Monterey Audubon - Pigeon Guillemots are in!

Pigeon Guillemots are in! Now is a great time to see (and even hear!) our distinctive breeding alcids around Monterey Harbor. This species is a common nester in the county from Monterey south. Don Roberson noted in "Monterey Birds" (2002) that almost 20% of our population nests under wharves and old buildings in Monterey Harbor and Cannery Row. That is an interesting development as most nests to our south are in rock crevices and burrows! Another surprising thing about our local population is that it appears to migrate north instead of south after the breeding season, heading as far as British Columbia. Fascinating!

📸: (c) Brian Sullivan - Monterey Harbor (4/6/2013)

Pigeon Guillemot at eBird:


Monterey Audubon on Facebook:

由使用者 billhubick billhubick2024年04月03日 16:49 所貼文 | 0 評論 | 留下評論

MBP - April Fool's Quiz Answers


If you haven't sorted yesterday's April Fool's Day quiz and want to sort the surprising facts from the fun nonsense, stop reading and see yesterday's post!

  1. TRUE! Many turtles can breathe through their butts. It's a key adaptation for how they survive the winters in our area.
  2. FALSE - Hoop snakes! I wish it were true (those in doubt are relieved). Alas, no specialized snake species can hold their tails in their mouths and roll down hills to surprise their prey.
  3. FALSE - Also would be cool. Hummingbirds have not been documenting conserving energy during migration by riding on the backs of larger species such as Branta geese and Sandhill Cranes.
  4. TRUE! The Pirate Perch has an anus that moves from where one would expect it to be on a fish to it's throat.
  5. FALSE - All mammals are vertebrates and have full skeletons. No aquatic mammals or rodents lack bones to assist with specialized movements.
  6. TRUE! Shark stomachs have been found containing surprising items, including a suit of armor, a cannonball, and a bottle of wine. There are some good videos, podcasts, and articles summarize findings (here is an example - https://www.sharksider.com/14-weirdest-things-sharks-eaten/).
  7. FALSE - The beautiful and native Cow Killer is known for its painful sting ("strong enough to kill a cow!"), but they do not swarm up and attack large mammal prey.
  8. TRUE! Bolas spiders throw balls of web, emit pheromones to attract specific prey, and have many other amazing facts.
  9. TRUE! Arctic Terns are the world's longest distance avian migrants, migrating from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back each year. Based on known migrations and lifespan, an individual may fly over a million miles in its lifetime.
  10. FALSE - Snipe are very real and they are even occasionally hunted, but "snipe hunting" is a popular practical joke to trick the uninitiated into a comical foray into the woods. The hilarious part is that many people then share the punchline that there's no such thing as a snipe! There are totally snipe. They also have wild, zig-zagging flight when flushed, which may be part of the original inspiration for a comically hard hunt.

Bonus (not scored):

  • Turtles dream in color. As noted, a real question - one of my favorites - that I once received from an elementary school class during a presentation. I did check if turtles have good color vision, so that's a key thing to know. If they didn't, it would be a long shot that would dream that way.
    My girls asked me if I would drink wine from a bottle found in a shark's stomach, and then quickly noted, yeah, you definitely would. TRUE!

📸: (c) Wilson's Snipe photo by Jim Stasz - Somerset Co., Maryland (2/16/2010). Photographed but not as far as I know captured with a burlap sack.

🔍 Wilson's Snipe at Maryland Biodiversity Project:


由使用者 billhubick billhubick2024年04月03日 16:47 所貼文 | 0 評論 | 留下評論


MBP - April Fool's Quiz

This April Fool's Day, I present to you a mix of surprising facts and nonsense for you to sort through. Which of the following are true? Answers will be posted tomorrow.

  1. Many turtle species can breathe through their butts.
  2. Some specialized snake species can hold their tails in their mouths and roll down hills to surprise their prey.
  3. Some species of hummingbirds have been documenting conserving energy during migration by riding on the backs of larger species such as Branta geese and Sandhill Cranes.
  4. The Pirate Perch has an anus that moves from where one would expect it to be on a fish to it's throat.
  5. Some aquatic mammals and a few rodents lack bones to assist with dynamic movement (strong currents, tight crevices).
  6. Shark stomachs have been found containing surprising items, including a suit of armor, a cannonball, and a bottle of wine.
  7. A wasp relative called the Cow Killer is known for large swarms' ability to prey upon large herbivore prey.
  8. Some spiders can throw balls of web and create pheromones to attract specific insect prey.
  9. Arctic Terns migrate from the Arctic to the Antarctic each year. Based on known migrations and lifespan, an individual may fly over a million miles in its lifetime.
  10. Snipe populations are much reduced in some regions due to the pastime of collecting them at night using flashlights and large bags.

