Monday, February 04, 2008

Sundews and Eagles

No two days are quite alike here at the Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest...and that's the way we like it! Today, we were able to check off a couple of "firsts."

Early in the day, we met with several individuals from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a consultation on restoring a tract of our property to grassland (see previous entry). While walking the property, Sudie Daves spotted some Dwarf Sundew (Drosea brevifolia) growing in a path previously cleared of tree debris by a bulldozer. Although there are certainly plants growing elsewhere in Francis Beidler Forest, this is the first recorded specimen.

The sundew gets its common name from the sticky, dew-like drops that the plant secretes at the end of its tentacles and the visible-light spectrum displayed when the sun's light passes through the "dew." Insects attracted to the red color of the plant or the "dew" will find themselves stuck to the plant and enveloped by the tentacles. Like other carnivorous plants, the sundew does not survive wholly on the protein and nutrient provided by the insects it captures, but the insects are critical to supplying the plant what it cannot get from the nutrient-poor soil in which it often is found growing. A small, white flower will appear between April and May.

Our second "first" was a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nest on Francis Beidler Forest property. Although a pair was seen last week at Mallard Lake where the canoe trail begins, we had never located a Bald Eagle nest. One of the threats to Bald Eagles is nest disturbance, so there are buffer requirements to keep humans and their activities away from nest trees. We took the image as we approached the nest tree to take additional pictures of insect damage. The possible disturbance to the bird caused by our approach was far outweighed by the likely death of the nest tree due to the insect infestation. Therefore, we approached the nest tree for images of the insect damage in hopes of saving the tree. Based on the images of the pitch tubes, most of the damage appears to be caused by Black Turpentine Beetles (Dendroctonus terebrans), which can be killed without harming the tree.

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