Archive for the ‘NatureShare’ Category

Dinosaurs Found in Nevada!

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Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Grallator tracks are those footprints made by small theropod dinosaurs (two-legged, three-toed, meat-eating dinosaurs.) The tracks and trackways were made 180 to 190 million years ago during the Early Jurassic period and are found in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Photo courtesy of BLM

Dinosaurs Found in Nevada!

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) paleontologists have confirmed fossilized tracks (footprints) made 180 to 190 million years ago in sandstone within Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This is the first documented dinosaur tracksite in Nevada.

Dubbed the Red Rock Tracksite, dozens of tracks from the Early Jurassic period have currently been documented.

Red Rocks, Nevada Photo Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

At this point, two types of tracks and trackways are recognized from the site:

  • Grallator tracks are footprints made by small theropod dinosaurs (two-legged, three-toed, meat-eating dinosaurs)
  • Octopodichnus tracks are footprints made by arthropods (possibly similar to modern spiders and scorpions)

Grallator tracks are those footprints made by small theropod dinosaurs (two-legged, three-toed, meat-eating dinosaurs.) The tracks and trackways were made 180 to 190 million years ago during the Early Jurassic period and are found in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The sheet shows an ID of Grallator track. Photo Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

Because of the fragile nature of fossils such as these, the specific location of the Red Rock Tracksite is not being released at this time.

Grallator tracks are those footprints made by small theropod dinosaurs (two-legged, three-toed, meat-eating dinosaurs.) The tracks and trackways were made 180 to 190 million years ago during the Early Jurassic period and are found in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The bar in the photo is used for 3D photo imagery and is about one foot long. Photo Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

BLM will partner with researchers to collect more data and further research the tracksite as well as create a monitoring plan and management plan.

Red Rocks, Nevada Photo Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

An interpretive display about the Red Rock Tracksite will soon be available at the visitor center and more information will also be posted on the BLM website.

Grallator tracks are those footprints made by small theropod dinosaurs (two-legged, three-toed, meat-eating dinosaurs.) The tracks and trackways were made 180 to 190 million years ago during the Early Jurassic period and are found in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This fossilized print also shows a ripple mark. Photo Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

The tracksite was discovered by Red Rock visitors. Many significant discoveries are made by the public who work with public land managers and professional paleontologists to discover, record and preserve paleontological resources on public lands. If you discover tracks or trackways at Red Rock Canyon, please call 702-515-5350 as soon as possible and provide information about location and photographs.

Octopodichnus tracks are those footprints made by arthropods (possibly similar to modern spiders and scorpions.) The tracks and trackways were made 180 to 190 million years ago during the Early Jurassic period and are found in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Photo Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

Please help protect paleontological sites. It is illegal to dig, remove, or collect vertebrate fossils without a permit. Never take molds or castings, or apply anything to fossils including trackways. Never drive over, walk on or sit on fossils.

Octopodichnus tracks are those footprints made by arthropods (possibly similar to modern spiders and scorpions.) The tracks and trackways were made 180 to 190 million years ago during the Early Jurassic period and are found in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The bar in the photo is used for 3D photo imagery and is about three feet long. Photo Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

Remarkable Nature Places Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge

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Sunday, October 21st, 2012
Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

Sign for Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge Photo courtesy of USFWS

Remarkable Nature Places: Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex (California-Oregon)

Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex from “Guide to the National Wildlife Refuges” by Laura and William Riley

Presented in partnership with National Wildlife Refuge Association, Protecting America’s Wildlife

The Klamath Basin refuges of California and Oregon are among the most exciting in the world, with stunning gatherings of millions of ducks and geese, hundreds of eagles, as well as intimate glimpses of natural life of all kinds against a background of spectacular scenic beauty in the six refuges in this complex covering 151,000 acres.

Lower Klamath

Lower Klamath flock of waterfowl Photo courtesy of USFWS

The concentrations of waterfowl, largest on the North American continent, seem almost to darken the skies as in old stories when they arrive in fall migration.

Up to 500 bald eagles fly to and from winter roosts (sometimes up to 1,000) in the largest numbers outside Alaska, sometimes moving visitors to tears at this sight of so many of our majestic national bird which once seemed headed for extinction. Sometimes more than 100 can be counted from a single vantage point.

Both bald and golden eagles nest, along with ten species of hawks and ten kinds of owls. Winter may bring thousands of northern harriers, red-tailed and rough-legged hawks.

Marsh Burn at Tule Lake NWR 2005: Burning marshes opens new nesting grounds for migratory birds at Tule Lake NWR. The Tule Marsh is burned intermittently every few years. Tule reeds become thick and choke nesting habitat. Burning removes old growth, inviting new nesting. Photo courtesy of USFWS

Downy western grebe hatchlings are everywhere in early summer, riding on the backs of handsome ruby-eyed parents, hanging on even during their parents’ dives for food. They share the marshes with offspring of dozens of other water birds including more than 60,000 ducklings and goslings that hatch here in a good year. Altogether more than 275 bird species have been counted here, some in huge numbers, of which at least 180 species nest on refuge lands.

