Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Chipmunk Choir - We Wish You A Merry Christmas!


White Breasted Nuthatch conducts the "Chipmunk Christmas  Choir" in a rousing rendition of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" beneath the town square Hemlock Tree. The Peanut Gallery - er "audience" is the forest squirrels. There is a special guest appearance by Chickadees whose singing upsets Mr. Nuthatch! Have a great Holiday Season!

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Chipmunk Choir - We Wish You A Merry Christmas!

Amazing Bird Echoes on Weather Radar



Animation of Birds on Radar! December 19th, 2016 - A rare perfect circular donut  echo is seen on weather radar from flocks of birds taking off at sunrise south of Orlando, Florida. It has long been known that bird movements show up on radar, but rarely do they show up as perfect circles starting from a small area and growing to such a large area. These birds took off south of lake Tohopekaliga near Kissimmee, Florida. Another circular bird echo can be seen further south toward the north shore of Lake Okeechobee.

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Bird Echoes on Weather Radar


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Abominable Squirrels Discovered in Alaska - Exclusive Drone Footage


Drone footage reveals giant Abominable Squirrels in a remote part of Alaska. As you can imagine the found footage affords only a brief glimpse of these shy and elusive creatures!

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Video: Abominable Squirrels Discovered in Alaska - Exclusive Drone Footage

Squirrel Nut Burying Frenzy



Gray Squirrels bury nuts as fast as they can - a true nut burying frenzy - as I spend some quality time handing them large ripe acorns given by a friend. The Backyard has no acorns this time of year (water oaks) while they are falling in piles in other areas of Florida with small live oaks. Rather than eating them as I expected, the squirrels seem in a great rush to bury them as fast as possible - many they will not find again. Maybe it is going to get cold this winter! You will also hear the calls of Gray Catbirds and Northern Cardinals in the background at various times.

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Squirrel Nut Burying Frenzy

Thumbnail source image from Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0:
Squirrel photo collage created by Bob MacInnes.
Changes were made to the original image and the modified image and its use are not endorsed by the original author.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lonetown/3197405657/sizes/l/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/



Polka Dot Wasp Moth



The stunning Polka Dot Wasp Moth is the adult stage of the Oleander Caterpillar, here pollinating our Backyard Loquat Trees. It is rare to see and get film of these elusive beauties which flutter around slowly in the daytime (Syntomeida epilais Walker). Its dangerous wasp-like appearance and unusual color patterns say to potential predators like birds - stay away - thus they are perfectly safe to feed on pollen in the daytime alongside the bees and other pollinators. Their caterpillars are only destructive to Oleander Trees which are highly poisonous. Oddly another similar wasp moth with bright red wings is actually called the Spotted Oleander Wasp Moth - it can be seen in this video:

The adult stage of the oleander caterpillar is sometimes called the polka-dot wasp moth. Wasp moth is the common name given to the subfamily of arctiid moths to which this species belongs (the ctenuchines) because of their resemblance to wasps such as the sphecids and pompilids. The moth's body and wings are a beautiful iridescent blue/green. Small white dots are found on the body, wings, legs and antennae, and the tip of the abdomen is red/orange. Male and female moths are quite similar in appearance, and have a wing span of 45 to 51 mm. These moths are slow-flying and active during daylight hours, which contrasts them with other moth species which are usually nocturnal.
http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/orn/oleander_caterpillar.htm

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Polka Dot Wasp Moth

MOVO VXR 300 Compact Stereo Video Microphone Test



Improve your videos! A practical test of the MOVO VXR 300 Compact Stereo Video Microphone designed for DSLR cameras, point and shoot or "bridge" cameras and any audio recorder with 3.5 mm audio input jacks. 
Movo VXR300 HD Professional Condenser X/Y Stereo Video Microphone for DSLR Video Cameras and Movo Photo HVA20 Heavy-Duty Video Accessory Dual Shoe Bracket for Lights, Monitors, Microphones and More.

 I am mainly concerned with its use on DSLR's and bridge cameras like the Canon SX60 HS which is my bread and butter Nature video camera and was used on most of the videos on this YouTube channel.

