Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Red-winged Blackbird Nest

Each spring we look forward to the return of the Red-winged Blackbirds, Agelaius phoeniceus, to our wetland. The males usually show up in early March, singing their "Con-cur-ee" song, announcing to all the ladies that they have aquired some prime real estate for nesting.

Above is the male Red-winged Blackbird, a real looker with his jet black feathers accented with scarlet epaulettes trimmed in yellow.
This is the female. She is also a beautiful bird, but very camouflaged. This is so she can blend in with the nest and not be noticed by predators. She builds a nest from grasses and reeds and tucks it down among the cattails. It is hard to spot the nest at first, but by careful observation, one can determine where she has hidden it.
The nest is almost dead center in this photo. I don't expect you to find it, but wanted to show how well they can hide the nest. Many times I would go out to check on the nest and not find it right away, even though I knew exactly where it was. 

And here is the nest, closeup with the baby Red-winged Blackbirds. They were just starting to get their feathers. When they get their full set of feathers, they will at first all look like the female.  The young males will eventually get an orangish patch on their shoulder. Hopefully, they will all make it to adulthood and we will enjoy their song for years to come. 


Monday, May 30, 2011

Wood Poppy

Our Wood Poppies, Stylophorum diphyllum, at Southeastway are almost finished blooming. Just a few blossoms are left, hanging on to the last days of spring. Such a striking yellow plant, I eagerly look forward each spring for them to bloom and am somewhat sad when they are finished for the season.

They are called poppies because their seed capsule, when ripe, will burst open or pop when touched expelling the seeds across the ground. Hopefully, they will produce many more of these beautiful flowers to enjoy next year!StumbleUpon

Friday, May 27, 2011

Some Cool Finds at the Park

Another great day with lots of cool finds in the park. Today, Miranda and I were visited by the first graders from Indianapolis Public School 90. These energetic students were eager to learn and had very sharp eyes! One of our finds is in the following pictures. See if you can spot it!

Okay, I will give you a hint, it is right in the middle of the photo below, circled in red. :)

 Here is a closer shot, you might be able to make it out in the next photo.

Now I am quite confident you will be able to see it in this next photo. Don't feel bad if you couldn't spot it in the other photos. I couldn't find it at first when Miranda showed it to me.

Mama robin sitting on her nest! She was well-camouflaged. Most of the children were able to see the male robin busily harvesting juicy worms from the dirt in the turf grass below the nest.

One of the students spied this male Luna Moth, Actias luna, fluttering its wings in this Spicebush shrub. This was a special treat because you don't get to see Luna Moths everyday. Seeing the moth was many of the students favorite part of the trip. You can see a better shot of its wings in this post.

Here is a closer view of the moth. The feathery antennae of the male help it locate the female by detecting pheromones she emits from her abdomen. He can pick up her scent from miles away. The Luna Moths have a short life-cycle, and only live up to seven days. Because they live for such a short time, they do not have mouthparts and do not feed. 

Since we have had a few storms in the last couple of days, some of the American Tulip Trees, Liriodendron tulipifera, had lost a few of their blossoms. The children were fascinated with the beautiful flowers. You can see the leaf of the tree in this photo, which I think looks a little like a cat's face. (Use your imagination, people. :) )The ears are the two pointed lobes on the top part of the leaf and the two lobes on the side of the leaf resemble the cat's whiskers.

This is a closeup of one of my favorite flowers with its pale yellow petals accented with brilliant orange. The trees are so tall and stately and produce tons of gorgeous blossoms. And the scientific name is very fitting-Liriodendron means "lily tree".

Another great day out! Look for Luna Moths, Tulip Tree blossoms and robin nests on your outdoor adventures this weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Baby Painted Turtle

Each day brings something new, especially when you work in a park. Today, one of our maintenance staff, Adam Helton, brought a newly hatched Painted Turtle, Chrysemys picta, into my office. He rescued it from a puddle, where it was happily swimming around. Unfortunately, the puddle was in the path of traffic and only a few minutes after Adam had scooped up the turtle, a vehicle drove through the puddle. The little turtle was very lucky that Adam had stopped by and took the time to rescue it. Thank you so much, Adam!

