Category Archives: Amphibians

Amphibians

Other Photos from Five Rivers

Common Yellowthroat yelling "Witchety, witchety" at me.
Common Yellowthroat yelling “Witchety, witchety” at me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) in breeding plumage
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) in breeding plumage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotted Sandpiper in flight, showing wing and tail markings
Spotted Sandpiper in flight, showing wing and tail markings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, I still can't resist getting shots of Tree Swallows!
No, I still can’t resist getting shots of Tree Swallows!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Painted Turtle in the water
Eastern Painted Turtle in the water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Chipmunk
Eastern Chipmunk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well-camouflaged grasshopper on wood mulch
Well-camouflaged grasshopper on wood mulch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A geometrid moth larva, looping.
A geometrid moth larva, looping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Azure butterfly on the invasive plant, Garlic Mustard
Spring Azure butterfly on the invasive plant, Garlic Mustard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Azure butterfly from above while feeding
Spring Azure butterfly from above while feeding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Geranium
Wild Geranium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I believe this is Corn Speedwell (Veronica arvensis)
I believe this is Corn Speedwell (Veronica arvensis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See also: ‘Here Be Dragons and Damsels‘ (same location & same day)

The Amphibians Awake

On the same walk as my blogs for ‘Honey Bees, Bumble Bees and Wannabees‘, and ‘A Mixed Bag of Birds at Fiver Rivers‘, I photographed the pond life that’s started to flourish once more since the winter ice melted away.

Snapping Turtle on the move... Slowly!
Snapping Turtle on the move… slowly!

 

A Snapping Turtle that appears to need a bigger log to haul-out onto.
A Snapping Turtle that appears to need a bigger log to haul-out onto.

 

Eastern Painted Turtles
Eastern Painted Turtles

 

Juvenile Eastern Painted Turtle plus fish and a Water Strider (lower right)
Juvenile Eastern Painted Turtle plus fish and a Water Strider (lower right)

 

A bullfrog tadpole resting in shallow water (after over-wintering under the ice)
A bullfrog tadpole resting in shallow water (after over-wintering under the ice)

 

The dorsolateral folds (i.e. raised lines down either side of its back) show this to be a one-year-old Green Frog (Rana clamitans melanota)
The dorsolateral folds (i.e. raised lines down either side of its back) show this to be a one-year-old Green Frog (Rana clamitans melanota)

 

Renewing acquaintance with the excellent Five Rivers NYS DEC wildlife preserve

Back in 2012, while living in Albany, I was able to visit the Five Rivers EEC/preserve several times and came to like it greatly, so now that we are back in the Capital District I’ll be renewing my acquaintance with this delightful location.

One of Five Rivers’ greatest advantages is its broad mix of environments – from grasslands and scrub, to pine and deciduous woodlands, the seeps and streams, and – last but by no means least – a variety of ponds.

My first photo, here, is simply a snapshot that I took with my cell phone to use on Twitter, and it’s a view of one of a cluster of the smaller ponds – a great place for Belted Kingfishers and Green Heron.

Pond at Fiver Rivers NYS DEC Preserve - April 2015
Pond at Fiver Rivers NYS DEC Preserve – April 2015

At the above pond, a large Snapping Turtle was basking on the sloping bank until a couple of people nearby spooked it and it launched itself back into the water with a tremendous splash.  Plenty of Eastern Painted Turtles were out basking, as well, but a gaudy interloper in the next photo looks to me like an entirely different species (unless it is just in mating colours).  It’s front legs had yellow stripes on a blackish background. It eventually gave up trying to get onto the ‘sun deck’ and slipped back into the water, so I never got a look at its upper side.  Can anyone help me identify it for certain, please?  My books aren’t helping!

Eastern painted Turtles basking, but what's the one that's pushing in?

Moving on from amphibians to reptiles, the only snake I saw was a tiny, 7-inch-long juvenile Garter Snake, and he was too far under a thorny bush for me to want to go crawling after his portrait!

A dead oak literally hanging on, from last year. Five Rivers - April 2015
A dead oak leaf,  literally hanging on, from last year. Five Rivers – April 2015

For those with botanical interests, all was visibly starting to stir.  There were still a few dead leaves left on some branches but there were also plenty buds in various stages of development and – for me – the first flowers of spring: the delightful Coltsfoot.  (Yes, I know that sadly this is one of many introduced species, here in North America but for giving us the first bright glow of spring, I still can’t resist it.)

So who can resist or ignore the sights and sounds of spring?

Bud Light!
Bud Light!

