Stories tagged phenology

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.

Jul
22
2008

"Doctor Fish": The hand will be skeletal inside of three minutes.
"Doctor Fish": The hand will be skeletal inside of three minutes.Courtesy Nemo's great uncle
I 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.

Take a look.

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.

Jun
20
2008

Ho ho, Buzzers, get used to it: Because you'll be seeing a lot of this little star today. And pretty much every day.
Ho ho, Buzzers, get used to it: Because you'll be seeing a lot of this little star today. And pretty much every day.Courtesy Lykaestria
That’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:

  • It’s vampire safety day! Sock it to the sun-fearing undead, and enjoy a super long day with no fear of attack by blood suckers (except, you know, mosquitos)!
  • You know that goofy, blue, photosensitive paper you can put keys and flowers and stuff on, and then develop it in your tub for a silhouette of keys and flowers and stuff? You can use that stuff for hours and hours today! Do it!
  • In Antarctica today (and for weeks and weeks to come!) they won’t see the sun at all! Enjoy that, scientists!
  • Your summer magic will be particularly potent today! Work on your spells, wizards!
  • If you’ve got a solar car, today is your day! Head for the mountains!
  • Exclamation points are free today!! Until sunset!!!! Use them all you want!!!

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.

Winter Solstice is upon us!

by Anonymous on Dec. 23rd, 2007

Shorter days are going the way of the dinosaurs: More daylight ahead!
Shorter days are going the way of the dinosaurs: More daylight ahead!Courtesy Mark Ryan
Although December 22nd marked the first day of Winter, it also means the days will start to get longer as the tilt of the Earth (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway) begins to shift more toward the sun. That always makes me feel very merry.

Dec
13
2007

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.

Townsend's Solitaire: If you're walking past the Science Museum this week (on the Big Back Yard side), keep your eyes open for this guy.
Townsend's Solitaire: If you're walking past the Science Museum this week (on the Big Back Yard side), keep your eyes open for this guy.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...

Identification tips for the Townsend's Solitaire
Wikipedia entry

Oct
18
2007

My neighbor's tree dies a slow, agonizing, horrible death: Well, the leaves do, anyway.  Photo by Gene
My neighbor's tree dies a slow, agonizing, horrible death: Well, the leaves do, anyway. Photo by Gene

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.

Oct
10
2007

Sign at Hawk Ridge: Photo by Mark Ryan
Sign at Hawk Ridge: Photo by Mark Ryan
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.

Kestrel in flight: Lake Superior serves as the backdrop as observers follow a kestrel in flight across the ridge. Photo by Mark Ryan.
Kestrel in flight: Lake Superior serves as the backdrop as observers follow a kestrel in flight across the ridge. Photo by Mark Ryan.

Hawk Ridge birdwatchers: Approaching raptors catch the crowd's attention. Photo by Mark Ryan.
Hawk Ridge birdwatchers: Approaching raptors catch the crowd's attention. Photo by Mark Ryan.
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.

Bald eagle soars above Hawk Ridge: Some raptors conserve energy by riding thermals, sun-heated updrafts that flow up the face of the ridge. Photo by Mark Ryan.
Bald eagle soars above Hawk Ridge: Some raptors conserve energy by riding thermals, sun-heated updrafts that flow up the face of the ridge. Photo by Mark Ryan.

Eyes on the skies: Photo by Mark Ryan.
Eyes on the skies: Photo by Mark Ryan.

Raptor identification: A posted display aids observers in identifying hawks in flight. Photo by Mark Ryan
Raptor identification: A posted display aids observers in identifying hawks in flight. Photo by Mark Ryan

Taking count: Throughout the migration official raptor counters are stationed each day at Hawk Ridge (except when rainy and foggy). Photo by Mark Ryan.
Taking count: Throughout the migration official raptor counters are stationed each day at Hawk Ridge (except when rainy and foggy). Photo by Mark Ryan.

Hawk Ridge tote board: The migrating birds are tallied and the count is updated throughout the day. Photo by Mark Ryan.
Hawk Ridge tote board: The migrating birds are tallied and the count is updated throughout the day. Photo by Mark Ryan.

Close up encounter: Hawks are netted and banded and sometimes presented to the crowd before being released again. Photo by Mark Ryan
Close up encounter: Hawks are netted and banded and sometimes presented to the crowd before being released again. Photo by Mark Ryan

Oct
08
2007

Deer danger: The coming of fall also means the coming of greater risk for hitting a deer while you're driving on the roads. During mating season, deer are more active and less alert. (Photo from the oops list)
Deer danger: The coming of fall also means the coming of greater risk for hitting a deer while you're driving on the roads. During mating season, deer are more active and less alert. (Photo from the oops list)
It’s that time of year again when young deer’s thoughts turn to romance.

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.