Above, a very close look at Great Chickweed (Stellaria pubera), also called Star Chickweed. The flower is only 1/2" across and it has only five petals but they're so deeply cleft that they look like ten.
Below, inch-long Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) in bloom at Raccoon Wildflower Reserve. I love how they change color as they open.
Toad Trillium or Toadshade (Trillium sessile) is rarely seen from this angle because the plant is only four inches tall. (I got muddy taking this picture.) The dark, closed petals look boring from above but graceful from the side. Perhaps they open like this so the pollen can disperse more easily. It's dusting the leaf at front left.
Today's April showers will bring May flowers. It's hard to believe that May begins tomorrow.
Here in North America, Franklin's gulls are prairie birds. They spend the winter on the Pacific coast of South America, then migrate in Spring to the prairie marshes of Canada, Montana and the Dakotas where they look for shallow lakes to nest colonially. Every year they assess the water depth and vegetation density when they arrive. Droughts or floods force them to choose different marshes than they used the year before.
Like other marsh birds, Franklin's gulls have learned that land-based nests are in danger of predation so they build floating nests out of bulrushes, cattails or phragmites. To keep the nests from drifting they anchor them to underwater reeds.
Unfortunately the submerged material decays and the nest sinks so the pair and their oldest chicks add more nest material every day to raise the surface.
If you have to work this hard to keep your nest from disappearing you eventually find time-saving shortcuts. Picking new bulrushes takes a long time, seven times longer than stealing your neighbor's nesting material (someone actually timed this). Naturally a lot of stealing occurs.
Build and sink, build and sink, the floating nest requires daily upkeep and annoys the neighbors.
(photo by Dan Arndt who writes for two blogs in Canada: Bird Canada and Birds Calgary. Click on either blog link to see more of his work. You'll also see that they still have snow in Calgary right now. Yow!)
Tired of being outdone by celebrity bald eagles and peregrine falcons, ravens have decided to get into the act.
Last October a pair of common ravens chose Wellesley College as the smart place to be. Over the winter they scoped out the campus and evaluated future nest sites. By March it was evident they'd made a wise choice when they built their nest on a high fire escape at the Science Center. Their platform is enclosed by glass on three sides so they have great views and less wind.
They also have electricity, an Internet connection and night lights -- perfect for a webcam -- so Pauline and Henry are now celebrities.
Named for the founders of Wellesley College, Pauline and Henry's choice probably shocked the local raven population. "What were you thinking!? Humans are unpredictably dangerous! We never nest that close to them." But their unique choice has given them shelter while we get a window on their world.
Pauline laid two eggs in March, one hatched in early April, and now their nestling is growing every day. Unlike peregrine falcon chicks, raven babies are not cute, fluffy and white. Instead they're born naked and awkward with a very large mouth. When the parents come to the nest "the mouth" opens to show off its red interior. In the weeks ahead the mouth will stay red but the body will transform into a feathered juvenile raven, one of the smartest birds on earth.
Smartly clothed in black, Pauline and Henry are happy to share their lives with you on camera. Click here or on the screenshot above to watch them online.
Some of you feel bad for Dorothy at the Cathedral of Learning because she has only one non-viable egg this year but consider this: She has five peregrine grandbabies a few miles away at the Gulf Tower.
Can you count five pink beaks in the photo above? They're all there.
Dori and Louie's fifth and final egg hatched yesterday in the 10 o'clock hour. Since Louie is Dorothy's son (by her first mate, Erie) those five nestlings are Dorothy's grandkids. Louie himself hatched in 2002, the very first year Dorothy fledged young, and is the only one of his hatch year known to nest.*
The Gulfcam video archives are spotty so I've made a slideshow of yesterday's highlights. Click on the photo to watch...
8:20am: The chick inside the final egg has made great progress pecking around the "equator."
9:34am: Off camera Louie calls as he arrives with food. Dori replies, steps away and returns to feed 4 chicks. Chick #5 has not officially hatched yet.
10:54am: Chick #5 is damp and propped in front when Louie comes to feed them. He looks up at the building. Perhaps he heard a sound inside.
10:56am: After only two minutes Dori returns to take over the feeding. Bye, Louie.
13:40 (1:40pm to 1:57pm): Louie broods the nestlings for nearly 20 minutes. Notice how he fills less of the camera frame than Dori does.
16:16 (4:16pm): Dori offers this prey item again because they didn't finish it last time. Eat up, kids!
19:28 (7:28pm to 7:39pm): Last feeding of the day. Sunset is only a half hour away. After they've eaten Louie stops by to say goodnight, bending over the chicks to watch them sleep.
Click here to watch the "grandkids" on the Gulfcam.