Happenings over the past few weeks have been a bit overwhelming. Insects that have been held back from emergence by cooler than normal temperatures are doing so now, snakes and other reptiles have been performing their springtime rituals, neotropical migrants are moving through, and local nesters are doing just that, nesting. Some have already fledged their first broods.
It’s been difficult for me to keep up with all of the biological happenings in terms of posting them to this Journal. That being said, here’s a series of photos to keep you informed of some of what I’ve been seeing and experiencing.
Butterfly numbers have been on the increase. Besides the usual early season butterflies, I’ve also seen Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Red-spotted Purples, and even Monarchs over the past few weeks.
Dragonflies are emerging and beginning to make ready for next season’s emergence. Common Baskettails, Common Whitetails, Swamp Darners, and several species of damselfly are out and winging about the wetlands and paths of the outdoor areas.
Snakes seem to be everywhere. Worm Snakes, black rat, racers, and of course, water snakes the most noteworthy.
Northern Water Snakes have been the most obvious serpentine entertainers in the Wild. They have been openly engaged in feeding and mating, showing little concern for those humans who have been observing them.
Water snakes eat fish, frogs, small turtles, insects, and most anything else that they come across that will fit into their expanding jaws. Tadpoles are certainly on the menu, even those as large as the one in the photo at right.
Considering all of the activity in regard to the seeking and securing of mates that goes on in the spring, these water snakes need nourishment, and there are very many tadpoles and other prey in our Wetlands. The snakes do not go hungry.
The females tend to be the larger sex in water snakes, the males typically thinner and shorter. So if you see two snakes side by side, the smaller of the two is probably a male.
You may come across a group of water snakes with one or two large individuals and several smaller ones. The smaller ones are males seeking to mate with the larger snake or snakes.
I’ve made much mention of late about the young turtles that I’ve seen emerging from their nests. The total is now at 17 individuals so far this spring. And, as I’ve said here before, there’s no way to tell exactly how many young turtles have made their way into the Wetlands, but I’m confident, positive, that seventeen of them made it at least that far.
Migrant birds have arrived, some only temporarily. Have you seen all of the loopers (inch worms) hanging from the trees lately? Most of our migrant bird visitors eat those caterpillars to help fuel them on their journeys north.
Green Herons nested in our Wetlands last year, two nests in fact. They raised seven young between them. I saw a heron carrying nesting material this spring but have yet to find a nest.
And finally, a mammal.
See you out and about!
I mentioned above that I had seen Monarch butterflies over the past few weeks. I must admit I was surprised to see as many of them as I had. The source of those Monarchs, however, was not the migrants that I had imagined or expected, they were released at a wedding here at the Museum.