Friday, September 28, 2018

Eagles over the gardens

The eagles are here every day.  They have at perch in the tallest tree on the shore of Gardens at Waters East. Lake Michigan provides a great source of fresh fish which they hunt daily.  Always a joy to see our national symbol soaring here over the gardens.
These photos were taken this past week just north of the gardens. I watched them “doing their thing” but at the time I did not have my camera.  Thanks to my neighbor watching at the same time, he had his camera and was able to take the photos.  Thanks to him you too can enjoy these dramatic shots form here.

The bald eagle “American Eagle” is an opportunistic feeder which subsists mainly on fish, which it swoops down and snatches from the water with its talons. It builds the largest nest of any North American bird and the largest tree nests ever recorded for any animal species, up to 4 m (13 ft) deep, 2.5 m (8.2 ft) wide, and 1 metric ton (1.1 short tons) in weight.[2] Sexual maturity is attained at the age of four to five years.
Bald eagles are not actually bald; the name derives from an older meaning of the word, "white headed". The adult is mainly brown with a white head and tail. The sexes are identical in plumage, but females are about 25 percent larger than males. The beak is large and hooked. The plumage of the immature is brown.
The bald eagle is both the national bird and national animal of the United States of America. The bald eagle appears on its seal. In the late 20th century it was on the brink of extirpation in the contiguous United States. Populations have since recovered and the species was removed from the U.S. government's list of endangered species on July 12, 1995 and transferred to the list of threatened species. It was removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in the Lower 48 States on June 28, 2007.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Crab Spiders in the Garden

Crab Spider - White

The crab spider is able to slowly change its color to match its background when hunting, a rare ability in the animal kingdom, says a Ball State University professor.
Gary Dodson, a Ball State biology professor, and Alissa Anderson, who graduated with a master's degree in 2012 from Ball State, were the first to measure the rate of color change in the whitebanded crab spider.  

As part of the research project, Anderson took digital photos of the crab spider while the white specimens sat on yellow flowers at Ball State's Cooper Farm, an off-campus area with a rich diversity of biological habitats for environmental education and field research.

Crab Spider - Purple

"This species of spider crab is one of the few that can reversibly change their body color in a manner that to the human eye results in a match to the flowers on which they ambush prey," Dodson said. "We knew that females, but not males, can switch between white and yellow depending on the background. But we did not how quickly that happened."

 Crab Spider - Yellow

Researchers used Adobe Photoshop software to collect data on the spiders' ability to change colors, measuring the time it takes for the animal to shift from white to various shades of yellow.

However, they discovered that it was more difficult for yellow crab spiders to match their white background as opposed to their white counterparts. A possible answer is that morphing from white to yellow is less physiologically damaging than the reverse.

Dodson also pointed out that this species of crab spider exhibits one of the most extreme examples of sexual size dimorphism across all animals. Females, which are the size of a "fat kernel of corn," are 20 times larger in mass than males. The small males become adults prior to females and then go searching for mates through a physically complex habitat.

The eyes!!!

"Acrobatic skills are critical as they must do a lot of climbing and bridging—scrambling across silk lines sent across gaps between plants," Dodson said. "They can't see the females, yet they find them at a rate that random searching could not explain. We documented that the males will optimize their searches by moving toward the odor of a flower species on which sedentary females hunt for prey."



He also found that male crab spiders outnumber females and multiple suitors will gather around females close to becoming adults. The males often get in fights that result in the loss of limbs and sometimes death.

"We determined that first to arrive, body size and previous contest experience are predictors of who will win the fights and remain close to the female," Dodson said. "We also were able to document another surprising behavior for these spiders—that the males drink nectar. This has since been determined for several other species. Overall, it has been a fascinating animal to study."

Crab Spiders Certain crab spiders exploit Ultra violet light to make themselves "invisible" or disguise themselves from their victims whilst at the same time create a contrast difference to attract their prey to UV absorbing flowers. These crab spiders reflect UV light strongly against a UV absorbing flower. It has been found that this is not simply by chance but a strategy used by these minute spiders to attract prey. Through human eyes we can not see this remarkable camouflage strategy as the white crab spiders appear to stand out in marked contrast to the brightly colored flowers on which they hunt. In some cases prey will fly directly towards the open arms of the spider spelling their doom. This amazing camouflage is almost akin to a "cloaking device" as far as their insect prey's vision is concerned. Enjoy!

Can you find the Crab Spider here?

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Monarch Invasion !!!

After many years of only seeing a few, and sometimes only one Monarch Butterfly pass through the Gardens at Waters East– WOW!!!

What a difference this year has been.  The migration is not yet totally over, but over the last weeks there have been dozens and dozens, hundreds and hundreds of Monarch Butterflies stopping here to feed and then move on to their winter home in the western state of Michoacan Mexico.

In addition to those “passing through”, this year as with last year, a number of Monarch eggs were laid on Milkweed plants which then hatched into caterpillars which ate their favorite plant the milkweed and thus grew into fat caterpillars.  After forming a chrysalis, each emerged as a Monarch Butterfly to begin their migration right here at the Gardens at Waters East.

Over the past years there have been other posts on this Blog giving greater details about this most interesting butterfly and the totally unique migration route of thousands of miles taken by the adult butterfly to a land never seen by the very butterflies who pass through this garden.

For the past seventeen years the gardens here have cultivated many essential plants for this special of all butterflies.  More about that in previous postings.

Posted on this Blog -  October 12,2015 (see archive) was written “This past week the national news reported that the Monarch Butterflies had reached Texas on their migration from Canada to central Mexico.”

Posted on this Blog – March 3, 2011 (see archive)  was written “Each generation lives only two to six weeks as adults, though the fourth generation reaches the Canadian border.  That generation lives up to eight months.  It is that one that travels the return journey of up to three-thousand miles back to Mexico.  There it reproduces the following Spring. Those young are the ones who start the long journey one again.”

Some of the very butterflies posted here today will hopefully be back in Texas over the next weeks while on their long journey to their winter mountain and forested area of Michoacan Mexico.

Next year hopefully we will see their grandchildren or their great-grandchildren here at the gardens!