nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘natural history’ Category

Partridge and Grouse – which are you???

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In New Brunswick, we have three birds which I confuse and name ‘Partridge‘. Remember I am a botanist and come by my bird knowledge through secondary sources.

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a ruffed grouse or a grey partridge? the first clue is habitat (the mainly hardwood woodlands)

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The Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is a bird of the woodlands (mostly hardwood) and is the bird heard ‘drumming’ in our woods in spring. Its plumage varies from pale brown to bright mahogany. It has a fanning tail and head feathers which stand up like a crown. The feathers around the neck ruff up too. Since these birds are locally referred to as ‘partridge’, there can be confusion between the Ruffed Grouse, the Spruce Grouse and the Grey Partridge.

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Ruffed Grouse crossing the Old Shepody Road in eastern New Brunswick

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Ruffed Grouse in our grey woods

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The Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis) is a bird of mainly coniferous woodlands. It eats spruce and pine needles. It is a chicken-like bird with variable plumage, mostly grey and black in the male and grey-brown in the female. The bird has a fanning tail, but does not raise its head feathers the way the Ruffed Grouse does. For a good photo of the Spruce Grouse see https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Spruce_Grouse/id

The Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix) is a bird of open areas and grass lands. It is a roundish bird with a brown back and grey sides and neck. The chest-area has a darker brown mark. When startled, the bird flies upwards on rounded wings. For a good photo of a Grey Partridge see https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Gray_Partridge/id

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

July 6, 2018 at 4:32 pm

bracket fungi

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On a drive last weekend, we saw this great example of bracket fungi growing on an old maple.

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Bracket fungi belong to a group of fungi called polypores. These produce the characteristic spore-producing bodies called conks. The shelf-shaped or bracket-shaped conks are a reproductive outgrowth of the main fungal body called the mycelium. As with all fungi, the mycelium is mostly unseen since it resides in wood or soil.

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Polypores are a significant part of the forest ecosystem because they are agents of wood decay. These fungi are efficient decomposers of lignin and cellulose.

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On a more fanciful note, the brackets of these fungi always remind me of ‘faerie stairs’, a way to ascend an ancient tree.

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bracket fungi

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in this forest

(staid

practical

grey)

could any form

construe to magic?

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fairy rings

moths in spectral flight

spider webs, witches brooms

burrows and subterranean

rooms, hollows in wizened

logs, red toadstools

white-spotted, mottled

frogs

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bracket fungi

steps ascending

a branchless tree

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(Previously published October 28, 2011 http://www.nichepoetryandprose.wordpress.com )

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

July 4, 2018 at 7:00 am

saving the bees

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A while ago a friend of mine gave me an interesting ‘save the bees’ planting card. The white bee-shaped card is embedded with seeds. These seeds, if planted, will grow into wildflower species the bees like.

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As you may know, bee populations are struggling. Since bees pollinate plants, they are responsible for the continued success of all the plant species we rely on. The ecosystem is like a tangle of connected threads and the loss of any one connection is a loss to the system.

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Yesterday I planted my seed card in my deck box. I will let you know what grows!!! I am also a believer in leaving wild flowers to flourish on my property. I only mow once a year, I never use pesticides and dandelions are my friends.

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The Save the Bees card is from www.beebythesea.com a source of natural products . For more information about helping the bees, see Buzz About Bees at

https://www.buzzaboutbees.net/save-the-bees.html

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All my best!

Jane

Written by jane tims

July 2, 2018 at 6:30 pm

a feast of wild strawberries

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This week at our cabin the wild strawberries are hanging from their stems. When I see them I think of the sweet wild strawberry jam my mom used to make. And, after this weekend, I will think of  cedar waxwings.

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As we sat in the cabin, eating our dinner, we saw a bird making trips between the birch tree in front of the cabin and the grassy field to the side, where the wild strawberries grow.

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My husband identified the bird and spotted where it perched in the tree. The cedar waxwing is one of the common birds at the cabin. They love to eat fruit and we have wild strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries on the property.

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There were two cedar waxwings on the branch, sharing a meal of wild strawberries. Sharing fruit is a ritual behavior between male and female cedar waxwings.

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The cedar waxwings nest in our big white pines and sing in the top branches of other nearby trees. I will never see them without thinking of their little feast of berries.

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All my best,

Jane

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Written by jane tims

June 27, 2018 at 7:00 am

swallowtails and Alexanders

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Last week we did the first of our forays to get material for a new set of poems I am working on. Our drive took us to the area north of Stanley, and some two-track roads where settlements and home-sites have been abandoned.

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the road to Mavis Mills, an abandoned community

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The main road was busy with butterflies: Papilio canadensis, Canadian tiger swallowtail.  These are familiar butterflies, very similar to the eastern swallowtail, and once considered the same species. The males are yellow with black-rimmed wings (with a dotted yellow stripe in the margin) and four black tiger-stripes on the upper part of each fore-wing.

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The butterflies were congregating on the road near water puddles. They were interested in the muddy areas rather than the water. This behavior is called “puddling” and is a way for the butterfly to get sodium ions and amino acids.

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We took an old, two-track road to the abandoned hamlet of Mavis Mills and found the old settlement house sites. The once-cleared areas were populated by a pretty yellow composite flower, a member of the parsley family: Zizia aurea, golden Alexanders. These plants are usually under 30 inches high, with three serrated leaves (or three leaflets divided further into three’s) and a flat umbel of yellow flowers. The stems are red and the whole plant appears red in the fall. It is a host plant for the caterpillars of species of swallowtail butterflies. The plants grow in wet meadows and abandoned fields.

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field of golden Alexanders in an abandoned settlement

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We had an enjoyable drive, looking at abandoned homesteads and settlements. Since I am a botanist, I am interested in what has happened to the plants that once grew in the gardens of these homes. Some of the plants have vanished, but a few persist at the home-site and a few escape to cover ditches and countryside in bloom.

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an old lilac bush continuing to thrive near an abandoned house

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All my best!

Jane

 

 

Written by jane tims

June 25, 2018 at 2:59 pm

Birdbath

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Our copper birdbath includes a silver-coloured metal bird, in case no real birds come to call. In the shade of the maple tree the water shimmers. But the little silver bird never flutters, not even a feather.

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birdbath

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embedded in dapple

edge of copper

silver bird never moves

never flutters a feather

never pecks a sparkle

from crystal water

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bird with heartbeat

and dusty wing-feathers

lands for a bath

sputters and splashes

chooses to ignore

immobile effigy

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 9, 2018 at 9:25 pm

Butterfly Etude

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I have not played the piano for years. Not a great tragedy as I was never very good and playing made me nervous, afraid to fail. But there are some bits of music I will know forever because I learned to play them. One is Chopin’s Butterfly Etude (Etude Opus 25, no. 9). A difficult piece, full of octave stretches and staccatos. And it perfectly captures the erratic whim-of-the-wind flight of most butterflies.

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butterfly

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Etude Opus 25, No. 9

Chopin’s Butterfly Etude

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cloud to clover

graceless flight path

earth to sky

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wrist staccato

octave stretches

disarticulated flight

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flirt and quiver

tip and stumble

clouded sulphur

butterfly

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all my best,

Jane 

Written by jane tims

June 4, 2018 at 3:42 pm

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