I felt I needed an external microphone for three reasons - in this order - 1) especially with age and hard use all electronic super-zoom bridge cameras like the Canon SX60 will produce very annoying noises during zoom in and out operations that really sounds amateurish and needs to be edited out.  2) Wind noise - I just hate that loud wind roar that ruins many good videos and leads to putting music with the videos. and 3) to improve the overall sound quality of the videos. 

Movo VXR300 HD Professional Condenser X/Y Stereo Video Microphone for DSLR Video Cameras and Movo Photo HVA20 Heavy-Duty Video Accessory Dual Shoe Bracket for Lights, Monitors, Microphones and More.

MOVO VXR 300 Compact Stereo Video Microphone

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Black Crowned Night Heron


Black Crowned Night Herons roost low in trees during the day and then take of around dusk for a night of hunting. I was lucky to catch this beautiful bird taking off from its daytime roost. They are unusual for herons with short stout necks and short legs. 

Typically solitary when foraging, the Black-crowned NightHeron
is most often observed at dawn, dusk, and on
cloudy days. Black-crowned Night-Herons have distinct
immature plumage and attain full breeding plumage in
their third year. Virtually worldwide in distribution, it
breeds from the northern United States and southern
Canada south to Hawaii, Peru, and Argentina.
Habitat. This cryptic species is inconspicuous at roost and
when seeking food, even though it forages during the day
while feeding young. Outside the breeding season, the
Black-crowned Night-Heron forages mostly at night,
usually wading in shallow water, and feeding on fish,
crustaceans, small amphibians, reptiles, nestling birds,
and mammals, as well as other aquatic organisms.
This species nests in homogeneous colonies, in colonies of
other waders, and, rarely, singly. Nests are formed of
dead surrounding vegetation in a marsh or built of sticks
in trees or bushes near or over water. Three to 5 bluegreen
eggs hatch in 24 to 26 days, and the young fledge
at about 42 days of age.
Seasonal Occurrence. Breeding has been reported from January through August, but the presence of young
birds in south Florida in December indicates that breeding may occur year-round there. In summer, Blackcrowned
Night-Herons are absent from most of the Panhandle. Migratory individuals appear in March and April,
sometimes as late as May. Fall migrants have been reported in September. Florida populations increase
considerably in winter with the influx of northern migrants. Florida is probably the southernmost wintering
ground for Black-crowned Night Herons from the eastern United States.
Status. Because it is a wetlands-dependent species, it is considered a Species of Special Concern by the Florida
Committee on Rare and Endangered Plants and Animals .

The statewide breeding distribution of the Black-crowned Night Heron follows the availability of wetland habitat
Most nesting colonies are located in central and southern Florida, with scattered colonies in north Florida. Howe
(1932) mentions breeding in Pensacola, but no records west of Wakulla County were obtained during the Atlas
project. No trends are currently measurable for this ubiquitous species. 
http://legacy.myfwc.com/bba/docs/bba_BCNH.pdf

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Black Crowned Night Heron

Osprey Sky Dance And Mating Calls



High Definition Audio. Amazing male Osprey Sky Dance and courtship calling right over the Backyard and low. While the male shows off his voice and stamina for over 10 minutes the female can be heard calling loudly from high in a long leaf pine tree below probably encouraging him on! Hopefully they will build a nest nearby in the coming weeks. Luckily I had just attached my new external microphone with wind screen - this was the perfect test!

