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Vineyard Gazette
Edgartown, Massachusetts
December 2, 2016     Vineyard Gazette
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December 2, 2016

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SIXTEEN VINEYARD GAZETTE, MARTHES VINEYARD, MASS. FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2016 All Outdoors Butt Breathing By SUZAN BELLINCAMPI Breathe deep. "In through the nose and out through the mouth" is a common refrain during many a yoga class or relaxation ses- sion. But not all animals follow that pat- tern, or even use those organs to breathe. There are some turtles that take their breaths through their other end. Yes, that's right, not through their mouth, but through their anus. The kids in your life will love this fun fact. You may want to take a deep breath before telling them, and then use their interest as a teachable moment. Some turtles, including our local painted turtle, can breathe through their butts. 'Butt breathing,' also called anal respiration, is not a year-round activity for these species, but a seasonal one. This time of year many turtles have become inactive. They have found their way to the bottom of the ponds and have buried themselves under the muck, where they will wait out winter. Though we are all familiar with the process of hibernation, in the case of turtles and other reptiles, the proper term for the off-season resting period is brumation. Brumation is a seasonal period of dormancy for cold-blooded animals. During brumation, reptiles become less active and their metabolic processes slow. Growth also ceases. Day length triggers brumation, and animals will feed heavily ahead of this resting period to build up reserves. There are, however, a few differences between hibernation and brumation. You can call this the tale of The Turtle and The Bear. The term hibernation, as already noted, is used most often to refer to mammals, while bmmation refers to cold-blooded beasts. During hibernation, animals cease both feeding and drinking water, though during brumation water is still needed. Hibernation is a true prolonged sleep, while brumation can be punctuated by activity. Prior to hiberna- tion, animals will build up fat to use for energy. In addition to this, before bmma- tion, reptiles will build up glycogen that they can use for energy to power their muscles during those periods of activity. And then them is that breathing prob- lem. As most of us know, turtles usually breathe through their lungs. This is not their only method of respiration. They can also absorb oxygen through their mouth or throat, and -- making them the butt of the kids' jokes -- through their cloaca, a posterior orifice that serves digestive, reproductive, urinary and, in this case, even respiratory purposes. While this method may (or may not) be a pain in the butt, it is an efficient and effective way to respire. Turtles are not the only animals to use their bottoms for breathing. Some aquatic beetles attach an air bubble to their posteriors and use the captured oxygen in the bubble for respiration during their underwater dives. Another example of using the butt instead of the brain comes from mos- quito larvae. They have a breathing tube or siphon that extends from their posterior end that could be compared to a snorkel. They point their head down and their bottoms up toward the surface of the water where the siphon will break the surface and allow respiration -- and possibly provide a smaller target for hungry predators. No matter which method you find most amazing, all of these anal adapta- tions obviously kick butt when it comes to helping kids and adults both laugh and learn. Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgar- town, and author of Martha's Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature. Mark Lovewell Some turtles breathe through their butts during brumation. Bird News Sounds Like She's Singing By ROBERT A. CULBERT Many autumnal columns feature sightings in Aquinnah. But this week Katama is the clear winner, with three unusual species. Far and away the most unusual species this week is the white-winged dove. It looks a lot like a mourning dove, but in flight it shows a conspicuous band of white across its wings. So when Rebecca Sanders, the garden manager at the Farm Institute, spotted a dove with a "brilliant patch of white visible across its wings," she consulted her field guide and identified it as a white-winged dove. She found the dove while working in the friendship garden at The Farm Institute on Nov. 25. Ms. Sanders recognized the bird as unusual, as the range map in her field guide showed that most white-winged doves live in the southwestern part of the country. She emailed me (at birds@, and I immediately no- tiffed several birders who would try to find the dove the next day; to confirm the sighting we needed either a second person to see it or a photograph, prefer- ably both. On Nov. 26, Ken Magnuson, War- ren Woessner, Lanny McDowell, Pete Gilmour and Rebecca Sanders searched for and found the dove with a flock of mourning doves. Ms. Sanders later saw the bird again that afternoon when it was near a greenhouse. On the morning of Nov. 27, I found the bird after search- ing for two hours; it was with a flock of seven mourning doves that flew past me and across the fields from the Mat- takessett Condominiums to the cattle pasture west of the barn. The white on the wings of the flying dove is conspicu- ous. Susan Whiting reports that this is the fifth recording for this species on the Vineyard. The first sighting was in 1993, by Edo and Robert Potter on Chap- paquiddick. Matt Pelikan found one in Edgartown in 2000, and there was one at Ms. Whiting's feeder in May 2004. Mr. and Mrs. Potter also hosted the fourth sighting, in October 2004. The website ebird shows about 15 sightings in southeastern Massachusetts since 2000. Another unusual sighting was a sea- side sparrow spored by Mr. McDowell in the salt marsh at the Katama end of Norton Point Beach on Nov. 24. The next day Mr. McDowell, Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Woessner found two of them in the same area. This fairly dark spar- row, a salt marsh specialist, is observed maybe a couple of times a decade. It is supposedly a year-round resident along the Atlantic