Thursday, November 28, 2013

Crane-berries, Thanksgiving, and Sandhill Cranes...

Cranberries...people either love them or hate them. I'm one that loves them, so earlier this week while thinking about the big feast, I decided to research how cranberries were grown. I knew they were native berries that grew in bogs, etc., but I didn't really know the mechanics of it. Before learning about their cultivation, however, I stumbled across a history of the berry and was delighted to learn cranberries were named after one of my favorite birds, the Sandhill Crane...

Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) blossoms watercolor painting
Pilgrims and other early European settlers thought the tiny cranberry blossom resembled a Sandhill Crane and soon took to calling them crane-berries. Over the years, the name of the sweet and tangy native fruit was shortened to cranberry.
With the long slender stem, the pink-white petals that curve back forming a head, the red on at the top of the stamen creating a "forehead," which then curves down to a long tapered "bill," it's easy to see how a cranberry blossom would make people think of a Sandhill Crane...

Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) watercolor painting
A long slender neck, a whitish head, a rosy red forehead, and a long bill....yep, looks like a cranberry blossom to me! 
Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) are native to North America. They are unique and grow only in acid peat soil with a supply of fresh water, sand and a long growing season (April to November, which makes them the perfect Thanksgiving treat!). They also require dormancy and cold temps in winter to complete their life cycle. Cranberries grow on vines in beds made up of layers of sand, peat, gravel and clay. Mother Nature created the original "bogs" from glacial deposits. Man continues to refine the process today:

Click here for "Cranberries 101" - an introduction to how cranberries grow from the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association

Click here for a history of cranberries from the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association

Click here for a description of cranberry crop pollination by bees

Click here for the heath benefits of cranberries

Happy Thanksgiving!
(...and yeah! for the crane berry.)

Monday, November 25, 2013

White-tailed Deer grazing along the boardwalk...

If you're walking the boardwalk at Maumee Bay State Park in Toledo, OH, you're bound to see a few White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the woods. We saw a doe with her fawn several time while we were there...

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) - a young male fawn, or button buck
White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawn along the boardwalk at Maumee Bay. 
The vibrissae (feelers or whiskers) around a deer's eyes look like giant eye lashes. A deer does have upper eyelashes, but not lower eyelashes; however, the beautiful vibrissae extend three to four inches from above and below the eye. They function, just like in cats and dogs, as feelers to help the animal feel its way around by warning it that something is near its face. Deer have vibrissae on the chin and by the nose as well. Vibrissae are embedded deep in the skin and are surrounded by sensitive touch neurons. In addition to warning the animal of an object's proximity, vibrissae seem to help with identifying objects.

A male fawn (six months old or younger) is called a button buck. If you look in front of his ears, you'll notice a "button" on each side. These are where his antlers will grow next year.

The boardwalk at Maumee Bay State Park and Lodge. Deer can be spotted near the boardwalk as you stroll through the woods. 

Mama deer sees me while her button buck continues to graze.
While reading about White-tailed Deer, I learned the White-tailed Deer is the state animal of Ohio. It was designated our official animal in 1988. For all of the state symbols, click here.

A White-tailed Deer fawn and doe graze in the afternoon sun.

Camouflage and a little grass bed kept this doe out of view. I only saw her because the Golden-crowned Kinglet I was photographing (in the photo below) dove down into the grasses by the deer's hiding spot. 
If I had not been following this tiny kinglet I never would have seen the deer. When I lost sight of bird, I moved the lens to the right, and the deer from the previous photo popped into view!

White-tailed Deer Grazing from Kelly Riccetti on Vimeo.

I took these photos on Nov 4, 2013.

For more information:

Deer Facts
Click here for "How to Tell a Doe From a Button Buck," by Jane Maggitt
Click here for "White-tailed Wonders," by W.H. (Chip) Gross, ODNR

Click here for an excellent source that explains "Vibrissal behavior and function," by Tony J. Prescott.
Click here for a more simplified description of vibrissae in an article in Psychology Today titled, "Why do Dogs Have Whiskers?" by Stanley Coren, PH.D.
Click here for an even more simplified description of "How do whiskers work?" by Steve Harris at Discover Wildlife.

Deer Vision
Click here for a description of a visual capabilities study at the University of Georgia, "Investigation of Visual Abilities of White-tailed Deer."
Click here for "Ask the Deer Biologist" for an answer to the question, "What colors of light can whitetails see?"(Pennsylvania Game Commission)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ring-billed Gulls at Maumee Bay State Park

Ring-billed Gulls ruled the roost at Maumee Bay State Park Lodge while we were there the first week in November. Other gulls and terns were present too, such as large numbers of Bonaparte's Gulls, Herring Gulls, and few Caspian and Common Terns, but Ring-billed Gulls were everywhere.  The handsome birds had become habituated to humans and almost seemed to pose for the camera...

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) standing in the grass at the Maumee Bay State Park Lodge in Toledo, OH
Ring-billed Gull at Maumee Bay State Park in Toledo, Ohio (adult, non-breeding)

The pale yellow eye and the complete ring around the bill are great field marks to look for when identifying Ring-billed Gulls.

