Imperial Moth authored by John Gerwin
This evening I nearly stepped on the dark larva pictured below. Glad I didn’t, as I might have twisted an ankle! This is the caterpillar of an Imperial Moth. A few years ago, in early August, I found a recently emerged adult in our front yard, and I’ve attached a couple images of that. It’s a lovely form indeed. Depending on the light, the darker color varies in intensity but always seems to be some form of violet. I believe this is a male, with so much violet.
The larva apparently comes in two flavors, and both are shown here. The green guy we found at Durant Park last year in late September. Larva seem to be most common in September/October. I’m used to thinking of a “brown” form of caterpillar like this as a “pre-pupal” stage. This species pupates in the soil and I presume it was crawling across the parking lot to find some suitable soil. Instead, it now finds itself in a garden plot of ours out back! (with nice loose, loamy soil and plenty of soft dead leaves).
On the latter few dark form images, the flash highlights the animals colors more than what we could see in the kitchen light. When we found it, it was already getting dark outside, so I don’t know what “natural light” would show – it’s dark to be sure but the greenish cast is there. The spiny knobs were definitely visible in any light. When it extended itself on the kitchen counter it was 5+ inches in length.
IN 1909 naturalist/author Gene Stratton Porter wrote a novel entitled “The Girl of the Limberlost”. Porter was considered one the most popular female novelists of that era – by the time of her death in 1924, 10 million copies of her various books had been sold. In the above mentioned novel, Elnora is a young (nerdy?) woman with a penchant for nature study. Growing up fatherless and mostly alone in a poor rural Indiana setting, one thing she does is learn to collect and sell nature objects, including moths. I have not read the novel but apparently the Imperial Moth is prominently featured……….
A real treat!
Authored by Jeff Beane
Wake Audubon’s Wildathon took place on May 5-6. This was the first year that we conducted our survey on a weekday. Our “24-Hour Dream Team” members were Jeff Beane, Ed Corey, Bob Davis, John Finnegan, Stephanie Horton. We counted all vertebrates.
|Mon., 8:05 a.m. For the 8th consecutive year, we kicked off our event with Eastern Glass Lizards (three of them this time) at Carolina Beach.|
We officially began our count at 8:05 a.m. on 5 May and ended at 8:05 a.m. on 6 May. Beane, Corey, Davis, and Horton participated for the entire 24 hours; Finnegan took a sleep break between ca. 12:30 and 5:30 a.m. Our search included portions of Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, New Hanover, Pender, Richmond, Robeson, and Scotland counties, NC. We began at 1208 Canal Drive (ca. 1.0 airmi. NNE Carolina Beach) in New Hanover County and ended on the Sandhills Game Lands WNW of Hoffman in Richmond County.The weather was mostly sunny and breezy, with temperatures slightly lower than average, especially at night; no precipitation; high temperatures in the 80sºF and lows in the 50sºF.
|Mon., 1:58 p.m. Corey and Horton scan for more species from the Ft. Fisher-Southport ferry.|
Techniques: Most species were observed via visual and auditory searches, while walking and driving. Binoculars and a spotting scope were used to assist in viewing many species. Several species were taken in dipnets, seines, minnow traps, and drift fences; and several were found by turning logs, boards, sheet metal, leaf litter, or other surface cover. One bat species was confirmed via an Anabat detector. Several species were observed only as road-kills or otherwise dead specimens; these are noted by an asterisk (*).
