Monthly Archives: October 2015

Weekly Puzzler #85

soldier-5106

Happy Halloween!!!

As a child I LOVED this holiday. I always had a home-made costume (the best kind!) and went trick-or-treating with my brother or friends. Do you enjoy Halloween? What was the best costume you ever had?

I love to talk about the “creatures of Halloween”, namely spiders (Click HERE to read 10 things you may not know about spiders) and bats because they are often so misunderstood and feared. Many of the things we think we know about these creatures is not true at all, but simply myths that have been perpetuated for years. Last year I did a quiz in honor of this holiday. Click HERE if you’d like to try it!

A photo from the Zoobook magazine about BATS

A photo from the Zoobook magazine about BATS

This week’s puzzler, in honor of Halloween, is about bats. It is this simple question: Is there such a thing as Vampire Bats and if yes, where do they live?  Click HERE to see if your guess was correct.

Have fun and be safe this evening! And hey, don’t forget tonight is the night to set your clocks BACK one hour.

 

Weekly Puzzler Answer #84

When I was seeing this critter, I felt strongly that it was the larva of some kind of beetle, but didn’t know which one. It was so common that it seemed like it had to be one I had seen–and photographed before. When I looked it up, I learned that this is the larva of a Goldenrod Soldier Beetle, a beetle you often can see on flowers. Here’s a picture of an adult Goldenrod Soldier Beetle on a daisy. Have you ever seen this insect?

Adult Goldenrod Soldier Beetle on a daisy.

Adult Goldenrod Soldier Beetle on a daisy.

 

Soldier beetles are beneficial and harmless insects so if you see one in your garden, you should let it be. As larva, they are fierce predators, feeding on the eggs and larva of other insects, including ones that may do damage to your plants. They live as larvae for 1 to 3 years before becoming winged adults. As adults, they feed mainly on pollen and nectar, though many online sources suggest they are also predators.

Soldier beetles got their names from their cloth-like wing covers that resemble uniforms of soldiers. There are many kinds of soldier beetles. Even though the adults can secrete a defensive chemical that makes they less tasty, they are eaten by many other creatures, including spiders, other insects, and birds. Check out this photo of a Soldier Beetle being devoured by an Assassin Bug. Yikes! You never know when your time on Earth is up–especially if you are an insect. Here’s a post about assassin bugs, if you are interested.

soldier--2

You may know (especially if you’ve been a subscriber here very long!) that there are A LOT of beetles in the world!

In fact, there are MORE species of beetles than there are kinds of plants on the entire earth!

Biologists have identified more than 300,000 different species, though they suspect that number is much, much higher. New species are being discovered all of the time.

A ladybug is another kind of beetle, as is a firefly. Both are misnamed! As they are neither bugs nor flies, but beetles!

Click HERE for the next puzzler! It’s about THE most famous creature of Halloween.

Have a fabulous day and weekend! Happy Halloween!

What do Bananas, Tequila, Figs and Chocolate have in Common?

Do you know what these items have in common? Any guesses?

Let’s start with bananas… did you know bananas are pollinated by bats? Or that tequila, which comes from the Agave plant, is also pollinated by bats? Figs? They are not pollinated by bats but many bats EAT them and then spread their seeds far and wide–indirectly helping the figs. And chocolate? According to BCI (Bat Conservation International) “economists estimate that without bats controlling pest populations, cocoa bean yields would fall by up to 22%.”

So bananas, tequila, figs and chocolate are all helped, indirectly and directly, by bats. Know what else is on this list? Guava is also pollinated by bats. Cashews, papaya,jackfruit and dates are also foods supported by bat seed dispersal. And sugar, walnuts, rice, coffee, corn, pears, macadamia, cucumbers,almonds and pecans are also foods supported by bat pest control.

Fruit bats in Thailand

Fruit bats in Thailand

Did you know this is BAT WEEK? Have you heard of this? Bat week is an annual, international celebration of the role of bats in nature. This year it goes from October 25th through the 31st.

YOU can take part in this celebration. One of the ways is by building a bat box.

Bat box

Bat box

bci2-1767BCI has a goal of building  5000 new bat boxes! Putting up bat boxes is a great way to attract bats and give them a safe place to live. Why would you want to do that? Because bats EAT A REALLY LOT OF INSECTS! A bat the size of an average-person’s hand can eat up to 1000 mosquito-sized insects in ONE HOUR! This is incredible. Getting rid of mosquitoes in your yard surely must sound like a great idea!

Click HERE to find about bat-box-building events NEAR YOU.

If you already have a bat box, or don’t want to take part in this way, you can celebrate bat week by spreading the word about these important creatures and helping dispel some common and very widespread myths. Click HERE for some of those myths or HERE for 5 ways YOU can help bats.

If you take part in Bat Week, I’d love to hear about it! Drop me a quick note.

Bats in Thailand

Bats in Thailand

Weekly Puzzler Answer #83

You may have heard this sound if you were in a field or meadow recently. It may have been hard to distinguish though, seeing as how it is likely it was mixed with MANY other animal sounds. When all those sounds are filling the air, it’s hard to tell one from another!

Notice how the palps and antennae are blurry--that's because they are in constant motion!

Notice how the palps and antennae are blurry–that’s because they are in constant motion!

This sound is made from an insect called a Handsome Trig. I only learned of this creature when I took a picture of one, wondered what it was, then researched to identify it. This is often how I learn about new animals, especially insects and spiders. This was one I’d never seen and certainly wouldn’t have been able to identify by sound.

Handsome trigs belong to a small group of tiny crickets. The word “trig” comes from Trigonidiinae, the taxonomic subfamily of crickets. In North America there are 18 species. trig-9411

Handsome trigs are black and red with cream colored legs, their bodies only 1/4 to 1/3 inch long. Their latin name–Phyllopalpus pulchellus–means “beautiful leaf-feeler” because their mouthparts, called palps, are in constant motion. The trig uses them to “taste” the environment. In addition, they constantly move their long antennae.

