Posts Tagged 'Great Swamp'

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.

More Purple Martins

Posh is the only word to describe the two Purple Martin housing units at the Great Swamp NWR Visitor Center. There are a dozen nest sites on each post. Not a single House Sparrow or Starling in the mix. And, whoa, were the martins busy. The martins glide more than our other swallows, and they are rather bigger. But it was the noise that was most arresting. (Here are some recordings from Cornell.) Blue Dasher is the prey here.Color is bee/waspy, but I’m not sure what’s for lunch here.There were still young to be fed.One of the red Meadowhawks has been captured by the… female on the right? (Haven’t honed my ability to separate the juveniles, of both sexes, from the adult females.)

Humming

Only one hummingbird species is regularly seen here on the East Coast, out of some nineteen species found in North America north of Mexico. This is the Ruby-throated (Archilochus colubris). Only the male has the nominal incandescent throat, but the lighting often makes it look dark.Hummingbirds also eat mosquitos, spiders, bees, aphids, gnats, fruit flies, even small caterpillars. Here’s a female.This feeder was at the Great Swamp NWR Visitor Center. Remember, if you’re feeding hummingbirds, don’t use red dye. Frankly, I’m skeptical that cane sugar is a perfect substitute for flower nectar (out of a plastic container, no less): better would be to plant the flowers hummingbirds love.
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Yesterday, Nazis and neo-confederates marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the President of the United States refused to condemn them by name. Other Republicans — members of a party whose modern power is built on a foundation of racism — could clearly see how far they’ve descended into the filth; a few of them called out the — swastika-waving, Hitler-quoting, posing with Trump in photos — shits for what they are. But Trump, in his silence, his “many sides” garbage, pissed on the graves and sacrifices of the more than one million American casualties who fought fascism in WWII. What an abomination. What a depraved piece of immorality. What an encapsulation of the man who lets racist scum like Sessions, Bannon, and Miller, not to mention Nazi-wannabe Gorka, pollute the White House and dishonor us all.


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