Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Wasp For The Road

Pizza and beer.  Wine and cheese.  Birds and the month of May. They pair up so nicely, don't they?  

With the day off from work (two in a row!) but thunderstorms in the forecast by lunch time, I opted to stay close to home. While the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was present again, I thought my home base, Lake Erie Metropark, needed some birding attention.

Between 9am and 2pm, I covered at least 4 miles on foot.  Marsh edges, mature woods, scrub thickets, and lakeshore.  Cultured picnic areas were covered by car.  Basically, the only place I did not look for birds was the men's room.  "Soup", known to others as "fog", was quite thick limiting my open water birding options but I managed.  

By the day's end, I managed 66 species.  I won't lie. I was thinking more like 75 or so.  11 species were warblers so that was cool.  But it is still early May. Another good warm front from the south and things should be really bustin' along.

At one point, I found myself basically nose to nose with a Palm Warbler.  Before I knew it, I was watching two of them in a tiny little thicket.  They had no concerns with the ugly guy taking pictures. At times, they were literally an arm's length away. 

If you check out a range map, you can see this bird has already covered some significant ground.  Conservatively, Michigan is halfway from Florida to Hudson Bay. That's a haul!  But they're not done.

So you have to ask yourself how they can possibly manage such an incredible trek. A key part of a migration of this magnitude includes the munchies.  You don't fly 2,000 miles without eating. Whether you eat as you go, or eat, get fat and then go, food is certainly key.

So what do Palm Warblers eat during migration?  Insects.  Well, cripe, that is a pretty big group of critters, huh?  Wouldn't it be cool if I could be more precise?

If you look closely, you can actually make out what the little fella was eatin'. 

While they can eat a wide variety of insects and other arthropods (like spiders), there is no doubt this one wacked a wasp.  The body structure and antennae are clear.   Unless I am missing my guess, that whitish stripe down the abdomen is not for decoration or show - I think it is the wasp's innards getting squeezed out.  Mmmmmmm...

While you and I might curl our nose, keep in mind this is just the sort of thing Palm Warblers and other migrants get to munch on during those long and dangerous trips every spring and fall.

Wow.  Sucking on wasp guts.  I'll stick to bagels and cream cheese during my travels, thank you very much.....

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