Monday, May 25, 2009

Mt. Pleasant Academy

A technical issue prevented this blog from posting on Friday, so we'll add it in with today's news.

On Friday, 3rd graders from Mt. Pleasant Academy visited the old-growth swamp at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest. The weather was perfect and the water from recent rains was still evident throughout the swamp. Not only did one group see all five species of snakes in the swamp, a rarity for any given group, but they doubled up on all five species! That's a feat never accomplished along the boardwalk by any visiting group!

A Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata fasciata) perched on a branch near the boardwalk clearly showed the "sometimes difficult to see" red bands. A frog, possibly a River Frog, was nearby. Although the frog was likely too big for this particular snake, several snake species readily dine on frogs.

On the way to the lake, we spied a lone Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) egg in the cavity of a WaterLocust (Gleditsia aquatica) right against the boardwalk. The female will lay one egg per day (4 or 5 eggs) and then she will begin incubating the eggs. We haven't been back out on the boardwalk since Friday, so we cannot report on the nest's status. Eggs in this nest are easily within reach of a raccoon using the boardwalk to stay dry.
Just beyond the bird's nest, a pair of dragonflies were mating. The male clasps the female's head, which sometimes causes serious injuries to her eyes and head, while the two are mating. Later, the female will dip fertilized eggs one at a time into the water. Dragonflies spend the majority of their lives as predators under the water before emerging and becoming adults on the wing.

The last snake we saw was our second Red-bellied Water Snake (Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster). It was perched on a young Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) tree at the edge of the swamp. The snake's red belly and the cypress' green needles stood out against the dark look of the water.

Finally, just before the last rain shelter, we saw a worm wiggling in the water. A closer look revealed the camouflaged shape of a fish. A Redfin Pickerel (Esox americanus americanus) had more than a mouthful as it tried to consume the worm.

Images by Mark Musselman

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