But it is the tremendous fall waterfowl concentrations on the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake units that have attracted world renown, filling the entire sky when they come through in October and November, funneling southward from breeding grounds as far away as Siberia.

Swans in Flight Photo courtesy of USFWS

Sometimes 150,000 snow geese can be seen in a single glance. There can be 80 per cent of the world population of their smaller cousins, Ross’s geese; plus Canadas, white-fronted, even an occasional emperor goose, and more than 20 duck species. It is an awesome and unforgettable sight and a delight to photographers when they fly up en masse in the late-day sun against a backdrop of snowy Mount Shasta.

Spring concentrations, usually in early March, are only a little less overwhelming–but tundra swans, up to 10,000, may be even more impressive then.

Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge Photo courtesy of USFWS

Significant nesting groups are here too: white pelicans, their northernmost colonies producing up to 1,500 young; double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, white-faced ibis, California and ring-billed gulls, Caspian and Forster’s terns and sometimes hundreds of floating nests of golden-tufted eared grebes.

Pintails in the Lower Klamath

Pintails in the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge Photo courtesy of USFWS

Breeding avocets, coots and black-necked stilts can be seen by the hundreds–as, in fact, can almost all the wildlife except some which congregate in breeding colonies where they are protected from disturbance. Even these can be viewed readily feeding on the marsh and water areas in early morning and late afternoon.

Interesting small birds come too–bright hermit warblers, common summer nesters; Townsend’s solitaires, nesting and common in fall; tricolored blackbirds, fox sparrows, coveys of mountain quail and a myriad of others.

Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge Photo courtesy of USFWS

Mule deer graze beside the marsh in Lower Klamath and in uplands on the west of Tule Lake where pronghorns are occasionally seen. Yellow-bellied marmots sun themselves on boulders and rock piles.

Coyotes go mousing in the fields, bounding up and down to pounce on small victims, pausing barely long enough to eat them “the way you and I eat peanuts,” a staffer observed.

Scenic view of Klamath Marsh with Mount Thielsen in the background. Photo Courtesy of USFWS

Best places to see the greatest numbers and variety are tour roads on the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath units. Upper Klamath and Tule Lake Refuges also offer canoe trails. The Clear Lake unit, providing habitat for pronghorn antelope and nest sites for pelicans, is unstaffed with only limited areas open to visitors. Upper Klamath is almost entirely marsh and water with a fine canoe trail where water birds, including red-necked grebes, can be seen. Boats are available for rental, and camping also, at a nearby Forest Service concession. (All canoe trails can be restricted during nesting season.)

Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge Photo courtesy of

The Bear Valley unit protects a major winter eagle roost. They can be seen easily flying in and out from Highway 97 near Worden, Oregon, especially at dawn in January and February. Klamath Marsh is 38,277 acres of habitat for water birds and sandhill cranes with visitor facilities largely in the planning stage.

A headquarters visitor center has information on what is available on the various units and how best to see everything, with displays on history and wildlife of the area and a short audiovisual program on the significance of the Klamath Basin Refuges.

Expansive view of the Tule Lake basin at the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of USFWS

Impressive as are the bird concentrations here, they were even greater a generation ago–up to 6,000,000 or more in the 1950s. Why the decline? Other than the reduced availability of wetlands due to drainage and drought, no one is quite sure. But the change points up the critical significance of refuges such as these, without which such populations would have no place to go for their continued existence.

Map of Klamath Basin

Map of Klamath Basin

HOW TO GET THERE: From Tulelake take Highway 139, then west 5 miles on East-West Road, then 1/8 mile south via Hill Road to Klamath Basin Refuge headquarters. There get maps, data and directions for all refuge units.

OPEN: Daylight hours. Visitor center 8-4:30 weekdays, 8-4 weekends (closed Christmas, New Year’s).

BEST TIMES TO VISIT: March-May and mid-September to mid-December, but much to see all year–eagles mid-December to February.

WHAT TO SEE: Huge concentrations of migrating and nesting waterfowl as well as grebes, pelicans, waders, shorebirds, raptors, coyotes, mule deer, bald eagles in winter, many others.

Upper Klamath Nation Wildlife Refuge

Canoeing at Upper Klamath Nation Wildlife Refuge Photo Courtesy of USFWS

WHAT TO DO: Auto tour routes on Lower Klamath and Tule Lake, other roads of varying quality for driving, hiking (some closed in wet weather). Public roads also afford viewing. Photography (blinds available by reservation). Canoe trails. Fishing in Upper Klamath and Klamath Marsh. Group tours and presentations can be arranged. Various limited hunting seasons from September to mid-January on parts of refuge (waterfowl mornings to 1 pm).