Ring-billed Gulls have pale yellow eyes rimmed in black. They also have pale yellow legs.
From a distance, a Ring-billed Gull might look bland, but their pale yellow eyes rimmed in black are striking. During breeding season, the orbital ring is red.

Black-tipped primaries are easily seen on Ring-billed Gulls.
The tips of the primaries on the wings are black...another field mark to look for.

It's easy to see the black-tipped primaries in flight. 

First and second-year Ring-billed Gulls do not look like adult Ring-bills. Click here for an article with photos by Cornell on how to identify young Ring-billed Gulls. How long can Ring-billed Gulls live? According to John Eastman in his book Birds of Field and Shore, if Ring-billed Gulls live beyond their second year, they have a good chance of making it 20 years or more (Eastman, pg 89)!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Golden-crowned Kinglets at the Cox Arboretum Metropark in Dayton

Rick and I visited the Cox Arboretum MetroPark in Dayton, OH Sunday afternoon. It was our first time there, and I'm glad we went. We didn't know anything about the park, so after looking at the trail map, we decided to take the 1.8 mile "yellow" trail. According to the map, it wound through a mature deciduous forest interspersed with cedar groves. It promised to be birdy, and after only a few minutes, a Brown Creeper started his high-pitched peeping, and we soon saw him spiraling up a tree just off the path. Within seconds of our "ooohhing" and "ahhhhing" over the creeper, a little band of Golden-crowned Kinglets dropped in on us. The intrepid little birds came in so close I was amazed and wondered if they would try to land on us. They were scouring the branches in a flurry of movement, snapping up tiny insects right and left. It was exciting (and very deja vu Maumee Bay)...

Clear view of the yellow crest on a Golden-crowned Kinglet
A Golden-crowned Kinglet zipped in beside close!

Golden-crowned Kinglet
...sweet little kinglet with the golden crown.

kinglet nabbing an insect
Look closely between her bill. She has a tiny insect!

The golden light of late afternoon washes over this little kinglet.

...sweet little kinglet is definitely playing peek-a-boo!
I see you!

The Cox Arboretum MetroPark was lovely. I definitely want to go back this spring and summer to photograph butterflies. The wetland and bird blind looked interesting as well. 

I will pick back up with the Maumee Bay posts, but these little kinglets were so cute I had to post them right away!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

We struck gold at Maumee Bay State Park...

I just returned from an exciting mini birding trip to Maumee Bay State Park in Toledo, Ohio. I went up with my parents, aunt and cousin, and we really had fun (Rick had to work, but he's coming next year!). There is nothing like big water, fall migration, autumn color, and brisk, cool temperatures to create a little adventure.  A beautiful boardwalk picks up on the grounds of the park just east of the Maumee Bay Lodge where we stayed. The boardwalk wound through a swamp forest thick with golden maple leaves and opened into a wetland marsh washed in golds and yellows. Gold was definitely the color of the day, and even the first bird we saw on the boardwalk was golden...

A Golden-crowned Kinglet greeted us as we walked on the boardwalk at Maumee Bay State Park. 

 This female was part of a flock of five Golden-crowned Kinglets. They were twittering back and forth to each other, making a tiny ruckus among the gold leaves along the boardwalk. They came in so close, and stayed around us so long, it was like they were welcoming us to Lake Erie, the Great Black Swamp, and all things north! 

...the bright yellows and golds along the boardwalk set a festive mood, and the swish of leaves as we waded through them added to the fun. Rosy cheeks, cold noses and flannel...I love the celebration of autumn. 

...our little band of kinglets followed us around. Love her sweet golden crown!

...the temps were biting just a bit when the wind kicked up. Nothing like the sight of a kinglet puffed up to keep out the cold!

I already miss the boardwalk, the crisp leaves crunching underfoot, and the sound of gulls and terns along Lake Erie...and the fun I had with my family. We will be back next year for fall migration again...(and for the great food at the lodge restaurant...yum!) 

For an older post with more info on kinglets and photos that show a male displaying his tangerine beret, click here.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Japanese White-eyes in Maui

These little birds are cute -- cute faces, cute voices, cute antics, and they are everywhere on Maui. Unfortunately, Japanese White-eyes (Zosterops japonicus) aren't native to the Hawaiian islands, and they are causing problems for native birds. These cheerful little birds were introduced to O'ahu in 1929 and Hawaii in 1937 to help with bug control. Since then they have become invasive and are now one of the most abundant birds in the Hawaiian Islands...

Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicus) in a plumeria tree.
Japanese White-eyes are also called by their Japanese name, Mejiro. 

...that white eye ring stands out against the yellow and olive-green feathers!
A cute bird in a beautiful plumeria tree...
If you visit Maui, you'll see one of these sweet birds. They live in all environments, wet, dry, urban, suburban, rural, and even on the way up the volcano! 

Click here for more information on White-eyes in Hawaii, including one positive benefit of their presence...Japanese White-eyes might be able to be "replacement pollinators" for certain plants that used to be pollinated by native species of birds that have become extinct.

I photographed this bird on 6-28-2013 on Maui.