 

Honey Bee on Coltsfoot at Five Rivers - April 2015
Honey Bee on Coltsfoot at Five Rivers – April 2015

On slower sections of the streams and in among dead cattails on the ponds, Water Striders were busy whizzing around, looking for other insects trapped in the surface layer.  These fascinating creatures of the genus Gerris use their short front legs to grab prey, their middle pair of legs to ‘row’ at great speed, and their back legs to steer.  If you want a lesson in patience and frustration, try getting a sharp, close-up photo of them!

A 'Gerris' species of Water Strider - insects that we Brits refer to as 'Pond Skaters'
A ‘Gerris’ species of Water Strider – insects that we Brits refer to as ‘Pond Skaters’. Five Rivers.

 

 

The last photo I’m posting here is of another creature that often will not stop still long enough to have its photograph taken, but this time it’s the Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) a tiny (4¼-inch) bird which, along with its North American cousin the Golden-crowned Kinglet, is closely related to the very similar Firecrests and Goldcrests in Europe, in the same genus.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Five Rivers - April 2015
Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Five Rivers – April 2015

 

Here the ‘ruby crown’ is deliberately hidden away by drabber feathers on the top of its head, but when it has cause to display, just watch the dramatic change!

As for Five Rivers, I’ll be back… as often as I can!

Eddie Wren

Salamanders — tiny predators doing good things for the planet!

My father-in-law Bob kindly saved an article from yesterday’s Buffalo News for me, under the heading of ‘Peewee predators’.  (Science Page [page H6], Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014).

It originated from the New York Times and focuses on recent research which rather surprisingly describes how useful salamanders are at helping to combat greenhouse gasses!  Who would have thought it!

Red-spotted Newt by J. Carmichael. [Wikimedia, Commons License]
Red-spotted Newt by J. Carmichael. [Wikimedia, Commons License]
By far the best write-up on salamanders that I have ever encountered is spread through what is — perhaps unsurprisingly — one of the very best natural history books I have ever read, namely The Forest Unseen, by David George Haskell, a professor of biology at the University of the South, in Tennessee.

One small excerpt rather dramatically covers the ‘peewee predator’ aspect mentioned above, as follows: “Salamanders are the sharks of the leaf litter, cruising the waters and devouring smaller invertabrate animals.  Evolution has discarded Plethodon’s lungs to make its mouth a more effective snare.  By eliminating the windpipe and breathing through its skin, the slamander frees its maw to wrestle prey without pause for breath.”

Last but by no means least, I’m going to mention the Woods, Walks and Wildlife blog I came across, from Connecticut, which includes some really pleasing photographs of red-spotted newts and efts (the same species at different stages of life).  Check it out!

Eddie

21 April, 2014

WWNP Group Visit to the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge [NWR], Alabama, NY

As we are still in the height of the spring migration of waterfowl, today was a follow-up from our visit last week to the Montezuma NWR, which is about 100 miles E.S.E. from Iroquois.  These two preserves, however, do tend to have a different complexion to each other.

The southwest corner of Cayuga Pool at Iroquois NWR.  Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
The s.w. corner of Cayuga Pool at Iroquois. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Iroquois NWR on a fairly regular basis for the past 12 years or so, which has let me see the seasonal variations in a little detail, and so we met this morning at the Cayuga Pool Overlook.  The downside of Cayuga is that the birds tend to be quite distant, which drastically reduces the photographic opportunities, but the upside is the wealth of species that can be viewed, using binoculars, spotting scopes or — of course — longer lenses on one’s camera.

Blue-winged Teal. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Blue-winged Teal. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

My own species list from today is as follows, but I hope anyone in the group who saw other birds will e-mail me so they can be added here:

Osprey. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Osprey. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

Briefly kidnapped for a photo! (Leopard Frog). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Briefly kidnapped for a photo! (Leopard Frog). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
  •  Canada Goose
  • American Wigeon
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Redhead
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Bufflehead
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Horned Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Bald Eagles (at nest)
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • American Coot
  • Killdeer
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Mourning Dove
  • American Crow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • American Robin
  • Song Sparrow
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • American Goldfinch
Tree Swallows at nest box. Copyright 2014, Kathryn Fenna. All rights reserved.
Tree Swallows at nest box. Copyright 2014, Kathryn Fenna. All rights reserved.

One of the commonest but many would say most delightful birds to be seen arriving at ponds and lakes each April is the Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor).  The “bicolor” part of its scientific name refers to the fact that the refractive sheen on this bird’s back changes from typically being more blue in spring to green in fall.

