I haven’t posted in a long time because I hadn’t seen anything that I hadn’t already photographed, here in my narrow stomping grounds; I really covered a lot of wildflowers in my original fury of documentation. But today I saw two new wildflowers and this beautiful frog! The pickerel frog has front toes that are not webbed, making it more able to live on land apparently (and you can see the toes in this pic).
In winter they hibernate under debris in the water and come out for action from April to October. To catch their chow (insects, spiders, larvae), they will search grassy areas near their watery homes — like this frog, which was right on the trail, near the Charles River.
This is the only poisonous frog native to the U.S.! If attacked, it emits toxic skin secretions! However this does not deter its main predators: other kinds of frogs and snakes.
I was visiting my mom in Charleston, Illinois and looked out the window to see this snapping turtle motoring down the driveway at high turtle speed. Presumably it had laid eggs (somewhere in the yard? in the plowed field behind the house?) and was on its way back to the creek across the street. The neighbors came out to see what I was photographing. One of them was mowing his yard with a small end-loader. He came over, scraped the leeches off the turtle, picked it up by the tail and hauled it off to the creek. The turtle was pretty mad about this change in plans and got in some good snaps, but this way she didn’t have to cross the street. (I have since read that you shouldn’t pick them up by the tail because it can damage the spine and tail. Safest way for turtle and person is to grab the carapace above the back legs.)
Snappers are known for their angry attitude, biting jaws and the fact that their heads can really extend and snake around for snapping you! They snap to defend themselves because they are too big to hide in their shells. In the north, they mature at 15-20 years and apparently can live over 100 years. Adults have few predators (besides humans) but almost everything likes to eat the eggs and hatchlings. Incubation time is 9-18 weeks, depending on how warm the weather is… so Mom’s neighborhood should be watching for hatchlings starting in early July.
The nice thing about a hilly backyard is, you can be lying in bed considering waking up, and still see a coyote trot by.
It went out of sight, and then came back and surveyed the prospects from the front yard, but it was morning rush hour so that road was not crossable. It wisely turned and went to the backyard again and disappeared.
They have their pups in mid-April so this is a time when they’re territorial about their dens, and apparently they are often show themselves more at the this time, just to make it clear to you. However, I think this one was just passing through. I wonder why. Glad to see it looking so healthy. Sorry the woods are less and less and it has to concern itself with things like crossing Central Avenue at rush hour.
We were driving around looking for a different access route to the marsh with the heron nest. We were on a residential street in Wellesley when we spotted this coyote. It immediately turned to leave, but when Lucy started barking at it from inside the car, it came back to investigate us.
It looked quite fine and healthy as far as I could tell. Rather thrilling to get such a good look. Coyotes weigh 20 to 50 lbs. and can live up to 14 years in the wild. Their litters are three to twelve pups, born in the spring. Both parents protect their pups and their territory. By fall, the young can hunt on their own. There is an area of Ridge Hill I call Coyoteville. I wonder if this one has a den in that area.
Okay, I like wildflowers, but I have to admit, once you start paying attention to the fungi, they are pretty cool visually and they have interesting back stories. Look at this big fleshy thing living on the forest floor! I also confess that so many different-looking fungi are named Sulphur Shelf that I find it hard to be certain if I have this identification right. It’s not like flowers where you can count the petals and observe the leaf structure and you can (usually) get a clear-cut identification.
Sometimes there’s a non-wildflower item that demands notice! In our woods, there were several of these big ruffly fungi all growing around an old tree stump (my hand added for scale). I took these July 21; now they’ve pretty much withered, darkened and disappeared. I’m finding fungus identification difficult — there are many that look similar to me, and there can apparently be lots of variation within a species. That said, I think this is a Giant Polypore — can get to be 30 inches in diameter.
Native. Likes bogs and other moist habitats. The leafy parts are sterile; the cinnamony part is a fertile, spore-bearing frond. This kind of fern is considered a living fossil because it occurs in the geologic record 75 million years ago, among the oldest of ferns.
The first sounds heralding the arrival of spring: 1. The snarling, metallic, tiny weed-whacker sound of the beard trimmer. That’s B shaving his winter beard because it’s the vernal equinox, and like all the other creatures compelled by their DNA to respond to the seasons, he must shed his winter coat. 2. Spring peepers! This year I first heard them March 28. (Last year it was March 12.) They are “chorus frogs,” and can live in breeding groups of several hundred. Their bodies can be less than an inch long or up to about 1.5 inches. It’s only the males that make the sound (to attract their women). They hibernate under logs and leaves, and can survive being mostly frozen. Then in spring, you hear them especially in vernal ponds and other temporary wetlands. They lay their eggs in the water, and then live on land the rest of the year, feeding on insects. I’m sorry this photo is just a thawing pond with no actual frogs to look at, but here’s a video that shows some Connecticut peepers in action:
Lucy and I were walking in the woods not on a trail when something cold brushed past my leg. I kept the shrieking to a minimum and saw this toad, about the size of my fist, so well camouflaged that I never would have seen it had it not tapped me on the shoulder. So to speak. Even the stripe on its back looks like a bit of grass.
Their tadpoles are very small, solid black, and reach adulthood in 30-40 days, and then become mostly terrestrial. Their skin produces a toxic chemical that discourages fish from eating them.
A.F. Irit was wondering what these feel like so we tried it. I expected it would feel velvety, dry, and hard. But actually it was not velvety dry, it was more like velvety damp, cold and kind of rubbery, like feeling a diving wet suit. Reputedly edible and absolutely choice if cooked (and very upsetting if eaten raw)! (No thanks!)
White-pored Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus cincinnatus)