Friday, March 07, 2008

College Park Rain Check - Parula Arrival

The National Weather Serivce provides a variety of radar images and weather-related data for Geographic Information System (GIS) users and Google Earth (kmz/kml) users. We took the 0900 EST southeast radar image and placed it over our Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest boundaries file. When placed together, it's not hard to see why today's group of College Park Elementary School 2nd graders have asked for a rain check for their their scheduled visit.

Since it is unlikely that we will be going out into the foul weather either, we'll look back at some of what we saw and heard on yesterday's walk. First and foremost, we heard the first Northern Parula (Parula americana) of the season! The Northern Parula joins the Yellow-throated Warbler (Dendroica dominica), which arrived sometime last week. The Northern Parula is one of North America's smallest warblers and is common in mature forests (like the old-growth at Beidler Forest!) near water. In this area they nest in hanging Spanish Moss and are completely concealed when on their nest. The delicate nature of their hanging nest may explain why they are an infrequent Cowbird (Molothrus ater) host and certainly makes raids by snakes more challenging. Note the dark "collar" and yellow lower mandible of the bird in the image.

Bird image by Jeff Mollenhauer.

Most of the other sightings yesterday involved snakes. We can state without a doubt that any aversion to snakes appears sometime after the second grade! We saw multiple individuals of three out of the five species of snakes found in the swamp. The first image shows one of the Eastern Cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus), the second image shows a Brown Water Snake (Nerodia taxispilota) and the last image shows one of the Banded Water Snakes (Nerodia fasciata fasciata).

Snake images by Mark Musselman.

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