Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Other Wildlife at Ashley Ridge

Last week, we reported on the Rusty Blackbirds (Euphagus carolinus) foraging in the flooded forest along the nature trail at Ashley Ridge High School.  Rusty Blackbirds filled that blog, so now it is time to report on the other things we saw during our walk.

The first thing we noticed once we hit the trail that runs parallel to the water-filled drainage ditch was the abundance of otter scat marking their territory!  There appears to be copious amounts of crayfish, frogs, and fish in the water.

Upon inspection of the scat, both old and recently-deposited, it appears that the otters have an easy time finding crayfish.

While watching our step to avoid slipping in a pile of odoriferous otter scat, we found a portion of shed snake skin.  We did not attempt to positively identify the species of snake, but based on the abundance of aquatic and semi-aquatic prey, we bet the skin belonged to one of the water snakes.

Approximately halfway along the trail, we came upon a fallen tree that showed signs of excavation at the root end.  A variety of animals might excavate the soft interior of a fallen tree in order to find shelter, but that was not the purpose if this excavation.  Food had been deposited within the fallen log.  The turtle that laid the eggs had not meant for them to become food, but a raccoon's sensitive nose likely alerted the mammal to their presence during its nocturnal stroll along the trail.

Turning from the pilfered nest, we spied a praying mantis moving along a stake standing in the middle of the ditch.  The mantis has wings, but it made no attempt to fly from the stake to dry land.  By inspecting the mantis through our binoculars, we noted that one wing appears damaged and protruded from its body at an odd angle.

The praying mantis may be looking at its own reflection and contemplating its predicament or it may be assessing risk of fish predators might pose during a short swim to the ditch's edge.

Meanwhile, a Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) flew high patrol waiting for death to take its next victim and call the bird to dinner.

Images by Mark Musselman

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