WHERE TO STAY: Motels–in Tulelake, California; also Merrill, Oregon, and Klamath Falls, Oregon, 25 miles north. Campgrounds–in Tulelake; also Lava Beds National Monument, adjacent to Tule Lake unit on south.

WEATHER: Winter travel can be difficult, extremely changeable, frost possible most months.

POINTS OF INTEREST NEARBY: Lava Beds National Monument (see Campgrounds); Miller Island State Wildlife Management Area, 25 miles northwest; Medicine Lake Highlands of Modoc National Forest, 25 miles south (one of the world’s largest shield volcanoes); Crater Lake National Park, 75 miles northwest; Klamath Tour Loop, 120-mile auto tour of interesting natural and historic places in area; Winema National Forest has sections of Pacific Crest Hiking Trail from Canada to the Sierras. Annual Eagle Conference with raptor-related presentations and activities, mid-February in Klamath Falls.

Camping out at Tule Lake, Klamath Marsh, 1905. Finley bird watching on the right with glasses and Bohlman on the left with the Axe. Photo courtesy of USFWS

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges, Route 1, Box 74, Tulelake, California 96134. Phone: 530-667-2231. Fax: 530-667-3299; E-mail: tom_stewart@fws.gov.

Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex Facebook Page 

Guide to the National Wildlife Refuges by Laura and William Riley is available from:

Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge Photo courtesy of USFWS

Did You Know: Creepy Crawlers

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Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Did You Know: Creepy Crawlers

Daring Jumping Spider

Daring Jumping Spider © Ken Meyer

  • Did you know that jumping spiders can propel themselves for distances up to 50 times their body length! Mix this with their 360-degree viewing ability with eyes on the backs of their heads and you have one spider that you don’t want to mess with!
  • The Australian funnel-web spider is infamous for its venom that can kill a person in less than an hour and for its sharp fangs that can bite through a shoe!
Black Widow Spider

Black Widow Spider Male, and female © James H. Robinsons

  • Did you know that when spiders are born, they have almost no coloring making them nearly invisible? You better keep your eyes peeled for these creepy crawlers!
  • Did you know that bats have colonized nearly every type of ecosystem on earth, taking residency on all continents except Antarctica?
  • The biggest single gathering of bats in the world is in San Antonio, Texas, where 20-40 million Mexican free-tailed bats pour out of Bracken Cave each night in search of food!
Hairy-legged Vampire Bat

Hairy-legged Vampire Bat

  • Did you know that some bats, including the vampire bat, really do feast on the blood of animals, including humans!
  • Scientists have found an almost perfectly preserved spider fossil in China dating back to the middle Jurassic era, 165 million years ago. The fossilized spiders, Eoplectreurys gertschi, are older than the only two other specimens known by around 120 million years.
Brown Recluse Spider

Brown Recluse Spider © Steven J. Prchal

  • Out of 34,000 species of spiders in this world, only 27 have the power to kill a human with their venom.

Japanese Giant Hornet

  • Whatever you do, avoid contact with a Japanese Giant Hornet. This hornet is the size of your thumb and sprays flesh-melting poison which also acts as a pheromone to attract other hornets from the hive to come and sting you until you are no longer alive.
  • Colonies of soldier ants, which can be up to one million strong, are infamous for dismantling anything living that crosses their path, regardless of its size; they have even been known to take down horses in the Amazon Basin.

Remarkable Nature Places: Beidler Forest

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Thursday, October 11th, 2012
Beidler Forest

Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Remarkable Nature Places: Beidler Forest

The National Audubon Society’s Francis Beidler Forest, located in Four Holes Swamp, SC – less than an hour from Charleston – contains within its 16,000+ acres the largest remaining stand of virgin Bald Cypress and Tupelo Gum swamp forest left anywhere in the world. Here, 1,000-year-old trees and native wildlife abound in a pristine sanctuary that has been untouched for millennia.

Beidler Forest

1,000 year old tree Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

A 1.75-mile self-guided tour along the boardwalk trail allows visitors the chance to safely venture deep into the heart of the swamp… to experience the peace and serenity that have characterized the area for centuries… to hear the sounds of bird and bug and breeze that have echoed through the trees for ages… to take a relaxing and informative walk back into time… to see a swamp the way nature intended.

A swamp is a flooded forest. There are many different types of swamps, but one thing they all have in common is trees in the water, for at least part of the year.

Beidler Forest

Swamp Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Bald Cypress

Largest in U.S. — 17 feet in diameter, Cat Island, LA

Largest at Beidler Forest — 10 feet in diameter

Oldest Known — 1600 yrs, Black River Swamp, NC

Oldest Known at Beidler Forest — 1500 yrs (2nd oldest in the world)

Beidler Forest

Hollow Tree Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Tupelo Gum

Largest in the U.S.  8 feet in diameter, Kinder, LA

Largest at Beidler Forest 5 feet in diameter

Oldest Known at Beidler Forest?? Most over 18’’ are hollow

Beidler Forest

Goodsen Lake Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Cypress Knees

Despite much research, cypress knee function remains a mystery. One thing is certain – knees grow in response to the presence and depth of water. A Bald Cypress growing on dry ground will have only a few small knees, if any. One in deeper water will have taller knees. Generally, the trend we find is the older the tree, the more gnarly the knee.

