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images by Sally Kneidel

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A rare treat — a fabulous Giant Stag Beetle (Lucanus elaphus). My fingertips for scale. Incredible!!! Saw this one at a city greenway last week. The huge jaws are only on males, they fight for females just like male elk, deer, and moose. Check out this video of 2 males fighting (a different but similar species): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r34FSI2HKPY

 

 

 

The dissenter

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Why did this beautiful Black-eyed Susan have red on it while all the others were yellow? I came across them yesterday in a city greenway.

These are native plants, growing wild.

Not there yet

 

Assassin bug on wall w writing

Saw this lovely little bug plodding patiently along a wall at a local park last week.  She inspired me!

She’s a wingless nymph (sub-adult) in the family Reduviidae.

 

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Same bug. Photos, Sally Kneidel.

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Eyed Click Beetle, also called Eyed Elater. Sally Kneidel

Saw this beautiful big click beetle on the deck a couple of days ago, about an inch long.  If clicked away after one picture, disappearing into the brush.

The two black spots are fake eyes that startle birds and other predators and give the beetle a chance to get away. Lots of butterflies and caterpillars have fake eye spots for the same reason.

Click beetles move by suddenly snapping their body at the middle — they do that by pulling a peg on the thorax out of a tight groove, sort of like pop beads. When they do that, their body flips away, accelerating  faster than any other animal on the planet.  They don’t go very far, especially the little brown click beetles that are so common. But this Eyed Click Beetle moved fast enough to get away from me and my camera.  I couldn’t find it again.

Thank you little beetle for letting me take the one picture!

1 Mom, we're hungry!

MOM! WE’RE HUNGRY!!

I saw this family of Great Blue Herons yesterday at a wetland along a city greenway.  After watching this sequence, I understood why Mama usually rests with her bill pointed way up in the air.

2 Oh, all right. Now mind your manners.

OH ALL RIGHT. NOW MIND YOUR MANNERS. DON’T GOBBLE!

They try to get mom to give up some fish from her mouth.  One of the chicks hustles to be first.

3 Jeez, calm down, you'll get some

JEEZ, CALM DOWN. YOU’LL GET SOME!!

Their enthusiasm overtakes them….

4 How long is it til they graduate

HOW LONG TIL THEY GRADUATE?

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Red Milkweed Beetles mating on Common Milkweed. Photo by Sally Kneidel

These beetles must spend a lot of time mating. Yesterday was only the second time I’ve ever seen them, and both times, every beetle in sight was so engaged. Dozens of them.  On both occasions, they were on patches of Common Milkweed. I was taking a walk when I saw them yesterday, hoping to spot Monarch caterpillars on the milkweed, to report to the website Journey North. Was disappointed to find no Monarchs, but enjoyed seeing the lovely Red Milkweed Beetles  instead. They’re in the family of longhorn beetles, Cyrambycidae — notice the long antennae. Not to be confused with the much more common Milkweed Bugs, which are also red and black, but are not even beetles. Milkweed Bugs are in the order of true bugs, Hemiptera.

It’s not a coincidence that Red Milkweed Beetles, Milkweed Bugs, and Monarchs all are red or orange — “warning” colors to birds and other predators.  The Monarchs and Red Milkweed Beetles and Milkweed Bugs are all toxic to predators because of toxic chemicals in the milkweed they eat.

Whenever I see milkweed, I look for monarchs.  These celebrated butterflies are declining because milkweed is declining.  The over-spraying of herbicides on genetically modified crops in the Midwest is a major reason for the demise of milkweed.   Check out this excellent article from Slate.  Monarchs need our help.  Plant milkweed!  The beetles will enjoy it too!

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In this picture, you can see what I think is the spermatophore coming out of the male’s body and being transferred to the female’s body. It looks like an orange sphere. Photo by Sally Kneidel

 

 

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A mother orangutan holding her baby close, in a refuge on the island of Borneo. Photo by Sally Kneidel

I wish a safe Mother’s Day to all the wildlife mothers across the world.  Especially the world’s primates, most of which are threatened or endangered.

Primates are special, for me.  Most animal mothers don’t provide any maternal care whatsoever.  Instead, they lay eggs and abandon them, never seeing their own babies. That includes most (but not all) fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, crustaceans, and lots of others.  Sounds cruel, but it’s not.  The hatchlings in those cases are equipped to fend for themselves.  It’s nature’s way. Mortality is high, but the mother lays lots of eggs, so it works out.  (When humans stay out of the way, that is.)

Birds and mammals are different as a group in that they all provide some degree of maternal care for their young. Bird and mammal moms invest huge amounts of energy into feeding their young, cleaning them, keeping them warm, protecting them from predators, and so on.

long-tailed macaque Sacred Monkey Forest

Long-tailed Macaque mother and child in Sacred Monkey Forest in Bali. Photo by Sally Kneidel

I love seeing primates and their babies. To me, primates share our essence — they can be tender, loving, playful, and smart.  But unlike humans, they’re innocent. They’re not destroying the planet!

Mother and child, White-faced Capuchins in Costa Rica

Mother and child, White-faced Capuchins in Costa Rica. Photo by Sally Kneidel

Today, on Mothers Day, I’m celebrating some of the primate mothers and babies I’ve photographed around the world. These pics were taken in some of my happiest moments – seeing primates doing their own thing in their natural habitats. I am very grateful for those opportunities.

Help protect the world for animals that can’t fight back. Work to stop habitat destruction due to global warming.  One way to do that is to get involved with Greenpeace (https://www.facebook.com/greenpeacenc).  I recommend it.  Greenpeace is a hard-working, dedicated group of people I’m proud to volunteer with.

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A White-handed Gibbon and her youngster, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

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Adult monarch on milkweed next to my house. Not this year, they haven’t reached my state yet this spring.

Monarchs have started their spring migration from Mexico to the United States and Canada. These unique and beautiful butterflies migrate farther than any other butterfly, often more than 1000 miles! They’re reported to have left their Mexican wintering area on March 24 and crossed into Texas on April 2.

If you grow lots of milkweed in your yard, some may stop there to lay eggs.

You can follow their progress on the website of Journey North, which posts frequent (weekly?) updates on the monarch’s progress northward.

You can also easily report any monarch sighting of your own, and watch the dots pile up on the map of sightings. This is Citizen Science at its best. The Journey North website is a great resource for teachers, students, and anyone who loves butterflies.

Monarchs need help, they’re in trouble due to the overuse of pesticides and loss of habitat. Plant milkweed! It’s easy to order seeds online. Just Google.

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The male basking in the warm sun on a cool day.

I love spring! Every March, the Yellow-crowned Night Herons mysteriously come to town, nesting in my city of more than a million people. I don’t know why! These birds usually nest in coastal wetlands and feed on crustaceans. But here they are again, nesting 40 feet over a suburban street, 200 miles inland. Where’s the water? Don’t know! But in previous years, I’ve found crayfish exoskeletons under their nests, so they’re finding creeks somewhere nearby. We don’t have as many herons here as we used to, the city is growing so fast – trees are mowed down for new houses, habitat sadly destroyed. But for today, they’re still here. Yay!

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See the brood-patch of parted feathers on the female’s belly — bare skin warms her eggs better than feathers do.

I was lucky to catch the herons out in the open with full sun last week, an unusual photo opportunity. On the female’s belly you can see a “brood patch,” where the feathers have parted to allow her to warm her eggs with bare skin. You can ID these birds by the gray body, black face and bill, white cheek, and yellowish stripe on top of the head. They’re about two feet tall with their long legs extended. Beautiful!

Sally Kneidel , YCNH

Note the plumes on the back of the head as this one preens its right wing.

