Before we get on with the business at hand - royal catchfly - I want to share two beautiful images of one of our rarer birds, courtesy of Dane Adams. Emil Bacik discovered not one, but two Piping Plovers at Lorain Harbor on Lake Erie yesterday. They are still there as of today, and Dane made the scene.
Photo: Dane Adams
The Great Lakes population of Piping Plover is imperiled, to say the least. Listed as federally endangered, this charismatic species had plummeted to about 12 breeding pairs by 1983. Protection of their beach nesting habitats has allowed for some growth in the population, and current estimates place the number of pairs at less than 70. There may have been as many as 700 breeding pairs along the Great Lakes prior to European settlement. Some of them bred on Ohio's Lake Erie beaches, but the last nesting dates to 1942. We only get the occasional migrant now, such as these birds in Dane's photos.
Photo: Dane Adams
You may have noticed that these birds' legs are heavily ornamented with bands. The colors and combinations indicate where they originated, and when. I suspect that someone is running down this information, and if I learn the back story on these pipers, I'll pass it along.
Bigelow Cemetery, a remnant of the once vast Darby Plains tallgrass prairie. Bigelow is a state nature preserve not far west of Columbus, Ohio, and is a must-see for anyone interested in prairies.
Ohio Prairie Nursery, had them for sale at last weekend's Midwest Native Plant Conference and sold lots. By the way, that conference went smashingly and was a ball, and I'll be sharing some photos from the event later.
This sort of thing interests me. It stands to reason that these sticky hairs that arm the upper portions of the plant are a defense against insects making their way up the plant from the ground. The plant is, in essence, trying to select for airborn pollinators such as the aforementioned hummingbirds, as those pollinators are probably a more efficient way to disperse pollen. But, when hairs such as these on the catchfly evolve to such a stickiness that they kill insects, is this a step towards evolving carnivory? In fact, I wonder if anyone has looked at royal catchfly to see if the plant already is capable of assimilating proteins and other useful goodies from the bugs that die on its stems.