What You Can See on Feb. 3
Submitted by Ted Williams on Fri, 02/03/2006 - 09:52.
From Audubon’s Earth Almanac by Ted Williams and compiled in “Wild Moments,” edited by Connie Isbell, Illustrations by John Burgoyne, Storey Publishing, 174 pages. Dance of the Craneflies If you would like to believe in fairies again, venture into a woodland clearing late on a windless morning after a warm front has softened the bite of winter. Rising from mossy grottoes by the hundreds, male winter craneflies hover like milkweed silk five to 25 feet above the forest floor, their quarter-inch wings and long, spindly legs lit by the muted sun. Adults of most species are active only in winter, feeding on such sweets as sap, nectar, and fermented fruit. Cure your craving for spring by noting their resemblance to mosquitoes. Solar-Powered Birds The "beep-beep" you hear in arid country from central California east to Arkansas and south to Mexico issues from automobiles, not those fleet-footed, coyote-eluding cousins of the cuckoo known as roadrunners. Like several other desert birds, this species saves energy by lowering its body temperature at night. But it is almost unique in using the rising sun to jump-start its metabolism. Watch for it on winter mornings -- back to the east, tail dropped, speckled feathers lifted to expose a "solar panel" of black skin.