It’s dog-eat-dog on my bur oak branch

Last month I ran a photo of a mysterious black band on the bur oak branch I’ve been following since February. A state scientist helped me identify the band as a batch of eggs laid by an unidentified moth.

Here’s how it looked in early September:

I was looking forward to seeing tiny caterpillars emerge next spring.

But in the month since I took the photo, somebody — a bird? — probably snacked on the egg mass. I never would have guessed that an egg case could make yummy lunch material. It now has a big gap in it, and I can see a row of little white eggs. I’m not sure what’s keeping it attached to the tree, which stands in front of Eddy Hall at the University of Minnesota:

The whole thing is eye-opening for me because I usually take a tourist’s view of trees:

Eddy Hall on the left, my bur oak in the background

I swoon over fall colors — So pretty today! Oh, look at that one! — and snap cliche photo after cliche photo. And, really, what’s wrong with that?

But even a tourist like me can find life-and-death ecosystem drama playing out on a single branch. Here’s another look at the chomped-on egg mass:

No less dramatically, the leaves have lost chlorophyll and turned brown since early September. They’re falling like mad. And behind the tree, venerable Eddy Hall has closed. Spanish and Portuguese students no longer pass me as I set up a tripod, curse everything from the light to my photographic skills, all the while trying not to step on any bushes. The University of Minnesota hopes to receive money from the state legislature to renovate its oldest building. I wish them luck.

For a quick reminder of how Minnesota’s seasons can transform a single branch, check these bur oak posts:

February

April

June

September

Thanks for help from DNR scientists, Jana Albers and Val Cervenka. One last image of the bushes I so carefully avoid stepping on:

 

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