What Lives On Sunflowers?

We have Mammoth Sunflowers that are almost ready to bloom in our front yard. It is covered with a variety of insects and arachnids. It goes to shows what can happen when you don’t dowse everything with pesticides!

Our Sunflowers

Our Sunflowers

 

What out further a do, here is what I found living on my sunflowers!

Candy-striped Leafhopper (Graphocephala coccinea)

Candy-striped Leafhopper (Graphocephala coccinea)

 Rhododendron Leafhopper (Graphocephala fennahi)

Rhododendron Leafhopper (Graphocephala fennahi)

Constricted Leafhopper ( Agallia constricta)

Constricted Leafhopper ( Agallia constricta)

Spittlebug

Spittlebug

Stink bug (Podisus placidus)

Stink bug (Podisus placidus)

Yellowstiped Armyworm

Yellowstiped Armyworm

House Fly

House Fly

IMG_3897

Unknown. Please let me know if you know what it is!

Spider eating leafhopper

Spider eating leafhopper

7 different species of insects (also 1 arachnid and 1 unknown) living on the sunflowers. Not bad for just browsing nonchalantly!

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Save the Sporkbill!

The Sporkbill (Pessimus sporkus)

Appearance.
The Sporkbill is one of the most easily identifiable avian species in North
America. The Sporkbill’s primary field marks are its bright purple plumage and its spoon shaped bill with three spikes at the front of the bill. 4 feet tall (1.2 meters) with a wingspan of 2 feet (.6 meters).

Occurrence. The swamps and coast of the Southeastern United States.

Origin.
The Sporkbill first arrived on the natural landscape when an unlikely union
of species occurred. A Sawtooth Fish and a Roseate Spoonbill were bred in a lab off the coast of Japan, and produced the Sporkbill, which we all know and “love” today. The fruit of this unholy union was dumped on the coast of Georgia.

Hunting.
Sporkbills have very unusual hunting habits. They put their open bills
underneath the water for several hours, then promptly gives up and starts
using its spork shaped bill to stab at its prey. Their prey, which consists
of frogs, fish, and turtles, are caught up in the torrent of spikes. Sadly
for the Sporkbill, its eyes are too weak (and brain too small) to realize
its prey is literally stuck to its face. It repeats this toilsome task for
weeks and somehow, amazingly, they survive.

Nesting.
Sporkbills nesting behavior has been described as “futile” and “ridiculous.”
Sadly, these words describe their nests perfectly. Sporkbills nest below
the high tide line. The nests themselves are just an unorganized pile or
reeds and sand. They stand over their mediocre piles for about an hour and
then forget what they are doing and wander off.

Breeding.
There is no record of a breeding pair of Sporkbills during their known
existence. Both genders exist, but their eggs amount to little more than
rocks.

Conservation Status.
Although the current population is only 10 birds, it is not listed as either
endangered or threatened. It is currently not listed anywhere other than this book. The Sporkbill is widely considered to be “mythical” despite evidence. The Sporkbill inhabits foggy swamps with a plant known as “Shaky Cam” that causes human hands to start trembling when filming. This makes video and photographic evidence from the area useless. There is an audio recording of a Sporkbill call, but it is drowned out by laughter and, oddly enough, a banjo. Getting listed would be a huge victory for the Sporkbill.

by the talented Anne MCallum

Art by the talented Anne MCallum

 

Support the Sporkbill by buying these awesome t-shirts! http://teespring.com/sporkbill

Monk Parakeet

There was a sighting  of two Monk Parakeets nesting at the bottom of a billboard in Albany, GA. This made me want to do a little research on the bird. I hope you all find this interesting!

Monk or Quaker Parakeets are native to South America. They were brought to the United States from the pet trade. I wonder why they call they them Quaker Parakeets when they are pets. Maybe protestant birds sell better?

" I like oats and Martin Luther."

” I like oats and Martin Luther.”

From 1968-1972 it is estimated that 64,224 Monk Parakeets were imported into the US. It is thought that they were first released at JFK Airport n 1968. The parakeets escaped through broken crates in the airport. People also released their pets and zoos decided not to keep up their exhibits and also released their birds.

Monk Parakeets in New York

Monk Parakeets in New York

These birds have established themselves so well because they are plant generalists. In their native habitats they eat plant buds of the Poaceae and Rosaceae families, weeds, fruit, and berries. In the winter months, they even eat bird seed from birdfeeders. Their most successful habitat in the US has been Florida. The semi-tropical climate and abundance of foodplants made it the ideal place for the parakeets to be. However, they can deal with colder climates. They are present in the mountains of South America where temperatures can reach 20F (-6.6C).

In South America, the Monk Parakeet is a major agricultural pest. Flocks eat entire crops of cereal grain and citrus fruits, but here in the States, they are not widespread enough to cause that much damage to agricultural. They just destroy powerlines! In Leonia, New Jersey, there was a 5 hour power outage. The birds often nest on top of the transformers causing them to fail.

