Message from the President
Hello again, my friends!
Spring is in the air, or at least the pollen has been! I'm very grateful for the recent rains that have knocked down most of the pine pollen, that seems to be the one that has the biggest impact in making my car look particularly dirty. Now that pine pollen "season" has passed, we can enjoy the sight and sounds of the season. My bird feeders have been abandoned, but I see many of my winter friends (especially Yellow-rumps and Goldfinches) up in the tops of the oaks and sweet gums around my house. They are loading up on all the small caterpillars that are, in their turn, feeding on the tender buds and leaves. It is pretty cool to see; the birds almost complete stopped coming to my feeders over the course of about two days. Now I just get an occasional one at my bird bath, taking a drink. Oh well, at least the others are loading up with protein in preparation for the northward migration and subsequent breeding season. And, lest you think disparagingly of yellow-rumps as a drab, boring winter bird, try to take a closer look right now. They are pretty spectacular in their breeding plumage, which I see some of the males sporting currently as seen above.
As I write this, I'm getting some emails from members following up on our last Walk & Talk, on March 19th, to Charleston Audubon & Natural History Society's McAlhany Preserve property. I had a wonderful time and am truly in awe of the diversity of habitats and wealth of organisms one can find on that property. If you missed it this time, make sure you go in the future; we'll have to return, there was too much for just one trip.
What I am awe-struck with other than the location, however, is the incredible depth of knowledge, kind and generous attitudes, and joy for learning that was exhibited by my fellow attendees. Thank you for sharing all of that with me! This Walk & Talk was a bit different, in that our "leaders" knew a lot about the site and its management, but not as much about all the different things we saw as did some of our CMNA folks. It was truly a pleasure to have Bill remind me of the name and then provide details of the American cancer-root plant (Conopholis americana) and describe its taxonomic relationship with the American Chaffseed (Schwalbea americana), with which they are doing host plant-testing at McAlhany. [Spoiler alert! It is not their national origins, but both are in the Family Orobanchaceae, which made me wonder if that may, or may not, explain their parasitic and hemiparisitic behaviors, respectively.) Very interesting in any case.
American cancer-root plant (Conopholis americana) a parasite on woody plant roots, especially oaks and beech.
Another inspiration was, as always, the sharp eye of Debbie, who found the only unhatched Polyphemous moth (Antheraea polyphemus ) cocoon I have seen. I am used to seeing these as isolated, white oval structures visible across a marsh, as we find them at Caw Caw. Those, and others I've found under similar exposed and visible conditions, were already empty. This one (below) however, was hidden between some water oak leaves from the previous year. They were attached to the cocoon. It made me wonder if most cocoons start that way, and I'm only seeing them as bare, long after the moths have eclosed (Woo hoo! I finally get to use that word!) and the abandoned cocoons have been weathered for a while, loosing their camouflage leaves. Anyone know?
Intact Polyphemous moth (Antheraea polyphemus ) cocoon, hidden within attached leaves of a water oak (Quercus nigra).
I've too many other recollections to share with you now. I found it to be one of the best outings I've been on. We'll definitely have to get some folks together for a write up. The nature was great, but you, my fellow naturalists, were truly spectacular. Thank you all for letting me be part of the tribe!
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