An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide – maryholland505@gmail.com

WELCOME TO A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY THROUGH THE FIELDS, WOODS, AND MARSHES OF NEW ENGLAND

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my award-winning book NATURALLY CURIOUS

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Hemlock Varnish Shelf & Pleasing Fungus Beetles

Two beauties in one place – Hemlock Varnish Shelf (Ganoderma tsugae), an aptly-named polypore fungus that is found growing on Eastern Hemlocks, and Pleasing Fungus Beetles (Megalodacne heros) devouring Hemlock Varnish Shelf in large numbers.

The dry, shiny upper surface of the growing Hemlock Varnish Shelf caps is brightly colored, often in flaming shades of red or orange.  Similarly, the beetles are bright orange and black, appearing to match the color of their host fungus. The combination is eye-catching, to say the least.

Although these beetles are not rare, they are seldom noticed perhaps because the adults are nocturnal. They sometimes congregate under bark or rotting wood usually within 25 feet of Hemlock Varnish Shelf-infested trees and stumps. They emerge at dusk to feed throughout the night. Females lay their eggs on the fruiting bodies of shelf fungi in the genus Ganoderma and other wood-rotting fungi. Pleasing Fungus Beetle larvae hatch and feed in the woody fruiting structures of shelf fungi, as do adults.

A wide variety of fungi serves as hosts for the family as a whole, but each Pleasing Fungus Beetle species seems to be specific to a certain group of fungi. In this case the beetle Megalodacne heros is associated with Hemlock Varnish Shelf.

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American Redstarts Co-Parenting

American Redstarts, lively and colorful little warblers, share much of the parental care of their young.  He selects and presents her with a choice of nest locations.  She chooses the site and builds the nest.  He feeds her while she incubates the eggs. Both parents collect insects and feed their nestlings as well as remove fecal sacs (small packets of waste produced by nestlings). She does much of the brooding of the young. When their young fledge, the mother and father divide responsibility for the fledglings, with each parent separately caring for a portion of the young.

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Leaf-curling Sac Spiders Guarding Eggs

While all spiders spin silk, not all spiders make webs with their silk.  Some spiders actively hunt prey instead of passively catching it in a web, including Leaf-curling Sac Spiders. They utilize their silk to form a protective brooding chamber for their eggs by stitching the underside of a leaf together.  Within this shelter the mother spider first constructs an egg sac from strong silk that is tough enough to protect her developing offspring from the elements. She then deposits her eggs inside it, fertilizing them as they emerge. A single egg sac may contain just a few eggs, or several hundred, depending on the species. The mother spider remains within the shelter protecting her eggs until they hatch. Look for these spider shelters on the under side of grape leaves.

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An Unexpectedly Early Juvenile Gray Treefrog

At this time of year the bird-like courtship trills of male Gray Treefrogs can be heard throughout the night from shrubbery bordering wetlands. Mating is taking place, eggs are being laid and typically the offspring would be seen in July and August.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered this 3/4″ juvenile Gray Treefrog recently. It’s possible that it could be this year’s — eggs take 2-5 days to hatch and tadpoles metamorphose into adults in 30-60 days. Early-emerging treefrogs could have parented this individual. But it’s also possible that it could have overwintered as a juvenile. While we’ll never know its exact age, it’s fun to see a juvenile this early in the season.

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White-tailed Deer Fawn Survival

Both behaviorally and physically, White-tailed Deer fawns have adaptations that enhance their survival – they remain lying down and motionless for their first few weeks while their mother is off foraging and stir only when she returns periodically to nurse them. They are scentless for their first few days, and dappled coats enable them to be well camouflaged.  Reduced heart rate and breathing when danger is nearby also increase their ability not to be noticed. 

Even so, fawns have a low life expectancy.  Once detected by a predator, they are very vulnerable. Black Bears and Coyotes, especially, are quick to take advantage of this easy meal. Proof of this can be found in the scat of these predators. (Inset photo: Black Bear scat containing the hair and bones of a fawn).

