researchers dubbed it “White Nose Syndrome”. Since then, the population of Little Brown Bats has declined by 91%. Tri-colored bats by 90% and the already federally endangered Indiana bat population is down 70%. The worst hit is the Northern myotis, with 98% mortality. Big Brown bats have declined by – dare I say – only 41%, which is still alarming, but relatively speaking, the Big Brown is faring better than most.
Is this the point where you say, “Who cares – I don’t even like bats”? After all, they are Halloween scary, weird looking, and active at night when us humans are vision-handicapped. I don’t feel compelled to convince you that bats are likable, although I like them a lot. Whether humans approve of them or not, bats exist, and therefore must be an intrinsic member of the interrelated biota of earth.
Philosophical bent aside, bats are voracious consumers of mosquitoes and other flying insects. The 9 species of bats here in the eastern US are primarily insectivorous and can eat ½ to their full body weight in insects in a typical hunting night. In other parts of the world, bats are indispensable to the life cycle of plants by pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds. The economy of many tropical nations depends on them. If you eat bananas, avocados, breadfruit, peaches, dates, figs, mangoes, or guava, then you are beholding to bats. Saguaro cactus in the Southwestern US couldn’t do without their bat pollinators.
Happily, our migrating bats, Eastern red, Silver-haired and the Hoary, do not seem susceptible. The disease pathogen, Geomyces destructans, is a cold-loving rascal, thriving between temperatures of 41 and 57°F (5-14 °C). Hibernating bats are vulnerable because in order to save energy during the winter, their body temperature drops within this range. Plus, they hibernate in large colonies, passing white nose syndrome to one another like we would a common cold. Migrating bats don’t spend time in a hibernaculum with lowered body temperature and are therefore, not prone to infection.
Interestingly, G. destructans is found on European bats, but it is not fatal. Perhaps due to centuries of exposure there, bats have evolved a natural defense, which our bats don’t possess. Biologists theorize this new disease was brought over to the US on the clothes of a caver who inadvertently transported spores from a European cave to a cave in New York. The best hope for a remedy is that our bat populations too will develop immunity.
Keep in mind this is all very recent research. These findings come from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation who are actively studying causes and ramifications. What is discovered next may alter what I’ve written here, or hopefully add to the limited knowledge base of this scourge on bats.
So, keep your eyes peeled toward the sky this spring. The migrants should be arriving back soon, and hopefully, our hibernators will emerge. Try to take note – are there as many bats as you’ve seen in years past? Are there as many mosquitoes as you’ve seen in years past? There just might be a correlation.
I remember when I first “met” them. I was on the beach at Cape Cod with my family when I was 8 or 10. Chasing the waves, the waves chasing us, and digging in the sand, ah, the beach as a youngster. I picked up a scoopful of sand in my two cupped hands, then, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh” accompanied by a frenzied dance flinging the sand hither and yon.
“What’s the matter?” my dad asked, as he and my older brother came to my rescue.
“There’s something in there,” I managed to eek out, “in the sand. It scritched me.”
Well, that got my brother on the case right away and he scooped up sand of his own. “There’s nothing in here. What a girly-girl you are.”
“There is too! That sand,” I said, indicating the place where waves were washing in and receding.
He scooped up sand from the wash zone, and boy did he jump too. I don’t think he emitted the girly shriek that I did, but he was startled nonetheless. Very satisfying for a little sister to see. I don’t remember if it was he or Dad that finally held onto a handful of sand with “scritchy somethings” in it, but we finally revealed the culprit.
In his hand was a little mole crab that was digging down, down, down into the sand as it does after a receding wave. Only thing was, it hit a hand instead, and boy did that tickle. Now that we knew, it was fun to catch them.
Now, some 40 years later, walking barefoot along the wash zone on Cape Cod near Falmouth, Massachusetts, I experience them again. No screaming this time. I catch a glimpse of hundreds of them scoot ocean-ward in each receding wave before disappearing into the sand. This time the naturalist in me wants to examine these curious little creatures and learn a bit more about them. I scoop up a handful of sand and present it to my husband. “Wanna see a mole crab?”
I dig down into my handful of sand, snatch it out and rinse it off in the next wave. “Wow, that’s cool,” my husband said. I’m not sure if he remarked about my magic trick of pulling a crab out of a handful of sand or the little creature itself.
The thing is about an inch long, and is oval and domed; a light gray color, very much like the sand it lives in, making it wonderfully camouflaged. We see the feathery antennae the mole crab uses to catch plankton and small detritus the waves bring. Its appendages get tucked in neatly to make it quite hydrodynamic. Good thing, as the tide recedes, it has to go along too, so it scoots or gets rolled by an outgoing wave and quickly buries itself before the wave disappears so it is not dinner to a shorebird. It can bury itself completely in about a second and a half, hind end first.
These mole crabs I met are Emerita talpoida the mole crab found on the Eastern US coast. The west coast has Emerita analoga, the Gulf Coast Emerita benedicti and other coasts around the world have different species, but all belong to the genus Emerita.
