Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ducks -- May 26, 2015

Northern Pintail (to the top right) -- a new sighting for us -- and a pair of mallards at Cuddy Park.

A little digression -- we haven't had much trouble with mosquitoes this year, so there's been little chance to share Ned Rozell's great article about them. He reports that Derek Sikes, the curator of insects at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has calculated that there are about 17 1/2 trillion mosquitoes here every summer, with a combined weight of 96,000,000 pounds. During the summer, counting all of the tourists -- with whom we are happy to share the biters -- all of the humans weigh 442,000,000 pounds. That's plenty of food for the mosquitoes, and they have the caribou, moose, and many other mammals to pester as well. Jim points out that only approximately half of  those 96,000,000 are likely to be females (and the literature supports that hypothesis), so we really only have 8 3/4 trillion mosquitoes to worry about.

Female Agelenopsis spp. spider
Grass spider, found in Alaska.

Mr. Rozell suggests that we can cultivate spiders to help keep the population down, but only a couple of tropical spiders prefer mosquitoes. Alaskan spiders might eat them if the mosquitoes happen to fly into a web, but they are not nearly as effective predators as are birds and fish.

The geese and ducks we were watching today, for example, are fond of mosquitoes, which might explain why there were so few mosquitoes at Cuddy Park.

The Canada geese waited until we were within arms' length before they started to move away.

Mom mallard and some of her babies.

Time for a one-footed break -- the water fowl probably don't spend as much time asleep as Quaxo, but they do take frequent naps.

The kids were enjoying the sunshine too.

Give a guy a stick and a stone, and he'll play golf in case you ever wondered about the origin of the game).

We don't know what it's going to be, but it makes a nifty photo (on 36th, between Old Seward and Denali Street).

Violas, or Johnny-Jump-Ups.

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