Stories tagged phenology

Aug
01
2007

Monarch butterfly: Image courtesy The Divine Miss K.
Monarch butterfly: Image courtesy The Divine Miss K.
As with the earlier post this question comes from the handwritten questions people leave for our featured Scientist on the Spot. Not all the questions fall into the given scientist’s area of expertise, but are still good questions, so I’m taking a stab at answering them.

This question is particularly timely: “How many days does it take for a Monarch butterfly to hatch?” Timely not only because the migration of Monarchs to Mexico begins in August, but also timely for me on a personal level as one of my favorite places to visit with my mom, wife and daughter at the upcoming Minnesota State Fair is the butterfly tent! (Which, devoted fairgoers, has moved to east of the grandstand on the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Underwood Street.)

I am assuming the question is really how long it takes the butterfly to metamorphize from a caterpillar to a butterfly. I ask because the caterpillars themselves hatch from eggs. The whole process, from egg to butterfly, takes four weeks. The eggs hatch after 7-10 days, and the process of hatching from the chrysalis takes around two weeks. The length of these stages is impacted by the temperature – the cooler it is the longer this process takes.

Monarch migration patterns: Image courtesy Monarch Watch.
Monarch migration patterns: Image courtesy Monarch Watch.
Now, here is one of the really cool things about Monarchs, I think. Each adult butterfly lives about 4-5 weeks. But once a year in the autumn there is a "Methuselah generation" which will live 7-8 months – effectively outliving the combined lifespan of their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents. It is this generation of butterflies that migrates from Canada and the United States to either Mexico (if they are east of the Rocky Mountains) or to the Southern California cost (if they are west of the Rocky Mountains – though this population seems to be shrinking – see an earlier post on this).

It is incredible to me that these insects can make a migration that they have never made before, that their parents never made, their grand parents never made, as well as their great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents. Bryan wrote a post on some recent research that butterflies, “sych UV information up with a natural clock in their brain. By combining these two bits of information, monarchs are able to determine the angle of the sun and always head due south,” which I think is really amazing.

Thanks for the great question!

Scientists will be banding Athena's chicks starting at 9am on Tuesday, June 26. Science Museum visitors get to pick names for the little peregrine falcons: vote now for your favorite! We'll be closing the poll on Monday morning.

Visitors to the Science Museum will name some of the falcon chicks. (Haven't seen them? Stop by the Mississippi River Gallery: you can use a scope to see the nest box on the stack of the High Bridge power plant, and you can see a live video feed from inside the box.) Vote for your favorite name!

Jun
01
2007

Big surprise! Sometime between Tuesday and yesterday, the fourth egg hatched. (This youngest bird hatched out of the first egg laid, and we didn't have high hopes for it.)

The whole brood: This shot, captured yesterday, shows Athena and all her chicks.
The whole brood: This shot, captured yesterday, shows Athena and all her chicks.

Dinner time...: Keeping these guys fed is a full-time job.
Dinner time...: Keeping these guys fed is a full-time job.

The young birds will grow fast, and will fledge--leave their nest--sometime in mid July. They'll stay with their parents for about two months afterward, learning to hunt. First the parents catch prey and the young birds learn to snatch it from them in mid-air. When they get good at that, the chicks start learning to hunt on their own.

Here's the sobering truth, though: On average, only two juveniles successfully fledge per nest. And the first year is dangerous. But a peregrine that survives the first year has a good shot at a long life. Some birds have even lived to be 18-20, but that's not typical. An average lifespan is more likely somewhere between 2 and 8 years.

New pictures appear every few minutes on the High Bridge Falcon Cam daily photos site.

Here are earlier 2007 falcon updates, as well as the story of the 2006 season. Or learn more about peregrines, and get to know Athena.

Visitors to the museum get to name falcon chicks. Right now, we're taking name suggestions. Later on, we'll turn those into a visitor poll, and the names with the most votes will go to the chicks.

May
30
2007

Visitors to the Science Museum will get to pick a name for at least one of the peregrine falcon chicks in the High Bridge power plant nest box. (Last year, we got to name one. Your pick? Starshadow.)

