Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Found these two brave souls this morning. As mentioned in the previous post, the most advanced are also the smallest. They have not chosen to leave the warm embrace of the tank as of yet - just exploring.

I think that I need to consider moving the tank to a new location that will allow the new frogs to exit the tank and make it to the trees without crossing what amounts to (on their scale) a walk across Rhode Island.

If not for them, then for me. When I was walking in the yard tonight a small frog (about the size of those pictured) jumped between my foot and the insole of my Birki. It is very dead.

I can just imagine what it will be like scraping off my shoes when the mass exodus comes.
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Tadpole update - Week 2.

The tads continue to develop, but at different paces - the larger the tadpole, generally the smaller the legs.

Much to my surprise I found this guy - probably the smallest tad of the all. The small ones seem to hide at the bottom of the tank amongst the oak leaves and lettuce and spinach that have sunk to the bottom. The larger ones feed at the surface of the water on whatever happens to be floating.

Back legs grow gradually, but the front legs seem to just suddenly appear.

Is there a purpose to the delayed development? If they all matured at the same rate and left the pond at roughly the same time, would the bulk of them fall to predation?
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Monday, August 17, 2009

Weekly tadpole update.

After a little more than a week, the tads have developed from 1/8" long yolk-suckers to +1" voracious feeders. Small leg nubs have appeared on their hindquarters.

They have eaten almost an entire head of lettuce and a package of frozen spinach. (chopped, boiled 5 minutes, placed on a tray in cookie- sized chunks and frozen. Makes for convenient feeding.) They much prefer the spinach over the lettuce. When that is gone they will nibble on the oak leaves and the algae that grows upon it.

Their appetite however, pales in comparison to the tadpoles of the endangered mountain chicken frog Leptodactylus fallax of Montserrat.

I do not recommend watching this video while eating or on a full stomach. Or if you plan on eating anytime this week. You may want to ask the children to leave the room.
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Katydid din.

The night sounds about our house this summer are truly astounding. It has been a good year for the True Katydid Pterophylla camellifolia - a large ungainly bug that mimics a green leaf. An imitation so perfect you can be a few yards away staring right at the source of this incredible noise and still fail to see it.

The chorus was was considerably more louder earlier this summer when everybody was out looking for mates. At this point only the guys that haven't got lucky are still singing. As the nights gets cooler and summer dwindles into fall, the last desperate crooning of the bachelors will also fade.

On the subject of flying: To say that the katydid is capable of flight is like saying that I am capable of piloting a helicopter. Off to a good start, but crashing into something just when it starts getting to be fun.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Giant Leopard on our back porch.

Moth, actually. Hypercompe scribonia

A few months ago we found a large black furry caterpillar on what passes as our back porch. In addition to the spiky blackness, each segment was separated by a smooth orange ring that circled its body. The Girl and identified it using my old Golden Press "Butterflies and Moths" that I had as a kid.

I pulled up some handfuls of plantain (the weed, not the banana - we live South but not that far South) and took it in to the Education department at the museum where I work. It munched happily for a few days, then disappeared under a chunk of log, binding a mass of woodchips about it laced together with strands of silk.

More to our surprise, a few weeks later the moth appeared. It was not expected until it had overwintered. Our capture and observation had some effect on the the normal course of events.

Schrodinger's cat existed in a quantum state of half-live/half dead, the outcome unsure until the actual observation. Our moth emerged from it's vessel retaining that state of caterpillar/moth. The wings never fully expanding, the body retaining some essence of it's juvenile shape and color.

Sad and beautiful at the same time.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

The side effects of deer.

While taking a short hike at our local state park, we encountered this young deer coming up the trail towards us.

After it patiently let me take a few photos, it bounded off to its right to join half a dozen of it's brethren.

A few short moments later we determined that the deer was not fleeing from us, but rather the untold scores of minuscule seed ticks that festooned our ankles. It appeared that we were wearing brown socks. Socks that were being slowly pulled up our legs that would soon transform into a nice beige pair of pantyhose that rides up our arse.