Bonus (not scored):
11 - Turtles dream in color

Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge this question remains unanswered. Real question - one of my favorites - that I once received from an elementary school class during a presentation. 🙂


Image generated with AI. Demand that any content generated with AI be labeled as such.

由使用者 billhubick billhubick2024年04月02日 13:16 所貼文 | 1 評論 | 留下評論


MBP - Mourning Cloaks

Incoming reports of Mourning Cloaks are a sure sign of spring. Overwintered adult Mourning Cloaks are among the very first butterflies to become active as temperatures warm in early spring. This is one of many species that benefit from "leaving the leaves", not overly tidying yards in autumn and leaving leaf litter for overwintering species that need it.

The hardy butterfly is Holarctic in its distribution, found throughout much of northern Europe and Asia in addition to most of North America. (I recently saw my first of the season in Monterey, California as well!) This butterfly can be found basking in open woodlands or attracted to rotten fruit or sap runs on trees.

The species seems to favor willows (Salix) as host plants, but will also use aspens (Populus), birches (Betula), American Elm (Ulmus americana), and hackberry (Celtis).

📸: (c) Lydia Fravel - Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (2/23/2022).

🔍 More at Maryland Biodiversity Project:


由使用者 billhubick billhubick2024年03月26日 12:20 所貼文 | 1 評論 | 留下評論

MBP - White-throated Sparrows and Supergenes

We're going to learn a lot about supergenes in the coming years. One of the best examples we know of can be observed in any Maryland backyard - the common migrant and wintering species, the White-throated Sparrow. Today's graphic summarizes the differences between "white-striped" and "tan-striped" White-throated Sparrows. White-striped individuals tend to be more aggressive, better singers, and worse parents. Tan-striped individuals tend to be more protective, worse singers, and better parents. White-striped individuals nearly always pair up with tan-striped individuals and vice versa. It's easy to speculate about the advantages of ensuring that mix of strategies, strengths, weaknesses, and genetic variation. Absolutely fascinating and full of implications. Is there an ancient and deeper truth to "opposites attract"? Have you ever noticed how commonly Homo sapiens "introverts" and "extroverts" - these are over-simplified terms, but useful shorthand - pair up?

What else? It's looking like Common Redpoll and Hoary Redpoll are genetically one species with traits that express themselves differently at different latitudes (including climate and habitat).
And those amazing bird examples are eclipsed by the incredible gene expression in the Eurasian shorebird species (and rare but regular North American visitor), the Ruff.

Alvaro Jaramillo did a fantastic job introducing this topic on a recent episode of Life List: A Birding Podcast. I highly recommend listening to that one and subscribing to that podcast if you don't already!
Expression of supergenes:



由使用者 billhubick billhubick2024年03月26日 01:08 所貼文 | 1 評論 | 留下評論


MBP - Winged Insect Orders

We need to talk. I feel PTERA-ble. Nearly all of us have been PTERA-ble about understanding even our most common types of winged insects. Many serious naturalists use the order name Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and Coleoptera (beetles), but our pronunciation helps mask their very useful meanings.

Anyone who reads MBP outreach has seen me talk about Diptera, that we probably shouldn't say DIP-tera, but DI-PTERA to highlight what it means. Insects in the order Diptera - the true flies - have two wings. DI (two) - PTERA (wings).

But there are similarly obvious and relevant meanings in our other orders of insects ending in PTERA. Let's have a look. Should we consider emphasis on the PTERA?

  • LEPIDO-ptera - SCALY-winged. Butterflies and moths have their colorful scales on their wings.
  • COLEO-ptera - SHEATH-winged. Those heavy elytra cover the more delicate wings, protecting them when underground, under logs, under bark, underwater.
  • HYMENO-ptera - MEMBRANE-winged. The very thin wings of bees, ants, and wasps.
  • HEMI-ptera - HALF-winged. Many species of true bugs have partly thickened and partly membranous wings.
  • NEURO-ptera. NERVE-winged! So obvious when you don't say NEUROP-tera. The lacewings, antlions, and such.
  • TRICHO-ptera - HAIR-winged. Caddisflies and others.
  • MEGALO-ptera - LARGE-winged, of course. Dobsonflies and those related impressive beasts.
  • ANISO-ptera - DIFFERENT-winged. Note how dragonflies and damselfies have a larger pair and smaller pair of wings?

📸: (Scaly-winged) Rosy Maple Moth in Preston County, West Virginia (7/1/2006).

