When I think of parasites, I typically think of creatures such as tapeworms, fleas, ticks, and leeches—nasty invertebrates that drain the life out of us humans. Then, I might recall that some higher animals can also be parasites, such as the deep sea anglerfish. You’ve likely seen pictures of anglerfish, with their huge, pointy teeth in a large head, followed by a tapering body. When these fish mate, the male permanently attaches itself to the female and lives off her bloodstream for the rest of his life, his sperm his only contribution. (See National Geographic’s video of a particularly beautiful anglerfish species.)
On the bank of the Shiawassee River, in central Michigan, Shiawassee NWR was touted as “a critical migration stopover site for waterfowl.” We were there on the last day of August, just over a year ago. With habitats ranging from marshes to forests to prairie, and a long list of bird species, some of which I’ve rarely (if ever) seen, I was hoping to see more than just waterfowl.
I’m really not a fussy eater. While I draw the line at some animal parts (Rocky Mountain oysters, anyone?) and various invertebrates (no deep-fried scorpions in my diet!), I’m not nearly as fussy about dining on plants. Of course, I think some plants taste better than others—I’m a big fan of broccoli, artichokes, and papayas, for example, while I tend to avoid cucumbers and those bitter Italian greens—but for the most part, if it’s prepared well, I’ll eat it.
I don’t do okra. I’ve had okra (also known as lady’s fingers or gumbo) in soups, stewed, curried, stir-fried, roasted, deep fried, and in various other random recipes that my friends—skilled in the culinary arts—assured me I’d love. All I can say is, they were wrong. I admit, I like the flavor. No problem there. But the slime gets me every time.
How would you like to be stalked, captured, then shaken so hard that your neck breaks—and then impaled onto a spike and left to age like a side of beef before finally being torn apart and eaten? That sounds like material suitable for a Halloween thriller. Yet, that’s your likely fate if you’re a mouse or lizard unlucky enough to catch the eye of a shrike. Shrikes are ferocious predators. It’s a good thing for us that they’re only about as big as an American Robin.
One of the joys of living in Colorado is the gorgeous gold of the aspen in fall. Other regions may boast more colorful foliage—the reds and purples of the hardwood forests to the east, for example—but nowhere else do we get the combination of cobalt blue skies, spectacular mountain scenery, and shimmering golden leaves. Such a treat is not to be missed, so we recently joined some friends and went leaf “peeping.”
We humans like to think we’re pretty smart, and for good reason. Look at the amazing ideas people have had, leading to the most incredible inventions. I was reading some articles about the latest technologies, and I admit to being duly impressed.
Science and engineering have found ways to keep barnacles from attaching to the hulls of ships. A new adhesive is strong but safe enough for a newborn baby’s delicate skin. Cars and other forms of transportation are getting better gas mileage than ever before.
If you were stymied on Monday, now can you name this bird? The photo was taken in Colorado in April. The answer will appear at the end of next Monday’s post.