Friday, November 30, 2012

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
Found throughout most of North America, the White-breasted Nuthatch is a common feeder bird. They forage by creeping up and down tree trunks where they search out hidden insects. Often confused for other nuthatches, this particular species prefers deciduous trees but can be found in mixed deciduous and coniferous forests. The common name nuthatch comes from their tendency to whack large nuts into tree bark, then with their bill thus hatching the nut. The White-breasted Nuthatch does not migrate, and does scatterhoard surplus food, especially closer to winter.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


English lavender(?),  Lavandula angustifolia
One of the most well-known and cultivated aromatic shrubs, lavender comes in a wide variety of species and commercial uses. Lavender can be separated into three main groupings: English lavenders, non-English lavenders, and Lavandins, also known as English lavender hybrids. Each one has its own purpose, whether in terms of gardening tolerances or purpose such as for cooking or for use as an essential oil. The effectiveness of lavender for anxiety has been very thoroughly researched. While it is sometimes recommended for other uses such as colic, toothache, vomiting, and dementia among other concerns, the amount of evidence to back up these claims is still insufficient.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Australian Brush Turkey

Australian Brush-turkey, Alectura lathami
The Australian Brush Turkey can be spotted along the eastern and northeastern coast of Australia. This species has a large variety of habitats it can be found in from rainforests to drier scrubs, from mountains to lowland regions. The family Megapodiidae of which the brush turkey belongs are often referred to as mound builders. They passively incubate the eggs, burying them under mounds of decaying matter which the chicks must then dig out of. For the Australian Brush Turkey, the males maintain the mound which several females lay their eggs in. The bill of the bird is used to assess temperature. Matter is added or removed as needed, and holes are dug for ventilation when the necessity arises. Hatchlings are fully feathered once they emerge from the mound and are given no additional parental care. This species is often referred to as a nuisance as it commonly damages gardens while searching for food. Unlike it's cousin of the Galliformes order, the Wild Turkey, the Australian Brush Turkey is known for its bad taste and is therefore not hunted.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey(s), Meleagris gallopavo
With a spotted range throughout North America, this native bird has played an important role as a food source to Native Americans and to the economy. It is one of the only two birds originating in the New World that were successfully domesticated in Europe. While the Europeans domesticated the bird in the 1500s, there is evidence that this species was domesticated even earlier during the Late Preclassic (300 BC-AD 100) by Mayans. In relation to the European domestication, there are two different forms of this species: the wild turkey and the domesticated turkey. They can be distinguished by the white tail tip the domesticated form retained from the Mexican subspecies compared to the chestnut-brown tail tips of the wild turkeys.

The wild turkey is widespread in part thanks to introduction into previously uninhabited areas, of which include Hawaii, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. One reason for this introduction process is the popularity of this species as a game bird. As such, they are not legally protected and current estimates put the population as increasing. Wild turkeys prefer mature open woodlands, particularly oak and pine forests, and are more attracted to areas recently burned which results in desired food plants increasing. While the typical lifespan of a wild turkey is close to two years, there are records of wild turkeys living more than a decade. Typical predators include, but are not limited to: humans, coyotes, fox, opossum, skunks, mink, weasels, raven, crow, squirrels, chipmunks, and various snake species.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk, Tamias striatus
The Eastern Chipmunk can be found inhabiting temperate forests throughout most of eastern North America up through southeastern Canada. While they prefer open forests, they are not an uncommon sight near rural or suburban homes. Living in shallow burrows, they do not leave dirt near the entrances like many other Sciurids, but carry the dirt away and conceal it with leaves and rocks. This helps prevent predators from finding their burrow which can extend over 30 feet in length. During the cold winter months, this species of chipmunk does not hibernate, but rather enters torpor for a few days at a time. Torpor is one of three major classifications of dormancy in mammals with torpor as a shorter duration and differing rates of body temperature and metabolic rate than estivation and hibernation.

