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Spring Favorites and Birds Do it Too
April 18, 2011
Our prayers go out to all the regions and people that were effected by the tornadoes and weather this past week.
Here in Southwest Michigan, we started out with a record high of 85 degrees on Sunday.
By the time Saturday rolled around, we were in the 30's with a snow mix.
By Sunday, we were back into the 40's.
Such is April in Michigan.
I was able to get a bit of yard work done.
More plants are popping up and still more didn't survive the winter.
We did have some cold spells this winter, with little or snow on the ground and that is never a good thing for plants.
Right on Que ..............
A few days of warmer weather and the Tree Swallows appear.
Here is a rather poor image of one as they inspect my neighbors plastic gourd houses.
Every year, the Tree swallows make homes in the gourds.
My neighbor goes to Florida every winter, I finally convinced him to leave the gourds up, as he
Now, the swallows appear and the houses are waiting for them.
Swallows, Purples martins (swallow family) and warblers are insect eating birds and the warmer temperatures have indeed brought many insects back from hibernation.
A cold snap of a few days will put these birds in danger of starvation.
I keep mentioning how migration is dictated by the length of day, but weather will play a small roll in hastening or slowing migration (for most birds).
While messing around in the compost/soilless potting mix, I came across this toad.
I was mixing things up with my hands and filling a large pot when my warty friend was unearthed.
It just laid there, not a blink or a twitch.
I moved him on top of the pile and it sat there for a good two hours doing nothing.
Another "Creative" masterpiece.
Toads are pretty cool.
Well, in this case, pretty cold.
Toads are not as well protected from frigid weather and may freeze, along with other inhabitants.
And yet the toads or frogs do not die.
It is true, ice crystals form in such places as the body cavity and bladder and under the skin, but a high concentration of glucose in the toad's vital organs prevents freezing.
Ice forms around the toad's organs and it becomes mostly frozen and hard,
However, the toad's individual cells remain unfrozen and intact.
Of course when it's frozen it doesn't breathe nor does its heart beat.
Brain activity is immeasurable.
It will appear frozen and quite dead.
But when the hibernaculum (hibernation home) warms up above freezing, the toad's frozen portions will thaw, and its heart and lungs resume activity.
My toad wasn't ready to welcome the world just yet and eventually returned to it underground world.
Thankfully I wasn't using a shovel or a fork.
This is a long letter and it is wise for me to get to the matters at hand.
There are a few spring favorites this week.
Faye from Lancaster, PA:
For me every year at the end of March, my Mallard duck and his mate return to my yard to eat the corn out of my birdseed that I provide for them. I also put a big round plastic dish full of water for them.
They come till the beginning of fall, then they disappear for some other favorite place. This has been going on for five years,and I am so thankful when spring rolls around, and there they are.
Thank you Faye.
I have some neighbors that think I'm a bit nuts, as I have a few regular Mallards that show everyday as well.
Like you, I too toss out cracked corn for them and now have the ducks conditioned to come in the evening.
Penny of St Charles, Illinois:
There is a bike path through woods that my dog and I walk daily. Someone, years ago, planted a few daffodils in the woods. These clumps grew larger, and more people added more daffodils as the years went by. Now there are literally thousands of daffodils in the woods! When they start to bloom, I know spring is here!
Thank you Penny.
Daffodils aren't native to the Americas. Since they have been introduced, they have become a sign of spring for most of us.
Naturalized daffodils in mass have a wonderful eye appeal and can thrive and survive shaded areas because they bloom and die back before woodlands grow too thick to allow the sun in.
Lou in New Jersey:
Spring is by far my most favorite of the seasons. I love seeing the transformation from the dull landscape to the beautiful blooming of trees and flowers and the lush green lawns with some dandy lions sprinkled in for interest. My yard is alive again and the animals are getting wired up for mating season. Saw my first chipmunk today and the cottontails are chasing each other around the yard, so funny. Every year the give birth under my shed out back. Juncos are slowly disappearing as are the white throated sparrows. Cardinals are claiming territories and mama robins are busy building new nests. Chickadees are checking out the bird houses. Nest building is starting to really pick up. Ground is still too wet to work and by the looks of the forecast for the next two weeks, it may be May before the saturated ground is workable again. It has been a nasty cold and snowy winter, so spring is welcome with open arms,Thank God for all the beauty around us.