Raja eglanteria Clearnose Skate
Anguilla rostrata American Eel
Brevoortia tyrannus Atlantic Menhaden *
Umbra pygmaea Eastern Mudminnow
Esox americanus Redfin Pickerel
Esox niger Chain Pickerel
Clinostomus funduloides Rosyside Dace
Hybopsis hypsinotus Highback Chub
Nocomis leptocephalus Bluehead Chub
Notropis altipinnis Highfin Shiner
Notropis chiliticus Redlip Shiner
Notropis maculatus Taillight Shiner
Notropis petersoni Coastal Shiner
Minytrema melanops Spotted Sucker
Noturus insignis Margined Madtom
Pylodictis olivaris Flathead Catfish *
Chologaster cornuta Swampfish
Aphredoderus sayanus Pirate Perch
Fundulus chrysotus Golden Topminnow
Fundulus heteroclitus Mummichog
Fundulus lineolatus Lined Topminnow
Fundulus luciae Spotfin Killifish
Fundulus waccamensis Waccamaw Killifish
Lucania parva Rainwater Killifish
Gambusia holbrooki Eastern Mosquitofish
Heterandria formosa Least Killifish
Menidia menidia Atlantic Silverside
Chaenobryttus gulosus Warmouth
Enneacanthus chaetodon Black-banded Sunfish
Enneacanthus gloriosus Blue-spotted Sunfish
Lepomis auritus Redbreast Sunfish
Lepomis gibbosus Pumpkinseed
Lepomis macrochirus Bluegill
Lepomis marginatus Dollar Sunfish
Lepomis microlophus Redear Sunfish
Micropterus salmoides Largemouth Bass
Pomoxis nigromaculatus Black Crappie
Elassoma boehlkei Carolina Pygmy Sunfish
Elassoma evergladei Everglades Pygmy Sunfish
Elassoma zonatum Banded Pygmy Sunfish
Etheostoma [flabellare] brevispinum Carolina Fantail Darter
Etheostoma olmstedi Tessellated Darter
Centropristis striata Black Sea Bass
Morone americanus White Perch *
Archosargus probatocephalus Sheepshead *
Lagodon rhomboides Pinfish
Leiostomus xanthurus Spot
Micropogonias undulatus Atlantic Croaker
Mugil curema White Mullet
Necturus punctatus Dwarf Waterdog
Ambystoma tigrinum Eastern Tiger Salamander
Notophthalmus viridescens dorsalis Broken-striped Newt
Desmognathus fuscus Northern Dusky Salamander
Eurycea n. sp. “Sandhills Eurycea”
Eurycea cirrigera Southern Two-lined Salamander
Plethodon chlorobryonis Atlantic Coast Slimy Salamander
Scaphiopus holbrookii Eastern Spadefoot
Bufo [= Anaxyrus] terrestris Southern Toad
Acris gryllus Southern Cricket Frog
Hyla andersonii Pine Barrens Treefrog
Hyla chrysoscelis Cope’s Gray Treefrog
Hyla cinerea Green Treefrog
Hyla femoralis Pine Woods Treefrog
Hyla gratiosa Barking Treefrog
Hyla squirella Squirrel Treefrog
Pseudacris crucifer Spring Peeper
Gastrophryne carolinensis Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad
Rana catesbeiana [Lithobates catesbeianus] American Bullfrog
Rana [= Lithobates] clamitans Green Frog
Rana [= Lithobates] palustris Pickerel Frog
Rana sphenocephala [= Lithobates sphenocephalus] Southern Leopard Frog
Rana [= Lithobates] virgatipes Carpenter Frog
Alligator mississippiensis American Alligator
Kinosternon subrubrum Eastern Mud Turtle
Sternotherus odoratus Eastern Musk Turtle
Pseudemys concinna [floridana] River Cooter (“Florida Cooter” types)
Terrapene carolina Eastern Box Turtle
Trachemys scripta Yellow-bellied Slider
Anolis carolinensis Green Anole
Cnemidophorus sexlineatus [= Aspidoscelis sexlineata] Six-lined Racerunner
Eumeces [= Plestiodon] fasciatus Five-lined Skink
Eumeces [= Plestiodon] inexpectatus Southeastern Five-lined Skink
Eumeces [= Plestiodon] laticeps Broadhead Skink
Scincella lateralis Ground Skink
Ophisaurus ventralis Eastern Glass Lizard
Coluber constrictor Black Racer
Elaphe guttata [= Pantherophis guttatus, etc.] Corn Snake
Elaphe obsoleta [= Pantherophis obsoletus, etc.] Rat Snake
Farancia abacura Mud Snake *
Nerodia fasciata Banded Water Snake
Nerodia taxispilota Brown Water Snake
Opheodrys aestivus Rough Green Snake *
Pituophis melanoleucus Northern Pine Snake *
Storeria dekayi Brown Snake *
Storeria occipitomaculata Red-bellied Snake
Tantilla coronata Southeastern Crowned Snake
Agkistrodon contortrix Copperhead *
Agkistrodon piscivorus Cottonmouth *
Aix sponsa Wood Duck
Anas platyrhynchos Mallard
Branta canadensis Canada Goose
Colinus virginianus Northern Bobwhite
Meleagris gallopavo Wild Turkey
Phalacrocorax auritus Double-crested Cormorant
Anhinga anhinga Anhinga
Pelecanus occidentalis Brown Pelican
Ardea alba Great Egret
Ardea herodias Great Blue Heron
Bubulcus ibis Cattle Egret
Butorides virescens Green Heron
Egretta caerulea Little Blue Heron
Egretta thula Snowy Egret
Egretta tricolor Tricolored Heron
Eudocimus albus White Ibis
Cathartes aura Turkey Vulture
Coragyps atratus Black Vulture
Pandion haliaetus Osprey
