Saturday, April 26, 2008

Water Scorpion, A Cool Wetland Bug!!

Water Scorpions are insects in the Order Hemiptera (the true bugs), Family Nepidae, and the genus is Ranatra. Note the front legs which are modified for grasping prey. They inject their prey (including insects, small fish, and tadpoles) with saliva which digests tissue after which the mixture is sucked out. You can see the beak between the front legs. The long tube on the rear of the abdomen is used for breathing from the water surface so they tend to stay in shallow water or near the surface. Although they can't be seen, a pair of wings is hidden beneath the leathery outer wings, and they can fly. Water Scorpions overwinter as adults. This one was found at Sandpiper Pond on April 26.
Head and front legs

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Birdwatching in the West Eugene Wetlands

Marsh Wren: Photo by Steve Gordon

On Friday, April 18, Steve Gordon and I were out bird watching. After checking on the Warblers at Skinners Butte, we headed to Fern Ridge at the end of Royal Ave. The highlight there was seeing 13 Bald Eagles perched in trees in the area! Here is a list of 60 species of birds seen in the West Eugene Wetlands that morning.

Greater White-fronted Goose
Cackling Goose
Canada Goose
American Wigeon (cemetery)
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle (13 immatures)
Northern Harrier (flight display)
American Kestrel (@ Willow Creek)
Virginia Rail
American Coot
Greater Yellowlegs
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Ring-billed Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Mourning Dove
Acorn Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Western Scrub-Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow (photo)
Violet-green Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Marsh Wren (photos)
American Robin
European Starling
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle and Audubon's)
Common Yellowthroat
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark (Meadowlark Prairie)
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wetland Wander

-by Susanne Twight-Alexander, WREN Board Member

This morning's (last Wednesday's) wetland wander started with overcast skies but we were fortunate the showers held off until we were nearly to our cars. The Nature Conservancy's Matt Benotsch led our group of eight from the 18th street across through TNC fields on a "burn" road. We were able to see the difference between areas where trees and undergrowth are rampant, inhibiting the growth of native plants and those where burning and/or plowing are encouraging their growth. Right away there were bird observations of acorn woodpeckers and singing meadowlarks. Other birds spotted during the trip included juncos, songsparrows, robins (of course), and Canada geese. Matt pointed out many of the early spring plants, a few of which were flowering. A new one to me was the bittercress, delicate white flowers on small plants that love to have their feet in the water. We also found a buttercup and some saxifrage in bloom. Matt showed the group the leaves of the Kincaid Lupine (the favorite food of the Fender's Blue Butterfly) just beginning to emerge and we were fortunate to find a Bradshaw's Lomatium at the edge of an area which is being protected to encourage their development. (that was the flower in last weeks post!)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bloomin' Gorgeous

Its wildflower time out here in west Eugene. We have spring wildflower's blooming - willow, saxifrage, and our special plant, desert parsley more importantly known as Bradshaw's Lomatium. Okay folks, I'm going to get a bit technical on this post and a little plant geeky so bear with me. Bradshaw's Lomatium, Lomatium bradshawii, is a federally listed endangered species. It used to grow in wet prairies all over the Willamette valley and Umpqua valley (that's south of here). Now because of the conversion of land to industrial uses, agriculture and housing, this plant has limited options for where it grows. You know what that means, there aren't very many of these plants left. That's why they have them on the federal endangered species list. Does that mean we shouldn't have houses or businesses? Of course not! There are folks that work out here in west Eugene that keep an eye on these plants and try to create optimum areas for their growth. Whew! That's a lot of information! If you're still reading, thanks for hanging in there.

They do kind of look like parsley. Bradshaw's Lomatium is part of the Carrot family, but please don't eat them. The leaves are all lacy looking and the yellow flowers grow in branches or compound umbels as the botanists like to say. It only gets around 7 - 14 inches tall and is done flowering by mid to late May. Since it's hard to spot it is a very subtle beauty. It is one of the unique things about our wetlands, and just knowing we have such special species here is something of which we can be proud.