The Pileated Woodpecker is a large, striking bird throughout North America. Known for its distinctive appearance and powerful drumming, this woodpecker is familiar in forests and wooded areas. It is now the largest extant woodpecker species in North America since the reclassification of the ivory-billed woodpecker as extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Unlike the larger and more specialized ivory-billed woodpecker, the Pileated woodpecker is more adaptable, allowing it to continue surviving in proximity to human habitation. The birds are essential in controlling the insect population, and even though some homeowners could consider them annoying, the disappearance of these woodpeckers could increase the tree beetle population, damaging forests.
Below, a woodpecker rams into a tree at the Palisades interstate parkway.
Search for native Hawaii plants to look for, and undoubtedly the name of ‘Ohi’a lehua will show up on the list. This charismatic plant is the most common native tree found in Hawaii. It is an evergreen, highly variable tree found on the six major islands. Its flowers are showy and come in various colors ranging from yellow to red, red being the most common variation. Flowers are produced as inflorescence made up of a mass of long stamens. Ohia lehua forests are essential habitats for various native birds as it is one of the few Hawaiian plants capable of producing nectar. They host both native and introduced birds. To the right is a ʻApapane (top) and a Japanese white-eye bird move around a vast ‘Ohi’a tree.
The Ohia lehua is a crucial early colonizing species that grows straight out of basalt. It is among the first trees that are growing on recent lava flows. It is even tolerant of extreme sulfur content found along sulfur banks on the big island. A sign along the trail mentions the severe conditions on the banks and the possibility of the ‘Ohi’a colony evolving into a distinct subspecies over generations.
Its tolerance to various growing media leads to extreme tree size variations. In favorable soil, in rainforests, it can grow to be more than 80 feet tall, while when growing in boggy ground or on freshly cooled igneous rocks, it grows as a small prostrate shrub. In wetter conditions, Ohia branches drop down aerial roots that stay suspended and absorb moisture from the air. Shown here is an enormous specimen of Ohia lehua.
Current preservation efforts for the ‘Ohi’a have faced various issues, including the curse of introduced species like ornamental/livestock feed grasses that quickly take over ‘Ohi’a forests, climate change, and the latest fungal pandemic afflicting these plants, the rapid ‘Ohi’a death. First reported in the big island of Hawaii, mitigations efforts have been taken to help stop the spread of the fungus, including closing down of forests to visitors. Humans can carry these pathogens on their shoes as they walk through the forest floor. To avoid spreading the disease, visitors should use the shoe cleaners placed along trails. Please be mindful of your presence as an outsider when you visit these unique habitats.
I was lucky enough to visit an Albatross breeding colony on the island of Oahu. A childhood dream come true!
The Laysan albatross is a large seabird that ranges across the North Pacific. More than 99% of the breeding population of the bird lives in the northern Hawaiian island, specifically in the midway atoll and Laysan islands. The species suffered a drastic population reduction in the early 1900s due to immense scale slaughter of populations for their feathers. The species is not recovering and is now classified as near threatened.
Albatross tend to bond for life. To the right is a pair of albatross settling in for the night in a grove of possible false sandalwood.
Occasionally, the birds form same-sex pairs consisting of two females. This has been observed in the colony on the Hawaiian island Oahu, where the sex ratio of male to female is 2 to 3 and 31% of all pairs are between females.
Goldencrest (Lophiola aurea) is a perennial that grows in wetlands with thin grass-like leaves growing above the water surface. The plant spreads using Rhibozomes underwater. It blooms in late summer in a corymb atop a silver-colored stalk.
It is found primarily in the southwestern US from Louisiana to North Carolina, and in isolated populations in New Jersey- Delaware, and up north in Nova Scotia Canada. Owing to its strange geographical distribution, Fernald suggested classifying the northern populations as two separate species (L americana in NJ and DA, L. septentrionalis in Nova Scotia ). Modern studies have proven that all three are the same populations.
The plant faces an uncertain future it faces threats from a changing climate and human development. North Carolina classifies it as an endangered species in North Carolina. Left to its own devices, the plant will survive, it is adaptable and hardy.
If there is one thing you can be sure of, as you learn more about plants and how to identify them, the clearer the destruction of native wildlands gets. Soon the beautiful flowers you see in a wild reserve turn up to be aggressive invasive species brought to the continent by people wanting a more European garden.
Today I want to show two species of Irises that can be found in New Jersey, North-Eastern America, Iris pseudacorus (Yellow-Flag Iris), and Iris versicolor (blue flag Iris).
Both species look similar, but, in my personal opinion, the native Iris looks far better than its European cousin. But, as the yellow-flag were quite popular in Europe they were imported for their ornamental value.
Both species like wet conditions to grow in and are found growing near ponds or swamps. Yellow Flag Iris takes over aquatic habitat and out-competes native plants by forming thick clumps that are hard to remove.
Adding native plants to your garden has a lot of advantages. Besides making your yard look beautiful, they attract and provide shelter to native insects and help restore the land to its original splendor! You can find links to native gardening websites here.
Notophthalmus viridescens,the eastern newt is a common newt found across eastern North America. The adults are not as striking as the juveniles (efts), which are brightly colored to warn you of their toxins.
Shown here is an individual eft we stumbled across in high point state park, New Jersey. The swamps of the High Point are unique and are biologically diverse. You can learn more about the bog here on this excellent blog that goes through its natural history and its unusual evolution.
Utricularia, or more commonly known as Bladderwort, is a genus of carnivorous plants that are semi-aquatic to terrestrials. Their modified leaves underwater can catch small insects and even algae. Which technically makes them an omnivorous plant! You can find more information in this blog post. InDefenceOfPlants is an excellent source of plant information.
Shown above are two species I found in bloom, stripped bladderwort (Utricularia striata)[1 and 2] and the horned bladderwort (Utricularia cornuta) [3,4 and 5].
Here in New Jersey, you can find them growing in bogs. New Jersey hosts more than 10 species of bladderworts, some rare and threatened. They are hard to spot for most of the year, but in mid-summer, they pop out a pretty yellow flower blooming above the water surface. Clustered together, they put on quite a show.
Drosera filiformis, also known as thread-leaved sundew, is found across North America from Florida to Nova Scotia. They form rosettes with some of the tallest leaves found in the sundew genus. The variation in Florida can extend unto 18″ in length. The leaves grow straight up during early spring; the first two images show a […]