15 de junio de 2022

The Burrowing Behavior of Dekay's Brownsnakes

Dekay's Brownsnakes are generally small and inconspicuous reptiles, spending their days hiding under rocks and chasing after critters like slugs and earthworms. Yesterday I flipped over a rock in my yard and to my surprise, found this year's first live Dekay's, a relatively small juvenile (based on size, most likely). I decided to set up a temporary enclosure in a Tupperware to observe its behavior overnight and into the next day, when I would release it back where I found it.

The serpent hotel featured a rock and a piece of bark for it to seek shelter under (they are frequently found under rocks and wood boards), a stick, and a water dish for soaking and drinking. I used coconut soil bedding for the substrate because that's what I had on hand. Something important to keep in mind when dealing with Dekay's is that they cannot use newspapers or paper towels or bare enclosure floors like other species might be able to. They thrive when they have at least an inch of substrate, whether it's soil or coconut bedding. What I would discover is that the substrate I chose actually enabled it to burrow more easily, but more on that later.

In the first few hours of captivity, it stayed above the surface, doing laps around the perimeter. Later that day when I went to check on it, it was nowhere to be found. A quick glance at the sides of the enclosure revealed that it had actually burrowed underneath the substrate and was hiding in a little tunnel it had created. Sometimes it would stick its head out from one end of the rock while its body was curled up under it, and other times it was curled up tightly in one of its tunnels. The tunnels did not ever collapse and were visible from the sides along the Tupperware. I imagine that it either made a web of tunnels across the entire enclosure or just one that wrapped around the sides. It spent a large portion of its time underground, resting and slithering through the tunnel system.
I am not entirely sure about the reasons for its burrowing, but I came up with a list of potential ones. The reason is probably a combination of them.

  • to hide from me, something that it is probably reasonably scared of
  • to regulate its body temperature

Or it might be neither of those. Maybe it's something else I didn't think of. Let me know if you know the reason for this behavior, I find it intriguing. I had never thought of Dekay's as being burrowing animals since I always find them curled up under rocks and flowerpots outside. Do they burrow like this in the wild, into the ground to travel? It is known that they use abandoned burrows of other animals for brumation, but maybe they utilize the underground in other ways. Whatever the reason, it's interesting behavior.

Publicado el 15 de junio de 2022 a las 07:38 PM por mbwildlife mbwildlife | 1 observación | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

18 de abril de 2022

Eastern Bluebird Nest

Whilst visiting family in Indiana last week, I had the pleasure of observing a bluebird couple figure out the ins and outs of avian parenting. Well, not quite yet. These bluebirds were very choosy about which nesting box to use, but eventually, they settled on one in the front yard. I never got to see the nest with just one egg, but on the first day I checked, there were two precious, perfectly-shaped turquoise eggs. I approached the nesting box tentatively, making sure the parents weren't in the nest or watching nearby. I opened the little door and peered inside the nest - and sure enough, there were two eggs. The next day, I did the same thing and was greeted by a newly laid egg, joining its future siblings. This went on for two more days, each day with a new little bird. Most Eastern Bluebirds usually lay four to five eggs at a time. Most Bluebird mothers new to parenting tend to only lay four, so I'm not sure what this says about the female's age. I hope that I get to see the Bluebird chicks grow up and start families of their own. The eggs are beautiful.

If you'd like to see pictures of the nest every day with a growing amount of eggs to hatching, click here.

(Side note: I also think it's rather impressive how the computer vision was able to recognize what species had laid the eggs, don't you?)

Edit 5/4/22: Around May 2, they hatched!!

Publicado el 18 de abril de 2022 a las 04:00 PM por mbwildlife mbwildlife | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

17 de enero de 2022

The Final Bird...

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Today I realized that I have 999 observations of our feathered friends. This means that with one more observation of a bird, I'll have accumulated 1,000 unique bird observations. This isn't a lot by any means but it's certainly a number with more than three digits. As much as I'd absolutely love for it to be a new lifer or some really interesting picture of a bird I've already photographed, it's probably going to end up being a House Sparrow or something common. But, a bird is a bird! I'll have to see tomorrow. Here's to more birding!

Publicado el 17 de enero de 2022 a las 01:53 AM por mbwildlife mbwildlife | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

14 de diciembre de 2021

John Heinz Wildlife Refuge (Visit 12/12/21)

Yesterday I visited the John Heinz Wildlife Refuge for the third time. I figured I'd write about what I saw and how the experience went for my future reference, and because I also can't think of anything to do.

Yesterday was the first time I've visited the refuge with an actual camera. The first two visits I had a slip-on iPhone telephoto lens. Admittedly, it did not take the best photographs. My current camera isn't the best either, but it takes decent quality pictures for what I need at the moment.

My family and I started driving up the sort of long road to the parking lot. On the way there, we stopped because we spotted a Buteo of some sort flying right in front of us and perch in a tree on the left. I quickly rolled down the window and snapped a couple of pictures as it just sat there, looking around inquisitively. I would quickly ID this as a Red-tailed Hawk in the moment but later on would be corrected and learn the key differences in telling Red-shouldered and Red-tailed hawks apart. The hawk, as it turns out, was a Red-shouldered (B. lineatus). There were a couple of cars behind us, so I quickly finished photographing my beautiful avian subject and we continued down the road to the parking lot.

