An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Archive for June, 2016

Naturally Curious Day by Day On Its Way to the Publisher

Cvr_NaturallyCurious_D2newtrimIn the interest of getting Naturally Curious Day by Day proofread in a timely manner, I decided to forego today’s post.  I’m glad to report that the book is now out of my hands and will be released by Stackpole Books this fall. (You can pre-order it at independent bookstores and online.) It consists of one to three natural history entries and accompanying photographs for each and every day of the year, many of which are parts of the past six years’ blog posts. Eventually it will be possible to take a look at the inside of the book online, but not quite yet. There will be a formal announcement when the book is released, but I wanted to explain the reason behind the lack of a natural history post today.

Young Green Frogs Absorbing Tails

6-30-16  green frog metamorphosing 183Generally speaking, green frog tadpoles that hatch early in the season will transform into frogs by mid-to late summer.  Tadpoles that hatch late are likely to overwinter in their ponds and metamorphose late the following spring or early in the summer. Thus, the Green Frogs you see now with both legs and a tail spent the winter as tadpoles and are maturing now.

A specific process called “apoptosis” occurs as the tail is absorbed by the frog.  It involves programmed cell death, and occurs in various forms in multicellular organisms.   Humans experience apoptosis throughout their lives.  It is responsible for the separation of fingers and toes in a developing embryo, as the cells between the digits undergo apoptosis and it is responsible for the death of between 50 and billion cells each day in the average human adult.  Once it has begun, apoptosis cannot stop, and thus is a highly regulated process.

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Young Striped Skunks Learning How To Fend For Themselves

6-28  young skunks2  267For the past six to eight weeks, young striped skunks have lived off their mother’s milk, but now the time has come for them to learn how to provide for themselves.  The mother teaches her four to eight young by taking them all out at night to learn how to forage for insects and small mammals.  Should you encounter one of these small, furry creatures, do not be fooled into thinking it is too young to spray.  Musk is present at birth, and can be released at the ripe old age of eight days.  (Thanks to Don Westover and Lou White for photo op)

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Luna Moths Emerging

6-27-16  luna moth 002June is giant silk moth month, when these giant-bodied/winged moths in the family Saturniidae emerge.  Perhaps the most familiar giant silk moth is the Luna Moth, Actias luna. One of the largest moths in North America, its wingspan measures 4 ½ inches.  If you see one of these beautiful creatures, you are witness to its very short adult  lifespan.  After emerging from their cocoons, Luna Moths live for only about a week, during which time their sole mission is to mate. Like many other ephemeral insects, adult Luna Moths have no mouthparts and thus, do not eat.

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Eastern Gray Treefrog

6-24-16  eastern gray treefrog 066

Congratulations to Naturally Curious readers for their familiarity with Eastern Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) toe pads!  This is the easiest time of year to find these amphibians, mainly because of their habits.  During the fall, winter and spring treefrogs are usually silent, unlike the summer, when males can be heard calling their melodic trill from bushes and trees near bodies of water after the evening air temperature rises above 59°F.  Because they are nocturnal, well camouflaged, and hibernate in the winter, you don’t often come across one except for the warmer months when males are calling.  The colors of an Eastern Gray Treefrog (brown, green and pearl-gray) vary with the colors of its background and environmental factors such as season and humidity, but shades of gray are most common.  Their green color is more prominent during the breeding season and in young frogs.

When hunting insects, or when disturbed, treefrogs can leap great distances and, thanks to advanced toe pads, when they land they can cling to practically any surface, including vertical branches and leaves that are wet. A very low angle between the toe pads and substrate as well as mucous glands located in channels between the hexagonal pattern on a treefrog’s toe pads have inspired the design for treads on car tires.

You can listen to an Eastern Gray Treefrog’s call by going to   (Sound recording © Lang Elliott –

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Mystery Photo

6-23-16  mystery photo 073Who is lurking behind the cattails?  Please respond under “Comments” (scroll down).  Answer will be revealed tomorrow.

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Fertile Fern Frond Spores Dispersing


6-23-16  FERTILE FRONDS - royal, interrupted, cinnamon, sensitiveFerns differ from flowering plants in that they reproduce via spores, not seeds. The spores are borne on what are called fertile fronds (leaves).  Ferns have two kinds of fronds, fertile and sterile. Sterile fronds lack spores, are green, and do most of the photosynthesizing.

The fertile part of a fern can be very similar to, or totally unlike, the sterile part, depending on the genus or species.  Some ferns have sori (tiny clusters of sporangia, which contain the spores), commonly referred to as “fruit dots,” on the back of the blade of their fertile fronds.  Wood ferns have this arrangement, and the two types of fronds (fertile and sterile) are so similar it’s hard to tell the fertile (spore-bearing) from the sterile fronds without looking at the backs of the fronds. Others, such as Christmas Ferns, bear their sori on just a portion of the frond (tips).  And still others, such as some of those pictured, have fertile fronds that are completely separate from the sterile fronds.

When the difference between the fertile and sterile fronds is noticeable, the plant is called “dimorphic”. In some ferns this dimorphism is extreme.  Cinnamon, Royal and Sensitive Ferns all have separate fertile fronds that are not green and only bear sporangia.  Interrupted Fern spores are borne in sporangia that appear in the middle of stalks that also bear green pinnae.  The spores of all of these species of ferns are currently maturing and dispersing, which can be observed by lightly tapping a fertile frond.

(The next Naturally Curious post will appear on Thursday, June 23rd .)

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