"What could possibly go wrong?"

“What could possibly go wrong?”

.

Herp Day

What day is it? HERP DAY!!!!!

This Herp Day we bring you frogs and toads. They were found shortly after a rain shower as is custom in my lands.

The second American Toad was scared up by a stray dog. Shout out to neglect!

American Toad

American Toad

American Toad (aerial view)

American Toad (aerial view)

It’s kind of unusual to see treefrogs on the street. I guess the economy is going downhill.

Gray Treefrog

Gray Treefrog

Yellow legs of the Gray Treefrog,

Yellow legs of the Gray Treefrog,

Behold, the variability of Fowler’s Toads!

Fowler's Toad (Light)

Fowler’s Toad (Light)

Folwer's Toad (Dark)

Fowler’s Toad (Dark)

Share your own herp stories with #HerpDay!

We’re the Kids of America

I’ve been volunteering at the banding station at Panola Mountain State Park since 2008. I have been learning to process (Age, sex, etc.) birds since May. It was a foggy morning, but overall the day was productive with lots of diverse species!

Panola at sunrise

Panola at sunrise

I have learned from mostly Second Year birds (birds in their second calendar year of life) and After Second Year birds. This session, however, was full of Hatch Year birds (birds that have hatched in this calendar year).

A Hatch Year Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Notice the more fluffy feathers.

A Hatch Year Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Notice the more fluffy feathers.

A Hatch Year Common Yellow Throat.

A Hatch Year Common Yellow Throat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trick for telling a Hatch Year bird from an After Hatch Year bird has to do with the body feathers, the primaries, and the retricies (tail feathers).

The Hatch Year Eastern Bluebird's Primaries look pristine because it just left the nest.

The Hatch Year Eastern Bluebird’s Primaries look pristine because it just left the nest.

This Blue Grosbeaks has more wear on its wing because it has used it longer.

This Blue Grosbeak has more wear on its wing because it has used it longer.

The retricies of an older bird have been affected by ultraviolet rays and appear more ragged (until they molt them).

Indigo Bunting's retricies

Indigo Bunting’s retricies

Skulling is another method aging birds. It is often difficult for beginners (me)!

Me skulling an Eastern Bluebird.

Me skulling an Eastern Bluebird.

I even got to band it!

I even got to band it!

Birds are very variable and there many methods of aging birds. These are just some of the tricks I learned.

Don't be an angry American Goldfinch.

Don’t be an angry American Goldfinch.

Special thanks to Charlie Muise for letting me volunteer for all this time! Here is a video of Charlie processing a Field Sparrow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRzATXhT9Co&feature=youtu.be

Support Bird Banding!

Vacation Birding

This year my family took a vacation to Jekyll Island, GA. This has been a tradition in my family every since I can remember. Jekyll Island is great spot to bird year round, but especially like it in the summer. It has a lot sentimental value for me because most of my birding fervor was developed there. Everything is just better on the island.

This year was different because my father and I had the the pleasure of assisting with Seaside Sparrow banding. The Ph.D candidate (Elizabeth) and her tech (Alex) located the nest and the pairs beforehand, then we went to the sites and banded the pairs. Seaside Sparrows nest deep into the marsh, so in order to band them you have to walk in a lot of mud. My father and I anticipated a lot of mud. Naturally, we bought these ridiculous waders for this adventure. We rolled up at 6 am under a bridge on St Simons Island, because that’s what you do what when you want to a see a bird. Everyone else was wearing normal boots that you would wear when you expect mud. Not us. We were “prepared”!

The first hundred yards or so were pretty easy. Some would say too easy. It had been somewhat hyped to me by our friend, Charlie who invited us, that the marsh would swallow you up if you didn’t pay attention. We came to the first nest and it was predated. Elizabeth and Alex attempted to show us what was left of the nest. My father went first and immediately sank into the mud. Being a stubborn teenager and claiming to be “the Rising Sun” as opposed to the sinking one, I follow right after him. After Charlie pulled me from the abyss I created for myself, I made a discovery. My expensive waders were broken. They lasted a whole ten minutes in the marsh. My poor father probably fell 8 times in the marsh and his waders were thankfully intact.

When we found an active nest we set up 4 nets in a box shape around the nest. Then we try to herd the birds into the nets so we can band them. This can be a very quick process or it can take a very long time. The birds may fly over the net or under the net. Sometimes the wind picks up and birds hop on the ground. Overall it was a very a fun experience and a highlight of my vacation! Special thanks to Elizabeth, Alex, and Charlie for putting up with our antics!

Seaside Sparrow and Me

 

Later in the week, I visited of my favorite birding spots. South Beach on Jekyll Island. It is a great place for shorebirds, gulls, and terns. It is also where my favorite bird nests!

 

There were many more species as well!

Willet guarding its nest

 

Where’s your favorite spot to bird on vacation?