Two girls in a jeep rumble around the country roads of Nebraska to check out the spring sandhill crane migration and can’t believe their eyes. Be careful. Watching this might make you a craniac.
Tag Archives: migration
Along the Yucatan Peninsula, in a land of heat and drenching humidity thrives a rare mangrove ecosystem, important for coastal life and home to jaguarundi, hundreds of bird species and, yes, maybe a mosquito or two. I hope you enjoy this short jaunt into the mangroves, sans the mosquitoes, near Celestun in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. One afternoon doesn’t do a place like this justice, but it is a glimpse into this vulnerable ecosystem that is increasingly under threat from climate change, deforestation, pollution and coral reef degradation.
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Lady bugs unite! When a friend of mine posted some photos she took while on a hike on Boulder’s Green Mountain, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw entire tree trunks covered in red. The red was lady bugs, a mass gathering of a gardener’s best friend, as they search for mates and prepare to hibernate for the winter. Now this was something I had to see for myself.
Of course, not everyone can make the hike to Green Mountain, but hopefully you can live a little vicariously through this slide show, and learn a little something new about this “cuter” member of bug-dom.
There are more than 400 species of lady bugs, (or as they’re more officially known ladybird beetles), in North America. This year has been an unusual one for lots of natural phenomena in Colorado — a wet, cool summer has led to an endless green summer and multitudes of wildflowers — and this year’s lady bug gathering is no exception. Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks estimates that this could be a record-setting year for the annual swarm.
Besides the slideshow, I’ve made a little list of interesting lady bug facts you might not know.
- They’re cannibals.
- at least during their larval stage. Researchers recently discovered lady bug babies hatch and eat their siblings. Don’t get too disillusioned. They grow out of it.
- They don’t change their spots.
- Some people think you can tell the beetle’s age by the number of its spots, but according to the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, you keep what you’re born with when it comes to the dots.
- They “play dead.”
- If an adult ladybug feels threatened it will fall down and “die,” or let off a foul yellow ooze from its leg joints that most animals won’t want to eat, (University of Arizona)
Every year the horseshoe crabs gather to spawn, releasing thousands of eggs along the Delaware Bay coast. And with timing perfected by evolution, red knots, a bird enduring one of the most impressive yearly migrations from the Arctic to the Tierra del Fuego, arrive just in time to gorge on the eggs of the horseshoe crab. It is a vital stop on the “peeps'” spring migration. But the crabs and their eggs are disappearing, a loss with dire consequences for the little birds.
Red knot populations have fallen more than 75 percent in recent years, and new research published in this month’s issue of Bioscience reveals that Red knots can thank the bait fisheries for their hungry stomachs. Within half a decade the fisheries harvesting horseshoe crabs grew 20-fold, gobbling up more than 2 million crabs a year and effectively eliminating 90 percent of the eggs that red knots rely upon to survive their almost 19,000 mile migration.
But this research is not just a blame game for the fisheries. A coalition of scientists worked together on this study to help draft recommendations for the adaptive management of the bait fisheries that could help all three groups survive.
Mom right whales know best when it comes to mealtime it seems. They lead calves to grub at traditional feeding grounds teaching their offspring generations of knowledge about when and where to find food. In fact whole clans of whales will dine together in the cetacean version of a family-owned dining spot. But this is one family tradition that could lead to starvation for an already vulnerable whale species if climate change causes shifts in food distribution.
Previous research by Vicky Rowntree, research associate professor of biology and a coauthor of the new study at the University of Utah, has already shown the impacts of climate change on right whale populations. When sea temperatures rise, krill disappear and right whales respond by giving birth to fewer offspring. Now these new studies into whale behavior could highlight another problem for the whales when it comes to food.
“A primary concern is, what are whales going to do with global warming, which may change the location and abundance of their prey?” asked Rowntree in a press release. “Can they adapt if they learn from their mother where to feed – or will they die?”
Rowntree and her colleagues collected skin samples from right whales and, using a novel technique in science, combined DNA and isotope analysis to determine whale lineages and where they tend to chow down. They found that related whales congregated in designated areas to feed, and that mothers teach calves in their first year of life where to find food.
Here’s to hoping that right whales will be quick to adapt if the buffet moves elsewhere.
The Nature Files brings information about the open spaces and wildlife that share our home in the Denver Metro area to you. I hope that this site can be a resource as well as an inspiration for those of you wanting to explore the nature in your backyard. I will periodically upload featurettes including sights and sounds of easy day or weekend outings around Boulder, Denver and other nearby counties, and will also share photos, or news about what’s happening with parks and open spaces.
I hope you enjoy the first posting about Boulder’s Sawhill Ponds, a series of 18 ponds — reclaimed gravel pits — that are a safe haven for birds and other local wildlife. This open space area is about half a mile north of the 75th Street and Valmont Road intersection, and great for an easy, but not too crowded nature walk. I plan to bring you a new featurette about this location each season in order to give you some idea of how this environment evolves throughout the year. Click on the photo below to access the first show depicting late fall at Sawhill Ponds.