Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Mardi Gras in the Swamp

The sun continues to shine at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.  Although the temperatures remained in the 60Fs, spring is in the air for the resident plants and animals.  Trees like Redbud (Cercis canadensisare blooming and Red Maples (Acer rubrumhave gone to seed.  Bald Cypress, which are usually some of the last trees produce leaves, are greening along with the rest of the forest with Dwarf Trillium (Trillium pusillumand Butterweed (Senecio glabellusset to bloom.  Today's song of the Northern Parula (Parula americanabegins the countdown for the return of the Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) at the end of the month.

Over the last few days there have been numerous reports of Common Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentinamoving about in search of a mate, Spotted Turtles (Clemmys guttataon logs near #1, and numerous Yellow-bellied Sliders (Trachemys scripta scriptain and around Goodson Lake.

With chicks to feed, Barred Owls (Strix varia) are increasingly visible as they perch low above the water hunting crayfish.  The images below show one individual with a crayfish in its talons and then in its beak.  It did not immediately eat the crayfish as it had consumed another only moments before catching the latest crayfish.  However, before we departed the crayfish disappeared into the owl and the owl flew to a near perch over the shallow creek channel.

Being accustomed to people on the boardwalk or unwilling to depart their sunny spot, animals around the boardwalk are photogenic this time of year.

Images by Mark Musselman

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