What’s the difference between a moth and a butterfly?
The best clue is their antennae.
Moths have feather-like antennae with many branches. Butterflies have smooth antennae with a knob at the end.
The feathery antennae above are on an Agreeable Tiger Moth photographed by Chuck Tague. Yes, the moth is agreeing to have his picture taken and yes, that’s really his name! Agreeable Tiger Moth (Spilosoma congrua).
The knobs on the antenna below are on a Pearl Cresent butterfly (Phyciodes tharos).
Thanks to Kathy Majich, I learned last month that a Pitt peregrine granddaughter is nesting in Ontario, Canada.
Dorothy and Erie were the first peregrine falcon pair at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning(*). Their 2003 brood was especially successful because three of those four chicks went on to nest elsewhere. One of them, Belle, nested at the University of Toledo until 2014.
During the 2014 nesting season, Belle was challenged by an intruder yet she successfully raised two chicks despite her injuries. After the chicks were banded and fledged, Belle disappeared and the intruder took over. Belle’s mate, Allen, coached the youngsters to independence.
This year we’re happy to discover that one of those chicks, Dr. Jane, was identified this spring in St. Marys, Ontario raising her own two chicks with her mate Cosmo.
(click on “View larger” so see Pittsburgh on the map.)
So Dorothy and Erie’s legacy continues with a granddaughter and great-grands in Ontario.
Click on the image above to read about “Dr. Jane” at the Canadian Peregrine Foundation’s Facebook page. Click here to read about the peregrine family in St. Mary’s Stratford Beacon Herald.
(photo linked from Canadian Peregrine Foundation Facebook page. Map showing St. Mary’s, Ontario linked from Google maps)
(*) Note: Dorothy hatched in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1999 and was present at the Cathedral of Learning from 2001 through 2015. Erie hatched in Columbus, Ohio in 1998 and was present at Pitt from 2001 through 2007. Erie was followed by E2.
I found green eggs on stinging nettle on August 9 at Wolf Creek Narrows, Butler County, PA.
Are they eggs or something else?
And who laid them?
Post a comment with your answer.
I’ll reveal their identity later today.
THE ANSWER: 29 August, 3:15pm
This was a tricky quiz because the structures really do look like eggs. I thought they were butterfly eggs but they are too smooth. The butterflies most likely to lay eggs on nettle have very wrinkled eggs. For instance, click here to see the eggs of the small tortoiseshell butterfly.
This morning’s outing at Schenley Park was great for birds!
Though we saw only 26 species, plus a silent Empidonax flycatcher, we had good looks at some birds we don’t see every day including wood thrushes and a young Baltimore oriole.
Best Bird was a male pileated woodpecker, the first bird of the day. 😉
Best Insect — the one that got me excited — were some tiny flatid planthoppers, gray with blueish spots. To my untrained eye they looked like this, Metcalfa pruinosa, an insect native to North America.
Ironweed is one of my favorite August flowers but it’s hard for me to photograph. Its purple color doesn’t ring true on my digital camera (too blue!) and the plant is so tall that I’ve never been able to replicate Chuck Tague’s quintessential view of it, below.
In August ironweed is truly impressive. At seven to ten feet tall it’s topped by a corymb (flat-topped cluster) of 30 to 50 deep purple flowers made up of 5-lipped florets. Dark red stems support long, alternate, lance-shaped leaves that are rough to the touch.
You’ve probably seen ironweed from the highway as it’s the only tall flower left standing in cow pastures. Its stem is so tough that cows refuse to eat it, thus the ironweed name. On foot you’ll find it in ditches, moist meadows and along stream banks.
A small crowd convened last Monday to view the solar eclipse outside the Staghorn Cafe. Though Pittsburgh wasn’t in the path of totality we were still amazed by the shape of the moon moving across the sun.
Here are some photos from the event. The captions tell the story.
During the best part of the eclipse I forgot to take pictures of the crowd. Many of us wore solar eclipse glasses. It would have been a cool photo but you’ll just have to imagine what we looked like. 😉
See the comments for reports on bird activity during the eclipse.
(photos by Kate St. John and Tom and Nancy Moeller. See the captions for photo credits)
Why do birds look fat in winter and thin in the summer? Have they lost weight?
No. They’re trying to stay cool.
Underneath their smooth outer feathers birds wear down coats all year long. The down keeps them especially warm when they fluff it out to hold more heat next to the skin. This fluffing makes them look fat on cold winter days.
When it’s hot, they can’t take off their down coats so they force hot air out of the down by compressing their outer feathers. This makes them look thin.
The cardinal on the left, above, is not the thinnest one I’ve ever seen. Cris Hamilton took his picture in May when the temperature was pleasant. He’ll look considerably thinner this month.
It’s just another way that birds cope with heat.
p.s. We think of down as white but on a northern cardinal it’s black. Click here to see a northern cardinal’s body feather, called a semi-plume, black at the root and red at the tip.
The flower is specially shaped for pollination by ruby-throated hummingbirds, the only hummingbird in this plant’s native range. The tubes are large and the anthers held high. The insect above is too small to pollinate it.