Buteo lineatus Red-shouldered Hawk
Haliaeetus leucocephalus Bald Eagle
Fulica americana American Coot
Rallus longirostris Clapper Rail
Charadrius semipalmatus Semipalmated Plover
Charadrius vociferus Killdeer
Charadrius wilsonia Wilson’s Plover
Pluvialis squatarola Black-bellied Plover
Haematopus palliatus American Oystercatcher
Arenaria interpres Ruddy Turnstone
Actitis macularia Spotted Sandpiper
Calidris alba Sanderling
Calidris alpina Dunlin
Calidris minutilla Least Sandpiper
Calidris pusilla Semipalmated Sandpiper
Limnodromus griseus Short-billed Dowitcher
Limosa fedoa Marbled Godwit
Numenius phaeopus Whimbrel
Tringa melanoleuca Greater Yellowlegs
Tringa semipalmata Willet
Larus argentatus Herring Gull
Larus delawarensis Ring-billed Gull
Larus marinus Great Black-backed Gull
Leucophaeus [= Larus] atricilla Laughing Gull
Gelochelidon [= Sterna] nilotica Gull-billed Tern
Rhynchops niger Black Skimmer
Sterna forsteri Forster’s Tern
Sterna hirundo Common Tern
Sternula antillarum Least Tern
Thalasseus maximus [= Sterna maxima] Royal Tern
Thalasseus [= Sterna] sandvicensis Sandwich Tern
Columba livia Rock Pigeon
Streptopelia decaocto Eurasian Collared-Dove
Zenaida macroura Mourning Dove
Coccyzus americanus Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Strix varia Barred Owl
Caprimulgus carolinensis Chuck-Will’s-Widow
Caprimulgus vociferus Whip-Poor-Will
Chordeiles minor Common Nighthawk
Chaetura pelagica Chimney Swift
Archilochus colubris Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Megaceryle alcyon Belted Kingfisher
Colaptes auratus Northern Flicker
Dryocopus pileatus Pileated Woodpecker
Melanerpes carolinus Red-bellied Woodpecker
Melanerpes erythrocephalus Red-headed Woodpecker
Picoides borealis Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Picoides pubescens Downy Woodpecker
Picoides villosus Hairy Woodpecker
Contopus virens Eastern Wood-Pewee
Empidonax virescens Acadian Flycatcher
Myiarchus crinitus Great Crested Flycatcher
Sayornis phoebe Eastern Phoebe
Tyrannus tyrannus Eastern Kingbird
Lanius ludovicianus Loggerhead Shrike
Vireo flavifrons Yellow-throated Vireo
Vireo griseus White-eyed Vireo
Vireo olivaceus Red-eyed Vireo
Corvus brachyrhynchos American Crow
Corvus ossifragus Fish Crow
Cyanocitta cristata Blue Jay
Hirundo rustica Barn Swallow
Progne subis Purple Martin
Stelgidopteryx serripennis Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Baeolophus bicolor Tufted Titmouse
Poecile carolinensis Carolina Chickadee
Sitta carolinensis White-breasted Nuthatch
Sitta pusilla Brown-headed Nuthatch
Thryothorus ludovicianus Carolina Wren
Polioptila caerulea Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Catharus ustulatus Swainson’s Thrush
Hylocichla mustelina Wood Thrush
Sialia sialis Eastern Bluebird
Turdus migratorius American Robin
Dumetella carolinensis Gray Catbird
Mimus polyglottos Northern Mockingbird
Toxostoma rufum Brown Thrasher
Sturnus vulgaris European Starling
Bombycilla cedrorum Cedar Waxwing
Geothlypis formosa Kentucky Warbler
Geothlypis trichas Common Yellowthroat
Icteria virens Yellow-breasted Chat
Limnothlypis swainsonii Swainson’s Warbler
Mniotilta varia Black-and-White Warbler
Parkesia motacilla Louisiana Waterthrush
Parkesia noveboracensis Northern Waterthrush
Protonotaria citrea Prothonotary Warbler
Seiurus aurocapillus Ovenbird
Setophaga americana Northern Parula
Setophaga caerulescens Black-throated Blue Warbler
Setophaga citrina Hooded Warbler
Setophaga coronata Yellow-rumped Warbler
Setophaga discolor Prairie Warbler
Setophaga dominica Yellow-throated Warbler
Setophaga magnolia Magnolia Warbler
Setophaga petechia Yellow Warbler
Setophaga pinus Pine Warbler
Setophaga ruticilla American Redstart
Piranga rubra Summer Tanager
Aimophila aestivalis Bachman’s Sparrow
Melospiza georgiana Swamp Sparrow
Pipilo erythrophthalmus Eastern Towhee
Spizella passerina Chipping Sparrow
Spizella pusilla Field Sparrow
Cardinalis cardinalis Northern Cardinal
Passerina caerulea Blue Grosbeak
Passerina ciris Painted Bunting
Passerina cyanea Indigo Bunting
Agelaius phoeniceus Red-winged Blackbird
Icterus spurius Orchard Oriole
Molothrus ater Brown-headed Cowbird
Sturnella magna Eastern Meadowlark
Quiscalus major Boat-tailed Grackle
Quiscalus quiscula Common Grackle
Carpodacus mexicanus House Finch
Passer domesticus House Sparrow
Didelphis virginiana Virginia Opossum
Blarina carolinensis Southern Short-tailed Shrew
Corynorhinus rafinesquii Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat
Eptesicus fuscus Big Brown Bat
Lasiurus borealis Red Bat
Procyon lotor Common Raccoon
Canis latrans Coyote
Urocyon cinereoargenteus Gray Fox
Sciurus carolinensis Eastern Gray Squirrel
Sciurus niger Eastern Fox Squirrel
Microtus pinetorum Pine Vole
Peromyscus leucopus White-footed Mouse *
Sigmodon hispidus Hispid Cotton Rat
Sylvilagus floridanus Eastern Cottontail
Odocoileus virginianus White-tailed Deer
|Mon., 8:11 a.m. Minnow traps yielded Pinfish and several other species. Our hard work on fishes this year paid off.|
|Mon., 8:30 a.m. Green Anole makes an early appearance; Davis spotted this displaying male 25 minutes in.|
|Mon, 9:01 a.m. One of North Carolina’s most common snakes, this Black Racer at Carolina Beach was one of five turned up during the event.|
|Mon., 8:52 a.m. One of North Carolina’s smallest snake species, the tiny Red-bellied Snake is not often encountered during our Wildathons, but this year’s event turned up four. This red phase individual, found under a coverboard at Carolina Beach State Park, was the first snake we encountered.|
|Mon., 9:07 a.m. Most mammals are secretive and not easily observed. This Eastern Fox Squirrel at Carolina Beach State Park was one of two seen during this year’s event.|
|Mon., 9:23 a.m. North Carolina’s largest hylid, the Barking Treefrog is a species we often miss on our Wildathons, but this year we scored this adult, plus another calling, at Carolina Beach State Park.|
|Mon., 10:33 a.m. Birds, like this male Boat-tailed Grackle at Carolina Beach Lake, are always our most abundant and readily detectable vertebrate class.|
|Mon., 10:00 a.m. For flashy, it’s hard to beat a Painted Bunting. This banded male was one of several visiting the feeders at Carolina Beach State Park.|
|Mon., 12 noon. Gull-billed Terns are not the easiest species to get on Wildathons, but we observed several at Ft. Fisher State Recreational Area in Brunswick Co.|
|Mon., 12:17 p.m. Forster’s, Royal, and Sandwich were among the seven tern species we observed during the event.|
|Mon., 12:26 p.m. This Black-bellied Plover, at Fort Fisher State Recreational Area, was already in breeding plumage.|
|Mon., 1:20 p.m. American Oystercatcher and Whimbrel at Ft. Fisher State Recreational Area. We did fairly well on shorebirds this year.|
|Mon., 5:01 p.m. The Brown Water Snakes at White Marsh “hang thick from the cypress trees like sausages on a smokehouse wall.”|
|Tues., 3:06 a.m. A late-night run up into the Uwharries paid off with several predominately Piedmont species, like this Pickerel Frog, spotted (no pun intended) on a stream bank in Montgomery County.|
|Tues., 4:27 a.m. North Carolina’s newly designated State Frog, the beautiful Pine Barrens Treefrog, is uncommon, very locally distributed, and often difficult to find. This male was one of several heard calling in Richmond County in the pre-dawn hours.|
We counted only those species that we could positively identify to the agreement of our team. Big “misses” (species that we certainly should have observed, based on where and how we applied our efforts) included Snapping Turtle, Red-tailed Hawk, American Goldfinch, Atlantic Bottle-nosed Dolphin, and a few others. We recorded a few species not found on any of our previous Wildathons.
Our total species count of 248 was the highest of the 24-hour Dream Team’s 15 Wildathons to date (our previous record was 235, in 2013). For the 8th straight year, it was a pleasure to begin the event with Ophisaurus ventralis (we found three) at Carolina Beach in New Hanover County, in the backyard of the former home of the late Ms. Myrtle Curry, mother of team member Bob Davis. The last species recorded was Pseudacris crucifer, of which two tadpoles were dipped in a small pond on Sandhills Game Lands in Richmond County with less than a minute remaining. The cool weather and wind at night, and the lack of any precipitation, almost certainly hurt our chances with some amphibian and reptile species, and “road-cruising”—usually very effective for amphibians and reptiles—was less effective than usual this year. We salvaged five road-killed snakes (two Elaphe guttata, two Farancia abacura, one Storeria dekayi) for the collections of the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences, and also collected some Notropis maculatus for the Museum. Many observational records for various species were added to the Museum’s files and the NC Natural Heritage Program’s database.
