Friday, August 29, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Image by Mark Musselman
Barbara Thomas, Audubon South Carolina staff, has a family of exceptionally literate Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus) residing outside of her St. George home. At least we assume that the birds are literate as they have taken up residence in the newspaper delivery box.
Images by Barbara Thomas
Do you have any images of odd Carolina Wren nesting sites?
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
After the rain abated, the four nets were opened again. Another half hour later, we were able to check the nets set along the edge of the swamp (two on the dry side and two on the usually wet side). Only one net, which was located on the dry side, had any birds tangled in its mesh. The three squawking hostages were a female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), a Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), and a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus). Although we were not there to see how the captures occurred, we have a theory. All of the birds call freely when distressed. One of the three likely got caught, called in alarm and attracted the curious attention of at least one of the remaining two birds. As noted in the previous bird banding blog entry, the net is extremely difficult to see. A second bird caught in the net and adding to the alarm calls may have brought in the final bird. The bird equivalent to, "Oh! Shucks!" was probably uttered more than once.
On the back porch of the nature center, the bagged birds were removed individually, banded and their vital statistics taken. Bryce held and subsequently released the Carolina Wren and the Tufted Titmouse, but passed on the Northern Cardinal after hearing a description of the painful bite that the seed-cracking bill can inflict on human digits. The recapture of birds, like those caught today, will help us learn more about the bird populations in our sanctuary. However, the purpose of our bird banding permit is to gather data on the Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea).
The Prothonotary Warblers will receive color bands in addition to their National Bird Banding Laboratory aluminum identification bands. The color bands will allow us to identify the birds without having to recapture them as the numbers on the aluminum bands are entirely too small to read without the bird in hand. Additionally, visitors to our center or individuals along the birds' lengthy migratory route will be able to identify the birds and share the information with us. Along the boardwalk, we would like to learn the location of Prothonotary Warbler nests, the extent of a male's territory, the fidelity of breeding pairs during the breeding season and across seasons, the annual fidelity a pair has to a particular nest site, and where the birds go once their young have fledged. Currently, the birds all look alike and we are unable to determine answers to the any of these questions.
Thanks to Bryce Donovan and Jenny Peterson for taking the time to report on our upcoming bird research. Please come join us in the spring and assist us in scientific data collection while you enjoy a walk through the old-growth swamp!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Tomorrow, if the weather cooperates, we'll be mist netting birds with Bryce Donovan of the Post and Courier. Believe it or not, there is not 24-hour coverage of Hurricane (Tropical Storm? tropical depression?) Fay here in Wyoming.
Friday, August 15, 2008
We get a variety of foreign visitors here at the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center. The majority of these visitors come from Europe. Yesterday's visitor was no exception, but the staff's reception was notably different.
Mr. Paul Walsh of the Dorchester County Career School brought two of the critters he found in one of the school's rooms. The lizard was clearly "not from around here." The gecko-like features led us to search Google images for "gecko." Shoot us an email if we're moving too quickly for anyone. The first set of images showed an individual that looked strikingly like the juvenile sitting in the bottom of the soda bottle on our desk. A search of the common name under the image confirmed that we had a young Mediterranean Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus). It's tough to blend (think My Cousin Vinny) with a name like that.
The Mediterranean Gecko is originally from...(wait for it) the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe and northern Africa and has been introduced to many areas in the Southeastern United States. This is the first specimen that we have seen in our area. In fact, the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory webpage does not show any distribution within South Carolina. These geckos are associated with human development, which shows in the clusters on the range maps. They seldom stray far from buildings with outdoor lights, which attract insects and thereby bring the meal to the gecko.
As the gecko is not native to our region and its effects on local ecosystems is unknown, we had no plans to release the individual on our desk. However, spending our days working to protect habitats and the flora and fauna within them, we are squeamish about crushing the lizard. Therefore, we called Dennis Blejski, a friend of Beidler Forest and local herp hobbyist, to come and collect the gecko. The gecko will soon be residing at Bee City in an "Invasive Species" exhibit.
Mr. Walsh's other guest was a Barking Treefrog (Hyla gratoisa), which is native to the Coastal Plain from southern Virginina through Florida to Louisiana. The Barking Treefrog is a large, stout frog comfortable high in a tree or burrowing into the ground. The nickel-sized wedding ring (shhh, it's almost never been off in 19 years) was used as a reference, since we had no change in our pockets. Hmmm...coinsidence or consequence. The break in the hot, dry weather brought on by Wednesday's rains likely induced this male frog (based on the greenish-yellow throat) to search for a mate. As the Barking Treefrog is native, we let it go outside of the nature center.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Another water snake seen from the boardwalk this week is the Banded Water Snake. The individual shown below is close to black with the dark red bands rising from its belly to its back.
The Banded Water Snake shown below is slightly lighter in overall color, it still shows the dark red bands rising from its belly to its back, but it is also showing its light belly as it repositions itself on the sunny log. When at rest, the lighter belly does not show making the snake harder to detect in its environment.
The juvenile (teenager) Red-bellied Water Snake shown below appears to be a Banded Water Snake with slight traces of red bands rising from its belly. Variations in markings and color within the same species can make identification difficult, so we do not need juveniles trying to confuse us too!
The third species of snake in the swamp is the Greenish Rat Snake. The Greenish Rat Snake is a combination (integrade) of the Black Rat Snake, which is found farther to the west, and the Yellow Rat Snake, which is found closer to the coast and south. Greenish Rat Snakes are superb climbers. They can climb straight up the tallest Bald Cypress tree, find a meal, and climb straight back down the tree.
The only venomous snake in the swamp is the Eastern Cottonmouth. Notice the triangular shape of the head. That is the biggest clue that this is a snake that needs to be given plenty of room. Like the other water snakes, the Cottonmouth eats mainly fish and amphibians (frogs, salamanders, toads), though it will eat small mammals, birds, lizards, and snakes. Notice the forked tongue that this Cottonmouth is using to hunt for its prey. Chemical traces in the air stick to the tongue, which the snake then sticks into receptors in the roof of its mouth. The receptors are connected to the brain, which helps the snake determine if suitable prey is nearby. If more chemicals stick on the left fork of the tongue, the snake knows that it must move in that direction to find its prey.
Most of the time, snakes will leave people alone. Snakes are basically a long backbone. (Yes, they DO have a backbone and even ribs... lots of them!) Even the smallest human can snap the back of a snake. Therefore, snakes attempt to avoid detection by using camouflage or remaining perfectly still. If detected, snakes will often attempt to flee. If not allowed to flee, snakes may hiss, fake a strike, or show off their "cotton" mouth. If all this fails to convince the human to go away, the snake may bite.
Notice in the image above that the fangs of the Cottonmouth are not descended. If the snake were to strike out, the fangs would descend before impacting the prey or the unwise human.
Look at the image below and see if you can detect the two Banded Water Snakes and the fish-eating Brown Water Snake, which is the last of the five species in the swamp at Beidler Forest.
If you didn't find them all before you scrolled s..l..o..w..l..y over them with your cursor, you probably need to watch you ssssssssstep when you go outside!
Images by Mark Musselman
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Monday, August 04, 2008
We've seen the Swainson's Warbler in the upland stretch between the nature center and the edge of the swamp near #3 on the boardwalk as well as the upland sites where we set the mist nets near the thick successional vegetation of a previously-logged site. The images show the Swainson's Warbler we caught and banded last week.