In spring, however, some birds appear to have only the back of their head showing colour, with their back being a drabber brown. These are first-year females that are just coming up to their ‘first birthday’.

Tree Swallows at nestbox. CVopyright 2014, Cherie St. Pierre. All rights reserved.
Tree Swallows at nestbox. Copyright 2014, Cherie St. Pierre. All rights reserved.

As at least two of our group photographed tree swallows during this outing, I’ve included some photographs here.

I’ve also added an older photo of my own, taken in May 2011 at the same location (Cayuga Pool), just to make the point that even pocket-sized, point-and-shoot cameras can occasionally be used to get acceptably pleasing bird photos.

Tree Swallow emerging from hole in post. Copyright 2011, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
Tree Swallow emerging from hole in post. Copyright 2011, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

The shot in question (below left), of a tree swallow emerging from a nest hole in an old post, was taken with a Pentax Optio 80 camera, and despite the angle may show one of the first-year females I referred to above.

More photographs from this visit to the Iroquois NWR will be posted on the next page of this write-up [link to follow shortly], but for anyone wanting to visit the refuge on their own, you can be sure it is well worthwhile (otherwise it wouldn’t have that “national” importance in its title!).

The three primary habitats to be found at Iroquois are:

  • emergent marsh
  • forested wetlands
  • grasslands

On this occasion, our own WWNP group visit focussed almost entirely on the areas of open water but we will certainly be going back to look at the other environments, including a ‘warbler walk’ in May. To contact the WWNP group and potentially join us for various outings, please e-mail wwnp [AT] eddiewren [DOT] com — replacing the ‘at’ and the ‘dot’ with the relevant symbols and leaving no spaces. (This is done to cut down on spam e-mails.)

You may view more photos from this visit to Iroquios, by Esther Kowal-Bukata, here.

Useful web  pages are here:

Plan your Visit

Wildlife and Habitat

Seasons of Wildlife (i.e. what you might see)

The best map of the Iroquois Refuge (pdf)

Eddie

 

West Seneca Oxbow Wetland Restoration, WNY

As someone who is not exactly from Western New York originally — {:-) — I had no idea that there even were any old oxbow lakes in the area, let alone one on which restoration efforts had been made, but there is and its in West Seneca.

The Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper [BNRK] website states that “West Seneca’s oxbow wetland on Buffalo Creek is just a few miles upstream from the industrialized Buffalo River, a Great Lakes ‘Area of Concern’. As one of only three major wetlands in the lower Buffalo River watershed, it is considered a source area for future habitat and species restoration in the AOC.  Planning studies over the past 40 years have recommended that the oxbow site be protected.”

According to the  ERIE [Ecosystem Restoration through Interdisciplinary Exchange] webpage, “the restoration of the  oxbow wetland began in 2008 as part of the Buffalo River Watershed and AOC  restoration effort.  The project was led by BNRK and funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

“In Fall 2009, six ERIE trainees became involved  in the restoration project… [and] donated over  1000 hours in fieldwork and analysis of flora, fauna, soils and groundwater.  The trainees developed a habitat restoration  and management plan for the 14-acre parcel of the oxbow. The plan used an  adaptive management framework to control invasive plant species and reintroduce  native plants to the site based on historical and nearby reference  communities. ”

To see pictures of the Oxbow and ERIE trainees working on the project (courtesy of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper), click here.

IfI can establish that there is public access to this site, or get us permission to visit, then this seems like a good venue for one of our ‘Wildlife Watchers & Nature Photographers’ group walks.  I’ll let you know the outcome of this.

At last! Satellites track the ‘missing years’ of American turtles’ migration

New insights have been gained into the “lost years” of loggerhead turtles.

Tiny satellite tags have tracked months-old animals in the uncertain period when they leave US coastal waters and head out into the wider Atlantic Ocean.

The data suggests the loggerheads can spend quite some time in the Sargasso Sea, possibly living in amongst floating mats of sargassum seaweed.

The observations are reported in a journal of the Royal Society.

“This has been a fun study because the data suggest the turtles are doing something a little bit unexpected to what everyone had assumed over the past few decades, and it boils down to having the right technology to be able to follow the animals,” said lead author Dr Kate Mansfield from University of Central Florida, Orlando….

But by using flexible mounts and preparation techniques usually found in a manicurist’s salon, Dr Mansfield’s team got the tags to stay on the animals’ shells for up to 220 days.

And it is with this new data that the scientists can see the young turtles dropping out of the gyre’s predominant currents into the middle of the Atlantic – into what is often referred to as the Sargasso Sea….

Read the full and fascinating article from the BBC.