This was the first time in 15 years that we had attempted a Wildathon over weekdays, and we slightly preferred that to the usual weekend event (fewer people encountered, less traffic).
We dedicate this Wildathon to the late Jack Dermid (wildlife photographer extraordinaire, 1923-2014); to the late Renaldo Kuhler (scientific illustrator extraordinaire and possibly the most unusual person I ever met, 1931-2013); to all our sponsors; and to all wild, free things everywhere.
We thank everyone who pledged our team this year, especially in light of the difficult financial times. At this point, our pledged sponsors include Sunny Allen, Ronn Altig, Rudy Arndt, Jeff Beane, Brady Beck & Laura Teeter, Ann Bilobrowka, Art Bogan, Hal Broadfoot, Alan Cameron, Bob Cherry, Amanda Chunco, John Connors, Ed Corey, Bob Davis & Judy Morgan-Davis, Kelly Davis, Angie & Bill DeLozier, Tom Driscoll, John Finnegan & Stephanie Horton, Martha Fisk, Bob Flook, Jim Green, Jeff Hall, Diane Hardy, Andy Harrison, T.J. Hilliard, Linda Jones, Susan Kelemen, Kelley & Yancy King, Jane & Craig Lawrence, Greg Lewbart & Diane Deresienski, Roland Kays, Gerry Luginbuhl, Ellen Lyle, Jeff Marcus, Bob Oberfelder, Zach Orr, Chip Parnell, Jo Ann Parnell, Anne Porter, Linda Rudd, Annie Runyon, Jessie Schillaci, Melody Scott, Kim Smart, Don Stanger, Joanne St. Clair, Dorothy Stowe, Paulette Van de Zande, Peter Warny, Kari Wouk, and almost certainly some others we may have inadvertently left out. Special thanks to Ed Corey for allowing use of his personal vehicle, to Nate Shepard for assistance with setting minnow traps in the NC Sandhills, and to the staff at Carolina Beach State Park and Ft. Fisher State Recreational Area for providing special access. Jeff Beane and Bob Davis provided lodging. Monies raised will be used to support the usual projects (Audubon’s Coastal Island Sanctuaries, local Wake Audubon projects, Project Bog Turtle, and Project Simus). Your generous support is greatly appreciated! You are the reason we keep doing it every year.
If you have not already done so, please send your pledges to the address below (or give them to any of our team members or to Wake Audubon Treasurer John Gerwin) as soon as possible. Make checks payable to “Wake Audubon” (or “NC Herpetological Society” if you want to donate only to those projects). You can also use the PayPal option on Wake Audubon’s website (under “donate” down on the left side of the home page), but please indicate that your donation is for the Wildathon, and let us know that you’ve paid via that option. Please contact one of us if you have any other questions.
We thoroughly enjoyed the event, and we are already looking forward to participating again next year. Sincere thanks from all of us!
By John Gerwin
“Angle-wings” refers to a group of well-named butterflies with very angular edges to their wings.
I recently learned that there is reference to “Angel Wings” on the Internet, referring to butterflies, apparently these same ones. A typo no doubt. But this reminds me that there are tropical butterflies with clear wings, often called, sure enough “Clearwing butterflies”. I just photographed one species in Nicaragua, which I will include for reference. To me, a butterfly with clear wings seems more like an angel. But, back to our geometrically-enhanced leps………….
The two common species of angle-wings around our area are the Comma, and Question Mark. They’re quite similar to each other. Not in a punctuation-syntax way, but rather, morphologically. These are black and orange butterflies, with cryptic, darkly colored patterns underneath that blend in well with the bark of a tree (but not our orange house, as seen below). It is the underside that best determines the correct syntax, er, species – a shiny crescent on a dark background with or without the diacritical point. These species exhibit some variation in the amount of black on the upperside of the wings. They are pugnacious little devils as well, “attacking” all manner of fauna that may walk or fly by too close (and they determine what is “too close”). Comma and Question Mark larvae feed on nettles and elms; and the Question Mark will also feed on Hackberry. Both butterfly species are regular in our area, but I see more Question Marks (perhaps a reflection of my general outlook on life). Indeed, the April 2014 picture included below is my first Comma for the yard. Adults of both species hibernate over the winter, and you can often find one out and about on a warmer/sunny winter day. Hmmmm, I wonder if anyone saw any angle-wings this past winter. Notable, adults of these two species seldom visit flowers: they prefer to feed at rotting fruit, tree sap, and/or animal droppings (they would make fine….. well, never mind). Here are images of these butterflies. Also included is a Question Mark caterpillar from the Uwharries – and, as mentioned, a clearwing species from Nicaragua. As far as I know, no one has described a “Semi-colon” or “Exclamation Point” butterfly – yet.
