There I was, trying to find some Washington County milk in the dairy section at the local store.
I presume they move product location around periodically just to make you study things more closely and perhaps do some sort of impulse buy. I had just located the offerings from our local dairy when I began to perceive I was under scrutiny.
Turning, I discovered a woman in some truly epic leggings and an orange sweat shirt staring fixedly at me. The message on her shirt said, “Question Authority.” Since it appeared a conversation was imminent and perhaps not destined to be pleasant, I decided to open and said, “Don’t bother. They don’t know either.” This caused her to blink and look confused until I indicated her shirt.
This gambit bought me nothing. She ignored it and said, “Are you Bob Henke?” My standard reply is that is, “I have been told I look a lot like him, why?” This also bought me nothing for she launched right into her complaint, to wit: she was highly indignant that I had failed to answer her question.
My memory refreshed, I pointed out I had sent her a detailed response, a couple pictures, and addressed the topic in a column. She allowed as how this was true but I had “not used her words in the newspaper.”
I guess there are only two possibilities here — she can get over it or die mad — but I am reminded that some readers get pretty prickly over their questions. I try to answer every one directly, in whatever format it was received. As far as writing about them here, I have to sort of parse things to make it work. If they are large topics, I sometimes devote a whole column. If I receive several on the same topic, which happens far more often than I would have expected, I try to combine everyone’s “words” into a single sentence or two.
Otherwise, I either put them into the questions column I typically do at the end of every month or let the direct answer suffice if it does not seem to be something of general interest (like the periodic containers of poop left in various locations for me to identify). I know you will find this jaw-dropping but sometimes I do not know the answer and have to seek some specialized help (I have a number of very knowledgeable friends). However, rest assured, I take them all seriously and consider it an obligation to get you an answer in some manner.
So, attempting to stay out of trouble — here we go for this month.
What made this?
With regard to the “containers of poop” comment above, I have in the past month been gifted with nine offerings. This is interesting and worth mention because none of them are fecal.
All raptors (birds of prey) have a peculiar digestive process. They are incapable of either digesting or passing through the large amounts of fur, feathers, teeth, claws, scales, bones, or other indigestible material that comes along with their predatory diet and propensity to swallow things as near to whole as they can manage.
After processing, all this material forms into a pellet, which they then regurgitate — the process is called “casting.” These casts are typically found under roosting areas, look gray and dry, and form a nicely packed little pellet containing the materials listed above.
At first glance, one might register them as feces, but once you have looked more closely, it is far more interesting. Poking a pellet apart reveals exactly what your raptor had for lunch on the previous day. Identifying the bird making the cast is a process of looking at size, location, and materials contained in the pellet.
You have mentioned dogwood as wildlife food but several people have showed me several different bushes and a large tree they identified as dogwood. They can’t all be right, so what does dogwood look like?
Actually, they can all be right and probably are. You should leave the trees out of it. The term dogwood has been applied to a wide range of ornamentals and more than a few wild varieties depending on the part of the country.
What we are concerned with as wildlife habitat and a food source in this area are the shrub varieties — there are three. Gray dogwood is the most common, found in more upland areas. Red osier dogwood tends to do better in very moist conditions. Swampy areas and drainages are its preferred habitat. The third type is silky dogwood, which seems to do pretty well in a range of conditions.
The questions seem to arise over the color of the berries and the stems. Gray dogwood and red osier dogwood have round white berries. Ordinarily the varieties can be distinguished by the bright red color of the stem and trunk of the red osier. However, after freeze up, some gray dogwood plants take on a decidedly red color making it a little tougher. It is still easy to tell the difference. Just slice out a cross section of one of the stems. The pith of red osier is pure white. Both Gray and silky dogwood have various shades of brown in their pith. Gray dogwood berries also mature to a dark blue gray color.
As a lifelong Qby resident (moved here at 4yrs old in 1969) I have spent a good deal of time outside both in my yard and further afield in town. In the last 2 or 3 years only have I begun seeing tiny little thumbnail-sized tree frogs everywhere in trees, woods, front porch of my suburban home near Qby School, etc. Most adults with long history of living here agree they have only seen these little sticky-fingered creatures in the last few years. Are we being overrun with invasive froggies? I remember reading a few years ago that Brazilian cities are full of these (different species I am sure) frogs and are trying to control them. How did they arrive?
The editor sent me your email regarding the tree frogs. I told him it was a biblical plague caused by global warming and the Trump administration, but I do not think he believed me.
Actually, these little guys are one of our most common frogs. Their primarily nocturnal habits means we are most often aware of them by their call, not a sighting — and many people mistake their territorial calling for insect noise. It is not uncommon to see quite a few at this time of the year because all the tadpoles metamorphose within a day or so of each other and, during the dispersing from the nursery ponds, are apt to be seen day or night.
Approximately half of these youngsters are picked off by predators before they get to hibernate for the first time. What you may also be seeing is some area nearby that may have been marginal habitat and not well used but which, given the profuse rain of spring and early summer, made much better nursery water for tadpoles and was used more frequently than in prior years.
The tree frog invasions are a much different tropical species, about 6 inches long, and much of the invasion is taking place in Florida and along the Gulf. They will not live anywhere that gets below about 50 degrees.
There we go. All up to date — I think...