Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Rain: Miracle March (and April) of 2006
March more than made up for the previous post describing the dry year so far. Hastings had 3 days or real snow (8th, 9th, 10th), and 20 days of measurable precipitation. While the 60-year average here is 3.2” for March, we had 5.84”. Vernal pools and creeks near Hastings finally filled with water, some with the occasional mallard pair. Still very few newts were seen on the roads, with minimal mortality due to traffic. Maybe they deferred breeding for this year, as they generally migrate to ponds and creeks in late December or early January to lay eggs and breed. These were basically dry this winter, but now are ripping along or overflowing. As of today, we had an additional 4.09”of rain in April. This is well over the long-term April average of 1.26”. Our rainy season total for this winter so far is 23.68”, just a bit over the long-term average of 23.2”.
The cold soils (under 50 deg. F) kept the spring flowers and grass from much growth. With the return of warm days (finally) the flowers and grasses have erupted and we expect a reasonably good spring flower show and forage.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Singing, Free-Ranging Native Deer Mice
In a very recent scientific paper (Front Zool. 2006 Feb 28;3(1):3) Hastings researcher Matina Kalcounis-Ruppell (along with JD Metheny and MJ Vonhof MJ) describes observations she made in December of 2005 with an array of ultasonic detectors. Usually used to detect the high-frequency calls made by bats, Matina aimed this array of audio recorders along the ground in an array that covered the home ranges of several resident deer mice. Some very interesting, long complex songs were recorded. For an example, click HERE for a 4-whistle song. This is a short "song" sample of only about 450k so you don't need a high-speed connection. Many songs are much longer, moe complex, and melodic. Matina has ruled out all by Peromyscus californicus (photo) or the brush mouse, P. boylii. Matina concludes, "The discovery of the production of ultrasonic vocalizations by Peromyscus in the wild highlights an underappreciated component of the behavior of these model organisms. The ability to examine the production of ultrasonic vocalizations in the wild offers excellent opportunities to test hypotheses regarding the function of ultrasound produced by rodents in a natural context."