Photography credit to my brother once more.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Adirondacks Mountains III

Sunset on a river of the Adirondacks Mountains
The Adirondacks Mountains are a beautiful combination of protected mountains, forests, rivers, and lake. The name comes from an Iroquois word meaning "eater of tree bark", a term from the neighboring Algonquin tribe used in a derisive manner. The area is covered with pine forests, spruce, hemlock, and hardwoods. It is a known portion of bear country, with black bear and white-tailed deer as the two largest species of wildlife found in the region.

As mentioned earlier, credit for the photos of the Adirondacks this year go mainly to my brother.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Leafhopper Assassin Bug

Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus rendarii

The Leafhopper Assassin Bug, a true bug, only measures 1/2 inches long (compared to the much larger Wheel Bug). It can often be found in cotton fields feeding on anything, but preferring the soft-bodied insects. The front legs contain a sticky substance which is used to catch prey. The strong beak is then used to pierce the prey, inject digestive enzymes, and finally suck out the insides. The nymphs go through five different molting stages, but have no wings. The adults are what you find for those overwintering, and while they have wings, they are poor fliers. The leafhopper assassin bug is found more along the central southern United States and the west coast. As with other assassin bugs, these are considered beneficial as they feed on insects such as mosquitoes, weevils, and caterpillars.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Eastern American Toad

Eastern American Toad, Bufo a. americanus
The Eastern American Toad lives in wide variety of habitats from wetlands to forests, to lawns and fields. Unlike some other Anura, this species does live near permanent or ephemeral ponds. This particular species is easily confused for the Fowler's Toad, but can be distinguished by the spots on its belly and the number of warts per spot on its back. Compared to other "toads", the Eastern American Toad is within the family Bufonidae, known as the true toads family, in that all members of this family have gained the common name of toad. While the word toad is often used as a description for any member of the order Anura that is rough skinned and terrestrial, they are not all, in fact, toads, nor are toads recognized as a separate classification. 

Another thank you to my brother for capturing this beauty. He blends in well with the autumn leaves!

Friday, November 9, 2012

North American Beaver

Tree cut by North American Beaver, Castor canadensis
The North American Beaver attacks woody plants not just for building material, but also as a source of food. In terms of preference, there is significance to the diameter of the tree and the type of tree, but not the distance of the tree from the lodge. The selection of the tree, and the location of the tree relative to slop and position, all play a role in decision of which trees to fell, and what pattern of cutting to use. While it various per region, there is an overall preference for deciduous trees such as aspen, willow, birch, and maple. As such, the trees felled by the beaver can alter the composition and structure of the habitat they live in. The dams built by the beavers may also dramatically change both the geology and hydrology of a region.

A great comment was made by Harmon Everett on my last post about the impact beavers had on North American History. I highly suggest you take a look over on Google+!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

North American Beaver

Dam of North American Beaver(s), Castor canadensis
The North American Beaver is a highly abundant, nocturnal rodent known for removing trees and making dams. In the north they live in a lodge made from sticks, grass, moss, and mud, while in the south they can often be found burrowing into cut water banks. Of the lodges built, there are three different types including those built on islands, those on lake shores, and those on the banks of ponds. If the water is fast, the dam will contain a curve to provide stability, but if the water is slow, the dam will be built straight.

A special thanks to my brother, who took pictures while in the Adirondacks Mountains this year, using my camera, that I didn't even remember having with me. For the next week or so, the other photos related to the mountains will most likely be his.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Black Vulture

Black Vulture(s), Coragyps atratus
Found throughout the majority of South America up through the southern portion of North America, the Black Vulture is a common sighting. Unlike the Turkey Vulture, the other common vulture species, the black vulture rarely travels alone, relies more on sight than smell, and does not have a summer breeding migration. When identifying between the two species, the black vulture is a dark shape with white wing tips and often flying higher than its counterpart. It is a monogamous species that forms strong social bonds with its kin. As with all carrion eating animals, lead poisoning is not uncommon due to lead shots being left in carcasses or gut piles from hunters.