Odun Bölerken – While Choping Wood

Today, at roughly 18:00 GMT -5, in the little hamlet of Muncie, Indiana, in the small 1/4 acre backyard of a pseudo middle-class family, two boys found some stuff.

I wanted to share some pictures (below) of the cool wasp larvae we found while splitting some wood which had been left to enbugafy for a winter or more. I have seen several large 2-3 cm long wasps flitting around the yard. I conducted an “internet search” on “Google” and found that there is a whole class of wasps, called “Wood Wasps” also known as “horntails.”

This second name is given to the wasp due to the “horn” or ovipositor organ which projects from ther abdomen. Like all wasps they use this ovipositor to deposit their eggs onto (or often into) their prey.

The life cyle works as follows: an adult wasp comes and lays eggs in wood such as logs or your house (Amerikalılar, evlerini ölü ağaçlardan inşa ediyorlar). Then when the eggs hatch an ant-like grub chews a tunnel into the wood, or your house. Some of these grubs get eaten by woodpeckers who, hearing their chewing sounds, come in, bore a bigger hole and pull out the tasty larvum/grub. Eventurally, the grubs who survive grow up, become adult wasps, have sex, and then the female finds new pieces of wood, or your house and lay eggs into it, thereby starting the cycle again.

Here is a chart I made to explain the lifecyle.

wasp lifecyle_2

As you can see from the above chart, these wasps, are bad-news bears if your house has wood siding. If your house has brick siding, or is made of concrete like in most uncivilized countries, or is a cave (the Frech do this), then your house is impervious to the Wood Wasp, but subject to attack by earthquakes.

But you clicked for the shocking images of what we found inside the log. Here, without further ado, are images from our grub/wasp discovery adventure time!

Here is a picture of a hole in our house made by a woodpecker, likely a Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus). My brother tells me that the woodpecker would wake him every morning with his constant, tapping, rapping at the siding outdoors. His solution? Throwing books at the wall.

Tasty grubs were had, now we have a decorative hole in our house!



A Weekend of Nature

This weekend was mostly spent communing with nature. Istanbul, a city that has been a city for thousands of years, now is a true concrete jungle with few parks and no quiet places. The few green places inside the city are cemeteries and the occasional trash-filled park. On Saturday, I went with a friend to pet feral dogs in a little visited Adile Sultan Kasrı which is not even featured on maps as a park. There I identified a number of plants which, like most of the plants on this planet, I did not know.

I guess some of my favorites include:

  • Muscari Botroides
  • Veronica sp.
  • Euphorbia Helisconia
  • Borago officinalis


One of the cool surprises of the day was seeing the wild form of Rocket (Roka) otherwise known as Eruca sativa! Like so many of the foods of Europe it also belongs to the cabbage family (just like canola, mustard, and brusselsprouts).

I took my friend to this park because many of the wild dogs who live there had puppies about a month ago. She, like any decent being, loves puppies.


The next day I went to Kuş Cenneti –a poorly kept little bird reserve on the south side of the sea of Marmara. This was my second visit. As right now birds are making their way north I saw a very different set of birds from the ones I saw three weeks ago. In total I saw 42 species of birds.

Highlights include:

  • Common Moorhen
  • Flamingo
  • Spoonbil
  • Black-tailed Gotwit
  • Black-winged Stilt
  • Lapwing
  • Syrian Woodpecker
  • Night Heron

I also got to see two species of turtle and one species of tortoise.

Walking back from the park to the highway, I saw the carcass of what was probably a Scops Owl. I suspect it was it by a car and later mauled by the three Kangal dogs that also harassed me as I walked by. After seeing the owl, I walked into the cemetery across the road. I thought it would be a good place to look for woodpeckers and possible sleeping owls. I didn’t hear any woodpeckers and so I decided to rest for a while. Cemeteries are great places to rest. I put my gear down by a nice shady tree and rolled up my coat to use as a cushion. As I looked down to clear the ground of pine cones, I saw a familiar shape: an owl pellet.

I didn’t get to see a living owl this trip – just the carcass of one and the balled up indigestible parts of the voles and mice that some owl, perhaps even the deceased one, ate.

Back in Bandırma, the town closest to Kuş Cenneti, I had some of the best tavuk şiş that I have ever had. The soup was good too. The veggie plate came with two pieces of Çiğ Köfte which was made very differently from what I am used, yet very delicious. It reminded me of Mercimek Köftesi as it had parsley in it and the bulgur was coarse. I also treated my waist-line to a portion of Kadayıf.


I took a long walk out the jetty into the Marmara and enjoyed watching the Yellow-legged Gulls having their supper.


