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Sunday, April 5, 2009

That's Nuts

The "learn something new / do something new everyday" ideal is one of my favourite features of the KMSA... but how I wish I had the memory capacity of this little critter, with a brain probably a 20th or more the size of my own grey blancmange.

This is a Clark's Nutcracker, named after the American Explorer and map maker William Clark ( a man who lived life to its fullest himself. )

I came across this bird while watching a documentary about Yellowstone Park, and it stood out amongst all the mating elk and lumbering grazing bison, for its remarkable symbiotic relationship that has evolved between it and the White Bark Pine, all over the north of America.

With its evolved beak, it can prize the pine nuts, which the tree itself has evolved to have a tempting 50% fat in them, out of the cones and into a special sac under its tongue, up to 150 at one sitting, a fifth of its body weight.

Then it flies, as much as fifteen miles away, over the relatively featureless terrain, and lands to drill the pine nuts into the ground, in sets of 10, placing a small stone on top of the stash to mark the site. ( tho the ground is often littered with small stones )

It goes back for more and more. Over an autumn, a single bird can bury 30,000 nuts over an area of 100 square miles! Come the winter time , it can manage to remember the location of a staggering 70% of these seeds, even when buried under 3ft of snow.

The kick back for the tree is that for every thousand seeds planted 300 hundred get left in the ground to grow.

And so I once again doff my hat and raise a beer to Nature, who's brilliance and wonderment far outstrips my own hunter gathering skills, which consist of opening up the tailgate of the van and throwing in three bags of groceries from the hypermart every week. and whose ecology we as a generation, me included, are dumbly sleepwalking into plowing into the ground after 4.5 billion years of getting here. Now That's Nuts!!

Sir Dayvd ( who's Crackers ) of Oxenfordshireness


  1. Nature, of which we are also part of, indeed reveals many mysteries, wonders and practical applications.

    I've never heard of the Clark's Nutcraker, but I have been to Yellowstone. Clark began his western mission on the shores of the Wabash River in Vincennes, Indiana, just 40 miles north of here.

    The Nutcracker by any standard, has to be the most prolific spreader of the seeds of life!

    Thank you for another interesting visit to the University of Oxforshire professor Dayvd.

    Sir Hook the Nutcracker of Warrick

  2. Yellowstone looks a fantastic place to go round,.. Some of the US states have incredible scenery. The other place i like is Yosemite, after admiring all the Ansel Adams photgraphs.

    I must find a book on Clark. America had so many lucky explorers, like him and Mason and Dixon etc... who lived just a couple of hundred years ago... lucky in that they saw America in all its natural glory, without ugly cities and roads, just as the medievals and tudors would have seen the UK.

    Apparently the Nutcracker is part of the Crow family which goes a long way to explaining some of the intellegence... still amazing tho.... if I buried ONE stash and came back 3 months later i'd be amazed if i found it.

    Wabash.?? is that something to do with "Guns across the Wabash" what was that?

    D ( who professes to know not enough ) of O :))

  3. Of course, Meriwether Lewis for the identification and naming of many of the birds and other animals on the L & C Corp of Discovery. I think that there are many species named after Clack and Lewis (i.e. Lewis Woodpecker).

    We're fortunate enough to have just a few miles from here woods and museum dedicated to John James Audubon -- where he studies and painted birds from 1810 to 1810 (Isn't it ironic that he studied birds in a park that had the same name as his?). Anyway, a must see when you come to visit us:

    Sir Bowie of Greenbriar

  4. Yes we mustn't forget Lewis..

    I think in one of the past Blogs either you or Hooky put of a photo on of a gothicky building in a nearby park... and i remember looking it up and it was where Audubon lived and worked i think...

    I have a soft spot for when i first lived in of the immediate things i did was go to the State Library in Hburg...and pore over a massive copy of his book... as i have a real OCD thing about not knowing what a type of bird is when it flits across my path. Not that i am a big obsessive birdwatcher...just that if i see a bird, my mind straightway wants to know the name or type of it and habitat and etc etc..

    Sir Dayvd ( the Bird Brain ) of Oxfordshire

  5. Sir Bowie and I were talking about bird identification as we walked in the park yesterday...I am one of those who enjoys listening and seeing the birds and can tell you what most of the usual ones are...and appreciates the rest of them but don't feel the need to carry a bird id book along the walks...

