Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Come with me to the Galapagos!

Jim Merryman was a colleague at Wilkes University and passed away a number of months ago. We were not that close but we talked when we saw each other and I very much respected him for the fact that he ventured. We all would like to travel but Jim got on the plane and went. Into places wild.

So he inspired me to do the same - I just hope I can pull it off. I'm going with a tour company, EF Tours, that specializes in college tours and we're going to the Galapagos and the Ecuadorian rainforest.  For reals as my son would put it. 

Tree bark as art

I have zero training in art: never has a class and I know one artist. But I think I can recognize beauty, especially in nature. Maybe knot (hardy har har). This is the bark of London Planetree (Platanus acerfolia). 

What a difference a day makes for a sparrow

Yesterday, I mentioned that the local song sparrows were singing full volume. It was bright and sunny and felt more like an August day than late September. Today, warm but overcast with a cool front moving in. Today's sparrows were whisper singing. I did some playback (I wonder what my neighbors think) and I kicked up one sparrow that was curious (rose out of the shrubs) but did not act aggressively (didn't move towards me). Is testosterone that responsive to environmental conditions? 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Warm morning sets sexy song sparrows abuzz

I've promised myself to walk this week rain or shine and I was lucky to have an abundance of sun this morning (to the point of being a sweaty mess when I get to my office). 

Song Sparrows were feeling it as well - the south Wilkes Barre area had several pairs of song sparrows singing full volume this morning. Normally, this time of the year, first year males are whisper-singing and practicing their repertoire before it is "frozen" in their brains for the rest of their lives.

I can only imagine that females are out foraging and putting on fat and a few males are saying "baby, the party ain't over yet."

Monday, September 28, 2015

Jacob's Property

Wilkes University owns over 100 ha near Blakeslee, PA. It was cut over then donated to the University. Beautiful property. We were there to catch birds and get blood samples to detect blood parasites using molecular methods. We caught several titmice and chickadees but were unprepared to catch so many at once so we kept once of each species. We also picked up a raven at the site and a few blue jays. Afterwards we had our fill of catching birds we took a walk to the pipeline, which was just widened and another pipe added.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

US produced more garbage than expected

My first "science" job out of college was a field technician for Rutgers working on the ecological restoration of landfills so I feel close to garbage issues. 

Every single person on this planet that contributes to a landfill should visit one. Everyone should see what happens to those things we throw away as if it disappears. It doesn't - it just piles up truckload after truckload.

So this report that the US produced TWICE AS MUCH garbage as estimated is depressing. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Hand feeding birds

By hand 
or by see
I love 
the little chickadee
I haven't hand feed a chickadee since I was a kid... ah, the memories of snow in the Karrsville, NJ house.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Archosaur field trip to the beaches of southern New Jersey

Let me get to my lesson: I have a great bunch of kids but a south Jersey trip is a 2 day affair. We did Forsythe, then Cape May State Park and over to Stone Harbor/Avalon but no stopping. I think the future, we'll do Forsythe then pine woods (Bellplain?) then find a place near Cape May and relax downtown.  Then the next day do birding in Cape May, the meadows (skipped), Stone Harbor (skipped). 

Now the birds... 

Black-bellied Plover

Caspian Tern - although royals are the ones with the white forehead, this has a heavy red bill and frosty wings

Fiddlers on the beach : ) 

Forster's Tern (Sebastian Moreno)

Forster's Terns (Sebastian Moreno)

Herring Gull

Laughing Gull (Sebastian Moreno)

Mixed peeps


Savannah Sparrow (Sebastian Moreno)

Semipalmated Sandpiper (Sebastian Moreno)

Black Skimmer

Skimmer skimming

Snowy Egret (Sebastian Moreno?)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Quick skeptical thought: local honey for allergies

This is probably the worst year I have experienced for allergies. It hits me mid-August and goes on into September. I was taking four or five "24-hour" pills a day and still had issues. 

Thinking about cures, I've seen on Facebook and heard from others that eating local honey cures you of allergies.

I think the logic is that local honey contains pollen from the plants that make you ill and by consuming it or maybe the process of making honey from it there is some sort of effect.

Not only is this not biologically-based, some ecological thinking could demonstrate why this shouldn't work.

Allergies are caused by our immune system responding to pollen that we inhale or get in our eyes. The plants that cause allergies, therefore, must be plants that have wind pollination and produce copious amounts of pollen. See where this is going? Ragweed is an example and so are most tree species that cause spring allergies. Honey is the regurgitated nectar from plants that are bee pollinated. That type of pollen is larger and sticky and doesn't get blown around and doesn't cause the allergies that most people suffer from. So, even if eating honey did make you "immune" or suppress the immune system (would you really want that?) then it still wouldn't help because you're eating goldenrod and aster pollen (if there's pollen at all). 
Wall of ragweed in the understory of my road. Note that it's green - no need to attract bees. I wonder if roads and fragmentation contributes to asthma and allergic reactions by providing habitat via edges. Hmmm.

Goldenrod - does not cause seasonal allergies - unless you stick your face in it like a bee