A Few Winter Sightings

Top Photo: Bullfrog tadpoles react to disturbance in the water.

In our area, bullfrogs may take 9 to 12 months to mature and become frogs. It may take much longer, perhaps two or even three years, in areas with cooler temperatures and shorter growing seasons. But here, in central North Carolina the bullfrogs that hatched from eggs this summer will become frogs next summer.

Bullfrog tadpoles may take as long as three years to mature.

During winter the bullfrogs tend to congregate in the shallow, muddy water on the north side of the wetlands. The massed together, five to six inch bullfrog tadpoles may go unnoticed except for the “boiling” of the water when the larval frogs are disturbed (top banner photo). One of them senses danger and reacts. In a flash, they all wiggle and flap vigorously, making the water “boil.”

Tadpole congregation on north side of wetlands.
They begin to boil as a perceived threat enters the water.

With all of the warm weather this fall and winter, you may get lucky and glimpse a green anole in the garden in front of the Butterfly House. The anoles are typically brownish and ashy in winter, so don’t expect to see a bright green lizard. The one here was soaking up the sunshine in the lower end of the garden in early December.

Winter green anole.

Berries are a valuable commodity in winter. Migrant as well as local birds stake out areas on their chosen winter quarters based on available food in the vicinity. Shrubs, vines, and trees which produce fruit are protected with vigor. Though, the mere presence of a local “owner” of the food source is often enough to put off potential intruders to the store, at least this early in the season.

Viburnum berries in winter.
One of the intruders.
The owner.

The lone hermit thrush first dived bombed, then stared down four bluebirds from pilfering it’s private source of viburnum berries.

There’ve been four or five hooded mergansers using the wetlands as a staging area for their pair-bond dances. Each year the fish eating ducks attempt to form bonds with potential mates as soon as they arrive from the north. Once paired, the couple spends the winter together, may even copulate on the winter grounds, then fly to breeding areas further north, or in some cases they may nest locally.

Once on the breeding grounds, and as the eggs are deposited on the nest, the male departs. He will leave the rest of the duties to the female.

Male and female hooded merganser.
Males chase each other as they sort things out.

Females seem little concerned with the antics of the males. But who knows what really goes on beneath that cinnamon crest of the female.

There’s a story around every corner!

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