I just downloaded the Raptor Resource 2008 Project Banding Report (how's that for a little light reading?), and I found the following:
"We removed the High Bridge stack nest box after the 2007 nesting season. Xcel Energy was converting from a coal facility to natural gas turbine operation, and planned to raze the stack some time in early 2008. We installed a replacement nest box on the nearby ADM stackhouse, but it appears that the falcons chose to nest under the nearby High Bridge instead."
All spring we watched and waited, and the birds were there all along! I'll get in touch with the folks at Xcel and Raptor Resource and see what we can do about watching the peregrines during the 2009 nesting season.
Courtesy Nemo's great uncleI pride myself in my ability to scoot along the greasy razor edge of what’s cool at any given moment. Like right now this is cool: Tentacles. And…now collecting vintage Booberry, Frankenberry, and Count Chocula boxes is cool. And now tentacles are cool again.
It amazes me, then, that this new wave splashed right by me: foot flesh-eating fish. Or, really, I suppose they’d eat flesh from anywhere, but what they’re getting is foot flesh. But how could I have missed this for so long? I mean, Tyra Banks, Eastern Europe, and big chunks of Asia are already all about flesh-eating fish. Sure, Tyra Banks is a little wiser than most people, and I can’t remember a time when Eastern Europe wasn’t dancing on the cutting edge, but that doesn’t mean I have to feel good about it.
So, what we’re dealing with here, to go back to the very beginning, are little carp, Garra ruffa. The carp are native to rivers across the Middle East, and are kept and bred in outdoor pools in Turkish spas. Why? Because they swarm people and eat the dead skin off their bodies.
The fish eat skin because food can be scarce in the warm pools they live in, and because their little jaws are toothless, they’re only able to eat dead skin.
Apparently dead skin isn’t very cool. (I have a feeling that it’s going to be the next big thing, though.) If you’ve got some dead skin on your feet that you’re afraid people will see, there’s a foot fish spa near D.C. The fish are also recommended as an alternative treatment for psoriasis, but you might have to cross an ocean to get to a pool full of psoriatic plaque-gulping fish.
The circle of life. Fantastic.
Courtesy LykaestriaThat’s right, folks! If you aren’t already up on your solstice news, it’s today! The north end up the Earth’s axis is at maximum tilt towards our yellow sun, and that means it’s the longest day of the year for those of us in the northern hemisphere. Yes!
Things to consider:
Spring is springing, and birds are nesting, and you can be a part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's NestWatch project. They provide the training. You can observe natural nest sites or nest boxes, and your observations get permanently archived in North America's largest breeding bird database. The data collected helps scientists better understand threats to bird species. Pretty cool.
The Science Museum is hosting a distinguished visitor this week, one whom most of us may not meet in a lifetime in Minnesota. On Monday, December 10th, a bird called a Townsend's Solitaire appeared, feeding on the blue cones (not berries) of the red cedar (or Juniper) trees outside the P1 level of the parking ramp. It has since favored the Big Back Yard, where it suns itself on some of the structures and bordering fence and shrubbery.
Courtesy Adele Binning
A resident of the western mountains from Alaska to New Mexico, and east to the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Solitaire is a very rare migrant and winter visitor in Minnesota. Although recorded at widespread locations across the state, it appears only as an occasional individual in unpredictable fashion.
True to its name, the Solitaire is a lover of solitude and its bold, clear, ringing song wonderfully symbolizes its wilderness surroundings. This member of the thrush family somewhat resembles a miniature mockingbird in color and many markings, but is closer to the size of a slender bluebird--about eight inches in length.
How long this guest will stay with us remains to be seen...
Oh, sure. Autumn looks pretty, with its big flashy colors and brilliant blue skies. But that’s just a mask it wears to disguise its true, evil intentions. Everything good in the world is dying, all around us, and there’s nothing we can do about it. In fall the nights grow longer, the days colder. Beaches close. Bicycles get packed away for the season. The two most perfect inventions of the mind of man – daylight saving time and baseball – both come to a close. It is the end of life as we have known it. And all we have to look forward to are endless months of icicle winds, lowering skies, and – worst of all – football.