Once we got to the parking lot, we hopped out, gathered our two dogs (leashed, of course) and I quickly got my equipment together. To be fair, my 'equipment' really just consisted of my small camera, my trusty pair of binoculars, and my iPhone, so it didn't take too much effort to collect everything. We closed the car doors and walked over to the little section by the lot with the insect hotels. Unfortunately, as I had assumed, there weren't any living insects of which to speak of there. Most likely since it's the middle of December.

I looked around as we strolled down this wide path covered in gravel. Lots of people with binoculars and huge telephoto lenses clutched in their hands were coming back from the end of the path. A tip I've learned from visiting lots of nature parks is to always pay attention when there are people with big DSLRs or telephoto lenses stopped staring at a tree or clearing or something because there's probably an interesting animal there. In this case, a pair of women staring was stopped on the side of the trail staring intensely at something. I quickly had a look and saw a Great Blue Heron attempting to swallow a fish.

Now, this fish was actually on the smaller side, and I was surprised it was having this much trouble gulping it down. I honestly don't know too much about herons and their behavior when it comes to eating, so I'm not sure if it was part of their eating habits, but it kept dropping it on the ground and in the water and picking it back up. The two women who had originally spotted the bird were most definitely finding the situation to be funny, and so was my sister. After watching it struggle with this fish for a minute or so more, we moved on and stepped onto the bridge over the entire lake.

From this bridge, you had a really good view of almost all the water surrounding you, and also lots of empty skyspace for overhead fliers. I spotted a Canada Goose and Red-eared Slider, both sitting together on a log. Eventually, the goose slowly got off of the log and swam away, leaving the Slider alone to bask in the warm afternoon sun. As we progressed down the lake walkway I spotted a bunch more Canada Geese, some Ring-billed Gulls, and some more yet-to-be-identified gull species soaring above. Not to mention some yet-to-be-identified duck species. Although I do have a small hunch that they might be Northern Pintails solely based on the fact that lots of people have been sighting them at this location currently.

We had reached the end of the bridge, so we went down the Wetland Trail (I believe it was). There, all I spotted (or at least all I could get a picture of) was a small group of Mallards. Unfortunately for me, my camera decided it wanted to focus on the vegetation in front of the ducks instead of the ducks themselves. However, I think it's still pretty clear what species it is just from color alone. After all, I'd argue that Mallards are some of the most easily identifiable duck species.

I caught some quick glimpses of a species I'd never actually seen before in Philadelphia. I'd photographed them (not well) in Evansville, Indiana before but not here. This bird species was... drumroll, please... the tiny and elusive White-throated Sparrow. Pretty neat little critter. I don't know much about them, but they seem interesting enough.

We went down this Frog Pond trail next. For a while, there was nothing but tall grasses surrounding you on either side as you trudged through the moist soil. The frog pond was not very pond-like. It was more like a rather large puddle that had lost most of its actual water contents and was composed mostly of mud. Walking along the banks, I nearly got my shoes stuck in the mud on multiple occasions. Thankfully I didn't. I also didn't find any wildlife around here, but what I did find was some evidence of wildlife presence. A few Common Raccoon prints and an abundance of White-tailed Deer prints were all over this one bank. There were also some government-owned Fish and Wildlife camouflage tents nearby, which I thought was rather interesting.

Walking throughout the park for some more time, I found a lot of different kinds of nests. They varied a lot in size and materials used. I'm pretty sure that at least one of them belonged to an Eastern Gray Squirrel, but the rest for sure belonged to some sort of bird. I can't comment much on these since I have no idea how to ID nests and their respective owner's species.

Much later, I spotted a group of American Robins frolicking in a large bushy area, flying in quick bursts from the left side of the path to the right. I've found that robins are pretty social when they're in the woods, but they tend to be solitary in more urban settings (when I've seen them, at least. This is probably just pure coincidence). I did not know it at the time but I had unknowingly included a new lifer species in the group robin photo. Reviewing the photos when I got home later, I realized there was an odd-colored robin in one of the corners of the picture. Then I realized it was not a robin at all, and based on color, most likely a Cedar Waxwing. Another accidental lifer for the list! Another lifer I got was a Hermit Thrush, which I saw hopping along the trodden path. It looks like it got poorly designed with an unproportional head and body ratio, but that's what makes it so cute to the human gaze, I suppose.

That was pretty much all I saw inside of the park. As we drove out of the wildlife refuge on the same road we entered, we saw ANOTHER Red-shouldered Hawk perched on a tree branch. This time it was on the opposite side of the road, though. Variety! My mom pointed it out, but it was on my sister's side of the car, so I didn't see it. We had a long line of cars behind us though, so we had to leave. We turned around on the road outside of the refuge, narrowly avoiding getting hit, and re-entered the park in order to see the hawk. We hastily parked by the side of the entrance and jumped out. I walked down the path where we had seen it and backed away from the trees to find it. I located it pretty quickly, as its bright feathers didn't exactly help it blend in.