 I took the turtle to our wetland area, where it could get all of its needs, yet not worry about big fish possibly snacking on it. It seemed quite happy in its new home.

 Here is a shot of its red belly. The Painted Turtle gets its name from its bright yellow and red markings.

I titled this photo "Lady, you are on my last nerve." Apparently, even turtles do not care for paparazzi. As you can see it is not much bigger that a penny, and probably just hatched in the last day or so.

Adam also showed me an adult Painted Turtle that had been hit by a car. This is the time of year when female turtles will travel to find a suitable place to lay their eggs. Unfortunately, she was hit by a car before she made it to her destination. When she was hit, she expelled seven eggs. Five were broken, but two were still in perfect shape. I took them to the wetland area where I had released the baby turtle and covered all but the top of the eggs with dirt. Hopefully, they will hatch, and we will have a few more Painted Turtles to look forward to.StumbleUpon

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Oven Bird Nest

Over the weekend, I participated in the Ohio Heritage Naturalist hike at Cave Lake in Pike County near Latham, Ohio. While there, Marjie Becus found an Oven Bird nest.

Oven Bird photo from Wikipedia.

Oven Birds, Seiurus aurocapillus, are small migratory songbirds in the warbler family. They are colored olive-brown with a white breast streaked with dark brown markings. The crown of its head is adorned with an orange streak that is bordered with dark brown. This latin name aurocapillus alludes to the orange crown and means "golden hair".

The Oven Bird is a warbler that nests on the ground. The common name of the bird comes from its unique nest that resembles a old-fashioned brick oven.The bird constructs the nest with leaves and grasses and makes a roof to protect the eggs and conceal it from predators. The female bird will quietly sit on the nest, motionless. Marjie almost stepped on the nest before the female flushed. The male is quite the opposite. His persistent calls of "TEA-cher, TEA-cher, TEA-cher will loudly ring throughout the forest.

Here is a closer view of the speckled eggs inside the nest. The Oven Bird will lay 3-6 cream colored eggs speckled with brown spots. This was the first Oven Bird nest I had encountered, so I was quite fascinated with its artful construction and perfect camouflage. Amazing!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Environmental Adventure Day

On Thursday, April 28th, we hosted Environmental Adventure Day at Southeastway Park. We had a great turnout of over 330 children and about 80 adults, all outside enjoying and learning about nature. There were 18 presenters teaching topics such as plants, signs of wildlife, raptors, reptiles and amphibians, fire, frogs, fossils, insects, pond life and many more. Below are a few highlights...

Here is a shot of some of the students travelling from station
to station. Four schools from Franklin Township visited the park.

Smokey the Bear came for a visit. Bev Stout from IDNR
Division of Forestry donned the costume to greet the children.

Liz Habley led the Insect Safari session. The kids enjoyed sweeping
with nets in our small prairie. Lots of leafhoppers, beetles and spiders were found.

Kevin Carlsen from Eagle Creek Ornithology Center is teaching
the students about the large eyes of the Great Horned Owl.

Overall, it was a great day with lots of folks out enjoying the great outdoors! 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Luna Moth

On Friday,  May 6th, I led a station on migration for the Eagle Creek Homeschool Bird Jam. A great event, with many students spending the day enjoying the great outdoors and learning all about birds. The entire day, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and a first year male Summer Tanager visited the feeders at Eagle Creek. Many of the students were able to see these beautiful birds.

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Pheucticus ludovicianus, is a member of the Cardinal family.

One of the students showed me a moth that they had found in the bird feeding area. Do you see it?

How about now? If you scroll back, you can find it on the left side of the plant. This is a gorgeous male Luna Moth, Actias luna. These moths are masters of camouflage, blending right in with the surrounding vegetation.

Here is a better shot of the moth, showing its wings spread out. Notice the cool patten on the top of the wings that looks just like a tree branch with buds. Such a great find for our special day. So glad so many kids and parents were able to enjoy this amazing creature.