There’s More at Crane Creek than Rare Birds.

Crane Creek
Crane Creek

Not all trips need to be taken outside of the US. Some trips can be taken to the extremes of the USian territory. In what is left of what one was one of the biggest marshes on the planet the last wave of spring migrant birds congregate to fatten up before making the jump across Lake Erie –the puddle left behind by last glaciers. This is Crane Creek.  I went to Crane Creek with my Birding Buddy Phil, who is about 42 yeas my senior, a little hard of hearing, but a great birder, a true cynic and a great friend. We stayed three days there, and even ate the best Pho ever in a Toledo, OH ghetto. But this story is about Crane Creek, not racist Vietnamese woman who kicked out men of color after serving them the burgers she sold them, subsequently explaining in what must have been English that all they eat is Fried Chicken. This happened.

Arare Steak Pho'? Incredible.
Arare Steak Pho’? Incredible.

Anyway, Crane Creek is not special just because it represents the last few acres of the once literally 1,000,000 acre marsh known as the Great Black Swamp (also the soggy remnant of a massive glacier which retreated north into what is now Lake Erie) but because the mangrove-like vegetation has a low canopy such that the canopy-loving birds: the vireos, warblers and flycatchers, stalk their chitenous prey at nearly eye level.  The Great Black Swamp represented one of the last natural American obstacles to be ravaged when was drained in the name of human progress in the late 19th century. The power of steam and petroleum turned “useless” water-cleaning, flood-controlling acreage into productive farmland which then yielded –in places–  to the brick, mortar and steel of the American industrial revolution.

Crane Creek, now called Magee Marsh Wildlife  Refuge, is a birder’s haven. Of course, haven is a fun word to use since its original meaning was like that of “harbor” and Crane Creek is a port of call for birds and their voyeurs alike.  In the spring, droves of bird, insect and mammal species make their way north to reap their harvest of insects and plants which bloom plentifully for a short time every year. The taxing voyage of hundred to tens of thousands of miles apparently yields a competitive advantage to these nomadic animals. Humans too, as their endothermic-regulatory systems begin to fail, and provided they have the financial resources to do so, become migratory, wintering in calid climes like Florida and Mexico, slowly making their way to higher latitudes as the sun warms those soils.

Continue reading “There’s More at Crane Creek than Rare Birds.”

Birding in Texas

Saw some birds in Galveston island and Austin, Texas.
  1. Common Loon
  2. Pied-billed Grebe
  3. Brown Pelican
  4. Neotropic Cormorant
  5. Reddish Egret
  6. Little Blue Heron
  7. Black-crowned Night-Heron
  8. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
  9. Great Blue Heron
  10. White Ibis
  11. Roseate Spoonbill
  12. Turkey Vulture
  13. Black Vulture
  14. Sandhill Crane
  15. American Coot
  16. Great Egret
  17. Snowy Egret
  18. Ring-billed Gull
  19. Laughing Gull
  20. Herring Gull
  21. Royal Tern
  22. Common Tern
  23. Caspian Tern
  24. Semipalmated Plover
  25. Black-bellied Plover
  26. Sanderling
  27. Spotted Sandpiper
  28. Willet
  29. Lesser Yellowlegs
  30. Long-billed Curlew
  31. Short-billed Dowitcher
  32. Marbled Godwit
  33. Black-necked Stilt
  34. White-winged Dove
  35. Mourning Dove
  36. Rock Dove
  37. Inca Dove
  38. Gadwall
  39. Lesser Scaup
  40. Bufflehead
  41. Mallard
  42. Northern Shoveler
  43. White-tailed Kite
  44. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  45. Northern Harrier
  46. Red-tailed Hawk
  47. Osprey
  48. American Kestrel
  49. Belted Kingfisher
  50. Downy Woodpecker
  51. Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker
  52. Eastern Phoebe
  53. American Robin
  54. Northern Mockingbird
  55. Loggerhead Shrike
  56. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  57. Palm Warbler
  58. Orange-crowned Warbler
  59. Carolina Chickadee
  60. Blue Jay
  61. Marsh Wren (H)
  62. Northern Cardinal
  63. Common Grackle
  64. Boat-tailed Grackle
  65. Great-tailed Grackle
  66. Eastern Medowlark
  67. Black-headed Grosbeak
  68. Northern Cardinal
  69. American Robin
  70. European Starling
  71. Harris’s Sparrow
  72. Song Sparrow
  73. House Sparrow
  • 1 small, dead whale
  • 3 dolphins of unknown species surfing the prow of a ship
  • 1 Coyote
  • 2 Dumpster Cats
  • 1 Monarch Butterfly

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