Beidler Forest

Cottonmouth Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Beidler Forest

American Alligator Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

NO turtle can leave its shell.

NO venomous lizards exist in South Carolina.

NO venomous snakes with lengthwise stripes in South Carolina.

NO such thing as a Hoop Snake or Pilot Rattlesnake.

NOT all snakes in the water are venomous.

• Milk snakes do NOT milk other animals.

• Coachwhip snakes do NOT chase and whip people.

• Copperheads are NOT female rattlesnakes.

• Of 38 snake species in South Carolina, ONLY 6 are venomous!

• Glass Snakes are legless lizards and should be called Glass Lizards

Beidler Forest

Deer fawn Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

How would you have described a swamp BEFORE your visit here? Look around. Smell the air. Notice the lack of bugs? Is the swamp what you expected?

MYTH:

             FACT:
“Buggy” Mosquitoes prefer not to lay eggs in flowing water.
“Snakey” Most snakes prefer to sit still on a log, and of all the water snakes, only the cottonmouth is venomous.
“Gatory” Alligators prefer deeper water and sunshine, not the shallow and shadowy channels in a swamp.
“Smelly” Abundant plant life acts as an air filter. Plus, periodic floods help to flush decaying material.
“Muddy” The swamp floor is mostly hard-packed sand.
“Polluted” The water that flows through Beidler Forest is some of the cleanest in South Carolina due to miles of filtration and percolation.
“Evil” Walking through a swamp is a peaceful and relaxing activity.
“Spooky” No monsters or mythical creatures have been reported…yet.
Beidler Forest

Prothonotary Warbler Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Since 1979, Breeding Bird Censuses have been conducted on two 20-acre plots on the sanctuary. One is located in the old-growth stand, the other in woods cut in the 1960’s. Routinely, the old-growth plot has been found to contain some of the highest densities of nesting songbirds per acre for forested habitats in the eastern U.S.

The diversity of tree species, the variety of tree ages, and the multi-layered structure of the forest cover found in the old-growth stand all work together to provide spectacular habitat for birds of many species.

Beidler Forest

White Ibis Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, despite their nesting success here, many species are in decline due to habitat loss in their summer breeding grounds, along their migratory routes, and in their Central and South American wintering grounds.

Beidler Forest

Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

• Canoe and Kayak Tours - Accompanied by one of our trained guides, let us take you through the heart of the swamp on a peaceful paddle for either a 2- or 4-hour trip. Bring the whole family to experience close encounters with wildlife. It’s a wonderful trip for great photography!

• Night Walks - See the forest under a new light. The swamp is particularly active when the sun goes down. Walking beneath a moonlit sky guided by an Audubon naturalist, we listen to the music of the night and search for nocturnal animals.

• Other Walks and Events - Scattered throughout the season we have a slew of great activities including bird walks, swamp stomps, flower walks, and social events. Ask the staff at the visitor center for more information.

Barred Owls Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Beidler Forest

The boardwalk Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Did You Know: Petrified Forest National Park

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Thursday, October 11th, 2012
Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park

34.910147° N 109.807377° W

Petrified Forest National Park, located on the Colorado Plateau in northeastern Arizona, is known for its Late Triassic fossils. Here you’ll find native Arizona grassland, mesas, buttes, rivers, springs, and wildflowers. Over 13,000 years of human history and culture can be found here. Best known for globally significant Late Triassic fossils, the park attracts many researchers. Geologists study the multi-hued Chinle Formation. Archeologists research over 13,000 years of history. Biologists explore one of the best remnants of native Arizona grassland. Air quality is an ongoing study in the park. Discover your own passion at Petrified Forest!

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park

1 Park Road
P.O. Box 2217
Petrified Forest, AZ 86028

(928) 524-6228

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Did you know? Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park has one of the most diverse collections of prehistoric pottery fragments in the Southwest.

The ecosystem at Petrified Forest National Park is not a desert. It’s one of the largest areas of intact grassland in the Southwest.

Petrified Forest National Park is the only national park unit to protect a section of Historic Route 66!

In addition to the world-class fossil record at Petrified Forest National Park, archeological resources are so abundant and so significant that they could stand alone within their own park!

On clear days in the Southwest, especially on crisp, cold winter days, you can see landscape features almost 100 miles away!

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Nature

Birds:

A bird list can be found here.

