What an excellent question!
Then, for those of us who have had covid and disagree with the MSM covid messaging: enjoy this animation "Being Selfish".
Keep asking questions~
It's June and here in Seattle we've been in quarantine since mid-March...
yesterday (while shopping outside by appointment only at my local garden store) I was asked to pay for a purchase by placing my credit card in a butterfly net--in order to stay 6 feet away from the masked and gloved employee who would run it inside to be processed. I did not make this up.
As an inquiry biologist, it is in my nature and training to be curious, to think for myself, and to use my common sense when approaching a problem. Lately, I see very little of the latter.
If you have also been wondering about the state of things and questioning the response to Covid-19/ the SARS-CoV-2 virus, you will appreciate this excellent article by JD Handley from the Children's Health Defense website.
Then, Swiss Policy Research is a treasure chest of fully referenced facts about Covid-19 that counter the mainstream media narrative.
I am taking a bit of comfort in knowing that there are others who question the current paradigm. I do think it is important to be careful, to make informed decisions, and to always always keep in mind the consequences of any action that is taken. My biggest concern at this point is for our parents, people who are over 80 and who have comorbidities and who are suffering from isolation. Young healthy people do not need to be using butterfly nets to process credit cards! That kind of thinking is what truly scares me.
Fear is causing people to stop asking important questions. Why I am being scolded for wondering: "why should healthy people wear masks (especially when cloth face coverings are at best ineffective and at worst cause harm)?" and "how can they possibly create a vaccine for this novel coronavirus in six months when they've been working on a vaccine for SARS for seventeen years and still have not had success--and crucially: why will there be no mandatory trials for safety and efficacy?"
Brew yourself a cuppa and prepare to settle in.
Cloacal Kiss: Red-rumped swallows mating ©Narendra Pandit
"The birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees"...
Ah yes, spring! One of the questions many people have is how exactly do birds make babies?
Bird sex: to begin--most male birds do not have a penis
There are almost 10,000 species of birds and only around 3% have a penis. All of our male songbirds, eagles, hawks, gulls, cranes, owls, pigeons, hummingbirds and woodpeckers do not have a penis. Flamingos, penguins, and albatrosses have also completely lost their penises. Birds with penises include ducks, geese and swans, and large flightless birds like ostriches and emus.
In the kingdom of aves, 97% of male and female birds have what's known as a cloaca; the cloaca is a multipurpose internal chamber that ends in an opening used for discharging sperm or eggs. It is the only opening for the digestive, reproductive, and urinary tracts.
Springtime antics of songbird mating may include the male showing off his clever dance moves, singing repertoire, and feather displays, along with loop-de-loops, gifts of food or trinkets, and general lovebird tom-foolery. If the female is receptive, eventually she will land, shift her tail feathers to the side, and the male bird will swoop in for a swift tail-to-tail "kiss" as their swollen cloaca bump together for the transfer of sperm (above photo). If you have ever been lucky enough to witness the cloacal kiss, you know that if you blink you will miss it.
Our backyard birdhouses have housed many families of songbirds over the last 20 years, and this year we have a birdhouse full of tiny chickadees. YAY!
not my photos, credit goes to Bluebird Bet @ Sialis
Chickadees usually lay 6-8 dime-size eggs in a soft downy nest constructed by the female. Mother birds sit on their eggs for 12-13 days, and then for two weeks after they hatch, both parents work long hours to feed the voracious nestlings. We enjoy watching the adults fly in with a beak full of food, perch in the Stewardia tree and call, wing in to the "bee-peep" of the babies to deposit the grub, and then leave with a white fecal sack-keeping the downy nest clean and tidy.
Kristen Martyn, from Wild Birds Unlimited reported that "Research by Doug Tallajmy (entomologist at the University of Delaware) found that one pair of chickadees delivered food once every 3 minutes to their nest. Estimating that they forage during the hours of 6 am- 8 pm (entirely realistic during nesting season) means they make approximately 390-570 trips with insects to the nest each day. Hatchlings are in the nest for approximately 14-18 days. This number does not include the insects required once the young ones fledge, but are still cared for by their parents for another 1-2 weeks." That is a lot of worms, bugs, berries, and seeds! No wonder the parent birds are looking raggedy.
I am guessing that our nestlings are almost two weeks old, as we can see their tiny black heads as they peek out of the birdhouse. They will be fledging soon.
Can you spot our birdhouse nestled in the bay laurel?
Chickadees prefer a home that is 65% shaded and has an unobstructed flight path to the entrance.
A Weed is but an Unloved Flower
If you'd like to delve a bit deeper, check out Weeds of North America by University of Chicago Press. "Dickinson and Royer provide much-needed background on these intrusive organisms. In the battle with weeds, knowledge truly is power. Weeds of North America is the perfect tool for gardeners, as well as anyone working in the business of weed ecology and control."
(and it will certainly keep me from weeding my front slope of dandelions for another week or two!)
When is a full moon called "blue"? It turns out it has nothing to do with color, but rather it is thought to come from an old English term meaning "betrayer"; this term is used to describe two full moons that occur in one calendar month, and usually happens on average every 2.7 years. There will be no shortage of full moon/blue moons this winter season, as we'll have another double in March (no full moon in February).
In 2015, we were treated to a Super Moon Lunar Eclipse, and I captured the above image from my backyard. This YouTube re-post from 2015 explains the celestial clockwork behind the magic.
Guest Post by Sam = Organic Lesson
If you are a gardener with a backyard then start taking action now. Help sustain the local population of bees in your area by sticking to a natural pest control method.
How could this be? Deb Byrd explains "because Earth doesn’t orbit upright, but is instead tilted on its axis by 23-and-a-half degrees, Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. The tilt of the Earth – not our distance from the sun – is what causes winter and summer. At the December solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is leaning most away from the sun for the year."
The blackberry patch on our hillside is definitely a bee magnet; some days I'll see five different species of bombus in addition to the honeybees, mason bees, and bee mimics.
Thank you bees...blackberry pies will be enjoyed in abundance this autumn!
Have you ever heard that bumblebees should not be able to fly as it would defy the laws of physics? This story is a myth, but it is based on the science of how airplanes fly by creating lift with the angle of their wings.
It turns out that bumblebees are not built like airplanes; Karl Smallwood explains that the way that bumblebees fly is "...by rotating their wings, which creates pockets of low air pressure, which in turn create small eddies above the bee’s wing which lift it into the air and, thus, grant it the ability to fly." In essence, they create mini-hurricanes and ride them out.
Bee ID: top Bombus melanopygus;
middle and bottom no confirmation ID (yet)
I taught K-12 students from north of the Arctic Circle to the Puget Sound Ecoregion, garnering 40 years of experience as a classroom teacher, learning mentor, and private tutor.
I spent most of the 1980s and 90s in Alaska flying airplanes, floating wild rivers, winter camping, teaching, parenting, and living off the grid.
Here in Seattle, I am an advocate for environmental stewardship, place-based education, and outdoor play. I share my enthusiasm for birds, bugs, and backyards and have been a featured writer and photographer for Pacific Horticulture.
All photographs © T. Byrne unless otherwise noted.