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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Springtime on the Prairie

Today I went down to the south end of the island to enjoy the sunny (but still a bit chilly) weather and see how spring is progessing. You may think I've forgotten about the red-tailed hawk pairs, but I haven't! They've just been very scarce and I haven't seen much of them when I've gone looking. Today, I did run into Garth RTH1 and shot a few shots of him perched using my car as a blind. Then when we took off I got this surprising shot:


Garth is demonstrating a key component of bird flight: the wing flip. To successfully take off the ground (and it helps from a perch, too), birds must be able to raise their wings above the level of their back in what is called a wing flip. To accomplish this, substantial changes in skeletal and muscular structure were necessary, and as such the ability to execute a wing flip is an important feature in the study of the evolution of bird flight. I loved studying all this in another college class I took on avian/dinosaur evolution.


I went for a walk down at American Camp and evidence of spring was everywhere. White-crowned and savannah sparrows were singing, garter snakes were slithering through the tall grasses, and more than half a dozen wildflower species were in bloom. I also saw male northern harrier - I've seen female and juvenile harriers while watching the red-tailed hawks this winter, but this was the first male harrier I've seen all year!

I've noticed lots and lots of yellow pollen cones on the conifer trees lately, which are no doubt the cause of a lot of my recent hay fever. Actually, the cones themselves are reddish brown but are so dusted in pollen they appear yellow. There is so much pollen around that every day I find a new layer dusting the windows on my car and blowing around on the street. But I hadn't ever seen anything like open red cones on the photo above. My tree ID isn't up to snuff and I'm not sure what the reddish looking "cones" are...."blossoming" pollen cones?


Here are examples of some of the wildflowers in bloom. Above is the European daisy, and below is the early blue violet.


This one is the coastal strawberry:

6 comments:

brooklebee said...

On your Doug-fir picture, I'm pretty sure the pink "blooming" cone is a new female cone--versus the year-old female cone on the right. The little cones covered in pollen are the male cones.

The K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vera said...

I love the hawk picture! He seems to be saying "Whoopee! Spring is finally here!"

Monika said...

Brook - Thanks! I had a feeling someone like you might know.

Vera - A little anthropomorphic, but it sure does.

DSD said...

Beautiful images!
We hope to return there someday...
DSD

Monika said...

DSD - It's definitely a hard place not to come back too! It all started for me on a week-long family trip here in the summer of 2000...