Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Robins and Hackberries

American Robins eating hackberries

It was about this time last year that I "discovered" Hackberry trees along the Lower Chippewa River.  They've always been there.  I just never noticed them.

What made me stop and look?  A flock of birds, perched in the leaf-less canopy, silhouetted against a mean gray sky.   Their movements caught my eye.

It didn't take much to identify the birds.  They were gluttonously feasting on a dark fruit the size of cherries.  Had to be Cedar Waxwings or American Robins.  A quick look through binoculars confirmed it:  Cedar Waxwings.

But what were those fruits?  And what was that tree?

I was clueless.  And I felt stupid.  Why didn't I "know" that tree?

Figuring it out required getting out of the Prius (brr) with my little Canon Powershot to get some reference pictures. 

Hackberry Bark

Lucky for me, I could get close enough to photograph the bark.  From there it was easy.  Common Hackberries are known for their "cork-like bark with wart-like protuberances."

Turns out, figuring out the identity of this one tree last fall opened my eyes to some of the other creatures related to it, animals I also spotted for the first time, this past year.

Hackberry Gall Psyllid
Hackberry Emperor butterfly
Hackberry Nipple Galls

Hackberry Petiole Gall (summer)

Hackberry Petiole Gall (winter)

Now that I can identify a Common Hackberry tree, I keep looking for "new" creatures associated with it.

Today it was the same fruits, same tree, same weather - but different birds.  Today's birds were American Robins.

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