When singing, the male holds his wings nearly straight up, rubbing one wing against the other to create their unique sound.

Want to try the next puzzler? Click HERE.

Weekly Puzzler #84

Before my trip to the Adirondacks, I had been spending a lot of time in the fields near where I live, collecting Milkweed leaves (for my friends Sara and Steph) and looking for cool things to photograph. I always find interesting things, many of which I can’t immediately identify, but usually research later. This is how I learn best! Finding first and looking up later. The internet has made this so much easier than in years past.

puzzler-The critter pictured here is one often found on the Milkweed leaves. Have you ever seen it? Do you know what it is? Check back next weekend to see if your guess was correct!

Until then, happy weekend.

Quote of the Week #42

Do you live somewhere that has four seasons? Which is your favorite? Has fall arrived yet where you live? Have you gotten a chance to get out and enjoy the lovely colors?


DSC_4143-Edit
I spent the last two weeks in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, a place decorated with winding rivers, tree-covered mountains and sparkling lakes. Autumn there is spectacular, the vibrant colors adding to the beauty. For days, I camped, kayaked, hiked, contemplated, photographed, explored and did nothing but sit and appreciate the scenery.

If you’ve never visited this part of the country, I highly recommend checking it out some day–and in my opinion, fall is the best season there. You will be amazed! (If you live there, wow, lucky you! Such a beautiful place.)

For this week’s quote, I thought I would share some of my pictures from the trip along with these words by Ralph Waldo Emerson: (You may have heard a shorter version of this quote, but I love it best in its entirety.)

To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before and which shall never be seen again.

(When viewing the slide show, to make the pause icon in the middle of the picture disappear, move your arrow to the side and then let it play. And really, there are a lot of photos! But I included many so you can sit and be in the moment for a little while, just enjoying the scenery. How often do you do that–just sit and enjoy the moment?)

Click above if you want to enjoy this with instrumental music, which includes natural sounds including loons calling across the lake.)

Music of nature Fall at Lewey LakeHave you seen this Forest PaintingSerenity Happily TogetherA Common LoonSuspendedLewey Lake morningA foggy morning on Lewey LakeFloodwood LakeWater colorsGolden light Gorgeous hillsideExploring the lakeAdirondack scenery Twin Falls More water artLake Durant in all its gloryClouds over Lake DurantA roadside capturePerfectly splitButtermilk FallsA mallardExploring a small riverLeaves make great subjects!ReflectionsSkytop tower at Mohonk PreserveSuspended animation What colors!Morning calmSunrise at Middle PondBeauty is everywhere!Glen FallsNature's perfection Quiet riverAnticipationSentinels at Middle PondPeaceFishing at Bog RiverRocks in the riverSilent beautyDancing along the streamSplendid colorsPerfect reflectionQuiet contemplationMuskrat at Middle PondIn the skyAlong the riverSunrise at Middle PondBabbling brookSolitudeGlory of fall Campsite Thinking rock Sunset at Tupper LakeCanada geese are on the moveStillnessGlen Falls Secret cascadeFloating leafGeese are heading southAnd on to the next adventure!

May fall where you live be fabulous! Enjoy it because it will be gone before you know it. Schedule a hike or drive soon–and while you’re out there, don’t forget to notice the small details too–those can be just as beautiful!

10 Things You May Not Know about Loons

algonquin-2

I have to say that loons are one of my favorite birds. To me they symbolize wilderness and solitude, two things I really appreciate and love. I just spent two weeks in the Adirondacks of New York State and was lucky enough to hear the calls of loons several times.

image

Here are a few things that may surprise you about loons:

  1. Loons need lakes larger than nine to ten acres because it’s hard for them to take off from small bodies of water. They need 30 yards up to a quarter of a mile for takeoff, depending on the wind. If they land on a small pond or are fooled by a parking lot or wet highway, they can become stranded.
  2. Loons eat fish, and a lot of them, swallowing them whole–underwater– after they grab them. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, ” Biologists estimate that loon parents and their 2 chicks can eat about a half-ton of fish over a 15-week period.” That’s a lot of fish!
  3. Have you ever handled a fish out of the water? Then you know how slippery they can be. Ever wondered how birds like loons keep a grip on them? The loon has sharp, rear-pointing projections on the roof of its mouth and tongue that helps handle slippery fish. 
  4. Loons are well-adapted to the water. Besides having solid bones that that make them less buoyant and better at diving, they also slow down their heart rate during a dive, allowing them to conserve oxygen. In addition, they blow air out of their lungs and flatten their feathers so they can dive quickly and swim underwater.image
  5. Loons migrate for the winter, traveling to coastal ocean waters. During winter their plumage is a drab, gray that is not nearly as striking as their distinctive white and black.
  6. imageLoons are good flyers, able to travel up to 70 miles per hour. Unlike larger birds like pelicans or vultures, loons must flap their small wings almost constantly, not able to soar or glide like many other birds.
  7. Male and female loons look the same. 
  8. Loons have red eyes to attract members of the opposite sex, in the same way a red-winged blackbird has a patch of red feathers on his wings to grab the attention of females.
  9. During winter the loon will molt all of its feathers at once, not able to fly at this time! This lasts for a few weeks and puts the birds at a tremendous disadvantage against predators.
  10. The legs of loons are so far back on their bodies that they are extremely awkward on land, not able to walk more than a few steps. They build their nests on land, especially islands where they can be just a few feet from water

image Did you learn anything new about loons? I hope so! They are such interesting birds and such great indicators of water quality.