The Animal Keepers cleaned the bear pool this week. The pools of water at the base of the Main Black Bear Overlook need to be cleaned every six months. The ponds collect much debris and algae and need cleaning. The cleaning often exposes all sorts of creatures, from crayfish to frogs. This exposition sometimes attracts opportunistic predators.
It’s well known here at the Museum that red-shouldered hawks wait silently on perches along the edges of the Wetlands or in the swamp above the Lemur House, to pounce upon winter active frogs. I’ve seen them pull frog after frog from the cold water of the Wetlands.
I spotted a pickerel frog at the edge of the bear pool this morning (12/10). The pool had been drained, was in the process of being refilled, and the frog was out in the open. It was moving very slowly due to the cold, easy prey for any nearby predator. Pickerel frogs typically breed in late February into April. I doubt this frog was attempting an early start at breeding. Perhaps it was under the leaf liter at the bottom of the pond and roused out of hibernation by the cleaning.
The next time I made my way around and through the Black Bear Overlook I saw a red-shouldered hawk on one of the fence posts at the front of the overlook. It took flight when it saw me approach. It had something in its right talon.
The bird landed on a sycamore halfway across the enclosure. I got out the camera and squeezed off a few shots. The hawk had a pickerel frog in its talon.
It’s pays to be alert to what’s going on around you.