Ducks Do It

Two weeks ago I explained how birds manage to have sex. But somehow, there are always those species that make things more complicated. Last week’s explanation applied to 97% of bird species. But a few kinds of birds don’t follow the flock.

Take Cassowaries, for example. Both the male and female have what appears to be a penis attached to their cloacas, although the female’s is somewhat smaller than the male’s. It’s used during copulation, but it doesn’t channel sperm. Instead, after penetrating the female, the male expels his semen directly from his cloaca.

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Birds Do It

Birding is not for prudes. Everywhere I look, birds are busy making sure there will be another generation to carry on. It must be spring.

First it was the Cooper’s Hawks. We noticed two on recent trip to a county park. The larger one, the female, was sitting on a branch, preening. The smaller male zigzagged closer and closer as he flew from tree to tree, finally landing beside the female. There was a bit of a chase, some friendly bickering, and the next thing we knew, she had flipped up her tail, allowing him access. He was quick to hop on, and in a matter of a second or two, the deed was over. I hadn’t even had time to focus.

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Ferns Having Babies

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“There’s something wrong with my fern! It has dots all over the leaves. It must be some sort of disease! What should I spray it with?”

I was sitting at our county extension’s Master Gardener Help Desk, answering questions when the call came in. The caller was quite agitated, afraid that her prize fern was on the verge of passing into the great garden in the sky. It took me some time to calm her down and explain that those black dots, neatly lined up in rows, were in fact a sign of health, and that her fern was not only thriving, but was on the brink of parenthood. Yes, those little bumps contained a zillion baby ferns, so to speak, in the form of spores.

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Moss, the Weird Plant

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Moss. To those of us in Colorado, moss conjures images of soft green blankets cushioning the forest floor, or carpeting the north side of a tree in a verdant forest. To my daughter in western Washington, moss is that soggy green mat choking out the turf in her shady backyard, or keeping the shake roof too wet, allowing rot to set in. But love it or disparage it, moss is one fascinating plant.

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