Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Its looking at you.
This is a Black-crowned Night-Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax. A truly awesome bird. Their loud "QUUAARRKK!" drew our attention to them; there were two sitting in trees next to the river. Black-crowned Night-Herons are fairly common throughout North America, although the populations did take quite a hit in the late 1960's due to DDT. Night-herons, as the name suggests, are nocturnal and crepuscular when they feed. They will roost all hunkered down in trees during the day and apparently we had disturbed them.
Black-crowned Night-Herons are opportunistic feeders, meaning, just like some guys I know, they will eat anything that is in front of them. They prefer fish, but will also take small mammals, amphibians, other birds, reptiles, eggs, crayfish, mussels, insects, worms, leeches, carrion, plants and garbage. This feeding behavior can help with survival. If one food source is limited, they can easily switch to another source. Raccoons and oppossums are other opportunistic feeders and everyone knows how prevalent they are!
Night Ravens, another name for these secretive midnight munchers, are bioindicators. (The Greek scientific name Nycticorax means night raven.) Since Black-crowned Night- Herons are high on the food chain, if their populations start to drop, scientists receive a heads-up on contaminations or other pollution problems in their ecosystems.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Mother Nature was played by Mary Jo Rouse. Children and their adults had to promise to love the animals, take care of the earth and then spin around two times for the magic to work. Joining her were two wood fairies, Kathleen Craig and Tunie Snyder. Alicia King played Mother Nature on Saturday night. (Photo by Adam Barnes.)
Families were led through the forest and encountered various animals along the way. This funny frog was played by Cindy Collins. The croakster was a favorite with the kids with her snappy comebacks and quick ability to ad lib. She was training for the olympics and Michael Phelps had been giving her tips about sponsorship.
Next visitors encountered Heidi the Hummingbird from Canada who was on a trip to Mexico. She was stopping for the night at Holliday Park. Heidi was played by Denise Stockdale. Heidi engaged all the children by asking them to dance with her.
Lucy the poetic Lightening Bug, played by Claire Wilcher, lamented over the loss of her boy bug who ran off with, what she first thought was, a prettier lady bug. The children reminded her that she had a beautiful tail that lit up the night and that she was very special, too.
The very energetic coyote was played by Tyler Braun. Here he is imitating a "rrrrotten!!" raccoon who digs through people's trash. He felt he could help humans by taking care of their problem raccoons.
Visitors were treated to a campfire and the Act One Children's Theater entertained everyone with pumpkin carols, well-known Christmas carols adapted to Halloween. A crowd favorite was "Pumpkin Bells." (Photo by Adam Barnes.)
After the hike, families visited the nature center for refreshments and crafts. What a great event with a wonderful way to celebrate the crisp autumn evenings. Well done!!!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Here is the our lovely female, Mary the mantid. . She is a beautiful gray phase, with dabbled markings on her body. She blends in nicely with bark and lichens, allowing her to be camoflaged from her prey. Such a delicate little flower. Errr, ummm, well in another mantid's eye, I guess. Mantids are such interesting creatures. They look alien-like and move so methodically and deliberately when they are hunting prey. But don't let them fool you! They can be lightening fast when they are catching their prey or trying to escape a predator.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Man, I had wished I had seen the battle. Was it quick and painless, or was it a struggle, a battle to the end. Nevertheless, the Banded Garden Spider, Argiope trifasciata, was the winner and now it was consuming its prize.
I cropped the picture in a little closer. Here you can see the smaller yellow wings of the Carolina Mantid. Their wings reach halfway down the abdomen, while the Chinese Mantid, Tenodera aridifolia, a much larger mantid, has wings that run the complete length of the abdomen and is around 5 inches long.
Here is the dorsal or top view of the Banded Garden Spider. What a beaut! I love the distinguishing horizontal stripes across its abdomen. It reminds me of the squeaky tiger toy I had as a child. I chewed its ears off and carted the thing around with me, wherever I went.
I left the spider to its meal and carted off my prize of Bottle Gentian seeds. Tomorrow, I plan to blog a little more about the Carolina Mantid.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Since duty called and I taught the sessions on insects, my co-worker Miranda Sears photodocumented the days activities for me.
Michele Conyer, Outreach Naturalist, taught a session on Extirpated Animals. The children kicked off their shoes and plopped down on plush furs to enjoy a fascinating walk through time.
Roy Ballard from Hancock County Purdue Extension taught a session on plants and how they prepare for winter. The children went on a hike and learned all about seed dispersal, leaf loss and adaptations that assure the plant's survival.
Andrea Hopper, naturalist at Eagle Creek Park, taught a session on Reptiles and Amphibians. Here she is holding a box turtle and explaining all about its unique behaviors.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
But these salamanders are found in rock crevices, usually of sandstone and sometimes limestone, granite or dolomite. They stay hidden during the day, then come out at night to feed and run around. The rock facings are cool in temperature, but it is not where I would expect a salamander.
The eggs of this salamander are laid by the female in the summer. These amazing eggs are held together by strands of mucus to the roof of a crevice and the female salamander will attend these clusters of clear eggs. The clutch of eggs can range between 10-32.
Normally, most salamanders will lay eggs either in the fall or spring, depending on the species, and the larval stage will hatch out and swim around in a vernal pool. But there are no vernal pools on a cliff. These salamanders will develop completely within the watery egg and hatch out as little microsalamanders, totally developed! Amazing!
Monday, October 6, 2008
The first herp we found was a gorgeous five-lined skink. Quick and agile little booger. The young of this species have a brilliant blue tail.
At the same stop, in a nearby creek we found all kinds of salamanders. Dusky Salamander, Southern Two-lined Salamander and this critter. This Red Spotted Newt was marching right along, unafraid of anyone. And with good reason. I covered this species in a previous post. The skin of this adult newt is so toxic it can kill the equivalent of 250 mice. The juvenile stage, or red eft, is much more toxic, with the ability to kill 2,500 mice. You do NOT want to kiss this critter, no matter how cute it is!