Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Funky and Fearsome!

The beauty of working at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest is that no two days are the same. Today, even with two summer camp sessions under our belts, we discovered some funky and fearsome residents.

Here are a few images from the last two days:

Along the boardwalk, a crayfish threatened to take on 19 humans ranging in age from 5 1/2 to 45.

A pair of Barred Owl (Strix varia) siblings preened each other.

A Red-femured Spotted Orbweaver (Neoscona domiciliorum) waited for an insect to drop by for a meal.

A species of Robber Fly dines on a fellow insect at the edge of the powerline during our insect studies.

A blue wasp with red antennae hovered near the edge of the powerline during our insect studies.

A species of writing spider rested on a small web between the blades of grass in the powerline right-of-way.

A large Timber Rattlesnake remained in its ambush position along the low boardwalk as both groups of summer campers took pictures and made sketches on their maps! Can you see it?

A very old Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) that appears to be blind in the left eye.

Images by Mark Musselman


Cindy O said...

I hope this isn't an incredibly stupid question, but when do these owls become more nocturnal and harder to find during daylight hours?

P.S. Always great pictures!

Swampy said...

Owls hunt mostly at night because they can use the cover of darkness to their advantage. Their prey cannot see or hear them coming. However, if prey are easily accessible during the day, owls will hunt at that time.

In the swamp, the Barred Owls are hunting crayfish during the day. Owls can see the crayfish moving in the shallow water or across the exposed mud, yet the crayfish cannot detect the owls perched motionless above them. Owls do not need the cover of darkness or silent flight to successfully capture crayfish.

At Beidler Forest, Barred Owls can readily be seen along the backside of the boardwalk. However, it's the boardwalk that makes it easy to get into the owls' habitat. Additionally, the owls are heard elsewhere along the boardwalk, but not often seen. A pair of Barred Owls live directly across the street from my home in Summerville, but I only see the birds at dawn and dusk when they are hunting in my yard for small, mammalian prey, which is an activity best conducted in darkness.

Therefore, to answer your question, it depends on the owl species and habitat. Owls have evolved to hunt effectively at night and rest during the day, but some situations (crayfish in an old-growth swamp) make hunting during the day an easy and attractive alternative.