Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Seasons Are Changing

The seasons are changing here at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest. The day began with a brilliant blue sky, temperatures in the low 60Fs, and a gentle breeze coaxing leaves from the rapidly-diminishing canopy. The sky has turned gray and the high temp for the day has already been registered. The weather forecasters are confident that tomorrow will be a windy, rain-filled day. Although these same forecasters have been repeatedly errant over the last few weeks regarding the possibility of precipitation (note soggy school group visits to the swamp or cancellations), a look at the radar image reveals the cause of their supreme confidence. More than a few leaves are destined to lose some feet in elevation tomorrow.

As the temperatures get cooler, there is less food available in the swamp. Some animals migrate to areas with more food, some become inactive or less active (many snakes find a den, alligator will hide on the lake bottom or along the shallow edges), and some cache food for later. The Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) on the boardwalk handrail has a hickory nut that it is gnawing open, while another chattered nearby as it searched for the perfect burial spot in which to hide its hickory nut.

A Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) swooped onto a low perch nearby and intently studied the forest floor. From our office windows, we have seen these birds catch various species of lizards and quickly consume the prey. However, our proximity was a distraction and the hawk flew to a much higher perch atop a snag. From there, the bird exchanged calls with another of its species...possibly commenting on the lack of reptilian activity.

Stirred to action by a raucous flock of Ruby-crowned Kinglets (Regulus calendula) in the understory, a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) easily sang over the noise generated by the diminutive kinglets. Unfortunately, the wren did not sing loud enough to mask the call beckoning us to return inside.

Based on the radar, it looks like we'll be spending tomorrow inside yet again.

Images by Mark Musselman

No comments: