Flying Feats

Look closely at the winged creatures around us and you’ll see many have extraordinarily athletic abilities, some of which we are trying very hard to copy with the latest mechanical drones.  Did you see the amazing formation flying, amid the regular fireworks, of lights carried by perhaps more than a hundred drones at President-Elect Biden’s victory speech on Nov 7?

 

Last season’s Eagle nest, nearly ½ mile away to the North on Audubon Island, is gone.  It was good for at least two years and two sets of young birds, but now it is nowhere to be seen.  We last saw it on May 1st when the leaves opened and hid it, with the two young ones who were almost ready to fly, from our view:


The tree is bare now in November and with the summer leaves fallen we can see that the nest has gone without a trace.

To our great good luck the parents seem to have decided to give Garden Island, just 150 yards away, another try. An effort there 2 or 3 years ago failed miserably.
This time, in just one month, they’ve built a nest up from nothing.  Seems that one (the male?) collects a branch in less than 5 mins and brings it back. The other (the female?) then repositions it, while he’s gone looking for another stick.  (Everyone know that men can’t properly load a dishwasher!).

The eagle prefers branches directly from a tree. (A few years ago I temptingly laid out a dozen good branches on the river bank and none were taken by any nest builders.)  Occasionally the bird clasps a tree branch which won’t break off and he is left dangling precariously, upside-down.  I was lucky enough to have the camera (iPhone) running when he came to the walnut tree right outside.  Look carefully and you’ll see the eagle first snaps off a twig.  Could it have been testing the wood to see if it was brittle enough to break easily?  If so, then the answer was ‘yes’ – he jumped onto and grasped the branch which broke under his 10 to 14 lb. weight, dropped, spread his wings and flew back to the nest.
The new nest is holding up well even though there was a 37 mph wind this week:

 

Other very fine fliers are the Big Brown Bats.  Twice this summer they crept into the house through a very small hole under the balcony screen door.  Alice and Pinot quickly tell us we have an early morning visitor:

I close all doors but one, leaving a rectangular loop for their flight: down the corridor, through the bedroom, and into the other end of the corridor.  At one end of corridor the balcony door is open, but at that point they are turning on their circuit.  No combination of indoor and outdoor lights on and off will induce them to turn the other way and leave.

Alice watches it fly round and round, never bumping into me or the walls, until we are all exhausted and a bat finally lands on a wall.

At that point you can easily pick them up in a towel and take them out before Pinot closes in.  I know: I should wear gloves and a bee suit, but it is 3:00 am.  The good news is I can see no sign of the ‘white nose syndrome’ which is badly hurting so many bat species.

 

A beautiful late summer sight is the vertical flight of a bunch (sometimes hundreds) of miniscule gnats who swarm on a warm evening, presumably in a wild mating dance?  Also hard to photograph, but watch carefully and you’ll see individuals rising and falling.  Even a gust of wind only temporarily disturbs the flying formation.  How do they navigate?  Pheromones may be attracting them back to the spot, even though wind must surely carry away any scent.  How do they navigate in 3D?  I never see them bump into each other.

 

One day on the Portage River we found a 2D version of the 3D gnat swarm.  These magnificent water striding bugs were having their pre-start maneuvers to a regatta like no other.  Turning and swerving, hardly making a dent on mirror smooth water, they somehow gain traction for accelerating and braking without penetrating the surface tension skin of the river.  I switched the movie to slow-motion but can hardly see a ripple in the water from their feet.  What is their rhyme or reason?  Perhaps they’re just having fun?

 

 

Predators and Prey, Hatteras, NC and Perrysburg, Ohio, October 2013

This fall the Ocean-side waves were too threatening for sailing or swimming all week long. Hatteras is aptly called “The Graveyard of the Atlantic”.

Hatteras Ocean Wave

Hatteras Ocean Wave

Even the skies seem appropriately threatening.

Cirrus Clouds

Cirrus Clouds

When the sun shone it all looked much more inviting.

Ocean Side Sun and Waves

Ocean Side Sun and Waves

A small shark washed up on the beach.

Beached Shark

Beached Shark

Marcus found that it had died from a fish lure lodged deep in its throat.

Marcos

Marcos

By day, you see many small holes in the sand.

Crab

Crab

By night the crab occupants come out, but they are still not easy to catch.

Night time crab

Night time crab

Caught Crab

Caught Crab

I wonder who eats them?

In the sand dunes this moth has evolved great camouflage to blend with the colors to avoid being eaten.

Butterfly needing ID?

Butterfly needing ID?

While this wild flower needs all the color it can muster to attract scarce pollinators.

