Friday, February 20, 2009

Mixed Bag

It is the end of a busy week here at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest. Therefore, today's entry is a mixed bag of topics.

Not everyone is convinced that spring is just around the corner, but the alligator in Goodson Lake has reappeared. The alligator actually never left, but during the cold-weather months, the alligator remains inactive at the bottom of the lake or in the shallow water. In other places of the swamp, alligators may dig a den into a bluff at the swamp's edge or into the banks of logging roads built into the swamp. Memo to forest denizens: The pool is closed until further notice. Swim at your own risk!

We continue to prepare Project PROTHO in anticipation of next month's return of the Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) . Not only will we learn more about the Prothonotary Warbler (and any other birds that blunder into the mist nets), but citizens, whether or not they are expert birders, will be able to participate in the research. The Prothonotary Warblers will have unique color bands in conjunction with the typical aluminum identification band. The color bands will allow citizens to identify the individual bird without requiring the bird to be recaptured. Using the observation sheets provided in the nature center, citizens can record what banded bird they saw, what behavior the bird was exhibiting and where along the boardwalk the bird was located. "But we're not familiar with the boardwalk, so how will we be able to identify the bird's location?" The image shows the aluminum location tags we attached along the boardwalk's handrail. Observers will never be more than 25 meters from a location tag.

While attaching the Project PROTHO location tags, we came upon the Easter Bunny. Don't believe? Well, the Marsh Rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris) first made its appearance last Easter Sunday in the hollow log near #10. Read about it here. Although the day was not cold by recent standards, the rabbit had its fur puffed out for maximum insulating effect.

We're suddenly craving chocolate. TGIF!

Images by Mark Musselman


JanetLee said...

Mark - perhaps you could shed some light on a mysterious bunny that I have making his rounds through my yard.

West Ashley, my property backs up to Church Creek and there is a good strip of marsh between the yard and the creek.

I have seen the brown rabbits before, but about two months ago a grey rabbit with a white throat began to appear. His ears are short like the wild rabbits but he isn't as shy as the brown rabbits.

He was on my side walk and came up to me when I called "bunny, bunny" and he sniffed a bit old celery I was taking to the marsh for compost/raccoons.

I'm afraid this is a domestic bunny that has been dumped out in the marsh, but he seems to be doing well - fat, healthy looking fur and bright eyes.

I know all things are possible in nature, could a marsh rabbit or an Eastern Cottontail be that solid gray color?

Swampy said...

From The Virtual Trail at Penn State New Kensington

"They can range in color from a light brown to a darker gray. Habitat characteristics and color tones are important in determining the dominant color type of rabbits found in a particular locale. Cottontails have relatively long, erectly held ears, large back feet and their signature, white, fluffy, "cotton" tail."

Marsh Rabbits are unlikely to be extremely gray. The gray of the cottontail referenced above would be at the outer end of the hair giving it a overall grayish appearance, but not a solid gray "pet store" bunny appearance.

A group of obviously-domestic rabbits lived for several years in our Summerville neighborhood. The young were easy prey for domestic cats and the Barred Owl pair living nearby. Eventually, the adults disappeared.