When the Poo Piles Up

Globs of disgusting doo dotted our gate.

The poo’s origin was no mystery. Robins had nested overhead, on our pergola. But still, I wondered why I was seeing so much of the sticky stuff. Robins, like many bird parents, remove their nestlings’ excrement after each feeding. It comes out wrapped in a fecal sac—a convenient package that parents swallow during the first week and then carry away from the nest as fecal quantities grow. In addition to helping keep the young ones healthy, nest sanitation minimizes any scent trail that might lead predators to the nest. And yet, just a few feet directly below the nestlings lay a stinking pile of poop.

Was I looking at the dereliction of parental doo-ty?

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

A Squirrely Show of Color

The black squirrel stopped me in my tracks.

Black is a common color morph in eastern gray squirrels, especially in northern areas like Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario.

But this black squirrel had a most uncommon feature: a cinnamon-colored tail.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

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 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.

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.

When an Eagle’s Gotta Go

I was in awe of the eagle’s mighty…

poop.

I was never particularly enthralled by bird poop. I mean, ick. On the car. On the lawn chairs. And once, years ago, on my shoulder. Besides the occasional irritation at a windshield splat, I never gave bird droppings any serious thought.

That is, until yesterday. I happened to be filming when a young Bald Eagle lifted his tail.

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