Readers’ wildlife photos

We have two photos today, as I’m conserving pictures now that they’re running a tad low (send yours in, people!). But these are good ones.

First, reader Julian Cattaneo from Canada sent us a gorgeous bird:

This chap was hanging around a semi-outdoor restaurant in Las Peñitas, Nicaragua — I assume seeking to scarf a morsel or two, but he (I assume “he” but really don’t know) flew off empty-beaked. It’s a zanate, or Nicaraguan grackle (Quiscalus nicaraguensis). I’d guessed some kind of crow at first, but it’s not a corvid.

On November 10 of last year, Reader Roger Latour sent us a page of maple-leaf photos from his upcoming botanical book. Today we get the maple “keys”, also known as samaras or achenes, which are the winged fruits of the tree. They’re lovely when arrayed like this. Roger’s notes:

This is from my book (maples, elms and a group of cherry trees) due in about two weeks [JAC: this was sent February 15; it’s not out yet, but should be soon]. It will be published in French and also in English.
Info about the plate: All at the same scale, these are the fruits of all the maples to be found in Montreal and it will pretty much match what maple species grow in Chicago.
Here is a list of the trees:
a- Acer saccharum, sugar maple, érable à sucre
b- Acer saccharum var. schneckii, Schneck’s maple, érable de Schneck
c- Acer sp.
d- Acer nigrum, black maple, érable noir
e- Acer rubrum, red maple, érable rouge
f- Acer miyabei var. shibatai, Shibata’s maple, érable de Shibata
g- Acer platanoides, Norway maple, érable de Norvège
h- Acer pensylvanicum, striped maple, érable de Pennsylvanie
i- Acer spicatum, mountain maple, érable à épis
j- Acer saccharinum, silver maple, érable argenté
k- Acer pseudoplatanus, sycamore maple, érable sycomore
l- Acer negundo, Manitoba maple, érable à Giguère
m- Acer tataricum, Tatarian maple, érable de Tartarie
n- Acer griseum, paperbark maple, érable à écorce de papier
o- Acer miyabei var. miyabei, Miyabe’s maple, érable de Miyabe




  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Did you hear the grackle? I’m keeping mental notes of the ones I’ve heard.

    I’ve seen that “plate” (nice touch) of seeds before..?

    • Julian C
      Posted March 3, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      I heard other grackles in Nicaragua, but this specific one was silent while near

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I always called those maple seeds helicopters. Along the rivers in the Midwest the trees are first, the Willow, then the Cotton wood and finally the maple. If hunting mushrooms always look around the base of the maples. Don’t ask why but that is where I find them.

    • Julian C
      Posted March 3, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      “Helicopters” is what I called them the first time I saw them falling from trees when I arrived in this part of the world.

  3. pck
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Those winged fruits are amazing! I wonder how their flight properties vary and how much of those are specifically tuned to their environment.

  4. Posted March 3, 2018 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Interesting! Like what is suspected about some of the differences in leaf shape between species, I suppose some of the differences in the seeds between these species is not due to natural selection but is instead due to neutral evolution by genetic drift.

  5. Liz
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    The first thing I noticed is that it looks like the common grackle. We called those helicopters also as kids. We’d take them apart and put the sticky part on our noses for whatever reason and laugh. Nice pictures.

  6. Posted March 3, 2018 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Love the photo of maple fruits!

  7. Posted March 3, 2018 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Interesting maple fruits.

  8. Diane G.
    Posted March 4, 2018 at 2:23 am | Permalink

    Roger, what a lovely plate of maple samaras! I see our “Box Elder” is your “Manitoba Maple.” The one in our garden is still laden with samaras now, in March.

    Beautiful grackle portrait, Julian!

    • Posted March 4, 2018 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      Well, thanks…Common names… so many to choose from! There is also ash-leaved maple. Changes from region to region. Here in Montréal we call it “érable à Giguère”. But nobody knows who that person is! But that vernacular name is so typical in Québec that is the normalized french name for the species. And, yes, mine also have a ton of seeds. The local back alley gang of squirrels depends on it for the winter.

  9. jaxkayaker
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Great photos of the maple fruits, and useful for identification. Thank you for sharing. However, I was taught that samaras are single-seed fruits with a wing-like structure to catch the air, while the fruits of maples, having two winged seeds that separate are designated schizocarps, literally “split fruits”.

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