Opening the shell can take 40 minutes. (See photos and description at How to Open a Black Walnut). While the squirrel is gnawing the shell, you can hear a scratchy sound. Have you heard this sound in the woods? Watch and listen in the video below.
For an individual human it takes 3-4 weeks to gather, husk, clean, dry (3 weeks), and shell black walnuts. It makes sense to do this in bulk as shown in the video below.
Black walnuts are a challenge … so I buy them at the grocery store.
White turtleheads (Chelone glabra) are widely distributed in eastern North America while pink ones (Chelone lyoni) have a narrow range in the Blue Ridge Mountains. These showy flowers were planted at the Westinghouse Memorial in Schenley Park.
Arrow-leaved tearthumb (Persicaria sagittata) has very tiny white flowers enclosed in a pink bud. I used to think the flowers were pink until I examined this one.
Purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is so fancy that it must be tropical, right? Actually, it’s native to the southern U.S. This vine was blooming on 3 October on Phipps Conservatory’s garden fence. Wow!
Did you know these asters close at night? I didn’t until I saw them opening in after dawn on Friday.
And here’s a curiosity that looks like a pinecone, but it’s not. Willow pinecone galls are made by the willow to protect itself from an insect. Inside each gall is the larva of a midge whose mother laid eggs at the tip of the branch. The larva will overwinter here and emerge as an adult in the spring … unless a bird hammers the gall and eats the insect.
Large earthquakes are unusual in Australia so it was surprising when a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck near Mansfield, Victoria at 9:15am on Wednesday 22 Sept 2021(*). It rattled Melbourne 65 miles away.
When the earthquake began the male peregrine was on the nest incubating four eggs. At first he crouched low but as it continued he jumped up, looked around, and flew away with a wail. Watch him return to the nest in less then two minutes.
Incubation was successful and the chicks hatched on 30 September (watch video here). The “kids” have been growing rapidly ever since, thanks to many feedings. Here’s a recent feeding, Thursday morning 7 Oct 2021 at 7:15am(*).
There are probably several reasons why teeth disappeared but the main one is this: In order to fly well it’s important to reduce excess body weight. Bones and teeth are heavy so over time birds evolved hollow bones and toothless beaks. They compensate for the lack of teeth by chewing food in their gizzards.
They also compensated by using their beaks as multi-purpose tools to grasp, twist, pry, crack open shells, and sever tendons.
Each species developed a beak for its lifestyle. A few of them evolved beak modifications that resemble teeth.
Among tooth-billed hummingbirds (Androdon aequatorialis) the males have a “straight bill with a prominent hooked tip and backward-pointing tooth-like serrations on the distal half. The modification is absent on the female bill, and thus may be related to sexual selection,” describes Birds of the World. Perhaps the “teeth” are used for fighting.
The critically endangered tooth-billed pigeon (Didunculus strigirostris), the national bird of Samoa, has a stout curved bill with a specially toothed lower mandible.
[The bill] is adapted to feed on Wild Mahogany Dysoxylum spp. fruits, although first-year birds apparently cannot do so. These fruits have a tough capsule that it is able to open using its strong bill, removing the flesh using a sawing action with the lower mandible.
By October the seed pods of American bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia) are papery brown three-sided puffs.
If you peel one apart it becomes three heart-shaped pieces. Each piece may hold one popcorn-like seed. Some pieces may be blank.
Six months ago the bladders began as small dangling flowers less than 1/4 inch long. Notice the three-part leaves that give this native shrub or small tree its trifolia species name.
By late July the bladders were green and very puffy. Each section had its own distinct point.
And then the bladders dried out.
American bladdernuts put so much effort into seed pods that it’s surprising to find they can spread by suckers, especially in their favorite habitats of floodplain woods or stream banks in eastern North America.
Visit Schenley Park this month to see the bladdernuts. Pull a seed pod apart and look inside.
(photos by Kate St. John, map from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)