The challenge? Each chick in the nest box program gets a unique name. No repeats. So here's a list of all the names that are "taken" already:

Abby, Alice, Allie, Alpha, Amanda, Amilia, Amy, Andrea, Andy, Angel, Anton, Apryl, Athena, Barbara, Belinda, Bend, Berger, Bern, Bert, Bertha, Beta, Bolt, Bomber, Bor, Brice, Britta, Burt, Buzz, Candy, Cassie, Charlee, Charlie, Cherokee, Chicklet, Chris, Cleo, CoCo, Cole, Colleen, Coz, Craig, Crystal, Cyndi, Dale, Dana, Danberg, Davey, Dawn, Delene, Delta, Diamond, Diana, Diane, Dick, Dixie Chick, Donna, Doolittle, Dot, Ed, Eileen, Elaine, Electra, Esperanza, Faith, Fast Track, Fluffy, Fran, Frank, Gamma, George, Gib, Gloria, Gold, Gretta, Grunwald, Harmony, Hickey, Hippie, Hope, Horus, Hotshot, Howard, Hunter, Huske, Irvine, Isabel, Jackie, Jacob, Jan, Janice, Jasmine, Jay, JB, Jenny, Jessy, Jim, Joe, Judy, Julie, Kali, Karlsen, Katraka, Kester, Kitty, Kidy, Kramer, Krista, Laura, Leo, Leon, Leona, Leonard, Liberty, Lightning, Lily, Linton, Lolo, Lon, Lora, Loree, Loretta, Lori, Louise, Lucky, Mac, Mae, Maggie, Malin, Manthey, Mapper, Marie, Marshall, Marty, Mary, Laude, Mew, Mica, Michael, Michelle, Minnie, Miranda, Miss, Miss Pam, Mulder, Murphy, Neil, Nero, Nicole, Nora, Oar, Orville, Oscar, Pam, Pamella, PF Flyer, PaTao, Pathfinder, Penelope, Penny, Phyllis, Polly, Porky, Prescott, Princess, Putnam, Quark, Queen, Rachael, Ralph, Razor, Red Ed, Rick, Rochelle, Rocket, Rocky, Romeo, Ryan, Ryu, Sarah, Scarlett, Screech, Scully, Seminole, Shakespeare, Sharky, Sheri, Sheridan, Sherlie, Smoke, Smokey, Sonic, Sophia, Speedy, Spider, Spirit, Spivvy, Starshadow, Static, Stephanie, Sue, Survivor, Swoop, Terri, Thelma, Thunder, Travis, Tundra, Vector, VernaMae, Veronica, Waldo, Wanda, Warren, Wayne, Webster, Wilbur, Willie, Wood, Younger, Yugi, Zack, Zippidy

Have a name you think would suit a falcon? Tell us. We'll turn the list of submitted names into a visitor poll, and the names with the highest number of votes will go to the chicks.

One other thing: last year, the number one name was "Santa's Little Helper," but it was too long. Keep the names short, if you want yours to be the one!

May
28
2007

On Saturday, May 26, Buzz blogger Thor Carlson emailed the staff here at the Science Museum of Minnesota that our resident peregrine falcon Athena's first egg had hatched:

Athena the peregrine falcon was quite agitated this morning and I think midday we had our first hatching. Something fuzzy seems to be fluffing out from under her and than about 2 p.m. I saw her picking her beak through half of an egg shell. With the weather being pretty drippy today, she's likely keeping the little one underneath her with the three other eggs.

Stop on up at the Mississippi River Gallery and check out the latest developments...more falcon chicks should be on the way.


Three new mouths to feed: This shot, captured late Monday (5/28) afternoon, shows three new chicks. Athena's going to be busy...

Previous news from the 2007 falcon season.

If you haven't spent any time surfing the "What's that Bug?" website, you must do it now. Really. "Carnage, "Bug Love," plus insect identification and links... It's the best.

Mar
29
2007

Your goose is cooked!: Photo by lisso at flickr.com
Your goose is cooked!: Photo by lisso at flickr.com

The city of Chicago is looking for volunteers to go on a wild goose chase. The city has been plagued for over a decade by an ever-growing flock of Canadian geese. The birds have virtually taken over some city parks, harassing users and covering the ground with their droppings.

The city wants volunteers to find goose eggs during the nesting season. Then, wildlife control experts will shake the eggs to destroy the embryos. The geese will continue to incubate the eggs (and not lay new ones), but no goslings will hatch. Experts claim this is a more humane form of animal control than rounding up wild geese and killing them.

Looks like "Athena" and the unidentified male from last year have been hanging out at the nest box on the stack of the High Bridge power plant. We'll be switching the critter cam to feature the falcons soon. In the meantime, check out the High Bridge falcon forum, or read up on last year's nest.