A Surplus of Swans

I counted seven swans-a-swimming.

The beautiful birds were not a precious gift from my true love, as the holiday song suggests.  Instead, Mute Swans are quite common on Lake Allegan, which our home overlooks. Their graceful movement and luminous white plumage always command my attention. While not totally silent as their name implies, Mute Swans are blissfully quiet compared to the loudmouth Canada Geese that also frequent our lake.

And then there’s the ugly part: These lovely birds are invasive thugs.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer, E. Spicer.

Winter Goes with the Floe

Temperatures are rising, and I’m watching a break-up.

Warm(ish) weather has reached our lake, melting and fracturing its icy cover. Ice floes of all shapes and sizes meander by. Some floes rival a sculptor’s art. Others carry creatures at rest, floating like innertubes on a lazy river.

They all send a most welcome signal.
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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Winter Wonders

What does wildlife think of winter?

I don’t picture wildlife muttering silently about insufferable snow and icy wind. Instinct and biology play key roles in keeping creatures warm and fed. But animals are intelligent, too. Do they think about the seasonal discomfort?

That’s what I’m wondering as I sit by my fireplace, snug in my home and shielded from the cold and snow.

read more and see the video

Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Welcome to the All-Night Deer Diner

Deer are beautiful creatures.

Except when they’re munching on our hemlocks and arborvitae. I understand their need—when snow blankets the ground, our area’s abundant acorns are buried. I don’t really welcome the two-a.m. snackers. But I do admire their winter-survival tenacity.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

A Wasp Whodunnit

Something crept in…

and compromised the wasp nest. My last post showed adult paper wasps (Polistes metricus) evicting some of their young. The workers were clearing the nest of sick and poorly-developing larvae and pupae. A deadly agent had entered the nest. What was it? I had filmed eighty hours of surveillance video. Maybe I could figure that out.

My first clue was a scene that screamed foul play.  

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

A Question of Palace Intrigue

The wasps seemed so nurturing.

Last month, I shared photos and videos of a paper wasp nest. I showed adults nourishing larvae until the little ones covered themselves with cozy silk blankies and snuggled in to pupate. So sweet…

Except, I left out the story’s cold-hearted, sinister part.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Wasp Watching

You’re filming what?

A wasp nest, I repeated. The one over the sliding glass door.

We went outside for a look. Bert’s look said, you’re nuts.

I didn’t notice the nest until early August, when a wasp walking up the glass caught my eye. I grabbed a ladder and was mesmerized.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Pop! Goes the Weevil (Larva)

I shipped seven pounds of acorns to Kentucky.

Not to feed any under-nourished squirrels. My acorns are for the University of Kentucky’s multi-year, genetic study of white oaks. Foresters believe the white oak is in decline, and the project’s goal is to identify trees with traits suggesting a higher likelihood of success in the forest. The research team hopes to acquire acorns from every county in every state in the white oak’s range.

What will they do with my (and everyone else’s) acorns?

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Undercover Larva

The fluffball was on the move. And it carried a big stick.

I immediately recognized the fluff as a debris-carrying lacewing larva. These insects wear impressive camouflage. Sometimes I’ll see plant material, bits of lichen, or spider silk. Or dead insects; carcasses the larva piled on its back after sucking out the victims’ guts. But never had I seen a larva sporting such an outsized element of disguise.
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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer, Brad Smith.