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Nature Notes

Nature Notes – 2014

Robinson Nature Center -Home Sweet Home to White Tail Deer

Deer

Can you find the deer hiding in the thicket in the photo below? 

The deer is called a White Tail deer and they are very common throughout Maryland. We are very lucky here in Central Maryland to have families of White Tail deer living on the Robinson Nature Center grounds and the grounds of the MPEA…and many times right here in our own backyards!

Did you know that only male deer have antlers?  The deer in the picture below has no antlers so it appears to be a female, called a doe. Remember the “Do-Re-Me” song from Sound of Music? “Doe, a deer, a female deer…”

Deer love wooded areas like the Robinson Nature Center woods.  If you come to the Center and walk through the pathways, be very, very quiet and you might catch a glimpse!  They are very gentle creatures so no sudden moves!

Fun Facts About White Tail Deer

1.  When do male deer get antlers?  Every year in the Spring they shed their old antlers.

2. What is the velvet covering on antlers? The velvet covering of the bone in antlers is skin with lots of blood vessels. It dries in the Fall and then the antlers fall off in Winter and new ones come in Spring.

3.  How fast do white tail deer run?  Maryland white tail deer can run 35 miles per hour!  It’s only for a short distance though.

4.  Do white tail deer have enemies?  Yes. Mountain lions and wolves and man.

For more information on White Tail Deer in Maryland, visit Maryland Department of Natural Resources website http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Hunt_Trap/deer/ where we found the above questions and answers!

Nature Notes – PWSD – December 10, 2014

What makes stink bugs stink?  

Brown Stink Bugs have special glands that produce an offensive odor when the bug is threatened or touched.  Both males and females emit the foul odor.

Where did they come from?  

Stink bugs are not native to Maryland.  They were imported unintentionally from Asia and have taken up residence in the Northeastern U.S. states like Maryland.

What do stink bugs eat?

Stink bugs are harmful because they attack fruit trees, and vegetable crops and even some ornamental plants.  Stink bugs leave the fruit looking malformed and unattractive for sale at market.  They do not damage the flavor or insert toxins in the fruit but that doesn’t seem to help much when it comes to farmers selling the fruit at the market.

Are sting bugs pests just to farmers and their fruit trees?

No!  They often seek shelter indoors in the cold weather and they can emit that foul smell in your house!

 For more information on stink bugs, and how to control them or rid your house of them,  visit http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/controlling/stinkbugs/.

 

Who Protects Your Garden with Hands Folded in Prayer?  The Praying Mantis

praying mantis

Photo credit: Patricia Douglas

This photo of mating praying mantis was taken as they strolled slowly across the sidewalk at the Robinson Nature Center one beautiful fall day.

Have you ever seen one of these in your garden? If so, your garden is very healthy and is home to a fierce protector.

Praying mantis eat many bugs – moths, crickets, grasshoppers, flies — sometimes small birds like humming birds.

Praying mantis are cannibals:  The female mantis eat their male mates!

How big are praying mantis?  1/2 to 6 inches long.

How long do they live?  Only 12 months!

Do they bear live young?  No. The female mantis lays hundreds of eggs in an egg case.

Special skills? They can turn their heads 160 degrees (owls can turn their heads 270 degrees, remember?).

They also are very patient. They lay camouflaged among the plant leaves for hours, waiting to pounce when their prey comes along.

Interested in reading more about this fascinating bug?  Visit http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/praying-mantis/ and, if you are interested in reading how growers are using “hired bugs” as nature’s control of the insect garden, please visit http://www.naturescontrol.com/about.html

 

WHO-OO-OO?  WHO-OO-OO?  Maryland Owls, that’s who!

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Ranger, an example of a Barred Owl, lives in Maryland at the Howard County Conservancy – Lucky Bird! He visits area school children to educate them about birds of prey. (photo credit Patricia Douglas)

School children in Howard County, Maryland are very lucky. You’ve probably had the chance to meet Ranger, the Barred Owl.  Ranger lives at the Howard County Conservancy.  He travels with his trainer to schools in Howard County to teach students about birds of prey.

The rest of us are more familiar with the WHO-WHO-WHOOO sound of an owl from movies or TV rather than actually seeing one of these beautiful birds. That’s because owls are active at night while we are in our homes eating breakfast or dinner or still sleeping.

We can see 8 species of owls in Maryland. They are: Barred Owls (like Ranger), Barn Owls, Eastern Screech-Owls and Great-Horned Owls. Less often, we can see Long-Eared Owls, Short-Eared Owls, and something called a Saw-Whet owl. If you’re really lucky, you might even see a Snowy Owl as he flies south for the winter from Canada.

What do owls eat?  Barred Owls eat small rodents, frogs, crayfish and other birds! They also eat large insects. Barn Owls, not common in Maryland, eat mostly rodents they find in farmers’ fields. Screech Owls, common in areas like Columbia, eat small rodents, birds and, occasionally, small insects.

Did you know an owl can turn its head 270 degrees? Our heads only turn about 180 degrees or half-way round a complete circle.

Did you know owls see well at night? Their huge eyes are especially good at receiving light which is great for hunting when the only light is moonlight, hidden by clouds.

Did you know that Owls have great hearing? Their faces are shaped to funnel sound to their ears. Some owls can tell a prey’s direction and distance. Pretty amazing! We would need special instruments to do that.

Did you know the long “hooooo” sound that we associate with owls is close to the call that the Long-Eared Owl makes? These owls no longer live in Maryland but may pass through during migration. Each species of owl has a different, recognizable call.

How would you attract owls to your area? The owl’s habitat is very important to him so if you want a certain type of owl in your neighborhood, you have to have his favorite habitat. For example, Barred Owls, like Ranger, seek out wooded areas near a river for nesting. Other owls prefer salty marshlands, grass lands, or thick woods with evergreen trees or nest sites near farmlands.

To learn these facts and more about owls, provided as a public service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, click this link: Maryland Department of Natural Resources.  The site also has beautiful pictures of all the Maryland Owls mentioned in this article.

 

Guess what?  Ladybugs are not all ladies!

Interested in Ladybugs?  If you visit the website Ladybuglady.com, you can see wonderful pictures of ladybugs and find out some very interesting facts about this popular little bug. For articles on ladybugs visit www.ladybug-life-cycle.com.  Here is just a taste of the fun stuff you can find on these sites:

Ladybird

“Ladybird” Photo courtesy of Ladybuglady.com

What do ladybugs eat?  Ladybugs eat aphids, scale insects and plant mites.  So they are beneficial to gardens because they eat other “bugs” that infest plants, like your Mom’s favorite roses.

Are ladybugs poisonous?  No, not to humans. They may be poisonous to other animals and insects, though.

How did the ladybug get its name?  During the Middle Ages, early Christian farmers had difficulties with insects destroying their crops so they prayed to the Virgin Mary for help.  When the ladybugs came and saved the crops, the farmers called the bugs “beetles of our lady” and, eventually, shortened the name to Ladybugs.

How many types of ladybugs are there?  In the United States we have more than 300 types of ladybugs.  In the world, there are more than 5000!  That’s a lot of little bugs!

Do ladybugs have natural enemies?  Yes – lots of them.  Birds (like martins and swallows) and other insects (like dragonflies and ants) and tree frogs and mites and fungus.  Wow!

Can you tell how old a ladybug is?  Well, if your ladybug has faded spots, she’s a senior citizen!

What do you call a male ladybug?  A Ladybug.

 

Honey Bees – A Sweet Life!

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Photo courtesy of pdphoto.org

The Robinson Nature Center has a marvelous indoor observation bee hive near the backyard habitat on the lower level. Fascinated visitors can watch the bees fly out of the hive into the yard outside to search for nectar. Kids squeal with delight as they watch bees return and dance to tell all the other bees where the best flowers are. Watching workers deliver nectar for the honey-making process, it’s easy to see why people say “busy as a bee.” The hive is quite full of honey now!

Here are some bee facts from the Backyard Beekeepers website:

Bee venom  – Did you know that honey bee venom is used in some places in the world to treat human health problems, like arthritis, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol?

Did honey bees originate in the U.S.?  No, Honey Bees are not natural creatures of the U.S. They were brought here from Europe by the pioneers.

Do honey bees get sick?  Yes.  Honey Bees suffer from several diseases that harm bees but do not harm humans.  Beekeepers use medicine and good management techniques to keep their bee hives healthy.

Want to know more about bees?  Click this link to visit the Backyard Beekeepers! And stop by to visit the observation hive when you next visit the Center.

Humming Bird Fun Facts

Image result for picture of hummingbirds

photo courtesy of pdphoto.org

The Robinson Nature Center has hummingbirds living in the garden area outside the observation window.  With their whirring wings and shiny feathers, they bring a blur of color to outdoor feeders, both beautiful and fascinating. You can visit the Center and watch these wonderful birds -  and study the Center’s bee observation hive at the same time!

Want to learn more about hummingbirds?  You can visit a fun webpage by Journey North by clicking here.  Just a few examples of the fun facts you may learn from this website are:

The hummingbird is the smallest bird on the planet.  We have 13 species living here in the United States but there are 320 species in all in the world.

Did you know that hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backward and forward?

Did you know that they can fly at 29 mph?  (That’s as fast as a car going through a school zone! – ed.)

Hummingbirds eat a lot. Their nectar is made up of a lot of water but they still eat a lot of protein and sugar everyday. If you wanted to eat as much as a hummingbird eats for his body weight, you would have to eat 200 cheeseburgers a day!

 

Baltimore Oriole with geolocator at Robinson Nature Center

Baltimore Oriole with geolocator at Robinson Nature Center: photo courtesy of Prof. Kevin Omland, UMBC

Invite Baltimore Orioles

Want to bring Baltimore Orioles to your backyard birdfeeder?

Baltimore Orioles like oranges, nectar and peanut butter. Try adding some to your backyard feeder and let us know what happens! Yards with fruit vines like raspberries or crab apple trees will have them coming back year after year. They have a sweet tooth so you can even leave out a little bit of jelly to attract them.

Look way up high for Baltimore Orioles in leafy trees by rivers, in open fields, and near orchards. The Baltimore Oriole is very shy. You will probably hear his song or see his unique nest before you will see the bird. In addition to nectar and berries, Baltimore Orioles eat insects, spiders, and caterpillars.

Want to read more about Baltimore Orioles?  Learn  other information like these interesting facts about our Baltimore Orioles by clicking here National Geographic website 

 UPDATE:

Our Baltimore Orioles are heading South for the winter in August!  If you’ve had some visiting your backyard, do you still see them in August?