Along the edge of the pond

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Frogs and Toads along the edge of the pond. Us looking at them. Them looking at us.

On that day we walked along the edge and counted eight frogs looking up enjoying an summer day. This little guy was especially curious and we spent a bit of time staring into each others eyes.

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Next we came upon this Western Toad looking a bit cranky so just a quick hello and we moved along the edge until we came upon another toad.

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This guys was a bit less cranky but still with that full toad personality on display…”leave me alone I’m catching bugs can’t you see. ”

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And we weren’t the only ones staring at the wildlife that day as these two little frogs were having quite a stare down upon a small rock.

Happy Friday and perhaps you can spend a bit of time along the edge of a pond this weekend.

Remembering Bunnyville

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For each of the last several years there has been a place in a field close to home that we dubbed Bunnyville. Home to a family, or perhaps families, of Mountain Cottontail rabbits.

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Each spring and summer a new batch of bunnies would appear like clockwork and inhabit the flower filled field and forest edges nearby.

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However this year we are Bunnyless! Predation by a cast of characters which include the Ermine, Golden Eagles, Bobcat, Coyote, and Foxes over the previous winter appear to decimated the Rabbit population in our area.

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It is a strange thing to experience a summer without out the rabbits although the Penstemon in are garden are relived. Yet a summer without baby bunnies of groups of teenage rabbits frolicking in the fields is a stage thing indeed.

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The grasses a growing longer without the natural lawnmowers….

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They always put a smile on our face and it is sad to realize the sun may have set on Bunnyville.  There is always hope the rabbits will return after all it only takes a couple.

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Wishing you a wonderful weekend and here’s to remembering Bunnyville.

C is for Comma

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A short pause is in order today to just soak in the beauty of the Comma, butterfly, that is.  One of the earlier butterfly species to grace the skies in our area each summer many of the earlier arrivals we observed actually overwintered as adults. Some finding refuge from the winters freeze deep in crevices of a trees bark.

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Some we found warming themselves collecting minerals from the moist soil on the forest floor.

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Whereas others were often found feeding on the new growth of the trees and shrubs.

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Yes, C is for Comma.

Juniper Hairstreak

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One of the most interesting butterflies found in our area is the beautiful and fancy in a non-fancy sort of way Juniper Hairstreak.  Widely distributed across the United States this butterfly is often seen in old fields, bluffs, barrens, juniper and pinyon-juniper woodlands, and cedar breaks. This one was photographed feeding on biscuit root along the base of a cliff that had several areas of Juniper growing. The male will sit all day upon the ends of juniper branches to attract a female.

Mr. White

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An Ermine still dressed in their winter whites peeks out from under a log. Seasons are changing and soon Mr. White will become Mr. Brown and we will have a hard time seeing him as he forages in the tall grasses of the fields nearby.

Boundless energy in such a small package makes them such a wonder to observe.

a “band”, “cast”, “party”, or perhaps a “scold”.

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Well that’s a mouthful.

The names given to groups of particular birds are always interning, and sometimes head-scratching to say the least, but with a little imagination these do seem to fit the bill.

So let’s begin.

Last week we got paid a visit by a group of six Stellar’s Jays. While it is typical for perhaps two or three to hang around the nearby forest six at once was a new experience. All six seemed friendly enough towards each other and curious enough about us so a “band” of jays…well perhaps.

A cast….ummmm….maybe. They each did seem to play a role in the whole show. Some were boisterous and bold others a bit more shy like this guy below who hung around on the edge of the forest while other paraded by quite close to us. Unfortunately they did not congregate or come close enough together for a nice group shot but we caught at least three or four individuals who all seemed to strike a similar pose and looked remarkably similar as well.

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All seemed to be having a good time and displayed quite a range of vocalizations ranging for the usual scolding Jay sounds to songbird initiations and one Jay was quite adept a imitating the sounds of a pair of Golden Eagles we have heard all winter calling from the tops of the trees. So in their very own Stellar’s Jay way it was indeed a party.

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And while we were indeed scolded every now and again for hanging around in their forest it was a gentle scolding and one we could easily accept for invading their space.

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So there you have it a nice visit with a “band”, “cast”, “party”, or perhaps a “scold” of Stellar’s Jays on a April afternoon.

As Spring Begins

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As spring begins snow still blankets the landscape. Yet it is not mid-winter snow. Transformed by wind and sun and then the cold of night this was a day to wander along and enjoy the season before it’s gone.

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Wind and sun and even more wind have given this snow covered hill a dune like quality.

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On this day the wind blew strong yet the sun was warm as we made our way along the trail and softening the thin veil of clouds along the distant horizon line.

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Streams began to flow some exposed and running free while others were still hidden beneath a blanket of snow.

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A seasons long drift formed what we called the ear.

BW_snowscapes_g To end the day the wind bid us adieu while crossing a final open valley as spring begins yet winter remain.

Have a wonderful weekend.

 

A curious case: The Color of Baby Coots.

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Why do American Coot chicks who develop into mainly greyish-black birds as adults begin their lives with such a splash of color? 1

That is a question a team of biologists have been asking for quite some time and, as is typical in science, the answer was not what they first expected. Previous studies conducted by this same laboratory concluded that coot parents preferentially feed chicks that display brighter coloration. The goal of the present study was to determine why this was the case.

The researchers noted that coots lay between 8-10 eggs and these eggs hatch in the order they were laid. Additionally coots are nest predators and lay eggs in other coots nests. One hypothesis was that the chicks hatched from predatory eggs were the more brightly colored chicks and thus would have gotten fed more. This turned out to be false. The researchers discovered that the chicks hatched from the latter laid eggs were the more brightly colored. Typically chicks hatched latter in a brood have to catch-up to their larger siblings if they are to survive. The researcher noted that if these smaller and brightly colored latecomers survived the parents would use their coloration as a way to preferentially feed these chicks more and allow them to catch-up to their earlier siblings. 2

A wonderful survial strategy reveled in a nicely done study. Hat’s off to science and to the coot.

References:

1. University of California – Santa Cruz. “The mysterious case of the ornamented coot chicks has a surprising explanation: The bright colors of the chicks of American coots help their parents choose favorites, according to a new study.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 December 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191231111817.htm.

2. Bruce E. Lyon, Daizaburo Shizuka. Extreme offspring ornamentation in American coots is favored by selection within families, not benefits to conspecific brood parasites. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019; 201913615 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1913615117