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

Archive for May, 2012

A Naturally Curious Interview

Those of you who may be curious about my outdoor experiences, and the stories behind some of my photographs are in luck.  Chris Mazzarella, a skilled nature photographer, has started a blog called “Forest Forward,” where he posts his own photographs plus interviews with noteworthy photographers, environmentalists, and others passionate about wildlife/nature/conservation.  His quest is to build a larger community of like-minded individuals with the common goal of wildlife conservation. Chris was naturally curious about me, and if you so choose, you can read my responses to his questions and see more of my photographs at http://forestforward.com/2012/05/04/an-interview-with-mary-holland-part-one/ .  Later this weekend he will post Part 2 of the interview.


Aging a Red Fox Pup

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There are several ways to estimate the relative age of a red fox pup, one of which is by noting the color of its coat.  It is gray for their first month of life, when pups are in their den, sandy-colored for the next six to eight weeks, and red from about three months on. The color of the eyes of a red fox pup also tells you something about their age. For the first eight weeks of its life, a red fox has blue eyes. Around the age of two months, its eyes turn brown.  All you have to do to utilize this knowledge is get within a few feet of a pup!


Spotted Salamander Larvae

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A few short weeks ago spotted salamanders gathered at vernal pools to breed and lay eggs.  Since then their eggs have started hatching, and gilled spotted salamander larvae can now be found in these pools. The larvae are major predators and consume many insects and crustaceans, including mosquito larvae and fairy shrimp.  During the next two or three months, these larvae will develop lungs, absorb their feathery gills and begin life as terrestrial amphibians, assuming the temporary pool they’re in doesn’t dry up prematurely. (The two appendages, one on either side of its body in front of the gills, help the larva balance itself until its legs develop.)

 


Cliff Swallow

The nesting habits of Cliff Swallows are fairly unusual in that these swallows are colonial nesters.  Here in the East you can find 20 or 30 of their nests under a bridge or the eaves of a barn (and occasionally on cliffs).  In the West, colonies consist of up to 3,500 nests! The construction of their gourd-shaped nest requires between 900 and 1,200 trips to mud puddles or stream banks, where they gather a mouthful of mud in the form of a pellet.  Often two swallows will build nests side-by-side, sharing the wall of mud that separates them. Unfortunately, according to the most recent Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas, the Cliff Swallow population in Vermont has declined by 48% in the past 25 years, a fact which is attributed to competition with House Sparrows, a decline in insects due to diminishing farm land, and destruction of nests by humans.  These birds are more important insect predators than ever, with the bat population having suffered such a decline recently due to white-nose syndrome. 

 


Delayed Greening of Young Leaves

Many plants practice “delayed greening” of their leaves, including this Red Maple (Acer rubrum).  An initial lack of chlorophyll prevents the leaves from photosynthesizing and making food, which means they have little nutritive value, and thus, appeal, to an herbivore.  Most plants that delay greening have reddish leaves due to the presence of anthocyanin, a pigment which appears reddish.  A majority of herbivorous insects and invertebrates cannot detect colors in the red range of the color spectrum. Young leaves suffer the greatest predation from invertebrate herbivores.  Red leaves would be perceived by these leaf eaters as somewhat dark and possibly dead – not a choice food material.  It is possible that the red coloration of new leaves allows the plant to make them unappealing to the herbivores that would otherwise eat them.