Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Swamp Potpourri

With school drawing to a close, it has become quite busy at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest. We have not had time to blog regularly, so today's entry is a potpourri of items from the last week.

Insects, like the damselfly and dragonfly shown below, continue to emerge from the water where they have been for years.

Blue-tipped Dancer (female, Argia tibialis)

Great Blue Skimmer (female, Libellula vibrans)

The Great Blue Skimmer shown above recently emerged from a smaller version of an exoskeleton like the one shown below.  The nymph will emerge from the water, usually at night, and crawl up a structure (tree, plant, boardwalk).  The adult form will emerge from the back of the exoskeleton and crawl to a nearby perch to allow the wings and abdomen to expand, dry and stiffen before it can fly away.  During this time, the adult insect is vulnerable to birds, lizards, and any other predator searching for a meal.  In fact, the Great Blue Skimmer in the image was only able to muster a slow, loopy flight and would have been easy prey for a passing bird.

The fallen log in the image below apparently had sufficient prey items to keep the Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) occupied in the the same spot for several hours.

Beavers (Castor canadensis) continue to maintain their network of dams.  While checking the smaller lodge and the damage caused by beavers and the standing water behind their dam...



...we discovered a White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawn hidden in a fallen log.  The female has not abandoned the fawn, simply parked it safely somewhere that the female's scent would not disclose her young's location.

Finally, today we were able to add another prey item to the list of things we have seen a Barred Owl eat.  Near #146 on the boardwalk on the way to Goodson Lake, we saw an owl tearing pieces from a small turtle, which was likely a Yellow-bellied Slider (Trachemys scripta scripta).  However, we were not able to get an image of the meal.

Images by Mark Musselman

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