Comma, dorsal view Comma, underside – note clear “comma”
Question Mark, dorsal view Question Mark, underside
Question Mark caterpillar photographed in the Uwharrie Mountains
Clearwing species of butterfly photographed in Nicaraqua
All photos by John Gerwin
Miner Bees Anthophora abrupta.
By Annie Runyon and Gerry Luginbuhl
Below is a photo of a lovely group of the miner bee nest holes. They are active during dry weather for a short time right now. The males emerge, mate and then die soon afterward, leaving the females to rebuild these ground nests. They are active in the middle of the day, rather than morning-evening when it is cooler. Each female has a separate nest chamber. She’ll be busy laying her eggs, building little waxy walls inside to keep her offspring snug and bringing lots of pollen in to pack with the eggs for the larvae to eat. After all this labor she will not live long, but her offspring will develop over the year and emerge again next spring. They are solitary (although do build beside one another) and are not aggressive about defending their nests the way honey bees defend the hive. They are good early season pollinators … important members of our communities! Please don’t disturb them, they are only active for about a month.
Look closely and you can see one of the bees.
By Annie Runyon, Board Member
This summer I received a beautiful gift. The Bluebird Effect, Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) written and illustrated by Julie Zickefoose. Ms. Zickefoose writes about her life with the wild birds she rescues and releases. She blends her own personal observations with natural history, using humor, words and art. Her sketches reflect her careful observation, and her watercolor paintings color her stories beautifully.
Reading The Bluebird Effect prompted me to reread two beloved older, but still in print, books about bird life with illustrations by the authors.
Joe Hutto’s Illumination in the Flatwoods, A Season Living Among the Wild Turkey (The Lyon’s Press, 1995) is a companion to the PBS Television Special My Life as a Turkey.
Bernd Heinrich’s Ravens in Winter (Vintage Books 1991) is one of many beautiful books written by an this extraordinary academic field biologist.
Each book offers careful observation, humor and thoughtful questions yet to be answered. Perfect for a winter’s evening read, and for a good gift.
by Annie Runyon (photos and sketches by the author)
Back in the fall of 2011, I decided to collect a few slugs and snails from my yard to study. I needed to illustrate “Slippery, Stealthy Slugs” written by Susan Carl for Wildlife in North Carolina magazine.
Top left to right: white-lipped globe snail, 2 three-toothed snails. Lower left to right: sow bug, and several three-band garden slugs.
The three-tooth snails laid a few eggs in the moss and I had tiny snails after a while. The white-lipped globe snail, Globe, was a bold explorer and loved to munch on mushrooms. The juvenile three-band garden slugs were speedy and devoured fresh lettuce.
One chilly evening in January 2012, I went outside to bring in firewood and discovered a handsome slug snuggled in the woodpile. I placed it in my terrarium. It was quite different from the non-native species I had collected.
Art Bogan, from the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, and Megan Paustian, from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, helped me identify this native as a changeable mantleslug, (Megapallifera mutabilis) … or Slide for short.
This is Globe.
The leopard slug was too large, active and slimy to live comfortably in my small terrarium. After drawing, I released the leopard on a holly trunk.
Slide seemed upset by the other non-native slugs. Slide moved to a corner, produced copious slime, scrunched up and stank off! So I put the slugs in separate terrariums, and soon released the non-natives. Slide and Globe lived peacefully together …
Changeable mantleslugs (Megapallifera mutabilis) forage for fungi and lichen in the tree canopy. I gathered fallen branches with fungi for Slide to eat. These native slugs shelter together in moist nooks and crannies in the trees and under logs on the ground. They stretch way out and twist all about; gliding up, over and under with grace. Mantleslugs sometimes contract into a hard lump when frightened. All slugs breath through an opening, called the pneumostome, located on their right side, shown in my sketch below.
On February 11, 2012 at midnight, Slide laid a cluster of eggs (more than 20) in my terrarium. Then she rested. (I figure I can call this hermaphrodite a female while laying eggs!) Next morning she stretched and nibbled on lichen. Slide laid more eggs on February 26, 2012 and on March 9, 2012 her first eggs began to hatch.
Slide and her babies, of various ages, eat together.
Slide continued to lay egg clusters for the next three months. Whenever the weather was wet and warm, I would release her babies onto my maple trees where other slugs roamed. I finally released Slide after she laid her sixth egg cluster. At midnight on May 4, 2012, Slide glided up a big wet maple and disappeared in the canopy. Her offspring are growing and doing well.
Certain predators are happy to thin the backyard slug herd!
Look in mesic wooded habitats (well-supplied with moisture) for these handsome native slugs. In the morning after a rain, you may find them moving down the trees. During the night, look for them climbing up to search for food and mates.
