Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Carolina Wren Nest

Over the years, the sand-filled cigarette disposal container by the front door of the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest has been selected as a nest site by Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus).  Although eggs are laid and incubated for two weeks before the chicks hatch, a predator (raccoon or snake) makes a meal of the brood within the first few days.  Additionally, the nest is located in a high-traffic area, which has to be stressful on a predator-paranoid parent!

This morning, we arrived to find a two leaves in the sand meant for cigarette butts.  With frequent, short forays, the pair or wrens quickly incorporated the two starter leaves into a small pile of other leaves, rootlets, and moss.  The video below shows only a few seconds of their feverish activity!

Hopefully, this pair will have better luck.

Video and images by Mark Musselman

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Camp Session #2

On Friday, the second session of summer camp ended at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.  Images from session #1 can be seen here.

The order of events for the second session changed slightly due to Dennis Blejski's work schedule.  We had the herp identification activity after lunch on the first day.  We captured some of the specimens over the weekend, but found an Eastern Box Turtle and a Glass Lizard crossing roads on our way to work and a Southern Copperhead crossing the Beidler Forest driveway.  A couple of lizards around the picnic tables and we had a collection filling all 18 stations!

Southern Copperhead and Eastern Box Turtle

Southern Copperhead
Common Snapping Turtle
Corn Snake
Southern Leopard Frog
Three-lined Salamander
Gray Treefrog

Eastern Box Turtle
Southern Toad (toadlet)
Ground Skink
Glass Lizard
Southern Dusky Salamander
Southern Leopard Frog
Gray Treefrog

On Tuesday, we took our first trip around the boardwalk.  We are not the only creatures that choose not to move around when the heat and the humidity begin to soar!  Animal sightings were few.

Brown Water Snake
Barred Owl

After lunch on the second day, Dennis Blejski brought a collection of herps from his collection.

Scarlet Kingsnake
Diamondback Terrapin
American Alligator

Greater Siren

While off the boardwalk, we saw a variety of animals, but the magnificently-camouflaged Southern Copperhead was the highlight of the walk!

Southern Copperhead

Although amphibians are secretive and sunny, hot days are not the best conditions for finding them, campers did use their newly-learned frog call skills to identify various singing treefrogs.  We also nearly stepped on a Marbled Salamander while checking our minnow traps behind the outdoor classroom.

Marbled Salamander

Throughout the week, campers also created various herp-related art items.

Camp ended on Friday with a herpathon along the boardwalk, lunch with families, and the presentation of diplomas and a CD of the week's images and sounds.  Appropriately, a Southern Black Racer moved through the picnic area to help close out the week of herps.

Southern Black Racer

The final session begins the third week of July.  Let's hope the herps don't get a summer vacation!

Images by Mark Musselman

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mosquito Fish

As we prepare for the tomorrow's start of summer camp session #2 at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, we set out the minnow traps baited with sardines.  We will certainly capture a number of crayfish as we did last week, but those crayfish attracted the attention of a Lesser Siren, which is related to the camp's theme of Reptiles and Amphibians.  Other non-target species also find their way into the traps.

During our crayfish identification exercise last week, we caught over a dozen water scavenger beetles (Dytiscidae).  Apparently, they really like sardines!

Today when we set the traps, in one we found what appears to be a female Eastern Mosquito Fish (Gambusia holbrooki) full of young.  Members of the family Poeciliidae give birth to live young.  This species likes the vegetated areas of slow moving or calm fresh waters.  This fish was caught in the minnow trap set in the powerline right-of-way where calm water pools behind the beaver dam and ample sunlight allows plenty of vegetation to grow in the water.  The vegetation ends immediately at the treeline.  Mosquito Fish mainly eat surface-dwelling insects and their larvae.

As we care little for decaying fish and mosquitoes, we're happy to find water scavenger beetles and Mosquito Fish in our swamp!

Images by Mark Musselman