Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
Here we have the birder’s nemesis, the wood tick. A weekend in northwestern Wisconsin made me, once again, very aware of ticks. We birded along the dikes of an old cranberry marsh being converted to a wildlife sanctuary. Grass no more than six or eight inches high held lots and lots of ticks. I began to wonder just where they were. So, we began to closely examine grass stems as we walked. It didn’t take but a minute or two to find ticks clinging to the grass, waiting for us. Brush the grass, get ticked. Ticks, in case you wonder, are eight-legged creatures, arachnids, related to spiders. The first part of the wood tick’s scientific name is Ixodes, Greek for stickiness. Tick legs sense you coming down the trail. The tarsus of the legs has a sensory organ that detects odors (you) and changes in temperature. The tick bites you with a mouthful of teeth that curve backward, like a shark. Tick saliva contains an anesthesia to numb the bite area, and an anticoagulant to keep the blood flowing. Ticks by instinct climb upwards, seeking a perch from which to grab anything with blood. Grass, weeds, bushes, trees – ticks can be almost everywhere. I got my tick information from the web site of the Maine Center for Disease Control. These ticks might look like they're sleeping, legs tucked in, sort of like your dog. They're not asleep, but alert. It's their habit to tuck legs in while waiting for you.
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