Petrified Forest National Park

Pronghorn Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Mammals:

Coyote, Gray Fox, Swift Fox, Bobcat, Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Ringtail, Raccoon, Badger, Striped Skunk, Western Spotted Skunk, Black-tailed Jackrabbit, Desert Cottontail, Desert Shrew, Pallid Bat, Townsend’s Big-eared Bat, California Myotis, Fringed Myotis, Yuma Myotis, Canyon Bat, Porcupine, Gunnison’s Prairie Dog, White-tailed Antelope Squirrel, Spotted Ground Squirrel, Rock Squirrel, Botta’s Pocket Gopher, White-throated Woodrat, Stephens’ Woodrat, Ord’s Kangaroo Rat, Silky Pocket Mouse, Northern Grasshopper Mouse, Brush Mouse, Canyon Mouse, White-footed Mouse, Deer Mouse, Pinon Mouse, Western Harvest Mouse, House Mouse

Eastern Collard Lizard

Eastern Collard Lizard © Rod Planck, Photo Researchers, Inc.

Reptiles and Amphibians:

Tiger Salamander, Great Plains Toad, Red-spotted Toad, Woodhouse’s Toad, Couch’s Spadefoot, Mexican Spadefoot, Plains Spadefoot. Reptiles are Plateau Striped Whiptail, Eastern Collared Lizard, Common Lesser Earless Lizard, Greater Short-horned lizard, Sagebrush Lizard, Plateau Lizard, Common Side-blotched Lizard, Ornate Box Turtle, Glossy Snake, Rattlesnake, Nightsnake, Common Kingsnake, Milksnake, Pai Striped Whiptail, New Mexico Whiptail, Striped Whipsnake, Gophersnake, Black-necked Gartersnake

Colorado Pinyon Pine

Colorado Pinyon Pine © Lance Beeny

Trees:

Two needle Pinyon/Pinyon Pine, One Seed Juniper, Little Utah Juniper, James Narrow Cottonwood, Fremont Cottonwood, Narrow Leaf Willow, Coyote Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Russian Olive, Tamarisk, Nevada Jointfir, Torrey’s Jointfir, Siberian Elm

Wildflowers:

A wildflower list can be found here.

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

 

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Nature Stories: Life without Cheese – A Story of Fungi

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Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
mushroom fungi

Alcohol Inky © Dianna Smith

Nature Stories: Life without Cheese – A Fungi Story by Mary Holland

Imagine a life without penicillin, insulin, bread, beer, wine or Brie cheese.  Or picture all the organic matter that falls to earth every day not decomposing and being recycled, but instead, piling up miles high in the sky. This is what life would be like for humans in a world without fungi.  Not a world that we would embrace.  It’s possible, however, that trees, shrubs and other green plants would be even more at a loss without these organisms than humans, for their productivity relies heavily on them.

Mushroom Fungi

Yellow Morel © Jaroslav Maly

The structure we refer to as a mushroom is but the tip of the fungal iceberg.  Producing reproductive seed-like spores, a mushroom is merely the fruiting body of a massive organism called a fungus that resides within the leaves, logs and soil of the forest floor.  Mushrooms are to the fungus what apples are to an apple tree.  The entire fungus consists of a vast network of filaments called hyphae which grow throughout the organic matter and soil beneath our feet, in an attempt to obtain food from it.  This cobweb-like net composed of hyphae is referred to as mycelium.

mushroom fungi

Changing Pholiota © Jaroslav Maly

Although fungi were originally classified as plants, they no longer are, in part because they are unable to produce food for themselves through photosynthesis, due to a lack of chlorophyll.  Today they are considered to be more closely related to animals than plants; however, they are their own Kingdom.  Because of their inability to manufacture their own sugars and starches, fungi had to arrive at a way to obtain them in order to survive.  Some fungi, called saprophytes, live on dead organic matter.  Fungi that invade living plants and animals are called parasites. Lastly, those that establish a symbiotic association with plants, are called mycorrhiza.  In this mutually beneficial relationship, the host tree or shrub is able to obtain nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen as well as water via the fungus.  The fungus benefits primarily from obtaining moisture and protection. Ninety-five percent of all plants have access to nutrients and water they obtain only through a relationship with fungus.  Research has shown that plants with a mycorrhizal relationship not only have additional nutritional benefits, but are also more resistant to diseases and the effects of drought.

mushroom fungi

Shaggy Mane © Charlie Rattigan

Even though most plants are dependent upon a mutually beneficial association with fungi, we are generally unaware of this mycorrizal activity, for much of it takes place out of sight.  If you dissect a rotting log, or poke through the leaf litter, you can sometimes find the white or black threadlike hyphae, but many are microscopic and not visible to the naked eye.  The limited interactions we have with fungi are primarily with the fruiting bodies which form when the necessary nutrition, humidity, temperature and light conditions are met.  Although beautiful and occasionally edible, they tell only a fraction of the toadstool tale.

mushroom fungus

Cinnabar-red Chanterelle © Noah Siegel

Photo Essay by NatureShare Member Dale Green: Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

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Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Welcome to Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge © Dale Green

Be sure to check out the recent sightings so you know what to look for! © Dale Green

