Saturday, May 28, 2011

Swarming Bees

When a honey bee hive gets large enough, the queen will leave the hive and draw thousands of worker bees with her.  This is how they expand populations.  They end up as a "ball of bees" hanging in some tree or building and causing alarm and excitement for a day or so until they find a more suitable cavity for their new hive. Being a bee keeper's helper.  I just assisted my wife in gathering this swarm.  In the video, you can see perhaps as many as 20,000 worker bees (all non-reproducing females) concentrating around a queen bee in a cedar tree.   Later in the evening, I cut down that tree,which was an intention anyway, and we were able to shake the ball of bees into a hive body.  The old hive will develop a new queen and new drones and worker bees and this new hive will hopefully be a strong one as well and we'll have lots of honey this fall!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bluebirds Doing Their Thing

I was sayin, you just can't beat the Eastern Bluebird as a personable species.  Having them in the yard while they raise young is a special treat.  Both parents catch worms and insects while raising their clutch--in this case three.  Typically they will have 5 mouths to feed.  Ours will soon be fledging and will then hang with their parents for a period of time and expect further handouts.  Bluebirds--fun to watch, pleasant to hear, rewarding to raise.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Baby blues!

The bluebird eggs have hatched after two weeks and these nestlings are coming along great.  They will be fledging in just a few days.  The mother bluebird still broods the young nestlings for several days after hatching.  Both parents forage for worms, moths and other insects.  In the picture, you can see the primaries developing, meaning flight is not all that far off.  Next, a close look at the bluebirds in the yard. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Raising bluebirds

I think there is not a more personable bird than an Eastern Bluebird.  I have a couple of nests in boxes I put up near my home and have been raising bluebirds for quite a few years now.   The interaction we've had helping many bluebirds raise dozens of fledglings is shere joy.  Eastern bluebirds are pretty, have a pleasant thrush-like song and are easy to get close to.  Although some hang around all winter, the spring brings new ones from the southern US and they begin nesting activities relatively early, by March.  With once-depressed populations, this species is obviously helped by direct human intervention.  The cause and positive effect of placing bluebird boxes is incredibly satisfying.   If you have a bit of Kansas outback, with sparse trees and open country, you could have a good chance of raising your own bluebirds.  I would urge you to think about it no matter what your outdoor interest is.  Sure, its one of those warm/fuzzy/feel good things to do for wildlife but it is very fulfilling and fun.  Its an excellent way to feel like you are having a direct, positive impact on a very desirable species to have around.  The mother bluebird will be on these eggs about 14 days before hatching.  Next time on the blog--baby bluebirds!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Laughing Chicken

The prairie chickens are still booming but I'm moving on to other obsessions.  But, I must share one last glimpse of a special Greater Prairie Chicken near Claflin which put on quite a show for us at the recent Wings n' Wetland Festival at Great Bend.  This fella seemed to be laughing at the strange box (our blind) with the little rectangular holes with some weird things inside.  I took three groups of 8-9 people out for two mornings and one afternoon.  Many of these people were not accustomed to such crude outside accommodations but did just fine.  Having to stay put for a couple of hours without much comfort is normal for wildlife photographers and hunters but quite a new experience for most.  However, the thrill of watching prairie chickens doing their performance on the grassland dance floor makes inconveniences such minor issues.  Can't wait for next March now!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Alien Egg

Spring is such an incredible time of year with the resurgence of life, the greening of the land, the flowering of plants, and...gobbling turkeys. So much of what we enjoy during spring turkey season deals with other cool things in nature such as towhees shuffling through duff under a cedar tree in front of our pop-up blind. There are tufted titmice flitting about, pairs of Canada geese and Mallards coursing just above the riparian woodland of which we lurk, waiting for that lust-filled Tom to be fooled. This is kind of like virtual life. Heck, it is real life. Nature really cannot be matched. Even though I've been a biologist all my life, I'm always amazed at how much I don't know about nature. There's such a diversity of life and I love discovering new mysteries. I present one here and ask you to tell me what you think I found on our last turkey hunt. Is it an egg case from the "Alien" monsters?