Coast south to Florida, however, it is rare and very locally dis- tributed in Massachusetts. The third rarity, a Lapland longspur, is White-winged dove. Seaside sparrow. a species of the beaches and open fields. It is often observed as a single bird in a flock of snow buntings. On Nov. 22, Mr. McDowell found one of them in a flock of about 30 snow buntings in the parking lot just north of the Mattakesett Herring Creek near the Right Fork of South Beach. Mr. McDowell observed a different individual on Nov. 26 in the same location, also with the snow buntings. The longspurs appear mostly dark, contrasting to the generally light- colored buntings. With all this birding attention fo- cused on Katama, it is somewhat sur- prising that more species have not been observed. During my searching for the white-winged dove I also found a palm warbler, two killdeer, three black-bellied plovers, a northern harrier, a red-tailed hawk and a flock containing 80 horned larks and two snow buntings. In other birding news, Sioux Eagle finally got her wish as a male bobwhite visited her feeder on Nov. 27. Dan Brad- Pictures by'l~nn)~ ~clcDowell ley observed Carolina wrens, a Cooper's hawk and both white breasted and red- breasted nuthatches at his feeder. And Holly Mercier, Diane Crane, Mr. Bradley and Jo-Ann Eccher all noted that dark- eyed juncos have appeared at their Ed- gartown, Vineyard Haven and Aquinnah feeders this week. ]eft Bernier observed a brown creeper at Cranberry Acres on Nov. 23. And Susan Whiting observed a field sparrow at her feeder on Nov. 22 and the yellow-breasted chat that is still hanging out at the Edgartown Golf Club as of Nov. 28. On the waterbird front, Maura Fitzgerald and Allen Carney spotted a great blue heron and a snowy egret wading in the waters of the West Basin on Nov. 24. While great blues are here for the winter, it is getting to be a late date for the snowy egret. And Bob Shriber found 15 harlequin ducks from the Squibnocket Beach parking lot on Nov. 24. Finally, not all is cut and dried in the birding world. On Nov. 12, I spot- ted three presumed domestic geese that looked remarkably like overweight graylag geese at the Head of the La- goon. Ken Magnuson spotted them the next day, and John Nelson found them again on Nov. 27. Graylags are wild in Iceland and Europe but they have been domesticated. If these are wild birds, the sighting would be truly amazing. The website ebird only reports two occurrences in North America: single birds in Nova Scotia in November 2010 and another single bird near Montreal in November 2011 and again in April 2012. Could these three be wild geese? The timing of the sighting is consistent with other records. Winter residents are arriving and rar- ities are still migrating through. Please look for them and report your sightings to Robert Culbert leads Guided Birding Tours and is an ecological consultant living in Vineyard Havert Full Belly By LYNNE IRONS I am hopeless about following recipes. I just make it up as I go along. Thanksgiv- ing's cranberry sauce really pleased me. I cooked Island organic berries in apple cider until they popped. I finished the job with a potato masher. After adding just a teaspoon of beet sugar, I decided to add some dried cranberries instead of sweetness. I suppose one could use raisins or any dried fruit. I chopped a couple of apples into the mix as well as a generous handfifl of roughly cut walnuts. I have been eating the leftovers in my morning yogurt. I should make it more often. I don't know why we only eat certain foods around the holidays. Another such enjoyable food is bread stuffing. This year I made bread a week or so ahead, cut it into cubes, and al- lowed it to dry out a bit. Along with the usual onions, celery and herbs I added some Grey Barn breakfast sausage. It was a fine dish that stood alone and could be eaten anytime of the year. I'm a big fan of homemade bread. I laughed out loud recently at a bumper sticker that read, I Love Gluten. This year I divided the leftovers into several meal-sized containers and tossed them into the freezer. I'll enjoy them mid-winter. In June, after I picked my strawber- ries, I confess to ignoring the patch for the rest of the hot, dry summer. Oops! Most of the plants died. Big surprise. I noticed a few hardy runners that survived. I moved them into my hoop- house. My friend, Sharlee did the same several years ago, and was rewarded with berries a full month ahead of the outdoor ones. Hope springs eternal. I had to go off-Island on the Monday following Thanksgiving. I did not make a car reservation. At 5:30 a.m. I was car number three in the standby line and did not make the 6 a.m. boat. Another one ran at 6:30 a.m. and I was the only standby car that squeezed onto that boat. Wow, I guess the holiday shoppers all went off that day. We had breakfast at the Country Fare, a small diner on Main street, Falmouth. A flock of a dozen or so male turkeys gathered at the entrance and on my car. They were displaying and slightly threatening. However, they were con- gregating around a chalk board that read: "Hot Turkey Sandwiches." This amused fellow diners and passersby, Violet brought home Yujin Hong, a South Korean international student from Tabor Academy. She had never had a Thanksgiving holiday. We spent time explaining traditions around the day. I think I may have simplified it to, "We cook for days and then eat for 20 minutes and spend the rest of the day moaning because we are so full." At any rate, it was fun to see our holiday in someone else's eyes. We did have a few Donald Trump conversations. She remarked, "We live less than 500 miles from a nutcase with nuclear weapons and our whole country is extremely anxious." I encouraged her to call her parents and say that many Americans are equally uneasy and did not vote for Trump. In other news, Fidel Castro is dead. I'm old enough to remember the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Our C.I.A. backed the operations and pretty much bullied J.EK. to give the orders. He had only held office for a few months. I wonder what will happen with Obama's executive order opening up re- lations with our 90-mile-away island na- tion? Are we going to that well-known place in a handbasket? ]canna Shepard Nature is one big art class. 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