This was a more interesting experience than with the first hawk hours earlier. For one, I was on the ground, staring at it, instead of in a car. If I'm being honest I had never had an experience like this with a hawk before, or any bird of prey for that matter. Before when I'd seen them they'd be really high up in a tall tree, or incredibly high in the sky, so high I could barely make it out. A few people walked by and said something like, "Yo, look o'er there! I think it's an owl, right?" It was clearly not an owl.

It kept moving its head around, observing its surroundings, as if judging us. It barely moved. It was the perfect photography model, to be honest. Thanks, hawkie!

All-in-all John Heinz is a pretty solid place to go birding or herping or really just exploring if you're near the Philly area. It might even be worth it to just come from a few hours away because there are some pretty cool spots and species to check out. I would recommend coming, and bringing along a camera and perhaps even a nature journal!

Publicado el 14 de diciembre de 2021 a las 03:33 AM por mbwildlife mbwildlife | 12 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

09 de septiembre de 2021

Chasing Eagles (New Lifer!)

Last night at around 7:00 PM, I was walking around my neighborhood with my camera, looking for crepuscular creatures. At the beginning of my "expedition," I saw a bunch of little birds in groups flying very high up, most likely chimney swifts but I'm not positive. Besides that, I didn't see anything aside from a common nighthawk right above my house as I was stepping in the door. I guess that was also a cool lifer, though.

BUT, the main point of this journal post is that I saw an animal I've always wanted to see, which I surprisingly haven't seen (in the wild, as far as I can remember)... a bald eagle. And that night I saw one without knowing. Or at least I'm pretty sure. I saw a very large black silhouette flying around, which I initially thought was a plane at first glance. It became apparent it was a bird, though.

Today I decided to go out at dusk again and see what I could find. And lo and behold, I saw the bird again. I snapped some quick pictures as it flew above surrounding houses; admittedly, they were pretty blurry as the eagle was flying at a moderately fast speed. If I've seen it twice, or at least an eagle twice in a row by my house, it makes sense to check for them tomorrow at the same time.

Here's to bald eagles and many more interesting lifers!

Publicado el 09 de septiembre de 2021 a las 02:44 AM por mbwildlife mbwildlife | 1 observación | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de septiembre de 2021

Nature Books I've Read Recently (Reviews)

First of all, I want to preface that despite having asked in the forums and gotten a few engaging responses, I still have no idea what the journal feature ought to be used for. But I figured, I'm bored, and I guess why not review some nature-related books I've read recently.

H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
This was a pretty good book through and through. Without spoiling anything, it's a memoir about a woman whose beloved father dies and, as a falconer, she takes on the challenge of raising up a goshawk, who she names Mabel. She references T.H. White's book, The Goshawk, frequently, and his relationship with his bird, literally just named Gos. It's a good intermediate-level read, for middle or high school students I would say. It does deal with some heavy topics, since a lot of it is about her spiraling into this depression caused by her dad's death, and also her social situation which at the time was not good; so it can be a bit depressing. Not a good book at all if you're seeking information on goshawks, more of a fiction-style book, since it is, after all, a memoir.

Get Your Boots On, by Alex White
I got this book because I saw it suggested on an iNat forum post about good nature books. It seemed like a good option because it was by a teenager (Alex White) who explored nature frequently and appreciated it, which I also am. He's got a promising future in wildlife research and photography, I think. His book was pretty informative and inspirational for young nature enthusiasts. A lot of it was pretty light reading, so it's a good book to just take around and read sections of, or skim over, but it is a pretty short book so it wouldn't take too long to read it all in one go. It has some good general tips for things like wildlife photography, juggling high school/social life with wildlife observing, clubs to join and websites to visit, and etc. One thing I will say was a tad bit annoying about this book was that a decent few pages were about animals in his area, in Britain, which isn't really applicable at all for people who happen to live in places that are not the UK... like Pennsylvania. But if I ever visit the UK I'll keep his wildlife viewing throughout the seasons section in mind. Overall a pretty good, light read.

Emperors of the Deep, by William McKeever
I'll be honest, I read this book a few months ago so I don't remember it as clearly as I would have liked to write this review, but I can talk about it nonetheless. This book talks about debunking sharks as bloodthirsty human-eating creatures and goes over shark attacks (the shark attack files). He talks about the circumstances of the attacks and the like, and why it was not the shark's fault. A lot of this book also talks about the illegal shark fin trade and sharks being killed for other reasons, and why they're the "ocean's most mysterious, most misunderstood, and most important guardians." This is a fun read for marine biology enthusiasts who want to learn about shark behavior (specifically their social behavior) and shark conservation.

I'm going to start reading The Rise of Wolf 8 by Rick McIntyre soon. It seems pretty interesting, it's about the wolves that were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. Well, I hope you've enjoyed my random journal post that nobody asked for.

Publicado el 05 de septiembre de 2021 a las 05:23 AM por mbwildlife mbwildlife | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

25 de julio de 2021

what does this do


Publicado el 25 de julio de 2021 a las 04:43 AM por mbwildlife mbwildlife | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario