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Archive for May, 2010

Green Frogs Calling – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

GREEN FROGS CALLING

If you hear what sounds like banjo strings being plucked when you’re near a pond or stream, you can be pretty sure that you are listening to male green frogs serenading potential mates nearby. In addition to being the vocal member of a pair, the male green frog also has a yellow throat, as opposed to the female’s whitish one. The male’s eardrum, or tympanum, is larger in diameter than his eye, whereas the female’s is approximately the same size or smaller than their eye. During the breeding season, the thumbs of the male enlarge, as well, enabling him to firmly grasp the female while fertilizing her eggs as they are laid.


Cliff Swallows Nesting – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Cliff swallows are colonial nesters, building their mud nests close to one another, in clusters. While these colonies are not huge in the East, as many as 3,500 nests have been found in one location in western U.S. The gourd-shaped nests of cliff swallows are often located on buildings, cliffs and the undersides of bridges. Each lump of mud must be carried in the beaks of the birds from the puddle or bank of a stream or pond to the nesting site. A pair can bring as many as 44 mud pellets to the nest in a period of 30 minutes, according to Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Birds of North America Online. It’s best to keep your distance should you find a nesting colony, if you don’t want to be greeted by noisy dive-bombers – the birds are easily disturbed, and not shy about letting you know that your presence is not appreciated.

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

CLIFF SWALLOWS NESTING


Beaver – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

BEAVER’S SENSE OF SMELL

Particularly when a beaver is on land, it is very vulnerable, as it cannot move very quickly and predators such as bobcats, otters, black bears and coyotes can overtake it. The senses beavers depend on most to detect potential danger are smelling and hearing. Their sense of smell is considered to be their most developed sense; long before they see a potential threat, they smell it. For this reason, they often feed on the downwind side of a pond. It is not unusual to see a beaver with its head tilted up and its nose twitching as it takes short sniffs of the air.


Fishflies – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

FISHFLIES

There are many insects that spend at least one stage of their life under water. Some, including fishflyies, dobsonflies, dragonflies, damselfies, mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies, spend their larval stage in the water and emerge as winged adults. The 2 1/2-inch adult fishfly pictured here, Nigronia fasciatus, is a female – males have feathery antennae much like moths. As a larva it lived in a stream or river and was an aggressive predator. Most adult fishflies have pale wings, but this species is known for its blackish wings with white markings.


Lesser Yellow Lady’s Slipper – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

LESSER YELLOW LADY’S SLIPPERS BLOOMING

Finding a lady’s slipper is like finding a rare jewel – you almost can’t believe the perfection of its color and design. Pink and yellow (greater and lesser) lady’s slippers are blooming right now – showy lady’s slippers bloom in just a few weeks. All species of these orchids have certain habitat requirements -- the soil must be fairly acidic and must contain a certain type of fungus (Rhizoctonia). The lady's slipper has a symbiotic relationship with the fungus -- one that benefits both the lady’s slipper and the fungus. The fungus absorbs nutrients from the lady’s slipper that the lady’s slipper has made through photosynthesis. The lady’s slipper’s seeds, which lack any food supply, obtain some from the fungus after the fungus breaks down the seed’s outer cells. Without these nutrients, the lady's slipper seeds would not germinate.


Yellow Warbler – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

YELLOW WARBLER

“Sweet-sweet-sweet-I’m-so-sweet” sings the male yellow warbler to his mate. These tiny splashes of yellow streaked with red (only males have the red streaks) are singing away while their mates are building compact 3-inch diameter nests and lining them with fluffy plant down. Unfortunately, the brown-headed cowbird often parasitizes yellow warbler nests, laying its own egg in the warbler nest, leaving the rearing of its young to the much smaller warbler. Unlike some host birds, the yellow warbler recognizes that the cowbird’s egg is not its own, and, rather than tossing it out, often chooses to build another nest on top of the one containing the cowbird egg (and sometimes yellow warbler eggs as well). As many as six stories have been found with cowbird eggs buried in each layer.


Dragonflies Emerging – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Many of the images and much of the information in this blog can be found in my book, Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

DRAGONFLIES EMERGING

Throughout the summer, different species of aquatic dragonfly nymphs crawl up emergent plant stems or rocks, split their skin, emerge as adult, air-breathing dragonflies, pump up their wings, allow them to dry and strengthen and then take to the air to prey upon mosquitoes, flies and other insects. Their metamorphosis is nothing short of a miracle. (Yesterday's tracks were made by a raccoon (headed to top of photograph) and a beaver (headed to the right).