Friday, July 17, 2009

Weekly Species Highlights

Here are the weekly species highlights for the third week of July:

Bird: Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) - These small, fast and extremely agile songbirds have managed to evade my camera lens for years, so I opted to embed a video created by a Chimney Swift conservation organization. These "flying cigars" are such skilled flyers that aeronautical engineers have been studying their wings and flight with the hopes of developing more efficient aircraft designs.

Chimney Swifts cannot stand upright or perch, but have small, strong feet tipped with four hooked claws which allow them to cling to vertical surfaces. They are one of only a handful of migratory bird species that have adapted well to urban living, taking advantage of man-made structures. Only occasionally roosting in the open, they prefer enclosed areas such as empty chimneys, silos, well shafts, and building attics. Adapting to manmade structures has also allowed their range to greatly expand. Chimney swifts are a very sociable species and travel with a colony. They are long distance migrants, breeding in central & eastern North America and wintering in eastern Peru. Usually feeding in groups, they fly closely together, making a high-pitched chattering sound. They eat flying insects such as flies, ants, and beetles.

Butterfly: Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) - The male Cloudless Sulphur is a lovely, solid-yellow butterfly with a wingspan of about 2 1/2 - 2 3/4 inches. The female can be yellow or white and has a brownish-black border. Both sexes have two small silver spots on the underside of their hindwings. Larvae are yellow with horizontal brownish stripes. It ranges throughout Southern California and the Southwest, east through the southern United States and south into Baja California and northern Mexico. Their preferred habitat includes many types of open spaces, meadows, gardens, seashores, and watercourses. The summer movements of the Cloudless Sulfur sometimes bring it farther north of its normal winter range, and autumn emigrations greatly reinforce its northern numbers, sometimes introducing millions to relatively small areas. This butterfly rarely perches with its wings open. Similar Species: Yellow Angled Sulphur.

Wildflower: Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) - Queen Anne’s lace is a biennial plant that is native to Europe and southwest Asia. The flowering part is an umbel of small, white flowers, occasionally with a dark purple flower in the center of the umbel. Queen Anne’s lace can be found in sun to partial shade along roadsides, old fields and waste places. The common name refers to the British monarch who was adept at lace-making. The lace-like flower is supposed to resemble a doily. The periodically appearing dark purple flower at the center is said, in English tradition, to be a drop of blood from Queen Anne when she pricked a finger while making lace. A member of the Parsley Family, this aromatic plant is related to Caraway, Fennel, Coriander, Anise-Root and Celery. While it is considered an invasive plant is some locations, Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies have benefited from its introduction as the caterpillars eat the leaves. In addition, the flowers' nectar is a source of food for native bees.

Tree: Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) - The Black walnut is a member of the hickory family. It grows mostly in riparian zones, from southern Ontario, west to southeast South Dakota, south to Georgia, northern Florida and southwest to central Texas. It is a large deciduous tree valued for its beautiful hardwood and edible walnuts. They can grow up to 150 feet but are more commonly found in the 50 to 70 foot range. The tree is native to North America and sometimes referred to as "Eastern Black Walnut" or "American Walnut". Prized as a fine furniture hardwood, but historically has also been used for gunstocks, flooring, paddles, coffins, and a variety of other woodworking products. Since early Americans, this tree has been used for its edible nuts and a blackish dye made from the husks. Topped only by the Pecan, the Black Walnut is considered by many as the most valuable native tree in the United States. Forestry officials are often called on to track down walnut tree poachers.

The walnut is the fruit of the Black Walnut tree and are shelled commercially in the United States. Walnuts are harvested in autumn, and must be removed from a shell and a very strong husk. The husk secretes a strong-smelling juice that creates very difficult stains.

Along with its commercial uses, Black Walnut makes a wonderful shade tree. This tree produces an allelopathic chemical called juglone. Juglone will inhibit the growth of some species of plants and trees within a 50- to 60-foot radius.

No comments:

Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope