Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day!  And thank you to all who sent your wishes my way!

Father Robin should be proud of its labor, as both he and mother robin continue to spend many hours collecting ants, worms, caterpillars, and other insects to feed their young.
Dad Watching Carefully between Feedings

The young are getting larger, and the nest is starting to get crowded.
June 10

June 14, 2014

It has been about 12 days since the chicks hatched, so they should be leaving the nest any day now. 

On a run along the ridge behind Lake Wicwas, right on the Yellow Trail, I saw a bright green ball on the ground.
Oak Gall

One often finds these Oak Galls in the fall when they are brown and dried out, but less commonly in the spring.  This one may have been blown off its oak leaf by the strong winds this weekend.  I couldn't resist stopping to open it up, as I have never really been able to understand just how these unique formations work.  They are instigated by the Oak Apple Gall Wasp (Amphibolips confluenta), when the female wasp lays a single egg inside the central vein of an oak leaf.  As the egg develops it excretes a chemical that causes the oak tree to form a gall around the egg, creating a protective shield. 

On the inside I found hundreds of tiny filaments connecting the egg to the inside surface of the gall.  

I surmise these connections are propagated by the oak tree as a result of the egg's secretions, and provide sustenance for the egg like a hundred umbilical cords.  I cracked open the inner egg shell with my thumbnail and found the tiny, not-yet well-formed lava inside.  
The Inner Shell
Larva Just Forming

This is not a synergistic relationship, as the wasp doesn't provide any benefit to the oak tree, but it is not a harmful relationship either, with the gall not injuring the tree.  It is an example of "commensalism" - an association in which one organism is benefited and the other organism is neither benefited nor harmed (credit Terry Gouthro).

Closer to the edge of the lake I discovered another new species for me:  a Rosy Maple Moth.  

Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda)
This is another rather finicky insect, feeding predominantly on - what else? - maples, especially red and striped maples.  Only the caterpillar feeds - the adult moths do not eat;  once they emerge from their pupae they search for a mate and lay their eggs on, yes, a maple leaf.  They are pretty neat-looking moths, with furry bodies, purple legs, and big black eyes.

In a complete coincident, someone gave me an article written by Cheryl Kimball in the Union Leader (thank you!) that spoke of these very moths (Nature Talks, June 13, 2014).

One last note for the Wicwas wildlife journal:  New deer will be joining the Lake Wicwas community soon.  This shy doe was peeking out from the undergrowth near the lake.

She eventually emerged and worked her way along, enjoying the tender, new growth.  

When she stopped to scratch, it became evident that there will be another proud father celebrating Father's Day next year!
An Expectant Mother
As I was writing this I decided to do one last check on the robin nest, and wasn't I surprised to see only one chick left - the other had fledged!

Only One Left in the Nest

And I was even more surprised when just after I took this picture, this little guy took its first flight too!  We saw it embark on a not very graceful, but nonetheless successful flight of about 20 yards to a smooth landing on a nearby tree, and already flaunting some robin color.
Perched after its First Flight
I couldn't see them, but I'm sure its proud parents were close by, watching and encouraging it.  What a great Father's Day for this new dad!

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