Meteorologically, Fall

Top Photo: Green heron works the “turtle logs” in the wetlands.

It is, according to climatologists and meteorologists, fall. I agree. Days are getting shorter. Trees that’ve been pumping water and nutrients from their roots to their leaves have slowed down production. And although it’s still mighty hot outside during the day, the night time temps seem to be moderating.

Here’s some of the things that have been going on during the first week of Fall.

Though they’ll be leaving soon, green herons are stilling stalking fish, frogs, and crawfish in our wetlands.

I’m often asked by guests whether or not green herons nest in the wetlands. The answer is, “Yes, they’ve nested here before. In fact, one season there were three active nests at one time, fledging seven green herons. But I don’t know if they nested here this year.” There may be three or more green herons present in the wetlands at any given time, at least one of them a juvenile. But I’ve not seen direct evidence of nesting.

The next question is often, “How do you tell the difference between the adult herons and juveniles?”

Distinguishing juvenile from adult green herons is relatively simple if you don’t confuse the characteristics which differentiate the two.

The juvenile has streaks on its neck, throat and breast, somewhat triangular-shaped spots on the wing coverts, and a light greenish or yellow area between eye and bill. And, they’re overall more dull in appearance than adults.

Juvenile green heron. Note streaks on breast and neck and wing markings.

Adults have a reddish or chestnut colored neck and breast with white streaks down the center of the throat and breast. The wing coverts are green-blue with light edges (no triangular internal markings). The area between the eye and bill may be yellowish on the adult, becoming deep violet in breeding season. Legs are usually pinkish, turning deeper red during breeding.

Adult in breeding plumage.
Note limited streaks on neck and breast of this adult

Green herons are usually gone from this area by the end of September.

This past week has seen an explosion of bullfrogs in the wetlands. Thousands of bullfrog tadpoles have simultaneously morphed into air-breathing miniatures of the big, green, bellowing amphibians they will become. If they survive without being eaten by a hawk, owl, heron, or mink they may reach 5 or 6 inches from tip of nose to vent.

Dozens of “fresh” bullfrogs experiencing some of their first above-the-surface breaths.
Two of the many “new” bullfrogs.

The dragonflies in the following photos are the same species, in fact, the same individual. The first one could possibly be mistaken for an entirely different species when viewed backlit and from below as it is in the picture. It had me fooled, briefly. My first thoughts upon seeing the ode through my binoculars was “Needham’s skimmer, or perhaps golden-winged skimmer.

What dragonfly is this?

It is, in reality, a great blue skimmer.

Same insect as above. Note missing piece on hindwing.

Seen from Water’s Edge a green anole searches the branches for insects to eat.

Sightings of green anole around the wetlands are becoming increasingly more common.

Green tree frogs are done breeding for the season. All that’s left is for the young to survive predation.

Huddled down along the midrib of an emergent aquatic plant’s leaf a young green tree frog hides in plain sight.

The seed pods on our milkweed plants are ripening and the large milkweed bugs that eat the seeds inside have arrived.

Large milkweed bugs lay eggs under milkweed leaves or on milkweed seed pods (left).

Monarch butterflies, on their way to Mexico, drop in to lay eggs on the milkweed.

Tiny 5 mm monarch caterpillar.

The caterpillar above will molt 5 times while consuming the plant’s leaves. It will then pupate, ultimately becoming an adult butterfly and continuing the flight to its winter roost in the Mexican Highlands, sight unseen.

At this time of year, yellow-bellied sliders don’t seem to have a schedule to keep. They’re year round residents and bask in the sun in every season.

Yellow-bellied sliders basking.

It’s always reassuring to look out onto the water of the wetlands and see them sunning.

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