Tuesday, August 24, 2010

High Water

Check local listings, but it appears to have rained every day within Four Holes Swamp.  A walk along the boardwalk at the Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest reveals water in locations that have been dry since early spring!  Animals have been quick to take advantage of the changing habitat.

Areas in the swamp that were previously dry are now accessible to fish seeking food and shelter from predators.  Larger fish and snakes follow the smaller fish into the new aquatic territory.  Amphibians, especially frogs and toads, are busy laying eggs in the pools of water formed in various depressions throughout the higher, drier forest.  Mosquitoes are also taking advantage of these fish-free sites, though both insects and amphibians run the risk that the rain will end and the pools of water will dry before their young can emerge from their aquatic stages.

Above the water, Barred Owls (Strix varia) rest in the shade while keeping an eye on the shallow water at the swamp's edge.  Crayfish exploiting access to new food sources expose themselves to a variety of predators, but none as deadly efficient as the Barred Owl watching from on high.  Owls will spot a crayfish in shallow water, grab it with their talons, pull off the claws, and swallow the rest whole.  Owl pellets found on the boardwalk are often nothing but undigested crayfish exoskeletons.

As late summer is not normally a time of high water, it is a pleasant change to see deep, dark water reflecting the palette of green leaves and blue sky!

Images by Mark Musselman

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