By John Gerwin
I have loved the song of the Gray Tree Frog for as many years as I can remember. And I have been not-so-secretly envious of our neighbors up the street, who have had 2-3 of them in their front yard for all the years we’ve lived here. But that was it for our neighborhood. Just a few frogs in their front yard, singing gloriously in weather like this year, but none elsewhere. I was whining about this to Jesse one day and he said “Not a problem! I have 100’s of tadpoles. I’ll bring you some, and you can raise and release them.” And so he did, and so I did. It wasn’t difficult, as I had a few extra rain barrels, and all I had to do was toss some “fish food” into the water once or twice/day. And so one of the barrels became the tree frog nursery. By August, there were ~100 teenager frogs heading out into the world on their own. I was amazed when two days later I found a Garter Snake alongside the small pond we have by our front porch, which is where I had placed a few dozen of these youngsters. How do they know?
Over the ensuing two years, the gray tree frogs, and their namesake, expanded. The species has been thought of as two species for a long time – frogologists have known of vocal and chromosomal differences for many years – and those in the know, well, knew. Other than voice or genes, the two species are indistinguishable. But it seems only recently that all this has been formalized, and the rest of us now know “ours” as the Cope’s Gray Tree Frog.
We began hearing several individuals along the edge of our neighborhood lake last year. And this year, many more – sometimes I can hear six individuals calling at once. And, this year, we finally had some in our front yard. I was able to get a variety of pictures, and one decent video/audio of one singing away below my home office window.
This is clearly a great year to be a frog, and each night that we walk the dog, we are finding up to 5 species of frogs. And to our delight, these include both Cope’s Gray and Green tree frogs – we have found (and moved) at least 4 gray’s this year (vs. one in the previous 8 years). The Cope’s have a nice splash of yellow (or orange) in the groin area, which is, as you might expect, a bit tough to see unless you pry open some frog legs. Which is precisely what I did the other night, to get some pictures. I was quite elated to get these images and just to be fondling another tree frog – they will often sit perched on my finger while I admire them. After finishing my frog groin exposé, I went inside to get ready for bed, which included removing my contacts. It was very soon thereafter that I was reminded that these tree frogs have a potent little, mucous-membrane irritating skin toxin – their way of saying “Hey, we hardly know each other!” “Mucous-membrane” would include the eyes; and boy did they burn for a while (about an hour). All I could do was keep rinsing with cold water, and wait (oh, and complain vociferously).
I have found surprisingly little info reported on the Internet about the toxin itself. Indeed, via a “frog forum” where a few folks wrote in to describe their own membranous experiences, one person posted a link to a research poster from 2011 that claims to be a report of the first chemical characterization of the peptide contained within the skin secretion. That peptide is the main culprit. I found this intriguing to say the least. There is so much for us to learn…….. Which could include listening to what your Mother told you – “please wash your hands before you…….”
I have included 4 images. There are a few more, which you can view at this link:
The link will take you to my Dropbox account where I have set up a folder for this blog. Included is the R-rated “thigh” shot (not to be missed….). I’ve also included a video with audio of a gray tree frog singing on one of our tables out front. This individual, also in some of the images, appears to be missing one (the left) eye. The video is ~50 seconds. The filesize is large at 25MB so can’t be attached!
We found, and I promptly fondled, another Gray TFrg tonight while walking the dog. Just sitting in the intersection of Melbourne/Ravenwood/Grove. I must say, the really blend in well with the asphalt. I moved it……. to the side of a tree of course.
By John Gerwin
I love serendipity, especially when it involves nature. One of my former field technicians, who worked for me for four different seasons, still lives and works in Raleigh (and pet sits for us now and then). Sarah and Kathy are in a book club together, and Kathy had asked her if she would help pull some ivy vines. So the other day, Sarah drove over very early in the morning, and was rather excited as she came in, exclaiming “Come see this adorable moth on my car!” So we did, and indeed, it was adorable, and then some. Adorable is a good word because this moth was clinging to a door, her car door, and had done so while Sarah drove from her house near Cameron Village to ours. Sarah proudly announced: “I drove really slow so it wouldn’t get blown off.” Now, that’s a good field tech! (But can you imagine the look from a police officer when hearing THAT explanation…..?).
When a moth, (or butterfly), emerges from its pupa and gets it wings stretched and ready, the animal is “fresh” and looks its best. Over time, scales will be scraped off, the wing edges become a bit tattered, perhaps a bird has taken a chunk of wing out, and such an individual looks rather ‘weathered’. The moth on Sarah’s car door had clearly emerged recently, as it looked spectacular.