So, on your next trip to the shoreline, dig in, and don’t scream. The small crabs are not only fun to experience but remarkable in that they live in such a small and harsh habitat as the wash zone.
Here are a few specifics for doing your part for planting a pollinator-friendly garden.
*Use native plants. Research has indicated that native flowers are four times more attractive to native
bees than non-native flowers.
*Include many different flower shapes and colors.
*Bees are most attracted to blue, purple, violet, white and yellow.
*Butterflies are attracted to flowers with a wide, landing area.
*Hummingbirds need plenty of nectar, which tubular flowers have tucked back in their corolla. They are attracted to red flowers.
*Plant flowers in groups – at least 4 feet in diameter is a good rule to go by.
*Be sure there is something flowering all throughout the growing season.
*Have nectar-rich flowers. Some flowers have been bred to be just showy, with no nectar. Avoid
double-petaled and nectar-less flowers.
A list of plants that attract:
* Black-eyed Susan
* Joe-pye weed
* Purple coneflower
* Red Columbine
* Trumpet Vine
* Orange Spotted Jewelweed
* Canada Lily
* Cardinal Flower
* Trumpet Honeysuckle
* Mountain Rosebay
* Bee Balm
* Indian Pink
* Phlox (many varieties)
* Bee Balm
* Butterfly Weed
* Queen Anne’s Lace
* Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia)
* Verbena Bonariensis
* Beauty Bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)
* Butterfly Bush
* Blueberry bushes
* Bronze Fennel
* Daisy fleabane
* Common Valerian
* Black-eyed Susan
* Joe-pye Weed
Is posies the
Where wonder I
Ris’ has grass the
Sprung has spring
This is the only poem I can recite backwards and forwards. (Hint, now read it backwards.) Gotta love spring. Flowers blooming, birds singing, grass greening, buds bursting, all that. There’s a lot that happens this time of year. It happened last year too, and the year before that. Actually, spring has sprung for a very long time now.
Have you ever wondered if those chickadees are nesting the same time this year as they did 2 years ago? Is the skunk cabbage pushing its way up through the snow the same time it did 10 years ago? Is that sugar maple flowering this year near the calendar date it did 40 years ago? Naturalists like myself ask these curious questions as do scientists studying global warming trends. This study of periodic happenings, especially as they occur in nature is called phenology.
I’ve spearheaded my Naturalists’ Club in a phenology study for the past 10 years. Henry David Thoreau, in his meticulous note-taking way, documented springtime occurrences 150 years ago. Some British naturalists have listed occurrences much longer ago than that. When we note the blooming times for specific flower species this year, and compare it to when it flowered many years earlier, that’s where the intrigue begins.
Folks at Boston University did exactly that. They compared their flower blooming times from 2004-2006 to that of Henry David Thoreau’s from 1852-1858. Location, elevation, plants studied all being the same, these BU folks learned some pretty telling things:
• The mean annual temperature rose 4°F (2.4°C) over this 150 year span.
• Events like bird migration, amphibian mating, and flowering times are occurring earlier now than in the past.
• Every plant studied blooms earlier now than in HD’s time, some a full week earlier.
• Highbush blueberry now blooms 21 days earlier.
• Yellow wood sorrel blooms 32 days earlier.
• Some species’ blooming cycles are changing rapidly while others are not.
Even in my club’s meager 10 years of collecting phenology, from 2001 – 20010, I saw a trend toward earlier blooming for many plants, including:
• Wild Blue Phlox
• Foam flower
I’m not going to get all scientific on you, but hey, things are happening and nature is responding. Even us gardeners and wildflower lovers can see it. Is spring sprouting earlier these days where you are too? Get in on the action and take notice. Start a phenology of your own. A simple chart of:
is all you really need to get going.
The longer you keep track, the more valuable the information becomes. Plus, it gets you outside and noticing the beauty of spring. You can’t go wrong. In addition, you can add your data to that of many others on the National Phenology Network online. Visit here to learn more.
Look deep into my eyes. What do you see? My inner soul? True feelings? Hang on. I’m not that romantic. Let me share with you the non-existential angle of eye gazing.
My friend was curious about looking closely at the compound eye of a lacewing. She slowed him down by putting the dish he was in on a bed of snow. With the aid of a handheld digital microscope she could get a pretty close look.
A compound eye is made of of a lot – could be thousands – of individual light sensors called ommatidia. Each one, arranged on a spherical surface points in a slightly different direction, catching light from that specific angle. The resulting image is a mosaic of light and dark spots. Much like pixilation, the more ommatidia, the better resolution of the image. Grasshoppers have comparatively few ommatidia, and their images are coarser grained as compared to a honeybee or dragonfly. But, because a moving image is caught by many ommatidia in a sequence, a compound eye is great at detecting motion over a wide field of view. Some insects, like the honeybee have visual cells in the ommatidia that can detect certain colors. Bees and butterflies among others can see ultraviolet light too. These abilities help them identify nectar-rich flowers for nutrition.
Anyway, my friend and I were just fascinated with the reflective/refractive properties of our lacewing’s eyes. A regular rainbow of color. I hope you like gazing into his eye.
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