Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Hints

Although today's weather at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest has turned gray and cool with rain on the way, the last few days have hinted that spring is on the way!  Hang in there!

SPOILER ALERT - this is a reptile-heavy blog entry!

One of the first animals spotted by a student from the Trinity Montessori School was a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura).  Remember that dead deer?  Well, the falling water level has finally allowed the deer to soften sufficiently for vulture access.  Depending on the direction of the wind, there is also now a hint of deer on the warm air.

The warm air (only in the low 60Fs, but warmer than the water) also lured some of the reptiles from there winter hideouts.  The alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) made its first appearance over the weekend, but gave the students a show yesterday by swimming to the middle of Goodson Lake and hauling its great bulk up and over a log.  Plenty of "Ooooooohs" from the crowd!

Around the corner by the other platform, an Eastern Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus) was sunning outside of its cypress tree den, a Brown Water Snake (Nerodia taxispilota) was sunning on a cypress knee, and a Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata fasciata) was sunning on a fallen cypress limb.  Along the edge of the swamp near #14, a trio of Spotted Turtles (Clemmys guttata) were basking on logs, including one showing the identification notch from Dr. Jackie Litzgus' research.

After the school group's departure, we headed back onto the boardwalk to collect several bottles that had recently floated in on the high water.  Although the sun had disappeared behind the low clouds, several more snakes had ventured from their winter shelter.  An Eastern Cottonmouth was coiled under the piece of boardwalk left at #4 to show damage caused by Hurricane Hugo, while a Banded Water Snake was on a log on the opposite side of the boardwalk.  Near #5, the Greenish Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta x quadrivittata) showed itself in its cypress tree den.  Just beyond #6, another Banded Water Snake was out on a log.

The Yellow-throated Warblers (Dendroica dominica) are singing, the Red Maples (Acer rubrum) are pushing out red, the Dwarf Trillium (Trillium pusillum) have pushed through the pine straw, and the reptiles are showing themselves!  Spring is coming!

Images by Mark Musselman

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