Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hiatus (Busy)

Feast for the Northern Raccoon.
Work has kept me extremely busy the past number of weeks and it might still for the weeks to come. I'm hoping for this hiatus to only last two weeks, but it will be a waiting game (based on work). If it goes as planned, I may have posts again beginning of July!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Black-tailed Jackrabbit

Black-tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
Contrary to its name, the Black-tailed Jackrabbit is not a rabbit, but a hare, a separate species, and one that can be found throughout a large portion of the western and central portions of the United States and Mexico. Unlike a true rabbit, hares are larger with longer ears, less social tendencies, are born fully developed, and as they often live on open plains, rely more on their speed. The Black-tailed Jackrabbit is no exception, able to reach 48-56 kph (30-35 mph) over zigzag course and able to spring 6 m (20 ft) at a bound.

Black-tailed Jackrabbit found in scrubland habitat.
Their agility can often be seen during breeding season as males and females will leap and chase after each other with the male hoping to catch, and therefore mate, with the female. They will have 3 or 4 litters per year with up to six young who are on their own after their mother stops nursing 3 days later. Black-tailed Jackrabbits are most likely found in desert scrubland, prairies, farmlands, and dunes, and will consume all types of plant matter, especially as the majority of their water comes from what they consume.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Chihuahuan Raven

Chihuahuan Raven, Corvus cryptoleucus
The Chihuahuan Raven is the size of a crow, but with the shape of a raven, and, as with many birds, vocalization is easiest for distinction. They can be found year round throughout most of Texas, parts of Arizona and New Mexico, and south into Mexico with preference for dry grasslands, arid regions, scrub, and yucca flats. Unlike its Common Raven cousin, the Chihuahuan Raven is more sociable and can often be seen in flocks of up to several hundred during winter. The base of the feathers of the Chihuahuan Raven is also white, unique in North America, but not uncommon in other crows and ravens around the world, and is difficult to see without aid from the wind. Their nest of twigs, often those of thorny mesquite trees, may be reused in subsequent years. The female will lay an average of five eggs and both parents bring food to the hatchlings. Chihuahuan Ravens are omnivorous and will consume anything from insects and grains to carrion and frogs. They can sometimes be found near garbage or landfill, or else sitting on a pole.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hiatus (Week)

Rio Grande chirping frog, Eleutherodactylus cystignathoides
It's another long, busy week so there will be no new posts this week, but they will resume again next week!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Cloudless Sulfur

Cloudless Sulfur, Phoebis sennae
The Cloudless Sulfur is a common butterfly that can be found throughout the southern half of the United States down as far south as Argentina, but can be found in the West Indies and may reach as far north as southern Ontario. While a permanent resident in the tropical regions, Cloudless Sulfurs do migrate during autumn and spring, going south and north respectively. Unlike Monarchs, Cloudless Sulfurs fly at lower altitudes while migrating. This makes migration easier to observe, especially in autumn when numbers are generally higher, but also make them more vulnerable and likely to be killed crossing roadways. The adults prefer to feed on tubular flowers such as bougainvilla, cardinal flower, hibiscus, lantana, and morning glory, but the host plant for the caterpillars are the Cassia species in the pea family. Cloudless Sulfurs breed in disturbed open areas and many can sometimes be seen drinking from mud puddles.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Spiny Orbweaver

Spiny Orbweaver, Gasteracantha cancriformis
Orbweavers, as mentioned before, are found throughout the world and vary in size and appearance, but they are all associated with the classic orb web and, more often than not, it is the female that is larger and more colorful than the male. One such distinct species found throughout most of North America, including some of the islands, is the Spiny Orbweaver, also known as the crab spider, jewel box spider, and smiley face spider. While the colors may include white, orange, yellow, black, or red, the females, about 5-9 mm (0.2-0.35 in) in length and 10-13 mm (0.4-0.5 in) width, all have six pointed abdominal projections referred to as spines. The males, while also with some color variation, are only about 2-3 mm (0.8-0.12 in) in length and lack spines, but may have posterior small humps.

Female spiny orbweaver in the shade of a grapefruit tree.
The spiny orbweaver can be found in woodland edges, nurseries, and gardens, but are also commonly found in citrus groves. The lifespan for this species is short with males dying approximately six days after successful sperm induction to females, and the females die soon after depositing her egg sac of 100 to 260 eggs. When they hatch, the spiderlings will remain in the carefully constructed egg case for 2 to 5 weeks of age. When they leave, they are considered mature. New webs are constructed each night for structural security, always with tufted silk that some studies suggest could be warning flags for birds so they do not fly into the web and destroy it. As with other orbweavers, the spiny orbweaver waits for pray to land in her web in which she will paralyze it and eat it, if smaller than her, but if it is larger, she will wrap it in silk before carrying it to the center to consume. Although their colorful appearance and spines may have an anti-predator function, spiny orbweavers are harmless to humans and are often considered a beneficial species.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Hooded Oriole

♂ Hooded Oriole, Icterus cucullatus 
The Hooded Oriole is a medium-sized oriole found in the southwestern United States during summer and in western portions of Central America during winter. The bright orange and black of the males gives this bird its common name as the pattern makes it look as though he's wearing a hood. As with many other songbirds, the females and immature males are more drab, an olive yellow with dusky wings for this species. Nests are most often found in palms or large yucca sewn to the underside of a large leaf, but have also been found in moss and mistletoe clumps. They forage on insects, berries, cultivated fruits, and nectar, and are sometimes seen at hummingbird feeders. Although their population is currently stable overall, there is a notable decrease in the Lower Rio Grande population likely due to cowbird nest parasitism.