    Audubon Park has always been a family favorite to visit. Our daughters used to love the tower room there!
    And I remember hiking through the trails with my brothers a long time ago.

    Today the birds are scarce as we have a rare April snowstorm!

    Lady Suzanne of Greenbriar

  6. well luckily i was brought up in the countryside when England had a good load more of it, and before Dutch Elm diesease, which decimated the landscape in the 60's 70's.....
    and so thankfully i don't need the book now either... mind you there was a mid size grey falcon that came a harrying the finches and blackbirds in the yard the other day... not striped and low not a sparrowhawk etc..tooo grey and large for a kestrel .....indeed not anything i could recognise... and as most of my birdy books are in boxes in the loft...i still haven't got around to working out what it was....

    Maybe i'm cured LOL

    D ( tweet ) of O

  7. Sir D, there is a lot of history in our humble bend on the Ohio River.

    The Wabash is a smaller river that forms the boarder between Illinois and Indiana. It flows into the Ohio River about 30 miles West of Evansville.

    Vincennes, about 40 miles northwest of here, sets on the Wabash. It was the site of a French colony, thus the name, and fierce warefare between the Brits and Colonials against the French and Indians during the French and Indian Wars in the early 1700's. It is also the first Capitol of Indiana and the seat of the first Catholic Diocese in the Ohio Valley established by the Jesuits.

    The British built a fort there, which was taken during the Revolutionary War by Clark and his men on February 23, 1779 during the Battle of Vincennes.

    It is still a site where a Rendevouz is held every year with reenactments of the Revolutionary War...where the Black Watch always gets slaughtered by the Colonials!

    You must come and see the Wilderness, as the Brits where found of calling our neck of the woods back in the day.

    Sir Hook the Colonist of Warrick

  8. Just to clarify:

    Vincennes was the Capital of the Indiana Territory (what is now Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota). Corydon was the first Indiana state capital.

    Also, it was William's older bro. George Rogers Clark who amazingly captured Vincennes.

    George Rogers was Jefferson's early pick to go on the Corp of Discovery, but was too elderly by the time it finally came to reality -- so William got the nod.

    There is a cabin at the Falls of the Ohio across from Louisville, Ky that recreates the cabin George retired to. Lewis and Clark visited him when they returned from their adventure. That must have been one hell of a few days and nights of story telling.

    Lewis met up with William Clark at the Falls of the Ohio where the great Corp of Discovery began (at least where they began together).

    Sir Bowie of Greenbriar

  9. Well boys there's a whole heap of hornery fightin' and history up there on the Wabash.. I have just had a cup of java and settled back to read up on the Wiki. It never fails to amaze me, how we in our own lifespan ( tho of course its the only one we know ) always think we are the most important generation and do and know the most in life, yet there was all this life and exploration and newness going on way back when.

    Sometimes seems as if our generation has run out of new frontiers for the common man and all we do is scratch around in the same old holes...

    I admire old De Vincennes setting up his own peaceful settlement and calling it after himself... ..seems he and the Brits too got on okay with the local Indians... trading and living in peace.

    I Still don't know where i got the line "Guns across the wabash"...(??) as i have just googled that and have come up with nothing, yet at the very mention of the word Wabash its the first thing i thought of. I wonder if it is part of a lyric maybe.

    i can imagine why the brits called it the wilderness... such a vast place.. I mean...i'll be interested to hear your views when you have been and gone from our island. As i have mentioned before, when i come back from the states i always go through quite a few hours of semi claustrophobia in the everything feels close to, compared to anywhere in the US....which has masses of space.

    In fact you will probably have a sense of semi-Agrophobia when you get back to the US lol...

    I like the phrase Corps of Discovery!!! The KMSA needs a Corp of Discovery.

    sir dayvd of tinyville

  10. Jefferson had always been, as Thoreau would say, "realizing westward." We just had to overcome a few obstacles such as wilderness, Native Indians, Napoleon Bonaparte, the British, Spain...

    I guess we were always looking for the new Eden?

    The Corps of Discovery was probably self-named as they were really a military unit of the United States Army: 29 soldiers and civilians, including Clark's slave, York, and lets not forget Sacagawea and her baby.

    There was also a dog -- which the Indians kept trying to eat!

    All but one (who died early of natural causes) made it back!

    Sir Bowie of Ohio River of Greenbriar