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10:12 a.m. - 2007-07-31
Humble crustacean/Noble bird.
Happy Summer, Critterheads!

How are you?

Things are good here. Summer is so busy, though! Last weekend R was gone in the BWCA, this weekend I went to WI with PG, and this Thursday we'll be joining J and JS and W and D for my first trip to the Boundary Waters!

In critter news, a kinkajou in the suburbs?!?! One question remains: Why wasn't the kinkajou wandering around in MY neighborhood?

Today our critter focus is on two very different animals. The first is the humble woodlouse, which R and I observed the other night. Some of the woodlice were on top of each other, ifyaknowwhatimsayin'! The other creature is my cousin Miss Lippy's request, the magnificent osprey.

Back to the bug; Sunday night was the full moon (okay, Monday was) and R and I decided to walk up the big hill near our apartment and observe the beauty. Because of the hilliness of our swanky neighborhood, there are many retaining walls, and softly lit by the moonlight, we noticed pill bugs congregating upon them.


Woodlice are also known as roly-polys, armadillo bugs, pill bugs, and sow bugs. They are not insects, but rather crustaceans, members of Order Isopoda, Suborder Oniscidea.

These fourteen-legged dudes are nocturnal detritivores, meaning they eat decaying leaf matter. Woodlice breathe through gills, and require a moist environment to survive. In less than 50% humidity pill bugs can die in one day.

Woodlice are unique in that they molt in two stages; first their hind end skin comes off, followed later by their front half! Their metabolic rate* is regulated by temperature, and they have four pairs of mouth parts. Some species roll into a ball when threatened.

*Side note: Wendell's metabolic rate has also been affected by the heat.

As for nooky, the female woodlouse holds her fertilized eggs under her abdomen. When they start hatching she appears to "give birth".

Pill bugs are harmless to humans, although they can cause damage in artificially moist environments like greenhouses. They can be an indicator of excess moisture indoors, however. Excess woodlice can be captured by leaving out a halved cantaloupe overnight. The fruit can then be thrown away or moved to a better location.

These isopods make good meals for spiders, frogs, toads and small mammals.


And now for something completely different: The osprey!


Ooh, they're prettier than I thought! I am jealous of Miss Lippy's proximity to a Great Lake!

The osprey, Pandion haliaetus, is also known as a fishhawk, seahawk or sea eagle. In French it is called a balbuzard pecheur and in Spanish (GH should know this!) a gavilan pescador.

These birds are black and white, with a distinctive black eye stripe. They're 21 to 23 inches long, with a 59 to 71 inch wingspan. They weigh around three to five pounds. Female ospreys are slightly larger than males, and have a broader black stripe across their breast.

Ospreys were greatly reduced in number (along with many other raptors) during DDT usage from 1950 to 1970. They've made a great comeback since then, however. Ospreys are one of the most successful of the Order Falconiformes, possibly because they can live in a variety of environments.

Ospreys require one thing in their habitat: fish. Ninety-nine percent of their diet is live fish. To facilitate this diet seahawks have several superpowers. They can hover above the water and dive up to one meter, and can close their nostrils underwater. Ospreys' sharp eyes spot fish from ten to 40 meters above the water. One of their toes is reversible, that is, it can face forward, or grasp backward, leaving two toes facing the front and two facing the back. This, along with the abrasive barbed footpads on their feet, allow the osprey to better clasp wriggling fishies. To aid in flying while holding a fish, the osprey clasps it head forward (like a fish swims) to improve aerodynamics.

Ospreys mate for life, and are sexually mature at three to four years old. After a month of courtship and nest building, the female lays one to four eggs. Another reason for the success of these birds is the fact that they will readily nest on man-made structures, such as telephone poles and buildings. Conservationists have also built special nest platforms. Ospreys will also use nests over and over, for as long as seventy years. Their lifespan is 20 to 25 years.

Osprey eggs are unique in that they do not hatch at the same time. Usually five days pass between the emergence of the first and last chicks. In times of abundance, all of the chicks will get enough to eat. But when food is scarce, the oldest baby will steal all of the food, and some of the younger chicks may die.

After eight weeks, North American chicks are fledged, and join their parents in their yearly migration to Central and South America.

The osprey is the official bird of Nova Scotia, the namesake of the Seattle Seahawks (shout outs to my Seattle peeps!) and the mascot of my friend B and JE's Alma Mater, the University of North Carolina Wilmington! I have many happy memories in that coastal town.


I hope this entry has been interesting and educational for you!

A special birthday shout-out to little MB, who has reached her first birthday!

Of course I will be posting about our BWCA trip. Will we see a moose? A loon? A BEAR?!!! Eeeeeee.

Huggies to all,


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