The images show an Oakworm Moth, a fairly common “species.” This individual is a female (and the “head” shot reminds me of something from Alice in Wonderland). Upon checking a couple good Internet sources, I found there is some intriguing uncertainty about what we call the taxonomy, and “relatedness,” of this and other similar species. As we develop more sophisticated tools to study nature, and how species have evolved, our idea of what constitutes a “species” has evolved as well.
I couldn’t quite tell how many species of “oakworm” moths are in our area, but it looked like 3. They are in the genus Anisota. The one pictured appears to be the Spiny Oakworm type. I conferred with 1 entomologist with the Natural Heritage program, and this is the species he thinks it is. He also relayed that this species prefers a drier oak-hickory forest, which would include Post Oak. Post Oak is a common oak around Raleigh, at least in Avent West and nearby neighborhoods.
Oakworm Moth larvae feed on a variety of oak species. Adults are seen in our area primarily from late June through August. An interesting behavior is that other Oakworm males fly during the day; whereas the Spiny will fly at night, and thus is generally the only Oakworm that is attracted to lights. Females will fly day or night but are often seen during the day, when mating typically occurs. Another interesting tidbit is that this moth is also a “silkworm moth.” So, it is related to the Luna, Cecropia and Polyphemus moths; and helps explain the “no mouth” look – indeed, it has no mouth parts for feeding. Silkworm moths do not feed as adults. As adults, they live about a week during which time they mate, the females lay eggs, and that’s it.
THIS JUST IN! Gerwin found a larva getting ready to pupate…cool, huh?
By Brandt (Wake Audubon Young Naturalist since 2010)
Participation in the Young Naturalists Club’s outings has given me some of the best adventures of my life. Take the last excursion, for example. We went on an over-night trip to explore and camp in the Uwharrie National Forest, an ancient and almost mystical place in the center of our state. Mr. Gerwin and Mr. Sean were our intrepid leaders. Their knowledge about every living thing we encountered was amazing. My favorite discovery on the trail was the purple coral fungus, clavaria zollingeri:
Isn’t it cool? I read that it grows in coniferous areas all across Canada and southward in mountain areas. So that’s why we found it in the Uwharrie’s.
At a stream on our first hike, Lily, The Fearless, and Sean showed me proper crayfish holding technique. It was the first time I ever held a crayfish. Mr. (or Mrs.?) Crayfish was a good size for a beginner – not big enough to pinch hard:
Camping was fun. We enjoyed roasted marshmallows over the campfire. One of my marshmallows turned into a chemistry experiment as it reduced itself to a black mass of carbon – I guess I toasted it a little TOO long. We were all tired out from the day, but it was hard to get to sleep because some of the neighbors were pretty noisy until late at night. Around 5 am we had a surprise visitor. A whip-poor-will flew right into our campsite and landed on the picnic bench! He gave a rousing serenade before flying off again. He must have received word that we were all disappointed about not hearing any Nightjars during the YNC Nightjar Survey at Jordan Lake. He made up for that!
On Day 2 of our trip, we visited the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness area. That’s a nice unspoiled area; a place where you can escape the crazy, noisy, hustle and bustle of modern life. We saw a great specimen of a Hognose Snake:
Even in these mountains, it was getting hot and sticky by the end of the trail. We all felt like Roger, the guide dog puppy, and wanted to cool off in the stream:
The one thing I would have liked to have missed on the trip were the chiggers. I’m still itching! The whole idea that a mite too small to see can unleash enzymes that turn parts of me into its personal protein smoothie is just gross. Dealing with the leftovers of its stylostome “straw” in one’s skin is maddening, to say the least. Next time, I’ll be ready with more bug defenses.
I’m looking forward to the next YNC outing to Grandfather Mountain. I love the Boone area. See you there!
(The Wake Audubon Young Naturalist Club offers youth ages 12-18 opportunities to explore nature together. Monthly outings include environmental service projects, local bird walks and full-day adventures from the mountains to the coast.)
By Annie Runyon
I found these longleaf cones (flowers) at Harris Lake this past week.
You can see the cluster of purple male cones (or catkins) above, and 2 female cones growing below the pointy growing tip of a new branch.
Our longleaf pine sprouted its first catkins in our yard this spring.
It has joined with all the other neighborhood pines, mostly loblolly and a few short leaf,
releasing clouds of bright yellow pollen into the air.
Now we know it is the tiny pollen grains from the oaks, red cedars and hickories that are likely causing our allergies … but the pine pollens are the bigger, showy ones that we notice. AND people are grumbling. POLLEN IS EVERYWHERE! This abundance assures these wind-pollinated trees that their cones will produce seeds, and that new tree seedlings will sprout.
Perhaps this generous dusting of protein-rich pollen seeping into the soil with April’s showers will also help to fertilize and nourish all of the surrounding plants. Perhaps pollen is a spring tonic for the whole forest.