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Juvenile Great Horned Owls Fledged & Flying

At about six weeks of age, young Great Horned Owls fledge, moving from their nest into nearby trees where they spend their time hiding among the branches while waiting for their parents to deliver food. (If discovered by crows, they are easy to find — just follow the cacophony created by the mobbing crows.) At seven weeks they are taking short flights, but remain close to their nest. At this point they are about 3/4’s grown and resemble the adults except for lacking the prominent feather tufts or “horns.” Even at nine or ten weeks, when capable of extended flight, juveniles tend to stay close to their parents. The adults bring their young occasional food items as late as September, when dispersal begins. (Photo: fledged juvenile Great Horned Owl after a downpour; thanks to Sharon Glezen and Cara Calvelli for photo opportunity)

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Male White Pine Cones Opening Up & Releasing Pollen

Itchy eyes, runny nose and scratchy throat may have told you that this is a banner year for tree pollen. White Pines (Pinus strobus) get much of the credit. They bear both male and female cones on the same tree (monoecious), as do most conifers.  The familiar female (seed) cones are between four and eight inches long, woody and dark brown.  The male (pollen) cones are much smaller (1/2”), papery and light in color. They are borne in clusters and have tightly overlapping scales that open up when the pollen is mature, releasing massive amounts of pollen into the air which is distributed by the wind.  (To see this phenomenon, go to https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/watch-pine-tree-unleashes-huge-fluffy-pollen-cloud-180969048/.) Pollen can remain airborne for up to 11 hours, and can travel up to 1,800 miles in a short amount of time. Once the pollen is dispersed, the male cones fall off the tree and disintegrate quite quickly.

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Killdeer Parents Provide Protection For Newborn Chicks

Killdeer are ground nesters and their young are precocial – born with a layer of down and able to walk, run and find their own food a few hours after hatching.  Even so, the parents brood (cover them with their body, providing heat) their young if it’s cool and provide shade for them if it’s hot the first few days after they hatch. 

Killdeer parents are very protective of their young.  Their distraction display — leading predators away from their chicks by feigning injury — is familiar to anyone who has closely approached them. They also provide shelter for their chicks if they perceive a threat. If you look closely at the main photograph, you will see four tiny legs extending to the ground from the adult Killdeer’s breast.  These legs, and the black tail feathers poking out of the adult’s white feathers, belong to two chicks who felt the need for protection.

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Wood Turtles Laying Eggs

This Wood Turtle is climbing up a sandy hill in order to find a high elevation site in which to lay her eggs, one where the soil temperature is just right and where flooding is not likely to occur. 

Twice a year, in the spring and fall, Wood Turtles engage in a mating ritual that involves both turtles “dancing” with each other prior to copulating in the water.  Once mating has occurred, the female seeks out a suitable habitat in which to lay her 3-20 eggs, usually near a stream.  Once the nest cavity has been dug, the eggs laid, and the cavity filled with dirt and/or leaves, the female departs, never to provide care for her young.  The eggs hatch and the hatchlings emerge from the nest sometime between August and October.  Unlike most turtles, the sex of the hatchlings is determined genetically and not by the temperature of the eggs.

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Black-crowned Night Herons Feeding

Black-crowned Night Herons employ a number of techniques for capturing a wide variety of food, from standing stock still for a considerable amount of time waiting for prey to swim by to securing prey while swimming.  They feed mainly from evening until early morning. Because they are crepuscular (feeding at dawn and dusk) as well as nocturnal (as their name implies), feeding competition from other (diurnal) herons is minimized.

The diet of opportunistic Black-crowned Night Herons includes earthworms, insects, crayfish, mussels, fish, amphibians, snakes, turtles, birds, small mammals and plant material. They have been observed actively manipulating bait (bread in one case, dragonflies in another) to attract and catch fish. As can be seen in the inset photograph, they grasp, rather than stab, their prey.

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