🔍 More at Maryland Biodiversity Project:


由使用者 billhubick billhubick2024年03月12日 13:47 所貼文 | 9 評論 | 留下評論


MBP - Walnut Husk Fly (Rhagoletis suavis)

This distinctive fruit fly is a specialist on Black Walnut fruit. MBP currently has 11 records spanning six counties for the species, the Walnut Husk Fly (Rhagoletis suavis).

According to the USDA (USDA Forest Service General Technical Report NC-57): "The Walnut Husk Fly breeds and lay eggs in the husks of nearly mature walnut fruits in early autumn. The larvae burrow into and feed on the husk, producing black, slimy husks that stain and stick to the shell. The maggots can sometimes be seen crawling in the husks.

Husk maggots and husk flies do not penetrate into the nut, so the taste and color of the nutmeat are not affected. However, the slimy nature of the husks reduces their value to commercial nutmeat producers because the husk is difficult to remove. The infested husks also make the nuts unattractive and undesirable to the private walnut grower."

📸: (c) Stephen John Davies - Montgomery Co., Maryland (8/10/2022).

🔍 More at Maryland Biodiversity Project:


由使用者 billhubick billhubick2024年03月06日 03:40 所貼文 | 0 評論 | 留下評論

MBP - Black Bee Fly (Anthrax georgicus)

The Black Bee Fly (Anthrax georgicus) is one of many new insect species to have a common name added to MBP. MBP editors like Mark Etheridge, Dave Webb, and Jim Moore have been supplementing insect pages with new common names, missing Hodges numbers (day-flying Lepidoptera), and useful status and description information. (Thanks, guys!) Kudos to iNaturalist as well for often leading with common name adoption, making various taxonomic groups more accessible. iNaturalist and MBP both maintain robust sets of synonyms to find taxa by multiple names.

Bee flies ARE flies. Remember DI-PTERA (two wings) and also that true flies (Order Diptera) have a space in the common name. Robber flies are flies; dragonflies are not. The bee flies (Bombyliidae ) are all fascinating and specialized in their life histories. BugGuide summarizes the family: "Larvae are mostly external parasitoids of holometabolous larvae (esp. soil-dwelling Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, Diptera); a few are endoparasites, predators (esp. on grasshopper eggs), or kleptoparasites; adults take nectar/pollen."

This species is a specialist of tiger beetles!

📸: (c) Adrienne van den Beemt, some rights reserved (CC BY, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) - Prince George's Co., Maryland (7/10/2022).

🔍 More at Maryland Biodiversity Project:

  • Bill
由使用者 billhubick billhubick2024年03月06日 03:10 所貼文 | 0 評論 | 留下評論


Monterey Audubon - Bushtits

How to photograph Bushtits: Find a Bushtit, which generally means finding many Bushtits. (It helps to learn their subtle calls, which they make incessantly.) Get one in focus after great effort. Hit the shutter repeatedly until it's no longer in focus. Hope. Repeat.

Fortunately they're common so there are ample opportunities to try. This one was with a little flock in the willows at Laguna Grande Park last week. Those Bushtit flocks have had some distinguished friends of late, including a Lucy's Warbler (now absent for weeks), at least two wintering Yellow Warblers, and a Nashville Warbler.

But today let's make it about the Bushtit, North America's only member of the family Aegithalidae. All other species in the family are found in Eurasia! (I KNEW they were weird, said everyone.)

Here are thumbnails of their exotic relatives:

由使用者 billhubick billhubick2024年02月22日 18:38 所貼文 | 0 評論 | 留下評論

MBP - Crested Mudalia (Leptoxis carinata)

Crested Mudalia (Leptoxis carinata) is a freshwater snail with records scattered across a roughly Appalachian range. They're found in Atlantic drainages from New York to North Carolina. Maryland Biodiversity Project has records from the Piedmont, Blue Ridge, and Ridge and Valley regions but not Garrett County. It appears to favor high-gradient unpolluted streams, where it is generally found on stones.

The Piedmont starts at the Fall Line (picture Route 1 or I-95) and includes the area immediately to the west. East of the Fall Line is the coastal plain. The range of many Maryland taxa end at one side or the other of that line! While it may appear subtle at first glance, think rocky streams to the west, sandy streams to the east, and then layer on details from there. Without naming species, what other habitat-level differences appear on one side or the other of the Fall Line?

This MBP map allows you to toggle physiographic provinces, counties, and USGS quads - https://www.marylandbiodiversity.com/quadMap.php

📸: (c) Rob Aguilar/SERC - Howard Co., Maryland (4/12/2018).

🔍 More at Maryland Biodiversity Project:


由使用者 billhubick billhubick2024年02月22日 18:33 所貼文 | 1 評論 | 留下評論