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Field Notes No. 14 (Dec 18, 2011)

Sunday, December 18, 2011, 1:30-2:30 pm

Sunny, temperatures in the 50's, light wind out of the southwest, north lake is about half frozen, south lake has ice in the west arm.

Lots of people were out today, walking, biking, fishing, and skating. The goose flock is still here but fewer in numbers. Less than a thousand Canada Geese and a dozen Cackling Geese are still here. The three snow geese are gone. Of the ducks, only Mallards are left. The 12 American Coots are still here.

The most unusual thing I saw was a "wooly bear" crossing my path. Wooly bears, common in the park in September, are the little caterpillars that are black on each end and brown in the middle. When I got home, I consulted Wikipedia to refresh my memory of their biology. In the adult form, the wooly bear is known as Isabella tiger moth, Pyrrharctia isabella. The species ranges as far north as the arctic circle and may live for several years as a caterpillar. The caterpilla! r roams around in the fall looking for a place to spend the winter. Its body can freeze solid, protected by cyrogenic chemicals, not uncommon in the insect world. When it finally pupates and then emerges as an adult moth, it must find a mate within a few days before it dies. The old legend that one can predict the severity of the coming winter by the length of the brown band on the wooly bear is a myth and has no validity. Today's warm weather must have awakened this little guy to seek a better place for the winter. You never know what you will see in a visit to Hayden Park.

Erv Klaas