The fiery colors of Autumn are the flames of a funeral pyre, a sign of death and decay. According to Susan Carpenter, native plant gardener at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, leaves depend on the chemical auxin to keep open the tubes that supply water, sugar and nutrients. But the cooler temperatures and shorter days of Autumn shut off auxin production. The tubes are cut off, and the leaf strangles and dies. Chlorophyll, the green chemical that gives leaves their summer color, disintegrates, leaving behind two other chemicals: yellow carotene and red anthocyanin. Different tree species contain these chemicals in different amounts, resulting in the various colors we see.
Trees are at their most colorful when a cool, wet summer is followed by a sunny, dry fall. Rainfall promotes tree growth, and moderate temperatures prevent scorching in the summer sun. Extra sunlight in the fall allows trees to continue producing their chemicals right up to the end.
Here in Michigan, we had pretty much the opposite – a summer of drought and searing temperatures, followed by a fairly wet fall. The trees have been pretty brown since mid-September, though a few of them are making a late run at color. Don’t bother, boys. We’re depressed enough as it is.
While walking in the woods of Michigan (Upper Peninsula) I was amazed at the many mushrooms growing there. I think the one in my photo is an amanita muscaria var. formosa or guessowii, also known as fly agaric.
This variety of mushroom has become famous because of its depiction in Alice in Wonderland (the perch for the hookah smoking caterpillar), the dancing mushroom sequence in the 1940 Disney film Fantasia, in children's picture books showing gnomes and fairies, and in the video game series Super Mario Bros.
Fly agaric fruiting bodies emerge from the soil looking like a white egg, covered in the white warty material of the universal veil. As the fungus grows, the red colour appears through the broken veil, and the cap changes from hemispherical to plate-like and flat in mature specimens.
Many older books list this mushroom as deadly, but deaths from A. Muscaria are extremely rare. The amount and ratio of chemical compounds per mushroom varies widely from region to region, season to season, confusing the issue. Spring and summer mushrooms may contain up to 10 times as much ibotenic acid (poison) as compared to fall fruitings. According to some sources, the ibotenic acid is detoxified by conversion into muscimol when the mushrooms are properly prepared.
Amanita muscaria was widely used as a hallucinogenic drug by many of the peoples of Siberia. I have often heard about people drinking the urine of rheindeer that have eaten the mushrooms, or poor people drinking the urine of those wealthy enough to buy these mushrooms. I wonder if this started the myth about flying reindeer? One source in wikipedia even credits Santa claus and hanging stockings by the fireplace to amanita muscaria cultures.
Every year, I try to get up to Hawk Ridge in Duluth, Minnesota to watch the hawk migration that takes place every autumn. I’ve written about this event before, so I won’t elaborate too much about it in words. You can check my posting from last year here. And if you want even more information, check out the official Hawk Ridge website.
I did want to mention that the day I was there wasn’t an optimal day for seeing a lot of hawks (on some days when the wind is right thousands of them can be seen flying over), but what it lacked in quantity, it made up for in quality – and with gorgeous weather to boot.
Fall is the season when deer are mating and they don’t have all their wits about them, kind of like the people hanging out in downtown Minneapolis late on Friday and Saturday nights.
What that means is that fall is also the prime time for car/deer collisions. I’ve been through several of these personally (I even hit two deer at once one time) and it’s not fun.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports that we have about 19,000 auto/deer collisions each year. Those result in around 450 injuries to humans and two deaths, on average.
On top of that, it’s not cheap to hit a deer. The average cost per insurance claim for collision damage is $2,800. If someone gets hurt, that average climbs to $10,000.
Fall is the peak time for the deer to be moving with November and December being the prime times. Here are some tips on how to deal with, and reduce, your exposure to smacking a deer on the road.
• Pay attention to deer crossing signs. They’re put up in places that traditionally have a lot of deer activity.
• Be especially aware around sunrise and sunset. That’s when deer are most often on the move.
• If you see a deer, be extra alert. There’s usually more. Deer usually travel in groups.
If you see a deer on the road:
• Slow down and blast your horn with a long blast to make it move.
• Brake firmly, but don’t leave your traffic lane. More serious accidents involving deer happen when drivers try to swerve to avoid hitting the deer, resulting in hitting other cars or obstacles along the road.
• Always wear a seatbelt. Most injuries in car/deer collisions could have been avoided by wearing a seatbelt.
• Don’t count on deer whistles, fences or reflectors to prevent deer from getting in your path. There is no proven information on these items reducing deer collisions.
Do you have a deer crash story? Let us know about it here at Science Buzz.