Nature For Life Hub Starts now, Sept. 24th, 2020 at 09.00 in New York, hosted by UNDP’s Learning For Nature website. Click this link to join the free The Nature for Life Hub – a virtual venue for a four-day program of multiple events “delving deep into specialist topics, practical solutions and ambitious actions” highlighting the role of Nature in climate mitigation and adaptation. It will be held in English, French and Spanish languages.
Hub organizers will work with champions, mobilizers, leaders and speakers who inspire and engage global audiences! These events will provide new content that will be broadcast live on social media and through the official virtual platform, as well as available online after the Hub.
The virtual Hub will be an opportunity to hear from political and corporate leaders, the world’s youth, indigenous and community leaders, local authorities and cutting-edge thinkers, leaders and practitioners. Each day will culminate in key messages to be fed into UN biodiversity-related discussions.
Happy birthday to this Razor-backed Musk Turtle neonate (Sternotherus carinatus) at ULM’s Herpetology Dept. where it was raised with siblings and turtles of many other varieties in incubators by Professor John Carr and his team! C. Paxton image and copyright.
Kimmie and I had a very fun and highly privileged view of North American freshwater turtle hatchlings recently at University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) courtesy of the head of the Herpetology Department and Louisiana Master Naturalist, Professor John Carr. We had enjoyed John’s lectures on herps previously with the Louisiana Master Naturalists at ULM and Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and also on turtles at LMNA Rendezvous at Fontainebleau State Park. Recently we have been systematically studying local species from his excellent guidebook “Amphibians & Reptiles of Louisiana” co-authored with Jeff Boundy and raised questions about the Map Turtles ( Graptemys Sp.) he kindly agreed to show us some young Ouachita Map Turtles that he has raised in his lab!
On this occasion we all resembled masked bank robbers due to the COVID-19 precautions.
Among his other research and teaching work (now conducted with COVID-19 safety protocols), John hatches freshwater turtle eggs from various local sources to release back into those sources, thus sparing those clutches from predation by raccoons (Procyon lotor). Raccoons are adept nest raiders and have lost a lot of their natural predators in recent times and so represent a considerable threat to the nesting success of the native turtles. Professor Carr’s incubation work helps to acquaint his students with close study of live turtles and evens the odds for the turtles’ survival by returning them to the wild.
When we arrived, one of the faculty staff was there with a boxed mature Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) that she’d rescued from crossing a busy road in the hope of saving it. Sadly Prof. Carr’s inspection revealed non-survivable damage.
Our spirits were raised when we were introduced to the lab’s latest cohort of hatchlings. We saw our first Razor-backed Musk Turtles, absolutely delightful, perfect little replicas of the adults and were thrilled to see one emerging, still in its shell.
We were thrilled to see the many dragonish forms of young Alligator Snapping Turtles from several nests! These were our first sightings of them too and we had never seen the amazing fringe-like texture of their shells as youngsters in photographs before.
It was exciting to see young Ouachita Map Turtles, with the wonderful ‘topographical’ markings that give them their name. We have seen these turtles basking on a log at the Bawcomville Recreation Area .
Another first for me was to see the Smooth Softshells (Apalone mutica) and rather handily, their tanks were side by side with the larger Spiny Softshells (Apalone spinifera) enabling a very clear comparison!
Charles and I went on a fungi-hunt, or foray, and we saw a ton of this kind of orange stuff on logs. In appearance it’s not unlike breakfast cornflakes. We took a million pictures or so, then submitted our “finds” to iNaturalist. If we don’t know what something is, there’s a chance that either the app’s artificial intelligence or a fellow-naturalist can ID it for us. We learned that this is a kind of Stereaceae fungi. It’s very common, it lives on rotting wood and it also likes to create rotting wood, says FungusFactFriday.com. This branch in our yard is soon to be a log.
Like I was saying, fellow-naturalists can give you suggestions about what you see. Well, we didn’t see in person what he saw in my original picture. I’m learning that when you go outside, there is a lot more than meets the eye! He thinks that what is eating my Stereaceae are thrips! What the heck is that?!
Google’s first response to “what are thrips” was to basically say, “they’re pests”. The concensus: they will damage crops and plants and reek general havoc to a gardener’s ideal situation. Wikipedia has it that the little varmints will get in your house too, and go after your chairs, tables and computers. Gosh! Nature-and-garden.com says that the majority of the more that 6,000 species-strong thrips family are garden-friendly. The nearly-microscopic insects enjoy dining on various mites, other thrips, plants, and fungi.
NCSU’s General Entomology page tells us that thrips are thrips if they are singular or plural, i.e. there’s a thrips and there are some more thrips, (not thripses, my precious) and some thrips only eat fungi. BugGuide.net tells us: that some thrips have wings and some don’t, and even though they are very, very small, they can still bite. The naturalist who introduced thrips to me, said that their ancestors were fungi-eaters from the Mesozoic. Well, that makes sense that some are fungi-fans!
