Thursday, March 12, 2020

Birds, Bees, Squirrels, and Viruses

As I sit here watching and rewatching the numbers from this coronavirus epidemic spread, and we could talk about that.  We could talk about purposely self -isolation and as a birder, just sitting still and waiting for birds to come to you.  I was successful today.  I saw a common loon fly overhead in Florida.  I saw Nanday parakeets, wood storks, and I saw a swallowtailed kite...-year birds.  But I just had to go out and do something besides watching the traffic and storks fly by.

Just outside my window my flowers have been inundated by bees....Eastern Carpenter Bees no less.   They look like bumblebees, so what actually is a carpenter bee?  These bees are large, generally much quieter than bumblebees, and have less hair on their abdomens.  They are great garden pollinators and generally great to have around except they can be a nuisance since they have a taste for wood, and like chewing out holes on houses, fences, sheds and anything else.  Their holes look like they are made by good sized drill bits.  As far as I can tell they are not threatened.  There is also a southern carpenter bee also found in Florida and distinguishing these is not easy.  The above bee is a male as determined by eye location.

Then we have the curious case of the Sherman's Fox Squirrel
Kind of a handsome chunky rodent.  I ran into one the other day while biking, figuring I wouldn't run into any virus out on a bike trail.  I did run across this squirrel.  Once a subspecies of the fox squirrel in its own right only found in central Florida up to about the Georgia border, recently the subspecies was eliminated as a taxonomic classification and now just another Southern Fox Squirrel.

This squirrel has been protected from hunting for a few years and in 2017, a big study was enacted on this squirrel as worry about long leaf pine and wire grass habitat degradation impacting this species was the idea since the last survey.  There was no public input during a two month period and in the end, the squirrel ended up not being listed.  It makes sense that this squirrel found in similar habitat with the Florida scrub jay would be in trouble, but apparently lumping it with a more widespread subspecies is the answer....I hope not.

I just got a note that my daughter Lauren's Organic Chemistry professor just went into quarantine due to exposure to a positive individual.  I assume her college (Hamline Univ) will close tomorrow.  As she self-isolates 1700 miles from us, one wonders what is the thing to do?  Go get her and possibly expose ourselves to a possibly fatal illness (I have risks, a lung injury from 20 years ago)? or watch birds, bees, and squirrels?  Obviously, she has to stay away from her grandparents.

Life isn't supposed to have choices like this....

I could rant some more on this but well....I'm trying to distract myself.   I'm still only 7 days from being on a plane south from Minneapolis so I could have been exposed, too.  I was as careful as anyone could be, last to board plane, touched nothing, ate nothing, drank nothing, cloroxed the airplane seat, everything....one just doesn't know.
good luck to you all, we all need some luck.
Olaf

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