Saturday, April 30, 2011

Walk Softly and Slowly and See What You Get

The banded water snake or Southern water snake (Nerodia fasciata) is a species of mostly aquatic, nonvenomous snakes found in the central and southeastern United States. They have a flat head, and are fairly heavy bodied. Their appearance leads them to be frequently mistaken for other snakes, including the less common cottonmouth. The specimen you see here is close to four feet long. I was very fortunate to have seen him first. Moving very slowly I was able to get comfortably close. One of the snakes’ favorite meals (a frog) sat motionless for a moment and allowed a single photo. The purple martin (Progne subis) is the largest North American swallow and has arrived and claimed their domain. The Red-winged Blackbird, (Agelaius phoeniceus) female, is collecting nesting material. The Turkey Vulture, (Cathartes aura), is a bird found throughout most of the Americas. The Turkey Vulture is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion. It finds its meals using its keen vision and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gasses produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals. Something hidden in the grass brought this fellow down from the skies.  All of the photos were taken at the Lilypons Water Gardens in Frederick County Maryland.

 I know what flies are attracted to... Not sure whats going on here.

Snake food
Female red-winged blackbird with some nesting material.

Purple Martins

Turkey Vulture

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One Incredible Osprey

An Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sometimes known as the sea hawk or fish eagle, spent a good portion of time with a large fish it had struck about 50 yards out from the shoreline. It first just sat on top of the water keeping its wings partially extended aiding in keeping itself afloat. With tremendous effort it finally was able to get enough elevation to get its quarry within a couple yards of the shoreline. Finally all labor paid off and fine dining followed.

Then... Out from nowhere came a second osprey. Wanting I'm sure what the other had worked so hard to have. Our hero spread his wings and covered his catch with its tail. The invader was not going to attempt any thievery. He was discouraged quite quickly and left the area.

All is well in Osprey Land. A full belly and enough for tomorrow. Now all that needs to be done is to get this buffet back home.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Snappers, Coots and Dragons

The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is a large freshwater turtle. Common snappers are noted for their belligerent disposition when out of the water, their powerful beak-like jaws, and their highly mobile head and neck. Today's specimen was quite cooperative and allowed me some time with him/her. The American Coot (Fulica Americana), inhabiting wetlands and open water bodies. This one was a loner as far as I could tell, no mate or fellow companions. Dragonflies (Anisoptera) are valuable predators that eat mosquitoes, flies, ants and very rarely butterflies. They are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands because their larvae, known as “nymphs”, are aquatic. Here mating dragonflies have latched on to each other demonstrating their method of reproduction.  

Snapping Turtle

American Coot

Monday, April 18, 2011

Snakes, Frogs, Turtles... Oh... and Birds

Located just outside Knoxville Tennessee is Ijams Nature Center, a 275-acre wildlife sanctuary offering it's visitors miles of hiking trails, among many other programs and events. By the time we arrived at the Center, some time after 1 PM there was a significant crowd of visitors hiking and biking the park. With their pets. The area had a high wildlife potential but arriving early or staying later may have been the more prudent way to approach this visit. Any way, we selected a trail that led us to a rather secluded bog that offered some wildlife of a different sort. My wife and daughter did just fine until we came across the brown water snake. Neither of them are snake people. They kept their distance while I took photos.

Brown Water Snake


Painted Turtles

Boat-Tail Blackbird