It is strange, somehow, the way seemingly insignificant
physical and characteristics escape us when we are setting out such things
for identification purposes. But they still crop up now and then.
Take, for example, the cedar waxwing (Bombycilla
cedroruym), one of our most distinctively marked and beautiful birds.
It, for all practical purposes, has always been to me a feeder on winged
insects and small fruits and berries (primarily possum grapes and bittersweet).
I have watched them at a distance many times, their identifying habits
and coloration always a foregone conclusion in my mind. I thought I knew
how they looked and acted.
The yellow band at the end of the tail, and the
beautiful black of the cedar’s head always identified the bird for me.
And their on-wing feeding on small insects was as sure a thing as death,
taxes, and gas prices.
However, last Saturday my eyes were opened to
the fact that another identifying mark is inch-long, parallel, thin
white stripes in the middle of the back (close-range observations), and
the habit of feeding on small insects on the under side of leaves.
I had been clearing brush away from my stairway
to White River (time for repairs), and had taken respite on the top deck
overlooking the ancient old river, over which the flycatchers often practiced
their winged feeding habits. (It always reminded me of the old, Packman
electronic games where the little egg-type good guys simply caught and
devoured their prey.)
My sedentary activities soon erased the wariness
of several species of birds and critters, and I was treated to a phalanx
of wild critters marching across my top deck stage. Even the wary bluejay
came in his gaudy arrogance. It was a thing to behold as the deck, proper,
the railings, and close limbs came to life before my very eyes.
At waters’ edge stood a box elder tree whose seeds
always seemed a magnet for birds and animals, its crown on an upper deck
level. Now, however the tree was dead (no seed whirligigs), but a possum
grape vine had taken over and drew much wildlife to the dead tree. The
possum grape’s blue fruits make a wonderful wine or jelly but the critters
beat me to them.
The episode was, in short, not a thing I soon
The Department of Natural Resources’ “Taste of the Wild” free feed was
staged at the DNR Building at the State Fair last Saturday for the sixteenth
consecutive year and we hear it was again a resounding affair for the state’s
outdoor folks. This is something you should not have missed, but if you
did you should earmark it for next year’s fair on the first Saturday at
Attendance figures stop the turning wheel at about
– This won’t be considered too woodsy, but the tomato hornworms, very similar
to the tobacco hornworm, are making their ’08 debut now on tomato plants
everywhere. The two cohabit areas at times. A good bug killer dusting is
in order. They strip foliage of plants and wreck green tomatoes. Their
moths, of which they are the larvae, are beautiful but squishy, like the
worms. In the tobacco species, the rear horn is reddish, the tomato dark.
Green Japanese beetles, smallish June bug types,
are busy on weeds now . . . Look out beans. Best thing that can happen
to them is also a good dose of bug killer.
tobacco hornworm exhibits a reddish rear horn.