Katie’s Sightings

Katie’s Sightings

By Katie O’Hara Kelly

Neighborhood News!

Black Bear – Ursus americanus

On one of my morning wanders this week, I ran into my friends Jack and Linda on the road. They had JUST photographed a Black Bear in our neighborhood! So, naturally I hot-footed it to the location where they had seen it, and luckily it was still there! Yahoo! I didn’t want to disturb the bear, so I kept my distance, and zoomed in with my camera. It was foraging in a small grassy area, mainly eating clover! It didn’t appear to be much interested in me, and only looked at me from time to time while it foraged! It was a medium-sized, very healthy looking bear! After just a few minutes I left the bear to himself. I very rarely see Black Bears during the day. What a thrill it was to watch this one foraging on plants!

Black Bears average 3′-3’5” in height, 4’6″-6’2″ in length, and 203 lbs. – 587 lbs. in weight. Despite their large size, they are not usually predators. They mainly eat insects, grubs, fruit, berries, twigs, bugs, leaves, nuts, roots, the cambium layer of trees, honey, and fish. Occasionally they will eat small to medium-sized mammals and carrion. They are primarily nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), but can be seen at any time of the day. Their range is typically 8-10 square miles, and occasionally up to 15 square miles. Males and females are solitary except briefly during mating. However, offspring will stay with their mother for up to 17 months. I wonder if the three cubs I saw last September, are still with their mother. Maybe this bear is one of those cubs!

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Katie’s Sightings

By Katie O’Hara Kelly

After the Rain

Morel – Morchella esculenta
Left over Morel Stems

After we got 8 inches of rain a few weeks ago, some Morel mushrooms popped up on our property, like they do every Spring! Mushrooms aren’t flowers, but they are the fruiting body (spore producing organ) of a fungus. Morels are unique mushrooms, in that they appear in the spring rather than the fall. They are a type of sac fungi that aren’t that common! Sac fungi get their names from the fact that they produce their spores, called ascospores, in special pods or sac-like structures called asci. In other words, the spores are found on the walls of the honey-combed exterior. They are quite difficult to see as they are SO camouflaged with their surroundings. Once you find one, the rest suddenly become visible! A few days later I went back and three of them had been eaten, with only their stem remaining! Many wild critters eat mushrooms, including deer and flying squirrels.

Horsetails!

To my delight I came across a patch of Common Horsetails with many sporophytes this week! They were a lovely surprise! Horsetails have been around a long time, and are considered “living fossils”! During the Devonian period, approximately 3,500 years ago, they were as thick as forests and as big as trees!

Braun’s Giant Horsetail fertile and infertile stems
Equisetum telmateia ssp. braunii

Horsetails, like mushrooms, ferns, and mosses, reproduce via spores not seeds and do not have flowers. Horsetails are actually classified as ferns!!! They can also reproduce directly from underground rhizomes. This particular species is dimorphic, with infertile vegetative stems that are green and photosynthetic, and fertile stems that are brown and not photosynthetic, but do produce strobili (a structure resembling the cone of a conifer) covered with sporangiophores that produce spores.

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Katie’s Sightings

By Katie O’Hara Kelly

A Bejeweled Blog

This week I spotted two tiny (1 cm) beetles on a Silk Tassel Bush! They didn’t look like anything in my field guide, so I posted them on bugguide.net. Right away they were identified as Leaf Beetles, in the Chrysomelidae Family. Their brilliant, metallic, blue-green color was amazing!!! It made me wonder what causes this iridescence, or “luminous colors that seem to change when seen from different angles.” It occurs naturally in some beetles, some butterflies, and some birds. The color is not from pigment, but rather from structure. Interestingly, the color works as camouflage, not as warning to a predator or as an advertisement for a mate!

The following information from http://www.webexhibits.org/ explains how this coloration works.

“The epicuticle, or outermost surface, of iridescent beetles is made of many stacks of slanting, plate-like layers, which are oriented in different directions. These layers bend, and then reflect the incoming light in the same way as the ridges of iridescent butterfly and moth scales. A layer of pigment below the refractive plates of beetles and the ridges of iridescent butterfly scales enhances the effect of the iridescence. In some species, the epicuticle acts as a reflection diffraction grating to cause iridescence.

Most insect structural colors are in the green-blue-violet range, but red, gold, and copper colors may also be produced in this way. The shade of color and its intensity are determined by several factors, including the thickness and spacing of the layers of the scales, or epicuticle, the number of these layers, and the angle of the incoming light.”

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Katie’s Sightings

By Katie O’Hara Kelly

Blossoms, Bugs, and Birds!

Taken with permission from northyubanaturalist.blogspot.com

Scarlet Fritillary – Fritillaria recurva

With the temperatures warming up and the days getting longer, birds are arriving, widlflowers are blooming, and bugs are buzzing! There’s so much going on! The wildflowers are attracting a variety of pollinators. Are they attracted to the color, the scent, or the flavor of the flower nectar? The answer isn’t that simple! Read on to discover how the pollination process works!

Some flowers are scented while others have dazzling patterns and colors. The extraordinarily beautiful Scarlet Fritillary doesn’t have a fragrance but its eye-popping checkerboard pattern attracts many pollinators. What we see isn’t necessarily what an insect or bird sees when it looks at a flower. In fact most insects, except for butterflies, can’t see the color red, but birds can! For instance, while I was photographing the Scarlet Fritillary pictured above, a hummer briefly fed on a blossom!

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Katie’s Sightings

By Katie O’Hara Kelly

Too Busy to Blog!

Taken with permission from northyubanaturalist.blogspot.com

American White Pelican – Pelicanus erythrorhynchos

No time to blog this week, but I did want to let you know that the beautiful American White Pelican that hung out on the river for seven days has “recovered” and flown off! YAY! When we first saw it, it was hunched up on the shore. Over the course of a week it started to wade into the river and clean itself, then it flew up and down the river, and then last Friday it flew off downriver! We haven’t seen it since then! Yahoo