They even have nicknames, says Wikipedia. Something that didn’t seem to exist not too long ago even has other names. Nature is an endless wonder! My favorite of those listed: thunderbugs. Such a tiny creature?! Nature-and-garden.com explains: “A common name for thrips is thunderfly. This is because they drop to the ground in large numbers shortly before thunderstorms! The build-up in static electricity interferes with their flying and they simply drop from the sky.“
The next time I go on a fungi foray I will take a closer look…and maybe bring an umbrella!
If you’re a mollusc, you’re a part of a very large phylum of creatures, including squids, clams and octopuses. And if you’re a slug or a snail, and you cruise around on your belly and leave a trail, then you’re a gastropod too–gastropod is Greek for “stomach foot”. And since you’re cruising around on your belly, you’ll benefit from some slime. Slugs and snails produce mucin (slime) from glands to help them get around, recognize each other, stick to stuff, reproduce and other necessary gastropody tasks.
Snails, which can be recognized by the shell on their backs, can be found up mountains, under rocks, in the desert, and under water (aquatic snails) says Snail-World. If you go outside and look under a log, you’ll probably find one there (hangin’ out with roly-polies). Slugs, don’t usually have shells. If they do, they are very small ones, or have only small internal shells.
Slugs and snails do eat our plants and that’s not so nice, but they are doing some important work otherwise. They breakdown organic matter in our yards and gardens, which, in the end, becomes organic matter, which makes good fertilizer. See below for our gastropods (and their poop).
They feed a whole host of critters from birds to reptiles to rodents. Scientists have replicated the slug’s sticky yet flexible slime into a surgical glue to help repair soft tissues without damaging them, says NPR. Cosmetics companies “milk” garden snails for their mucin. The methods by which they do this are unclear, says Racked. In Japan, they just stick the slimy critters on your face and they glide around, transferring that rejuvenating sliminess right onto your skin. Wikipedia has more examples of their usefulness going back to Ancient Greece. Need a good cough syrup, go no further than your local snail.
In Louisiana, the mention of a squirrel would elicit conversations about how this rodent should be cooked. I personally prefer to adore ’em–not eat ’em. Today, we can learn about the fox squirrel. Recipes can be found elsewhere. 😉
This creature’s bushy, red tail tells us why it might be called a fox squirrel. These plump critters are slower-moving than their kin, the cat squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), so it’s easier to get a good look at them (and see how cute they are). Some “foxes” are melanistic, that means their fur is black. That helps support it’s name S. niger (meaning “black”). Other colorful fox facts: they have pink bones! I found this out from Kelby Ouchley’s book Bayou-Diversity: Nature and People in the Louisiana Bayou Country–an excellent source of info about our area and its creatures–and entertaining too.
They pretend to hide their nuts to trick other squirrels, says Squirrel Gazer‘s blog. And they’ll stuff leaves and sticks and stuff in the hole, acting like it’s a nut. Those cunning fiends!
They warn other squirrels and forest creatures that an enemy is near with alarm calls. Enemies like owls, snakes, hawks or people. We’ve often heard them “hollerin'” up there in the trees…at us. We think it sounds like “Fraaaannnkkk!”.
If you should, by chance, meet a bunch of squirrels hanging out together, you would refer to them as a “scurry of squirrels”. You would note that they probably have “love” on their minds. Animal Diversity explains that other than gathering to plan future squirrels, to put it politely, they are otherwise not social animals.
As we learned in our Mammals workshop with LMN-NE (our blog has more info), foxes are called “stump-eared squirrels” and “chuckleheads”. I wonder what it did to get such a name?! We also learned that foxes have one less tooth and are typically found in areas where “cats” aren’t, and vice versa.
They’re helpful in the forest by planting nuts then forgetting about them. Later, young trees emerge. And maybe they will then be reminded where that nut was.
Fox squirrels: helpful, adorable, cunning and [apparently] delicious!
January 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day. Mark your calendar.
You, I and this snake know that most folks don’t take too kindly to the “no shoulders”. Ever since that incident in the garden of Eden way back when … Anyway, I’ve grown much fonder of snakes since I have proven by practice that they are not out to get us. I don’t want to blab on about that and try to convince anyone about anything. What I do want to do is to learn more about this guy and share what I’ve learned.
The rough green snake’s Latin name is Opheodrys aestivus. Thanks to the Illinois Natural History Survey, I’ve learned that Opheodrys comes from two Greek words: ophis meaning “serpent” or “reptile” and drymos, meaning “forest” or “woods”. Aestivus is Latin for “pertaining to summer”. So, we have a forest-dwelling reptile that you can see in the summer, according to its name. We did see one in a bush in 40 degree weather, so that’s a pretty generalized name.
O. aestivus has keeled scales (scales with ridges), similar to rattlesnakes. Could that be why it’s called rough? Certainly its behavior is very well-mannered and genteel, unless you happen to be a caterpillar, tree cricket or a small spider. Today’s rough green snake is nonvenomous, unlike the rattler. Also, unlike the rattler, this snake is primarily diurnal, which means it’s out mostly in the day time. It has big eyes compared to other snakes, and has round pupils. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is a characteristic of diurnal snakes.
Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana says these “non-biting snakes” primarily eat insects and spiders and tend to do so while they are off the ground in trees or bushes. When we have seen rough green snakes, they have been in bushes and near water, as the book mentions.
They’re quite difficult to spot sometimes when the whole world seems green in the height of summer. They do prefer to remain still and camouflaged. If you’ve read this far, maybe you’ll agree that they sound like they’re pretty harmless. I think they look sweet. I do hear (in my mind) all the lady-folk in my family disagreeing: passionately. So, if you’re of a similar mind or not, thanks for reading about the rough green snake and remember you have absolutely nothing to fear from it unless you’re a small arthropod!
Not a new species to report, but rather an old friend by another name.
Wikipedia explains that the Carolina wren’s Latin name is Thryothorus ludovicianus. Thryothorus, not a word said with a lisp, but a combination of two Greek words: thryon meaning “reed” or “rush” and thourus, ultimately meaning “to jump at” or “leap up”. Ludovicianus basically means “of Louisiana”. They do seem to be the busiest birds in the forest–always flittin’ and hoppin’ and tellin’ you like it is.
Their favorite habitats are generally wooded areas near water–thus the need for “reed” in its name. But if you’ve got a little brown, plucky bird with a pert tail living on your porch, you will find another one of the wren’s preferred habitats.
Its call, which sounds like, “liberty, liberty, liberty” is distinctive. The trills and chirps coming from the hedges also tell us that we are in a wren’s territory. I’ve found that wrens will come quite close to us to check us out, and to remind us whose turf we’re on.
Well, wouldn’t you know it! I’m finally getting to learn one bird, and now I’m seeing that there are a slew of other wrens! All About Birds will indeed tell you all you want to know about birds. Here’s the link if you want to learn more about the members of the wren family.
This wee blog is dedicated to my brave and devoted Daddy, Stephen Chason, who finished his race a year ago this Friday. The wren was his favorite bird, and their song will always make me smile.
Have you ever seen mushrooms like this growing on a log? They are pretty to look at and they provide a residence for a variety of tiny insects, mollusks and arachnids. If you wanted to find out what kind of fungi they are, you’d have to “flip” it, like a puppy or a kitten, and find out what it was.
Today I found some good samples to compare. Could they be Turkey Tails? Here’s the pics:
These are also colorful, fan-shaped fungi growing on logs, like our mystery shrooms above. Let’s flip it and see what we can see:
Oh look! Some roly-polies! Now I can’t stop seeing them! But seriously…
The top one has pores; see the little dots? The bottom one is smooth. That means that the top one could be a Turkey Tail and the bottom a False Turkey Tail. There are a bushel of fungi that look like the true Turkey Tail. If you’re keen to learn more about Turkey Tails or just mushrooms in general, check out the Mushroom Expert‘s site and take the Totally True Turkey Tail Test.
Everybody reacts to stress differently. And there are different kinds of stressors. If you’re a plant, stress might come in the form of drought. This plant’s reaction to drought stress, is to dry up. It’s not a simple process. It’s cellular and molecular. It is so complex and cool that it got to go up into space in ’97 on the Space Shuttle Discovery so that it could be observed in zero gravity. So, what kind of feel is it?
It’s a resurrection fern. See the picture of the dried-out crispy-looking fern? It’s ok, don’t be sad! It just hasn’t rained in a while and the fern has gone dormant and is “dealing with life” in that way. Once it rains again, it will look like the picture of the happy-looking fern. It only takes a few hours and it’s all back up and ready to spread its spores in the wind and make new baby ferns, or just hang out and enjoy the scenery. Why does it live in the trees, though?
Normally, as an epiphyte, it hangs out on tree branches, oaks, pecans, cypresses and other types of trees. It doesn’t want anything from the tree, it just needs somewhere to live. It gets all of its nutrients and moisture from the air and rain. Epiphytes are “air plants”, from the Greek words epi and phyton and you get “on top of plant”. Spanish moss is an epiphyte too. But it’s a bromeliad and that’s a “plant” for another day.
Before, when the roly-polies rolled along and said, “hey, you know, we’re not actually bugs”, that got me thinking. What else isn’t a true bug?
I thought that if it was flying around me, crawling on me, or extracting my blood, it must be a bug. They’ve always been ‘bugs’ for as long as I’ve known. Where do you draw the line though? What about ants and caterpillars and spiders? Good grief! Not them too?! Well, it seems that if you want to be a member of the Bug Club (or the order Hemiptera to be precise), you’ll haveto follow the rules:
have three pairs of segmented legs
have an exoskeleton
have a non-retractable probing mouth-part (called a proboscis)
Etiquette and Behavior
have an “incomplete metamorphosis”; skip the larva and pupa business and just be a nymph
participate in ecdysis (where they molt their exoskeleton) five times a year
put your wings over your body when you’re resting
use your scent gland when necessary
L. phyllopus nymphs
L. phyllopus adult
All bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs. (The world gets weirder and more wonderful every day.) So whenever you meet a true bug, make sure that it’s following the rules. 😉