The trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata) is a plant sometimes seen growing in brushy fencerows, and around older homes. It has long green thorns and bears golf ball –size, fragrant fruit. This plant is native to China.
With that in mind, you might be surprised to learn that it is a giant swallowtail host plant.
I have long harbored the belief that listening to birds singing can have a positive impact on humans. I know whenever I am facing a problem or simply trying to wind down at end of the day, sitting on my deck listening to feathered songsters such as wood thrushes, cardinals, pine warbler, mockingbirds and summer tanagers, clears my mind and seems to leave me more relaxed.
The fact that many other folks feel the same way has prompted researchers to investigate whether or not the purported benefits of listening to birds sing are real or imagined. One such researcher is an associate professor at Cal Poly Tech University named Clinton Francis. His experiment involved exposing hikers along a trail to short periods of birds singing. When Dr. Clinton compared the impact of the birdsongs on hikers exposed to the songs with hikers that did not hear the recordings, he said, “In just seven minutes, you can see a measurable effect on people’s indirect, self-reported well-being.”
If, from time to time, you find you simply need to find a way to relax a bit, trying sitting in your backyard and listening to the birds singing. If you do, I suspect before you go back inside your home, your state of mind has improved.
Research has revealed that small birds lose an average of 10 percent of their body weight at night without suffering any ill effects. Can you imagine if we were able to lose 10 percent of our weight while we are sleeping? Now that is food for thought.
While we have known for some time that hummingbirds cannot survive on a diet of sugar water and/or nectar alone. These tiny birds must also capture and eat insects to maintain a proper balance of proteins and nutrients. That being the case, have you ever wonder how many insects a hummingbird must consume in a day?
Dr. Gregor Yanega of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center has provided us with the answer. According to Dr. Yanega, “Hummingbirds need the equivalent of 300 fruit flies a day to survive.”
FEMALE RUBY-THROATED-HUMMINGBIRD; Photo credit: Terry W Johnson
Countless species of animals live in Georgia yards. However, when we think about the animals that inhabit our yards we often focus on large animals such as birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects. However, there are far smaller creatures such as earthworms, centipedes, mites and the like, that also live out their lives just outside our door. One of the most fascinating is an earthworm (Diplocardia longa). Like many invertebrates, it does not have an official common name; however, some simply refer it as the Hawkinsville glow worm. However, what makes this earthworm so special is that it is one of only 37 species of luminescent earthworms known to exist worldwide.
The reason we associate Diplocardia longa with Hawkinsville. Georgia is an American zoologist named John Penny Moore was the first to document the existence of this earthworm. His description is based on worms first collected in Hawkinsville, Georgia in 1904.
This is large earthworm is 11 or more inches in length and has a diameter of 0.20 inches. The ends of its body are brown while the majority of the worm is colored salmon red. The body is translucent which allows the animals veins to be visible. The worm also displays a club-shaped swelling near its tail.
What sets this earthworm apart from the vast majority of other earthworms is when the critter is disturbed a luminescent slimy substance that glows blue oozes out from its pores on the dorsal side of its body, as well as its mouth and anus.
Biologists are unsure what role the sticky goo plays in the life of the Hawkinsville glow worm. However, some zoologists theorize the eerie blue substance scares off potential predators such as moles.
We know very little about the worm’s abundance, life history, and distribution. About all that is known is you have the best chance of digging one up in the sandy soils found in Georgia’s Coastal Plain.
While I personally have never heard anyone talk about finding a Hawkinsville glow worm, I suspect that backyard gardeners throughout the region unearth it from time to time. If you have happened across one of these odd creatures, I would love to hear about your experience.
The wood thrush is widely recognized as having the most beautiful song of any North American bird. If you have ever heard the flute-like song of the wood thrush wafting through the leaves of a hardwood forest, it is hard to imagine the song of any other bird is more beautiful.
In 1853, the famous early American naturalist and writer Henry David Thoreau wrote, “This is the only bird whose note affects me like music. It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring. It changes all hours to an eternal morning.”
As Thoreau enjoyed the exquisite song of the songbird countless times during this lifetime, what he did not know is that, in many cases, he was probably listening to a one-bird duet. Let me explain.
The wood thrush has a syrinx (voice box) that is far different from that of a human. Since it is Y-shaped and equipped with two membranes that rapidly that vibrate to produce the wood thrush’s songs, the wood thrush can sing two songs at the same time.
PHOTO CREDIT: Missouri Dept. of Conservation
While most people are familiar with the bird’s ee-o-lay notes, the male wood thrush is capable of singing more than 50 different songs.
This spring my wife and I have enjoyed listening to wood thrush songs vocalized in and near our backyard for weeks on end. We hear them most often early and late in the day. We also hear them less often throughout the day. As I write this blog on the first day of summer, we are hoping that this special songster will serenade us with its repertoire of songs for some time to come.
If you are not familiar with the song of the wood thrush, I urge you to visit the Cornell University, Laboratory of Ornithology website and listen to a recording of it. Believe me it is something you will not forget.
If you are interested in trying to attract a wood thrush to your yard in the spring, go to the Search bubble on this website and type in: Attracting the wood thrush to your backyard in spring. The blog should immediately pop into view.
During the past few weeks, I have received reports that eastern bluebirds have already begun nesting in many locales throughout Georgia. Being able to watch a pair raise their young in our yards is always one of the most enjoyable wild dramas played out in our backyards.
When we see a pair nesting one or two more times, it is only natural to assume we are watching the same two birds that we saw earlier in the spring. This belief is so popular, most bluebird landlords rarely wonder if this is indeed the case. This assumption has, however, been tested in a number of studies. You might be surprised at what these research projects found.
For example, in one study, biologists learned that most bluebird pairs remained together, if their first nesting attempt proved to be successful. However, when it fails, only 30-50% of the pairs remain together for another attempt to nest in the same nesting season. In an apparent effort in be successful during a re-nesting effort, the adults will breed with another mate.
If you have never taken the time to watch the behavior of the American crows that visit your yard, you are missing the opportunity to see birds exhibit some amazing behaviors. For example, if you are lucky, you just might see a crow engaged in a behavior called “anting.”
It seems that American crows will literally stand or lie on top of an ant mound and let swarms of these six-legged insects crawl all over them. Once the ants begin running around on the crows’ feathers, the birds grab the ants and rub them on themselves. Ornithologists believe the formic acid found in ants helps the birds ward off parasites.
Have you ever witnessed this activity? I must admit that, although I have not done so, it is something that I definitely want to see for myself.