Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Botany Counts

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and weedpickers... gotta look at botany. The Christmas Bird Counts provide ample opportunity for winter bontanizing, and knowing plants can actually be helpful in finding birds.

Poision Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans produces white berries that are favored by the birds. This particular vine had been hosting Eastern Bluebirds, this Red-bellied Woodpecker and a delightful Pine Warbler!

But remember- people should avoid white berries! Another member of the itch-inducing, Anacardiaceae family- Poison Sumac, Toxicodendron vernix berries festooned the perimeter of this portion of our CBC territory. If you find the much rarer Poison Sumac, you'll know with certainty you are in or near a bog or fen.

And indeed, Ryan Steiner was scaning for sparrows near the entrance to Brown's Lake Bog, a TNC property that hosts the rarest and most unusual native plants found in Wayne County.

The Pitcher-plant, Sarracenia purpurea is well adapted to capture nutrients unavailable in the acidic soil. These little cauldrons of death will neatly drown and dissolve any insects misfortunate enough to venture in. However, the layer of ice within these "pitchers" would prevent winter feedings, even if if there were any insects available.

And one for the reptile lovers: Jeff Spaudling does a visual necropsy on an unfortunate garter snake, who looked to be the victim of some violent death. Several puncture injuries consistent with claws or teeth were found along its body. Jeff is our CSI of the CBC! But unlike the CSI, we left the body for the winter birds. Raptors have to eat too, you know!

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