Posts Tagged 'Great Swamp'

Old Nests

The nesting season is already upon us, especially for such early nesters as owls, some raptors, doves. So, here’s one last look at some of the previous year’s nest. These have all made it through the winter, in one form or another. Above, the rough pottery suggests American Robins, who line the inside of their nests with mud.It’s remarkable that these dangling woven bags made by Baltimore Orioles manage to hold eggs, adults, and squirmy youngsters. And then make it through the winter. More and more artificial fibers (rope, fishing line, ribbon) turn up in these things: will some be re-purposed this year? Not that this is necessarily a good idea! Fishing line, for instance, can easily choke nestlings. (On this note: I gather well-meaning people are giving various fibers to the birds, thinking this is a good idea: it isn’t.)Very twiggy in a shrub. Mockingbirds?About two feet above the water, this one looks brand new. Red-winged Blackbird? Another woven affair, about fifteen feet up in a maple. Perhaps the product of one of the locally breeding vireo species.
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Rebecca Solnit on the problem with heroes.

More Spring

Red maple flowers. Eastern Phoebe.These are wind pollinated trees, so early spring emergence isn’t predicated on insects.An early arriving migrant, this bird is dependent on insects.Speaking of which, beetles and flies are emerging.A millipede in a leafy liverwort. Interesting similarity of shape…And here’s a frog-sex teaser. There’s some amplexus in the water…

Spring Slithers In

The spring equinox was hit yesterday about 6 p.m. in our time zone. So welcome to the first day of spring!Meanwhile, last Saturday morning there was still ice out at Great Swamp NWR. There was not a skunk cabbage to be seen, but a few frogs were calling, unseen, echoing in the watery woods.It’s a great place for snakes, in warmer weather. But we only spotted one, curled immobile in the sun.Eastern Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus). I’d never seen one before. I thought at first this would the usual suspect of a Common Garter (Thamnophis sirtalis). But note the white mark in front of the eye. And see that pale lip? My companions pointed this out: Garters have dark vertical edges to their scales on the lower lip, making for lines coming down around the eye, as in this of a Common Garter from April, 2018:

A slender, long-tailed snake, the Ribbon favors semiaquatic habitats. This one had hauled out on one of the tussocks in this part of the NWR. They eat frogs, toads, small fish, and insects. Like the other members of the Thamnophis) genus, they’re fairly cold tolerant. This one was clearly gobbling up the sun.

Notably, the tail on this species can be up to one third its body length, hence presumably the “ribbon.” On a snake, the tail starts after the anal plate/scute.
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The dreadful Electoral College, which keeps electing Presidents with a minority of actual votes, is in the news again. I’m for abolishment, but barring that, there’s a simpler way to undermine its anti-democratic purpose: the states can proportionally assign Electors instead of assigning them winner-take-all (which isn’t in the Constitution). Unsurprisingly, the Republicans, the minority, authoritarian, anti-democracy party, will fight hard to prevent this in some states. But not every state has to be on board.

Garters

Does this snake have a head at both ends?Eastern Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis).And another. Great Swamp NWR. I wanted to turn these into Ribbon Snakes. They were, after all, on tiny islands in the swamp. But look at the black marks on the sides of their faces. Ribbon Snakes, which are in the same genus, don’t have those. Compare my examples with this image of a Ribbon from the VA Herpetological Society.

Frog Songs

There were several species of frogs sounding off during the middle of the day yesterday at Great Swamp NWR. It was a… chorus… of several species. Lots of sounds I’ve never heard before. This one was the only amphibian actually seen out of the water; I’ve yet to find one of the peepers or chorus or tree frogs that sing out of the water. They blend in nicely. But meanwhile, in the water:

Wood Frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus, or Rana sylvatica in older sources) were the ones I definitely IDed. Some of their egg masses… just in time for the snow.

Skunk Cabbage

The holy grail of early spring.Symplocarpus foetidus, skunk cabbage, seen today in Great Swamp NWR. The only one we saw… but it’s subtle, and the place was ringing with the very distracting orgiastic songs of frogs.

More on this curious little heat engine.

April 1st or 2nd? Two years ago.

Dragons/Damsels

Remember the Sympetrums? Devilishly confusing meadowhawks. This a female; possibly a Ruby or Cherry-faced.The Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis) male is uniquely patterned with purple and blue. They are also called Violet Dancers.A male has a female in tandem flight position, either pre- or post-mating. This is another species I’m seeing for the first time this summer; spotted in Westchester Co.

A bonus in the archives: looking over some of my old posts, I realized I had never identified this specimen from Arizona:Mexican Amberwing (Perithemis intensa). Here’s our Eastern Amberwing (P. tenera) for comparison:Some differences: Eastern has smaller, redder pterostigma (the colored panes on the leading edges of the wings); Mexican lacks markings on top of abdomen. These are both males: Eastern’s graspers, at end of abdomen look much lighter.


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