Thank you Lou,
I saw my first chipmunk too this past week.
Thank God for everything.
Laura of Highland, Michigan:
Saturday we got our annual wake-up call at around 6:30 a.m. That's when the woodpecker decided to tap on the metal cover of our fireplace chimney. It echoes loudly through the house and startles us out of bed every time. He keeps on until my husband can get downstairs and bang on the metal liner to scare him away. He usually returns for a few more mornings but so far he hasn't this year. Yep, the flowering trees, plants emerging from the ground after a long winter, the birds chirping and the smell of fresh air as we finally open the windows are all favorite things about Spring but that woodpecker tells us Spring has finally sprung!
Thank you for the chuckle Laura.
Tapping and drumming woodpeckers. The war cries of Flickers.
A tradition I'm not sure I could look forward too, but it is a tell tale sign of spring for sure and I understand.
There you go.
If you have a Spring favorite, simple forward this to me along with your
First name (last is optional):
Region or location:
State or Province:
Your comments have been good,
I would like some for the last week of April please.
Every year for Easter, I allow myself to write or share about my Our Lord and Creator.
My thoughts and opinions on Spring, Easter, Creation and more.
Resurrection Sunday is after all, the most important time in history.
Feel free to delete or ignore this letter on Good Friday (your missing a treat) and we'll get back to business as usual the following Monday
It has been about three years since I last wrote on this topic.
With several of you asking questions, I figured it is time to write on this topic once again.
Yes, about the birds and the bees for birds.
I make every attempt to be careful as this is a family newsletter an of course, spam filters flag just about anything these days.
No matter, this is a well informed and educational topic.
Birds do it too.
Kinda sorta they do.
If you have been with me fore a couple of weeks or longer, you know I love birds and I have for as long as I can remember.
Especially song birds and birds of prey.
They truly are amazing.
Their freedom of flight.
How unique each species is in their ability to find food.
How they entertain us with their antics and song.
How relaxing and educational they can be to watch.
Yet, song birds are on the menu for other birds, several mammals, snakes and in some places they are hunted (Mourning doves).
Though every day is a life and death situation, they still find the time to "Do It,".
To make bird love.
Length of day dictates migration, it also dictates hormones, courtship, whoopee and reproduction.
Some birds mate for life or until a mate dies.
Some birds that we think mate for life (Northern cardinals) will indeed get a bird divorce so they can find a mate better suited for reproduction.
(Isn't that the name of the game?)
Some birds mate for the season.
While other birds like this Red-winged blackbird and Dar-eyed juncos sometimes believe in sharing the wealth, or grabbing as much of the gusto as they can.
We all know that a male hummingbird is all about that...... period.
Through all of this, in a healthy environment, bird populations are able to maintain or even increase.
As it is in the animal kingdom, hormones rule and rage.
As is the case with all male creatures, the male is always ready before the female is.
When the time is right, birds start the courtship process.
Even birds that are paired for life will renew and strengthen bonds.
You may have seen aerial displays or ground dances.
Some birds like Cardinals, the male will offer the female a morsel of food.
Often you will see some posturing take place.
Wing movements or body movements.
Look for aerial displays of affection and a dance or two along the way.
Some males show off colors.
Males House wrens may build several false nests hoping that a female will choose one so he can mate with her.
As you can see guys.............
Us men haven't cornered the market on foolish actions.
It is a ubiquitous thing among all male of any species and the ladies love it:-)
The female chooses the male she wants to be with.
Often is is decided on his ability to defend a territory or totally based on his color.
Genetics, survival of the fittest.
Birds know how important it is to pass on a strong genetic line.
Once a relationship has formed and she is receptive, it's time for some bird love...........
Time to "DO IT"
(I have to be careful what I say so this letter isn't rejected.)
We have all see birds mating, what you may not know with most birds is..........
there is no penetration.
For some birds, such as swans, ducks, geese, turkeys and chickens the male does have a Phallus and there is penetration.
Except during copulation, it is hidden within the proctodeum compartment within the cloaca, just inside the vent.
The avian phallus differs from the mammalian penis in several ways, most importantly in that it is purely a copulatory organ and is not used for expelling urine.
When we see birds mating it is called the "Cloacal Kiss."
