The Devourer – bioGraphic

http://biographic.com/posts/sto/the-devourer

Here’s a box turtle eating blueberries

Excellent post on prescribed fire

For months, I’ve been meaning to write a long post on this topic. I might still do it one day, but in the meantime, here’s an article that explains why Smoky Bear was wrong: it’s sometimes a good idea to set forest fires. California’s Explosive Wildfire Call for More Southern-Inspired Prescribed Burning

The walking shark that can survive hours out of water

Sorry I’ve been neglecting my blog lately. Life is, and will continue to be for the next couple months, very busy. In lieu of actually writing a post, here’s a fascinating look at the walking shark from the excellent blog Odd Organisms.

Odd Organisms

It’s nighttime on the Great Barrier Reef, and as the tide slips out to sea it uncovers a much tougher environment. Chunks of coral are exposed and only small pools of shallow water remain where there is little oxygen available. Hardly the place you expect to find a shark.

But! This is not your ordinary shark (it’s odd organisms for gosh sakes). No, this is an epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum). A wriggly, wormy, wonder shark who’s amazing adaptations to it’s complex environment include an incredible tolerance to low oxygen and high COlevels, PLUS, the ability to walk across the reef! Walk! 

So, it’s walking sharks and crucian carp on the blog today (more on crucian carp later, for now just accept the rhyme) as we explore the awesome adaptations of the epaulette shark. The first shark to have come anywhere near, rivaling my fascination for the…

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Photo 101: Solitude

The author chillin' on the rocky bank of the Eno River.
So solitary, this is actually a selfie!

Photo 101: Water

A small stream running between old rock walls.
A stream flows between old rock walls to join the Eno River

Arachnophobes, avert your eyes

I recently lost a large chunk of the contents of my hard drive, including many of the photos I intended to use for this blog.  Most of them still exist, scattered over an old hard drive, several thumb drives, and at least three camera cards. My files were backed up, but not organized.

I’ve been slowly going through them all, occasionally finding something I forgot I had. Like this video version of the Spider vs. Anole photo!

 

 

This is probably the worst photo I will ever post. And the best.

Most of my wildlife photos came from one job. That job, in spite of allowing me a lot of time and access to wander around taking pictures, did have a goal: to find and document flatwoods salamanders on two state forests.

It had recently been discovered that the flatwoods salamander is actually two species, so recently that the current Petersen Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians still lists them as one species: Ambystoma cingulatum. A few years before I started the job, the populations west of the Apalachicola River were declared a separate species, the reticulated flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma bishopi). They were already rare as one species; this little offshoot was extremely rare. There were only about 36 known ponds where they had been found, and at many of those, none had been seen in years.

Continue reading This is probably the worst photo I will ever post. And the best.

Little Grass Frog

In the comments for last week’s cricket frog post, I mentioned that the cricket frog was not the smallest frog in Florida. Then, I completely neglected to say what the smallest frog was. So, here it is: the little grass frog. It’s related to the spring peeper, in the Pseudacris genus.

They are tiny. The frog pictured above is sitting on my raincoat, which doesn’t really give a good sense of scale. Here’s one on a square of ordinary velcro, and one on the palm of my hand:

The little grass frog is another amphibian that breeds in ephemeral ponds, as well as other grassy-edged bodies of water.  I’ve only ever seen two, and I spent a great deal of time in their habitat.

It’s not particularly rare; it’s just very hard to see. Put this little guy in some dead grass, and he would disappear. These, like literally hundreds of mole salamanders, ornate chorus frogs, and leopard frogs, were captured in an attempt to catch flatwoods salamanders (more about those next week). I’ve never seen one just hopping around on the ground. If you do, what luck! Take a picture. Preferably with an object for scale, because nobody will comprehend just how tiny it is without one.

Cricket Frogs

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Go to a pond in the southeast and walk along the muddy edge, and you’ll likely see tiny frogs leaping into the water ahead of you. You’ll rarely see the frog beforehand; the first hint of its existence will be a little splash. They launch themselves many times their body length, springing from the weeds into the water as if assisted by wings. From the opposite side of the pond, you’ll hear repeated clicks, like stones being struck together.

If you can find one sitting still long enough to get a good look, you’ll see that it’s about an inch long: a slender, long-legged creature, with bumpy skin and a triangle on the back of its head. It will be some combination of brown, black, green, and gold.11-03-03_02_modified-1

There are two species of cricket frogs: northern and southern. The northern species has slightly longer legs and a slightly more rounded snout, but they are otherwise very similar. They sometimes interbreed where their ranges overlap. (Those shown in this post are the southern species or hybrids of the two.) Between the two species, they cover most of the eastern half of the US.

The breeding season depends on the local climate; in Florida they may breed year-round, while in the northern edge of their range it’s limited to spring. Adults eat insects and spiders, while the tadpoles are vegetarians and feed on algae. The tadpoles are actually longer than the adults, if you include their tails, which are long, transparent, and often black-tipped. The black tip may be useful in confusing predators into grabbing for the tail instead of the body. This is good, because cricket frog tadpoles are eaten by just about everything else in the water — dragonfly larvae, salamanders, fish, snakes, other frogs… The lucky tadpoles which survive can take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks to metamorphose into adults.