American White Pelicans © Dale Green

Feeding Birds © Dale Green

Be sure to check out all the great information. © Dale Green

Gulf Fritillary © Dale Green

Red-shouldered Hawk © Dale Green

The boardwalk © Dale Green

Anhinga © Dale Green

Roseate Spoonbill © Dale Green

There are so many great views! © Dale Green

Birds Feeding © Dale Green

Northern Raccoons © Dale Green

Learn more about the birds you can see in the refuge © Dale Green

Yellow-crowned Night Heron © Dale Green

Osprey enjoying a meal © Dale Greem

 

Remarkable Nature Places: J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

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Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Welcome to Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge © Dale Green

Remarkable Nature Places: J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge (Florida)

By Laura and William Riley

from “Guide to the National Wildlife Refuges” by Laura and William Riley

Presented in partnership with National Wildlife Refuge Association, Protecting America’s Wildlife

No serious naturalist visiting southwest Florida can afford to miss the J.N. “Ding” Darling Refuge on Sanibel Island. Its wide variety of accessible natural life both subtropical and temperate climatic zones is incomparable.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron © Theresa Baldwin

Wading birds are everywhere-herons, egrets, white ibises, wood storks, and sometimes 250 or so sensationally beautiful roseate spoonbills are along the five-mile wildlife drive, bordered on the left by brackish water and on the right by saltwater, drained by tides and interspersed by grassy, brush, and mangrove habitat to accommodate almost every kind  of bird possible to these zones.

American Alligator

American Alligator © Theresa Baldwin

Alligators are here, too, and horseshoe crabs- a primordial species almost unchanged in 180 million years, mating sometimes in a spectacular shoreline display. Otters sport in the canals in early morning, and bobcats occasionally drink along the edges ( an unwary one was taken by an alligator).

Great Egret

Great Egret

Hundreds of snowy and great egrets can gather in early-morning feeding frenzies when schools of small fish invade the shallows. Black skimmers ply the waters, bills agape. Reddish egrets, great blue herons, and yellow-and black-crowned night herons are common as well, the yellow-crowns courting and raising families in a colony at the end of the wildlife drive (in branches perilously low over cruising ‘gators that paradoxically protect the colony by preventing access by raccoons and other predators).

Short-billed Dowitcher

Short-billed Dowitcher © Theresa Baldwin

Shorebirds pass through by the thousands in spring and fall many stay to nest- snowy and Wilson’s plovers, willets, dowitchers, and others.

Osprey

Osprey © Theresa Baldwin

Bald eagles soar overhead, sometimes swooping to steal prey from ospreys that nest on the refuge as well as on a channel markers and platforms erected by Sanibel citizens. The whole island is a declared sanctuary where red-shouldered hawks, pileated and red-bellied woodpeckers, and brown pelicans are common.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler © Theresa Baldwin

Warblers can appear by the thousands in April migration along with indigo and painted buntings, rose-breasted and blue grosbeaks, boblinks, and northern and orchard orioles. A good place to see them is around the lighthouse (outside the refuge) and in the Bailey tract, where black-whiskered vireos and black-necked stilts come in spring. Large flocks of robins and cedar waxwings sometimes spend the winter, and the rare mangrove cuckoo is along the wildlife drive.

American White Pelican

American White Pelican © Theresa Baldwin

A canoe trail winds through the 4,974-acre refuge (rentals available). Wintering white pelicans can be there by the hundreds; frigate birds are overhead; and inspiring there’s an occasional swallow-tailed kite, along with porpoises, green and loggerhead turtles, and sometimes manatees.

Orchids

Orchids © Don Parsons

For botanists there are orchids and air plants, strangler figs, gumbo limbo trees, mangroves, and in summer night-blooming cereus. Sanibel is famous for its shell-strewn beaches (a nonresident fishing license is required for live shelling; with two live shells the limit to preserve breeding populations).

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

An Aerial Survey of Pine Island Sound Matlacha Pass © Chelle Koster Walton

Excellent guides are available to point out this island’s wildlife- best seen on less-crowded weekdays. Visitation is over 700,000 some years and studies have shown wildlife, formerly approachable, has been severely impacted by thoughtless photographers and surging crowds that sometimes throw rocks and behave as if they were in a zoo rather than a sanctuary. Refuge staff will prosecute any visitor found disturbing birds or alligators.

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Late Afternoon © Theresa Baldwin

To preserve the extraordinary wildlife experiences available here, photograph with long lenses from cars when possible; watch and appreciate but do not disturb.

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Sunset at the Tower © Theresa Baldwin

How to get there: From Fort Meyers airport and I-75 take Daniels Road to Six-Mile Cypress Road; left on it, cross U.S. 41 to Summerlin; left on it to Sanibel causeway (toll); turn right on Periwinkle Way to Palm Ridge Road and follow refuge signs.

Open: Sunrise to sunset daily except wildlife drive closed Friday. Visitor center 9-5 daily November to mid-April, 9-4 Monday-Saturday rest of year, closed some holidays.

Best times to visit: Interesting all year.

What to see: Ospreys, pelicans, great variety of wading birds, alligators; sometimes otters, manatees, sea turtles.

What to do: More than 10 miles of roads and trails for driving, hiking, photography (good from car windows). Boating and canoeing-rentals nearby. Interpretive tram tour (fee).

Where to stay: Motels, many on Sanibel (Chamber of Commerce can be helpful). Campgrounds-Koreshan State Park, 17 miles south of mainland (one small facility on Sanibel usually reserved months ahead).

Weather: Midwinter can be cool, cloudy; midsummer hot, humid. Hurricanes possible June-November.

Points of interest nearby: Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, nature center and trails; Corkscrew Audubon Sanctuary, sometimes nesting storks, 50 miles southeast; Everglades National Park, 90 miles south.

For more information: J.N. “ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, One Wildlife Drive, Sanibel, Florida 33957. Phone: (293) 472-1100

Ding Darling also administers three mangrove island refuges, Matlacha Pass, Pine Island, and Island Bay. Which support sizable populations of pelicans, herons, and egrets. Public access to these is difficult and prohibited when it may disturb nesting birds. A river island subrefuge, Caloosahatchee, has limited wildlife use and no public facilities.

Guide to the National Wildlife Refuges by Laura and William Riley is available from:

Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Why Does the Cricket Sing?

By

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
House Cricket

House Cricket © James H. Robinsons

Why Does the Cricket Sing? by Mary Holland

An early fall evening presents us with a symphony of songs emanating from fields far and wide. Most of the musicians are crickets, which are considered more musical than their close relatives, katydids, or their more distant cousins, grasshoppers. Instead of a raspy song, crickets produce melodic chirps. We don’t see these musicians as frequently as we do grasshoppers, as they are nocturnal and, although most of the adults have wings and are capable of flying, they rarely do, making them much less conspicuous.

The surprising thing about the cricket’s song is that crickets produce it by rubbing their wings against each other. At the base of the left forewing (most insects have two pairs of wings, one in front of the other) there is a very thick vein, or rib. The edge of this rib is serrated, with 50 to 300 minute ridges (the number depends on the species). There is a hard scraper on the right forewing. When the cricket raises its wings and rubs the rib against the scraper, a chirp is produced; this process is called stridulation. As the cricket stridulates, the membranes of its wings vibrate, amplifying the sound. Like birds and frogs, male crickets do the singing, with each species producing a slightly different song, recognizable to other crickets as well as entomologists.
The reason it is important for other crickets to recognize their own species’ song is that stridulation is the means by which male crickets attract females in order to mate. Because most of their courtship takes place in the dark, their song is a crucial part of it. Crickets lack ears on their head, but are capable of hearing another cricket’s song thanks to a membrane located on each front leg, visible just below the “knee” joint.

Crickets, like all other insects, are cold-blooded and thus, are the same temperature as their surroundings. Generally, the speed of the song reflects this temperature. The hotter it is, the more rapid the chirps. There is even one species, the snowy tree cricket, whose chirp-frequency allows you to calculate the temperature. Simply count the number of chirps in 15 seconds, add 40 to that number, and you have the temperature degrees Fahrenheit.

Did You Know? Bird Migration

By

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

1. Bird Migration

There are about 10,000 bird species in the world and about half of them migrate. That’s an estimated 50 billion migratory birds out of the 200-400 billion individual birds on the planet. In eastern North America over two-thirds of all breeding birds migrate. They travel by day and by night across vast stretches of land and sea. They navigate using familiar landscapes, mental star charts, magnetic fields, and angles of ultra-violet light emitted by the setting sun that are invisible to us. Worshiped as gods by some past cultures, written into poetry, painted on canvas, studied by scientists, and loved by birders, bird migration is a marvel. From warblers to waterfowl, hummingbirds to hawks – each is a remarkable story. This fall, climb a hill and watch the hawks glide southward one sunny day. Or just before bedtime in a quiet place, go out and listen toward the sky. If you listen closely, you might hear the waves of songbirds overhead calling to each other as they head south for the winter.

 

Red Knot bird migration

Red Knot adult, nonbreeding © Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO

2. Traveling Knot

Of the six subspecies of Red Knots found worldwide, rufa migrates the farthest.  It flies over 20,000 miles round trip from its breeding grounds in the Canadian arctic along the eastern seaboard of North America and down to its wintering area at the tip of South America. But these birds are in trouble. Over the past decade, aerial counts of the rufa population in Tierra del Fuego went from more than 56,000 to just 10,000 birds. Some biologists believe that without intervention, they may go extinct.