Red Flower in Dunes - Needs ID?

Red Flower in Dunes – Needs ID?

On the sound side of the dunes (where we windsurf) the scene seems more peaceful,

Sound-Side Sunset

Sound-Side Sunset

This luminous green fly is a good contender for the Best Dressed Bug contest.

Green Fly

Green Fly

I don’t know if it is eaten by this magnificent large spider we found living in the reeds.

Black and Yellow Argiope

Black and Yellow Argiope

The female “Black and Yellow Argiope” (thanks Carol for ID) is 1 ½” (35 mm) long. She (not Carol!) eats her web (plus contents I presume) every night, and next morning spins a new one.

This one cormorant stopped for preening and was close enough for a photo.

Cormorant

Cormorant

Many, many thousands of these birds stream by every day, low over the water, sometimes diving en masse for fish, while flying south to some unknown destination which must be unimaginably crowded if they all congregate there together. (I now read that deep diving cormorants, mergansers and loons are dying in Lakes Michigan and Huron from a Type E botulism which they may be eating from the lake bottom)

On the water were kite boards and windsurfers.  Jim’s amazing GoPro waterproof, high resolution cameras attached to the end of my windsurf boom reveal some of the tensions and subtleties involved when you try to connect with foot straps and harness, while riding the wind and the waves.  At first it seems the foot straps are never where my feet are, but then later I find the straps actually are perfectly located.  The harness is another matter: hooking in and out should be effortless, provided it’s properly adjusted – and you must always avoid accidentally hooking in when you should be out!


Footstraps and Harness (not stabilized).



The road back to Ohio goes past Kitty Hawk, where you can appropriately pay homage to the Wright brothers by taking hang glide lessons – very tempting. It would be good to try it one day with a GoPro.

Hang Glide_8696

Back home in Perrysburg this bug landed on my Prodigy board and showed me it has evolved a pretty good helmet to protect at least its shoulders from being eaten.  I see now it is called a “Wheel bug” (Arilus cristatus). Very good to have in your garden as it devours aphids and others who’d eat your flowers and vegetables. But beware, while not easily provoked, it does have a very nasty bite. It injects digestive enzymes into its prey so it can more easily suck out the nutritious innards. Perhaps that’s what makes it so painful for humans.

Buzz Saw Head Bug

Wheel Bug

And in the honey bees’ hive I found some of these tiny ants on the comb. Presumably their giant stinger gives them some protection from the much larger bees.

Small Ant with Big Stinger

Small Ant with Big Stinger

Sandy Storm Stories

Hurricane Sandy sank the replica of HMS Bounty on her way south as she tried to squeeze between Cape Hatteras and the storm which had been tracking NNE but then suddenly backed 90 degrees, headed to NJ and NY, and fatally closed the gap.  The week before all had been tranquil at Cape Hatteras, NC.The light winds and calm sea only showed shore breaking swells (too high to go out int0) from very distant actions, but a reminder of the Cape’s ferocity.

The sand dunes do show how past winds have scoured out the sand. Here I’d say a good meter (3 ft.) depth of beach has been lost.

A dead sea turtle, with damaged shell perhaps from a propellor, washed in on the waves.

In the grasses a wild color mushroom hinted of other thrills. Nobody touched it.

The house architecture does show prepardness for floods to sweep across the sand banks. Note the front door 1 1/2 floors above ground level.  So tall that they noticeable shake in the wind.

On the sound side of the outer banks the windsurfing was gentle. In the far distance there was a line of many thousands of cormorants flying south day after day.


The barometer fell briefly, bringing one night of wind and lightning (Thanks to Glen Gardner for catching the brief flash).  The colored lights are from light sticks attached to windsurf sails braving the dark in search of good wind.


but for the most part we watched in vain for the Green Flash of sunsets. I can’t explain the circular sun even though it is half below the horizon.


One single mosquito held still for its final photo:

before I left for Washington DC to accidentally catch up on the latest in young men’s fashions: 
Considering that a day pass on the metro (subway) costs $12 these stylish young men could hardly be considered poor.

Looking for storm signs in the sky there were perhaps some hints of something as we drove home.

When Sandy proper arrived the satelite photos showed that in Perrysburg, Ohio we were on the very outer edge of the huge cloud swirl – little wind but scary red sunsets.

A week later back in New Jersey I saw the remains of the early snow storm damage that added to the hurricane problems.


And in Manhattan the Flatiron Building at 23 rd. and 3 rd. Avenue, looked like the bow of the Titanic.

Nearby is an outstanding new Italian food market called “Eataly” – not to be missed if you are near by.