The Ask a Naturalist Blog is a tool that Cleveland Metroparks provides for your nature questions. Naturalists quickly respond to inquiries privately, while some responses are chosen to be highlighted publicly on the homepage of the blog. This spring brought in 75 inquiries ranging from algae to amphibians! Here are a select few:
Why doesn’t the grindstone/millstone on a gristmill break off into the ground-up product?
Thank you for the gristmill inquiry about the flour and whether or not it would have bits of sand in it.
The Evans designs (automated, via water flow) employed two quartz-laden granite stones. Remember granite is a type of hard igneous rock. So NO soft sandstone here... This would certainly prevent sand pieces from ending up in your dinner loaf. To note: grinding stones and millstones are not the same thing.
The flour is sifted through a screen at the end of its journey, to rid the product of potential bits of anything that may have fit through the furrows. The furrows are visible groves on the top of the lower stone displayed at Rocky River Nature Center.
And a piece of cool info. Long ago, I'm thinking early 19th Century, farmers wouldn't do a good job at cleaning the wheat and other grains prior to delivery to the miller. As a result, the final product would have been less than a standard product, hence the phrase, "Run of the mill."
Will this loon be able to take off from this small pond? It has been there at least since Friday. (Location: Conrad Pond)
A common loon is most certainly a migratory bird, and as you've eluded, should be continuing its route northbound to Canada from as far south as Florida. Common loons will be present in the Cleveland region through May and return in even higher numbers in the fall, late-Sept/October to be specific.
Can you please give me a brief reply on the term, "coywolf," and it's validity of use in northeastern Ohio?
A coywolf is a term disputed in the scientific community. What we have in our area is an eastern coyote, which is mainly a coyote with a small amount of wolf gene influence from approximately 100 years ago when wolves were being persecuted and numbers were low and coyotes were just beginning to show up in the northeast. The term coywolf is misleading because it suggests a 50/50 hybrid cross between a wolf and a coyote, which it is not.
In the last century, the eastern coyote colonized the forests of eastern North America. New genetic tests show that all eastern coyotes are actually a mix of three species: coyote, wolf, and dog. The percentages vary, dependent upon exactly which test is applied and the geographic location of the canine. Coyotes in the Northeast are mostly (60%-84%) coyote, with lesser amounts of wolf (8%-25%) and dog (8%-11%). Tests show that there are no animals that are just coyote and wolf (that is, a coywolf), and some eastern coyotes that have almost no wolf genes at all.
All eastern coyotes show some evidence of past hybridization, but there is no sign that they are still actively mating with dogs or wolves.
What is this flower? Until advised otherwise we I are going with Little Lilly.
A: The plant you've discovered is in fact in the Lily family. It is a cultivated variety of a native group of species (to Ohio) called Solomon's seal. We have several growing naturally in Ohio: hairy Solomon's seal and star-flowered Solomon's seal, to name a few.
Q: I have a nest of eastern phoebes under my eave. The pair is raising their fifth brood in this nest, and the first to contain five chicks rather than four. The chicks are maybe two or three days from fledging, and one of the parents is spending a lot of time perched on the rim of the nest, much more than with earlier broods. They'll peck at mites, but the infestation doesn't seem to be nearly as bad as last year's second brood had. Is the parent just trying to keep the chicks from falling out of the very crowded nest?
A: What a keen observer you are. The details you're reporting are usually overlooked by the casual observer. Well done!
The eastern phoebe nestling period is 16-20 days, after hatching. So, the hatchlings will fledge within three weeks of pecking through their tiny eggs. As you suggest, nest space will get tighter as the fledglings grow larger. So I agree with your hypothesis until proven otherwise. I do not, however, think that the ectoparasites, or mites as you suggest, are resulting in the observed behavior by the adult.
Q: Many of the oak trees along this section of Big Creek Pkwy have areas of dead brown leaves. What is causing this?
A: Good sighting. I've attached two photos of the phenomenon that I observed just outside the entrance to Strongsville Wildlife Area. The recent explosion of periodical cicadas was for one ecological purpose: reproduction. The adult females lay their fertilized eggs in small twig-sized branches on trees. The egg slits interrupt the flow of nutrients to the leaves. This change in nutrient flow must somehow decrease chlorophyll production in/to the leaves. The leaves then brown, photosynthetic efficiency decreases, and the clump of leaves either drop off or hang on in the state of senescence (as observed with oaks and beech trees through winter, termed marcescence). The overall fitness and future health of the tree will not be hindered.