 

Blackpoll Warbler migration

Blackpoll Warbler adult male, nonbreeding © Rob Curtis/VIREO

3. Blackpoll Migration

With the coming of frost, Blackpolls congregate along the Northeast seaboard to feast. This tiny songbird’s migration is fueled entirely by stored fat. One evening, when the winds are just right, they launch into the night sky on a non-stop flight to the Caribbean or even their final destination, South America. Scientists have calculated that a blackpoll has to weigh more than seven-tenths of a gram to have enough stored energy to safely complete its flight. For us, the metabolic equivalent would be to run four-minute miles for 80 hours, according to ornithologists Tim and Janet Williams. They also found that if blackpolls were burning gasoline instead of body fat, they would be getting 720,000 miles to the gallon.

 

Broad-winged  Hawk migration

Broad-winged Hawk adult © Lloyd Spitalnik/VIREO

4. Gliding Home

While songbirds rely on body fat to fuel migration, the Broad-winged Hawk simply relies on the power of the sun. The broad-wing doesn’t gorge itself. It doesn’t have to, because it wastes little energy on flapping its wings. This hawk, like many hawks, is a glider. Using the lift from rising columns of hot air, hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of hawks congregate in flocks, or “kettles,” slowly circling upward on thermals and then gliding southward and downward to catch the next free ride. They rarely, if ever, sail over open water where few thermals exist. They follow the land as it becomes narrower and narrower through Central America, until some of them make it all the way into South America after a month of migration.

 

Arctic Tern migration

Arctic Tern adult © Arthur Morris/VIREO

5. A Bird of the Poles

Arctic Terns may have the longest annual migration of any animal in the world. Their lifetime frequent flier miles would be equivalent to three round-trips to the moon. Scientists recently used a tiny new device attached to the terns called a geolocator. It regularly records light levels and time of day, which can be used to generate its latitude and longitude, much like mariners once did. They found that the Arctic Tern averages 44,000 miles round-trip each year from Greenland to the shores of Antarctica and back.

 

Whooper swan migration

Whooper Swan adults © Jari Peltomaki/VIREO

6. Thin Air

Most migrant birds flying over lowlands reach altitudes of around 2,000 feet in North America. Raptors migrating over Texas have been found to be as high as 4,000 feet. Long-distant travelers over the ocean have been found as high as 20,000 feet. A pilot once reported Whooper Swans at 27,000 feet. But the records go to species in other parts of the world. Bar-headed Geese, a species regularly found at zoos, climb to over 30,000 feet when passing over the Himalayan Mountains. The all-time record belongs to Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture flying over Ivory Coast at nearly 38,000 feet when it was unfortunately sucked into a jet engine.

 

Bar-tailed Godwit migration

Bar-tailed Godwit adult, nonbreeding © Steve Young/VIREO

7. Godspeed Godwits

Using satellite transmitters scientists found that Alaskan Bar-tailed Godwits make an 8-day, 6,835 mile autumn migration from Alaska to New Zealand in one, long flight. This is almost double what scientists thought birds were capable of physiologically. They expend energy up to 10 times the rate they would at rest, besting riders of the Tour de France who manage just a six-fold increase. By the end of the journey, some males may have lost so much weight that their satellite transmitter backpacks simply fell off.

 

Swainson's Thrush migration

Swainson’s Thrush adult Olive-backed © Brian E. Small/VIREO

8. Not a Silent Night Flight

On an autumn night after the passage of a cold front millions of songbirds are passing overhead as we sleep. Waves of birds take to the skies even lighting up otherwise quiet weather radar. The birds are not silently floating over us. Especially in eastern North America, on a good night of migration listeners can here hundreds, even thousands of birds calling as they pass overhead. Some species are readily identified by their familiar call, like Swainson’s Thrushes. No one knows why they call as they travel. It may to keep in contact with neighbors to avoid collisions.

 

snow geese migration

Snow Geese adults © Arthur Morris/VIREO

 9. A Skein of Birds

Have you ever wondered why some bird flocks fly in a “V” formation? First, it is to conserve energy by taking advantage of the upwash vortex fields created by the wings of the birds in front. The rising air helps lessen the load. Each bird can reduce drag by up to 65%, increasing their range by 71%. Of course the leader of the formation gains no benefit, causing this position to be regularly traded. The other reason is to facilitate orientation and communication among individual birds. There are fewer blind spots in formation.

 

Snowy Owl migration

Snowy Owl juvenile © Scott Linstead/VIREO

10. South is in the eye of the beholder

The classic theory held by ornithologists to explain the irregular migrations of Snowy Owls southward has always centered on lemmings, a favorite food of the arctic breeding owls. These small rodents undergo population booms and busts. About every four years lemmings become incredibly abundant. Many scientists believed that after the lemming populations eventually crashed, snowy owls would head southward in search of food. Intensive research now shows this may not be the case. We find the highest numbers of owls south of the arctic in winter during lemming population booms, not after the lemming population has plunged. Most of them are juvenile birds that may have been pushed southward by the adults.