The Cloaca is the external organ part where all of a birds excretions come out of.
a cloaca is the posterior opening that serves as the only such opening for the intestinal and urinary tracts of certain animal species.
The word comes from the Latin, and means sewer.
All birds, reptiles, and amphibians possess this orifice, from which they excrete both urine and feces, eggs and sometimes live babies.
Some birds mount, others do a balancing act and still others like swallows and swifts mate on the fly.
The birds Cloaca come in contact much like a kiss and fluids are deposited from male to female.
The actual act (kiss) may take but a few seconds with the exchange taking about .5 seconds (what a drag).
Before all of this takes place, some interesting things are happening within the bird.
A male bird's reproductive fluid organs increase in size dramatically.
Often more than 100 times the non breeding size (ouch).
Inside the Cloaca is a depository sack that holds the fluid.
Observe the diagrams below for a general idea on bird plumbing and reproductive organs.
Diagram of Male Parts:
A female bird goes through changes as well.
Though they are made and hatched with two ovaries, only the left one is productive in song birds. (Birds of prey seem to have 2 active ovaries.)
After the kiss, depending on the species of bird, she has the ability to keep the male fluids alive and healthy for days and even weeks.
Until she is ready to nest.
Some species of birds are known to mate during migration like Killdeer.
This way, no time is wasted and they can get right down to raising a family.
A female birds reproductive system is much like an assembly line as the ripe yolk is dropped, continues down the line where it is fertilized and built up all in about a 24 hour period.
A typical bird will lay one egg a day while other birds may lay one every other day or every 2 days.
Some birds like chickens will continue to lay until a certain number is reached (indeterminate)
With many birds, a clutch size can vary, but there is usually a basic clutch size (determinate).
For example, A Hummingbird clutch is usually 2 eggs rarely if ever more.
A Robin is usually 4, but can be 2 or 3 and rarely 5.
A chickadee, because it usually has but one clutch early, has a larger clutch of 6 to 9 eggs.
It only takes one kiss to fertilize the whole clutch, but with all males, once is never enough, that is why you may see a pair have at it several times.
Many scientists believe this strengthens the bond between the birds.
With some birds like Eastern bluebirds and even Northern cardinals, DNA testing has shown there is more than one father in a given clutch.
With some male birds of the same species, (Wrens and Juncos come to mind) the can have an over dose of testosterone and aren't satisfied with one mate.
It is well documented that female hummingbirds do all the work after mating, but this may hold true for other species as well ( male Red-winged blackbirds often have several mates).
You may see a pair of Mallard ducks walking around or coming to your feeders like they do mine.
You may think "How Cute" as the male sits and watches the female feed.
He isn't being the protective mate, he is simply keeping an eye on his prize, making sure another male doesn't mess with her.
He doesn't want some other male to come along while his back is turned, but give him the chance and he is off some where else to DO IT.
Once the eggs are laid and the female Mallard is ready to nest, the male is long gone (some loyal mate he is).
She now has to sit for a good 30 days and find time to eat, drink and do other things.
This can be taxing on the female as she is left to do it all on her own.
Some birds produce one batch of eggs per year, but they will produce another if the first is taken away or destroyed (they have the ability to produce more).
We know that with hummers, Mallards and some other species, she does all the work.
However, with most birds, at least some or all the duties are shared.
Though the male stakes out a territory, it is usually up to the female
With some birds, both partners will build the nest and take turns incubating.
With American Robins, the female is the sole nest builder, while with Mourning doves both partners partake.
With Black-capped chickadees, both will share in nest construction. However, the female chickadee does the incubating, while he brings home the bacon.
And so it goes.
With all the differences created in the thousands of species of birds worldwide, they all have some things in common don't they?
Many species of birds need our help more than ever.
The loss of habitat and the excessive use of toxins continue to kill off our birds.
"Creation" is a wonderful thing.
We get to witness our 'Creator's' handy work all around us.
Creation and life is so "AWE Inspiring" don't you think?
Well, it is time to fly for now.
Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.
Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.
Epictetus (55-135 AD) Greek Philosopher
Anger can turn into bitterness.
Bitterness leads to unforgiveness.
Unforgiveness becomes a cancer that eats away at your life.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
James 1:19-20 (NIV)
"Treat the earth well:
It was not given to you by your parents,
It was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our
Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."
Ancient Indian Proverb
Your friend indeed,
Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.
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