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Hello, friends! Welcome to my POND SIDE BLOG. Visit me every few days here for a new nature note, a thought to ponder, or to click the THE NATURALIST link to the left for a new article every Sunday plus my archives ... .. and then, let's CHAT!
September 9, 2014
September 4, 2014
Suddenly, the tiny frogs seem to disappear.
They are still out there, gobbling up yummy gnats and other wee prey. Given a spring-like night, they will occasionally pee-eep right out loud at other times of the year. They don't gather to chorus, but their hopeful calls been heard during every month of the year.
The calls are easy to hear. The frogs, not so easy to see. They're too tiny, too shy, and too well camoflauged, avoiding predation by snakes and birds, bigger frogs and many, many others. But they are out there by the millions and sometimes, sometimes you get to see one. Keep your eyes open all year.
July 22, 2014
Other animal species play the odds differently. They produce just a few well-developed young and then lavish energy on them. The Carolina Wren uses this strategy. As you can see in my photograph, the birds lay intricately constructed (and decorated) eggs. The wrens poured energy into building a protective nest. When a predator (a jay? another wren?) discovered the hidden nest site, broke into one of the eggs, and made a meal of it, the wrens cut their losses. They left one egg-child to die so they could start another nest, more secret, and hopefully more productive.
Those predators are important. So are the parasites and illnesses that trim a population down. Without infant mortality, there is wild growth in a population. The animals soon run out of space, food, air, or water. Then their population crashes. As I said, we humans have stopped expecting some of our young to die. We pour incredible amounts of energy (plus medicine, money, schooling, food, housing, tc.,etc.,) into insuring that each child reaches adulthood. So our population is ballooning. Around our globe you can already see water wars, famines, land grabs, and overcrowding-caused social breakdowns. Maybe we humans aren't so lucky after all.
July 6, 2014
A bird feeder full of seed brings in hungry birds. Toads and spiders get hungry, too, and they've come for your buggy handouts. You have nothing to fear from your new loyal friends. All those "warts" taste so nasty that any predator spits Toady out before swallowing.. For this reason, you should never lick a toad - even your own personal house toad.
Now go check the back stoop...and the moist corners near your well-lit front door. Then let me know who you find there.
July 5, 2014
Actually, nature sounds off all around me.I'm writing on my porch serenaded (?) by a birdhouse full of hungry English Sparrows. All the adult birds ever seem to say is "cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep ...." That's what the babies are chanting, but urgently and in a raspy voice.
Are English Sparrows pests? Not to me. They are the most people-tolerant of wild birds and dependably present at shopping centers and school yards, park benches and outdoor restaurants. They are neighbor-tolerant, too, building nests close together without all the territory battles that consume the days of other birds.
And their nest box - what a slovenly mess! Most songbird babies expel their waste in a tidy little "fecal sac" which Mom or Dad grabs in their beak and carries away from the nest. That way predators won't find them. English Sparrows are such jolly good fellows they don't worry abut trivia like that. The babes just hoist their little tails to the door and let fly.
Yes, they are an alien species and yes, they displaced native birds - but that is old news. These "English" Sparrows are American now, found all across the country, friendly and cheery. And a little messy.
June 12, 2014
Imagine! An old editor just emailed me and asked if I'd write a biography for Capstone, the new publisher where she works now. I love writing bios for kids (have done it 13 times) and gushed YES YES! So half of my mind is buried in research, back in the South Carolina hill country in 1781, where my heroine, teenaged Dicey Langston spied for the colonists. What fun!
May 24, 2014
May 16, 2014
May 10, 2014
Three wasps wandered along the top bar of the old split rail fence. I leaned in close to watch.They were focused on mouthing the surface and barely noticed me. Closer still, I could see patches of roughed up wood half an inch long here and there. One bent her mandibles down into a space where splinters, fine as the nap of velvet cloth, beckoned. She gathered a tiny snowball of fibers between those mandibles and its forelegs and flew off.
I wished I could follow her. Perhaps she would stop along the way to her nest for a deep drink of water. Back at home she'll 'chew' those fibers into a paste with her saliva and spread it in a paper-thin sheet, extending the paper wall built by her sister hive mates, mouthful by mouthful. The entire paper lantern structure can reach 2 1/2 feet long and hold thousands of wasps.
When they are not foraging for wood, wasps hunt for smaller insects which they kill and bring back to feed their queen or the hundreds of hungry larvae. They sting only to protect themselves, their little sisters or the Mother in their nest.
May 8, 2014
The Red Tailed Hawks are nesting nearby. They must be, for their hulking shapes in treetops silence the birds in my back yard at odd hours. The squirrels are subdued and secretive. We're seeing fewer and fewer chipmunks. Not one rabbit has hopped into sight all spring.
When a crow or raven lands in a treetop, the local songbirds go into attack mode driving the nest-raiders away. Nobody messes with the Red Tail.
Our Blue and Yellow Macaw, every bit as big as the hawk. ducks and flinches when the predator's high, thin cry pierces the air. I thrill to the sound, but then, I, too, am a top predator.