Friday, May 23, 2014

Eastern Tent Caterpillars: A time for a feeding frenzy & a time to say goodbye.

EASTERN TENT CATERPILLARS  Oakland County,  Michigan 
 All photos by Jonathan Schechter  5/23/2014
  The eastern tent caterpillar is a creature that is hard to miss and fascinating to watch.  The silky nests make for positive identification and the tent caterpillars tree campsites are popping up all over Oakland County in these waning days of May.  Most of the nests are secured  in the crotches of black cherry tree limbs, with the tender young leaves being the favorite food source.  The caterpillars crawl about all day munching on the leaves and return to the shelter of the nest after a last meal shortly after darkness.  Some say the caterpillars are late this year. Not so! Their emergence is timed to the food source and the great feeding frenzy began with the recent warm days and rains finally accelerated leaf growth.   Although branches are often defoliated the tree does just fine and careful observation confirms the tents are usually oriented with the largest wall facing the morning sun making for a longer feeding day.
 So is the case of these nests in my Brandon Township meadow.  
NOTE: This unfortunately is most likely my last Earth's Almanac blog post for The Oakland Press. Number 436. Its been fun! Look for a new nature blog I have created that appears on the government website of Oakland County, Michigan. WWW.LIVEOAKLANDCOUNTY.COM   is the  direct link to  my Oakland County Parks sponsored  "The Wilder Side of Oakland County"and readers will also find posts from others that promote and share tales and facts about life in Oakland County.  
Perhaps one day I will blog again for The Oakland Press.
 I have left the door open for occasional posts.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Goose Territorial Defense: Get off my land!

All photos by Jonathan Schechter,  Erie County N.Y. & Oakland County, MI   May 2014

Canada Geese are great parents. And they do not like intruders when nesting season arrives.
And one pair of Canada geese that has taken up housekeeping at the Ramada Inn in Getzville N.Y. uses a light post for a look out station and when hordes of humans approach from tour buses destined for nearby Niagara Falls it's time for their territorial defense action plan. The geese honk, wing flap and make impressive power dives warning humans to keep back.   And they mean business; so much so that hotel management posted signs in Japanese on the doorways to advise their Japanese clientele that geese may not be cuddly and a wary eye is in order.

The nests are easy to approach for what is more perfect for a goose than the median strip!

On the other side of the creek  the geese have found the living easy at an independent living facility and that management too is now warning their guest of the territorial defense in no uncertain terms.
And back in the rolling hills of  lake-studded Brandon Township, Michigan one pair of geese has hired an "alarm company" to warn of intruders. They have built their nest at the edge of a small lake in Sandhill Crane habitat.  Those geese activate their territorial defense needs based on the behavior of the keen-eyed cranes.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

SNOW:THE GREAT INSULATOR! Tales of a winter lake mishap and a lackluster spring forsythia bloom.

Photos by Jonathan Schechter.  Snow image February,  2014  Forsythia image April, 2014

It was frigidly cold morning in Oakland County and after nearly two weeks of the temperature hovering in single digits in late February I was not worried about thin ice.  I should have been. The snow was  deep and the lake is spring fed. I was on an early morning  mission to photograph a beaver lodge on a small kettle lake in a protected wildland of Oakland County.  My trek straight across the lake on snowshoes went well and I was enamored with the snow-capped lodge at the far side of the lake.  On my return trek across the lake taking a different route I missed some warning signs when I was about 15 feet from shore.  A few willows and cattails grew on the edge of the slope---- and willows and cattails like their feet' wet. I kept walking.  Suddenly one foot in slow motion plunged through the snow and ice into the water.  I quickly spread my weight and belly-slithered to shore, a bit shaken and far more respectful of the fact that snow is a great insulator and ice near the spring remained dangerously thin when sheltered from the extreme cold by snow.

Jump ahead to late April. The forsythia shrubs that edge my driveway should be thick with yellow blossoms.  This year, next to nothing; maybe three dozen blossoms. And every single blossom that finally appeared this year were within two feet of the ground and mostly on the leeward side. I thought about the record deep freeze during a time of high winds and the mercury plunging for days on end between  -10 and  -20 Fahrenheit.  You do not need to be a botanist or be an earth sciences forensic expert to figure out the rest of this story. The snow was just over two feet deep on the slope of the drive and snow was the great insulator that protected the blossoms that finally bloomed. Snow may be cold, but it remains a great insulator from extreme cold and frigid winds.