The Girl had a run-in with these a few weeks before, so I knew the drill: copious amounts of DEET over the affected areas followed by careful scraping with a pocket knife.

Spray-Scrape-Repeat. Showers, VSE, and baboon-like grooming of each other when we got back home.

The Boy in his jogger remained immune to the parasites advances.
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You"ll never hear it.

My neighbor appeared at our back door on Friday bearing a gift. He was working in the yard when he came across this 11-5/8" long Western Pygmy Rattlesnake Sistrurus miliarius streckeri.

He was working in some low weeds when it struck his little finger. Luckily for him it hit right on hs fingernail and bounced off.

It is maybe a year old. If you look closely at its tail, you'll see 3 buttons on the rattler. They get a new one every time the molt, which can be 3-4 times a year. This snake is so small that it is a misnomer to call it a rattle. I had to press my ear against the jar to hear the tail's soft zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

While no humans have been recorded dying from it's bite, I would not recommend taunting it.

I let it go a few miles from the house. The other 2 found this year he dispatched with a shovel.

No barefootin' kids. Sorry.
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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tadpole City.

Last Friday I awoke to find that tree frogs has laid a mass of eggs in our wading pool. Luckily the chlorine level was at a low ebb, and I thought there was a good chance that these were going to be viable.

I scooped them into a small aquarium and headed to work. When I got home there were little tadpoles throughout the small tank. I pulled our 10 gallon tank our of storage, filled it with well water and waited until the temperatures of the two tanks matched. After placing some oak leaves and sticks in the tank, I made the transfer.

For the first few days the tadpole were fairly sessile. I added some boiled celery to the tank but they had no interest. They were still living on their yokes - hiding - only moving when disturbed.

By Wednesday they were beginning to move about and display hunger. By Saturday they are inch-long ravenous feeders

Updates to follow.
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Don't even think about it.

What you won't find on this blog is nuanced descriptions that will allow you to discern what an edible fungus is. I'll leave that to people more experienced and knowledgeable than myself.

Let's just say I believe that I have successfully identified Chlorophyllum molybdites and can tell you it is something you do not want to eat.

While not always fatal (pets and children are most at risk), the description of severe collicky abdominal pain, followed by explosive - perhaps bloody- diarrhea leads me to believe that it would be a less than ideal experience.

This fungus is the leading culprit in mushroom poisonings in North America for two reasons:

1) If you have a lawn, there is a good chance you have this large showy mushroom growing there - maybe in a fairy ring. It's everywhere, it's beautiful, what's not to like? It's a percentages thing.

2) It is uncannily similar to other varieties that are edible. Mistakes were made. Don't make the plunge after breezing through the Cliff Notes for "Good Eat'n Mushrooms" or viewing some grainy photos on Be mentored by someone who has done this their entire life. Better yet - let that person eat a sumptuous meal of the fungus in question, lock them in a cage and observe them for a week or so. Just to be sure.

I think that given the severity of this mushroom's toxicity, it deserves a more appropriate moniker:

The Death's Pajamas.
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Boring. Well, at least in the larval stage.

Witness Plectrodera scalator, a long-horned beetle otherwise know as the Cottonwood Borer. Darn thing is about the length of my thumb, not counting the "horns."

The beetle lays its eggs at the base of a cottonwood or poplar. After hatching, the larvae boring into the tree for 2-3 years before the morph into the adult. Might even kill the tree. Yay.

This one is in the freezer, awaiting the the judicious application of a pin.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

No Refrigeration Needed.

Playing Possum-

Surprised this guy early one evening when I rounded the corner of the house. He just slowly rolled over onto his side, face contorting into this rictus grin.

Unresponsive to gentle prodding with stick.

And when I say stick, I mean the kind that fell off a tree.

I envision some sort of clockwork or wind-driven device on a tripod placed over the animal that would give it a poke at semi-random intervals. In this way the meat could be kept fresh indefinitely.