Catalpa

Hey, wait a minuted! It turns out I’d never seen a catalpa seed before.
The pods, sure, all the time, but always already empty.
Both the Northern and Southern catalpas are found in our region. They also hybridize. And there are a number of other species in the Catalpa genus that have gotten around as ornamentals.

Monday Galls

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres
At the tips of a young oak, small round nestled in filamenty nests. Galls (not Gauls, pace Casesar) with exit holes. Big question in the wonderful world of galls is: what emerged, the gall inducer or the inquiline (parasite)?

Not just on the bud tips.

Possibly something in the Andricus gall wasp genus. This is a large genus. As I understand it, each species makes a unique gall. These tiny wasps stimulate the tree by chemical commands and the tree grows a gall in response. The tree is being hijacked, but not really damaged (?).

But wait! I’d originally thought this tree was a red oak but could it be be a bur oak? Will have to double check this.

If it’s a bur, then Andricus quercusfrondosus sounds like a possibility. This source notes that this species creates autumnal growths for the the agamic or asexual generation. Yes, gall wasps, which were once all called gall flies, alternate an asexual generation and a sexual generation. According to the cited piece, the agamic or sexual generation isn’t known for this species.

More complications: found a similar if not same gall on a definite red oak, which will be the subject of another day.

To summarize: galls are complicated.

Whale Ho

I came across some research that showed a Bombus bumblebee species whose members got physically smaller in competition with the commercial livestock that are honey bees.

I was reminded of this when I read Richard J. King‘s reference to the shrinkage in the size of whales killed between 1900 and 1986, when the international moratorium on whale-hunting finally went into effect. Sperm whales showed the most dramatic declines: ones killed in the 1980s were one average 13.1 feet shorter than those killed in 1905.

The diminishment of whale populations in absolute numbers and size has had ricocheting effects throughout the oceans. Whale excrement was a major source of nitrogen, essential for phytoplankton, before the run-off from farms and suburban laws poured too much nitrogen in. The death of a great whale was an enormous boon to deep sea creatures.

The more whales there were, the more other lifeforms in the sea.

Japanese cast iron whale, paperweight or totem, piloted into our ken by a friend.

A Winter Walk

I suspect this is the remains of a Bald-faced Hornet nest.
We all have days like this, right?
A bad case of bagworm… although not of course for the Evergreen Bagworm Moth overwintering in these things.
Persimmon fruit road kill. This is a seed of the fruit.
A slug enjoying some mushrooms. A lot of creatures eat fungi. It’s best not to tell mycologist hobbyists where the ‘shrooms are so they don’t compete, stomping hither and yon and ripping up habitat for their own habit.
Same tree as the mushrooms and happy slug. A wasp in January! The whole world is thrown out of whack.

***

The western Monarch Butterfly is almost gone. Less than 1% of their 1980 population now exists. Here are five things you can do to help. The unstated sixth item, as always, is the defeat of the Trump death-cult. Yes, it’s a war: Mexican Monarch advocate Homero Gomez went missing a couple of days ago.

Still More Squirrels

I don’t want anybody to get the impression that all the squirrels are being eaten. Ran into all these on Wednesday in a small patch of Green-Wood.

In American Kestrel news: yesterday a female was seen from the windows here for the first time in months. She came to our attention because she was calling. The male flew in, over, and past and then returned, making a good bit of noise himself. A few minutes later they were mating. Seconds after settling side by side on a roof pipe they scattered in opposite directions as a young Red-tailed Hawk flew up to the pipe! The hawk soon flew to a local antenna, where the falcons regrouped and made a few diving runs over the big buteo. The hawk flew out of sight. Combined with the Peregrine spotted on the regular perch of the smokestack in the distance, that made four raptors seen before 8:15 a.m.
***

The fucking Republicans are now opening the flood gates of poison into streams and wetlands. They are simply, definitively, the party of death.

Raptors vs. Squirrels

Another adult Red-tailed Hawk, another Green-Wood squirrel.
Sunday above Sylvan Water.
How many squirrels are in the cemetery? Not as many, I would guess, as in Prospect Park.While looking for interesting birds lately I’ve come across a couple of squirrels doing their best to lay low inside conifers. On Sunday, on the other hand, five of them ran towards me before breaking this way and that, including up into a bush. They were acting like new-borns but weren’t. Most of Saturday’s snow was already gone.

Raptor Wednesday

It snowed on Saturday. Twice. In between, I happened to be watching several squirrels capering across the park from my window. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught something fly at a bush and then away, turning up to a tree limb. Several squirrels made a racket up there before retreating.
It was a young Cooper’s hawk. Seemed small, so probably a male. Female Cooper’s are notably larger than the males.
He had caught a bird in the bush. I think House Sparrow.

Circled the tree to try get some shots through the branches. The hawk ate unconcerned about the world on the ground, children riding sleds, snow blowers blowing, cars making their awful din.


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