What can you do to help Yellow-crowned Night Herons?  Leave trees standing.  Protect streams and surface waters from pollutants such as motor oil, construction sediment, pesticide runoff. When you protect small crustaceans and insects, you’re also protecting the birds that eat them.  For more on Yellow-crowned Night Herons:   http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Yellow-crowned_Night-Heron/id

Too many powerful fishing boats
We all know the oceans are in trouble. Since “large-scale fishing” began in 1952, the abundance of large oceanic fish has decreased globally by 90%. Too many boats with too much capacity are chasing too few fish. Bottom trawlers drag nets across sea beds and coral reefs, cutting down everything in their path. The heavy-duty fishing lines in use by the “long-line industry” could encircle the globe 550 times. Fishing vessels, and airplanes that track schools of fish illegally, are equipped with so much detection equipment, fish have no chance of escaping. Check out my review of the fact-filled documentary “End of the Line: Where have all the fish gone?” for more on that score. The whole story of the exploitation of our oceans is pretty scary.

Meeting Kumi Naidoo
But in a sea of bad news, I heard some good news last week. For one thing, I met the inspiring director of Greenpeace, and heard a little about Greenpeace’s campaign to save our oceans. Read on for details. The second thing I want to tell you is an important new report from a no-fishing-zone in Mexico.

But first things first.

Kumi Naidoo, Exec Dir of Greenpeace International. Photo used with permission. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / Greenpeace

Greenpeace’s dynamic director – you gotta see this guy speak
Kumi Naidoo is Greenpeace’s International Executive Director. He was in my hometown last week (Charlotte) to help us fight the merger of the coal-burning Duke Energy with Progress Energy, a merger that would make Duke the biggest and most powerful utility in the U.S.

But Kumi talked about a lot of things – including oceans. He said that Greenpeace is trying to get 40% of our total ocean area declared fishing sanctuaries, or no-fishing-zones. I love it. It’s a huge goal, but who knows. With Kumi at the helm, nothing would surprise me. This man is fearless, tried-and-true. And Greenpeace has a long history of effective ocean activism. Consider supporting their campaigns by visiting their website.

Now, the second thing I wanted to mention – a very hopeful scientific report I saw last week, which was coincidentally related to Kumi’s comments about fish sanctuaries.

Good news!
Mexico’s Gulf of California has a national marine park that’s been closed to fishing since 1995. A 1999 survey of the 71-square-kilometer park found no big fish, no top predators such as giant grouper or snappers. These big fish are the most common targets for fishers.

But there’s been a turn-around. A recent survey showed that the fishing ban has had a dramatic effect! In the years since the park has been protected, the total mass of fish in the park has quintupled. The number of top predators has also soared. These big fish are indicators of a healthy ecosystem. Both of these trends are the opposite of those for fish in unprotected waters of the Gulf.

The park is Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, located close to where the Gulf of California meets the Pacific Ocean. This study of Cabo Pulmo is a model for over-harvested oceanic areas – which could include most of the ocean perhaps. It’s a strong argument for the creation of more fish sanctuaries, and counters the skeptics who’ve said that no-fishing-zones could have no effect.

“People who object to marine protected areas, especially to strong protection like here, often say there is no proof that they work,” says Elliott Norse of the Marine Conservation Institute in Bellevue, Washington. “Well here is the proof.”

Although protection of the park has overall been a huge success, sharks remain rare in the park, because of heavy over-harvesting for the fin trade as well as slow reproduction rates.

This study was published in the August 12 PLoS ONE (an online science journal) by Octavio Aburto-Oropeza and his colleagues of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.

Want more?
If you want more detail about the destructive capacity of modern fishing, check out my review of the fact-filled documentary “End of the Line: Where have all the fish gone?“. This film and the original book version by Charles Clover are both on Amazon. Another good book about the over-harvesting of our oceans is The Empty Ocean by Richard Ellis.

To learn about solutions and actions you can take, see the Greenpeace website.

Keywords: Greenpeace fish sanctuaries no fishing zones Kumi Naidoo End of the Line Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park Octavio Aburto-Oropeza Elliot Norse Scripps shark fins

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