Darwin, Me, And The Black Fly Factor

Loons E Rd Raft2CrUnless you’ve never heard this program before…or unless you have a memory such as mine with a retention capability of a couple days…it will come as no surprise to you that I dabble in common loon research now and then…In fact, I consider myself very fortunate to have a network of intelligent, caring, committed folks around our fair state who contact me quite often for matters relating to the loons that nest on their lakes, or lakes they monitor where loons require careful managing in order to maintain nesting success…that, in part is what the topic today is about…now, don’t go away…I know many of these segments deal with loons…and I wouldn’t be surprised…or offended…if some of you get a little tired of hearing about the ups and downs of loon life…but also in today’s segment…I’m going to compare the unique position I’m in…to…get ready for this…to that in which my…well, role model, for want of a better term…Charles Darwin found himself…or placed himself in…some years ago…so, am I really comparing what I do to the father of evolution and natural Selection?…well, yes I am…is this a little arrogant and pompous of me to do so?..yeah, it is…do I care?…no…music, as always, by the progenitor of online royalty-free music…Kevin MacLeod……
DRK15 Bill touchSo, while I’ll step back a little…okay a lot…from the notion that my work with loons is anything on the scale of what Darwin did for science…we are both naturalists of sorts…and we both shared a keen interest in the work of others…Darwin, from his peers, professional and amateurs alike…and me, from those dedicated people mentioned at the top of this segment…what led me to make such an arrogant comparison was an email I got (show me a single email Darwin ever got)…anyway, an email I got from a very committed loon observer from Iron County…way over in the western U.P….Janet Oatman…concerning what happened to the loons on her lake (Smoky Lake) on the Michigan/Wisconsin border……what in fact happened…in a nutshell, or an eggshell, to be precise…was that sometime during the incubation stage…her nesting loons were driven off the nest…not by marauding jet-skiers, or malicious boaters…but black flies…simulium annulus, to be exact…a black fly species that (speaking of Darwin) times its emergence with the nesting cycle of loons……now, lest you’re thinking, “I wouldn’t want to be around when this happens,” have no fear…annulus is not attracted to human blood…in fact annulus is very picky whose blood it targets to produce its eggs…Crane eggs black flies
I have to go back to the 1970s when a well known biologist named Judith McIntyre, noticing this same phenomenon…conducted an experiment along the lines of what Darwin might have done…she waited until the air was thick with the annulus species…then laid out on a beach several skins taken from various waterfowl that lived on lakes in the northeastern US…don’t ask how she got the skins because I don’t know…anyway, suspecting already that this black fly preferred loon blood…she wasn’t too surprised when the black flies literally swarmed the loon skin…leaving the others virtually untouched……back to the present, after reading Janet’s email about her loons being driven from their nest I checked around online for any news of similar reports…and wow!, did I find them…a whole slew of news agencies, mostly out of Northern Wisconsin…not only that hundreds of lakes had loons driven from their nests due to annulus…but that the spring of 2014 was the worst in decades…that up to 70% of loon nests across Wisconsin had been aborted……so, you might be wondering at this point…I can see how Darwin and some of these other people share similarities…but what do yours truly and the famous naturalist have in common?…well, this–Darwin relied heavily on others to keep him informed on events occurring in nature to feed his enormous database of knowledge and observations from around the world…well, as I told Janet in my response to her…I am so grateful that you continue to share your experiences with me of the goings on at your lake, and that I learn so much about loons through these observations, and from the observations of all those who report to me every year…I wouldn’t know a fraction of what I know without this network of loon enthusiasts…their accumulated stories and accounts have given me a wealth of information over the years…some altering previously held, but erroneous views…many supporting the observations of others before them…just as Darwin benefited from his many contacts… …oh and the loons that lost their nest to the tiny menaces, Janet was pleased to report…and I was delighted to hear (or read) that they eventually renested and hatched one chick…don’t hesitate to Google Planet Michigan for more on the relationship between this black fly and loons…for Red Sky Stage Radio’s Planet Michigan…I am…Charles—Jeff…Lange.

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