One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Our mystery today comes to us from regular reader, Connie. Thanks, Connie!

Mystery #179

Yes, it’s those little blobs, about the size of a small acorn.

I’ll check back later for your guesses, but if you’d like a hint, scroll down:

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Hint: Connie found these on her pontoon boat.

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One brave reader guessed that these particles were the stuffing from the boat. No, but that was our first guess, too! No mice or insects were burrowing inside. This was deposited on the boat and appears nearly every morning, Connie tells us.

And every morning someone visits the boat.

Great Blue Heron on Lake Audubon Paul Hartke 2016

If the light is a bit too dim for you, here’s another photo.

Great Blue Heron on Lake Audubon

That’s a Great Blue Heron. A very old one, we believe, because his beard–the feathers trailing from his neck–is full. Now we squirrels had heard of owls regurgitating pellets of fur and bones after they eat, but not herons, so we did a bit of research. Turns out herons do as well, and it’s called “casting.”

fish bones in a Great Blue Heron casting

fish bones in a Great Blue Heron casting

If you look closely, this deposit, or regurgitation, contains small fish bones and scales!

Herons also have a throat pouch. When they have young in the nest, they swallow a fish or two and carry them back to the nest and regurgitate them for the young birds. Young birds might do the same if a predator attacks their nest to frighten it away.

Want to learn more about Great Blue Herons? The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a camera on a heron nest and answers many questions about these birds on their Bird Cam FAQ website.

Thirsty Thursday

Walk around a pond and you’re sure to see dragonflies. Have you folks ever noticed some of them eat the smaller damselflies? Dragonflies are predators! Reminds this old squirrel of a miniature hawk.

DSCN2441This here is a favorite of mine, the Eastern Pondhawk–see, Ol’ Wally isn’t the only one thinking hawk! The male is easy to identify if you look for the blue abdomen and green face.

Eastern Pondhawk male

 

Eastern Pondhawk male

I’m sure you’ll be watching over your shoulder on your next pond stroll!

Thirsty Thursday

Nutmeg and Hickory have both shown you humans the Common Milkweed plant. Well, Ol’ Wally here has a milkweed a mite better.

Swamp Milkweed

How do you like them blossoms?? ‘Pretty in pink’ as I’ve heard humans say. This is Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, which is sometimes known as Pink Milkweed–but you know how Miz Flora hates common names, so we’ll stick to the proper one.

Aside from the brighter color, this milkweed flower doesn’t form a ball like Common Milkweed, but is more like the orange Butterflyweed in shape. And I bet you readers have already guessed–since this old squirrel is featuring this plant on the water column–that Swamp Milkweed likes a wet soil. Only wet, though, it won’t grow in standing water. Like the other milkweeds, it is highly attractive to nectar feeders, and the sap in the leaves (that the caterpillars eat) even contains the same toxins as Common Milkweed.