Appearance:
The undersides of the toes on each foot are covered with short spines, which help them grasp slippery fish.
Habitat:
The osprey is smaller than the bald eagles that typically share the same habitats, but its five to six foot wingspan is impressive nonetheless. Adults are dark brown above with a white underside and head. Look for the distinctive dark line that extends behind the eye and the gull-like way the narrow wings are angled downward when the birds are in flight.
The osprey is found year-round in Florida both as a nesting species and as a spring and fall migrant passing between more northern areas and Central and South America. Ospreys in Florida did not suffer the serious pesticide-related population declines that occurred in other states in the 1950s and 1960s. Pesticides, shoreline development and declining water quality continue to threaten the abundance and availability of food and nest sites for ospreys.
Behavior:
Ospreys, also known as "fish hawks," are expert anglers that like to hover above the water, locate their prey and then swoop down for the capture with talons extended.
In Florida, ospreys commonly capture saltwater catfish, mullet, spotted trout, shad, crappie and sunfish from coastal habitats and freshwater lakes and rivers for their diet.
Ospreys build large stick nests located in the tops of large living or dead trees and on manmade structures such as utility poles, channel markers and nest platforms. Ospreys have adapted so well to artificial nest sites that the species now nests in areas (e.g. inner cities) once considered unsuitable. Nests are commonly reused for many years. Nesting begins from December (south Florida) to late February (north Florida). The incubation and nestling period extends into the summer months.
The osprey is listed as a Species of Special Concern only in Monroe County. Permits are required throughout the state to remove a nest for these wonderful raptors, however, and a replacement structure must be erected to mitigate the removal of the nest.
http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/birds/raptors-and-vultures/osprey/

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Osprey Sky Dance And Mating Calls

Squirrels Trash Thanksgiving Dinner Party



Backyard Gray Squirrels were invited to Thanksgiving Dinner, but it didn't go well. Most of the year they seem to be able to function, however the holiday festivities apparently upset their routine and the first guest to arrive - from above of all places - totally trashed the carefully planned seating arrangements and party favors. Talk about an entrance - well It was downhill from there!

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Squirrels Trash Thanksgiving Dinner Party

Test of Tamron 150 - 600 mm Zoom Lens With Vivitar 2X Teleconverter 1920mm



1920 mm optical zoom lens - Tamron Auto Focus A011C700 SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD Zoom Lens for Canon EF Cameras with Vivitar Teleconverter Lens (2X4C). With special guest appearance!
This is a practical non-technical real-world test of what can expect using this setup in less than optimal shooting conditions for the vast majority of users this should be acceptable especially considering cost-benefit. Remember for every picture a professional sells or gets published they probably discard hundreds if not thousands of shots. This was just one day of examples in bad conditions.

All pictures and video were shot on a Canon T5i with the Tamron 150-600 and Vivitar 2X converter and remote shutter control. This provides an effective 1920 mm optical focal length. It was also a very windy day which has a significant impact when shooting at nearly 2000 mm. The lens was 1000 bucks with a $200 rebate and 10% cashback and the converter $75 used/recondition at Amazon so I have about 800 bucks total in this lens setup.  
None of the pictures or videos have been cropped or enhanced prior to loading into the Filmora Video Editor, of course in the process of conversion into this video there was some degradation of the imagery, but it is presented as best as can be to give you an idea of the results possible with the Tamron and teleconverter.
I set the shutter speed at 1-800 and let the camera choose the f-stop and ISO and manual focus. Autofocus will not work with the teleconverter as the video demonstrates this is to be expected and not a defect.
All of the imagery was taken in what would be considered bad to poor or harsh lighting conditions.
Of course all the videos and pictures could be improved significantly with post-processing.

The next generation Tamron lens (Tamron AFA022C700 SP 150-600mm Di VC USD G2 f/5.6-40.0) is out at around 1,300 buck with a $400 teleconverter available and this setup would probably provide incrmentally better results in poor conditions. I personally shoot mainly video and use a Canon SX60 1300mm 65x optical zoom for my workhorse, but I find the video with this 1920 mm setup more than acceptable especially in the sun. 

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Test of Tamron 150 - 600 mm Zoom Lens



Saturday, November 5, 2016

Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)



Male Belted Kingfisher on a traditional perch hunting over the St. Johns river marsh in Florida. He's having a bad hair day due to high winds.  For a nice example of a female Belted Kingfisher see:

Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)
With its rattling call, large crested head, and habit of
perching conspicuously, the Belted Kingfisher is familiar to
many Floridians, even those with only a casual interest in
birds. Kingfishers breed as far north as Alaska and winter
south to northern South America.
Habitat. Because it usually nests in burrows dug into
embankments, the breeding range of the Belted
Kingfisher is limited to areas of the state containing river
bluffs or disturbed areas, such as canal banks, borrow
ponds, and mine sites.
As their name suggests, these birds feed largely on fish,
but they also eat insects, crayfish, frogs, young birds,
small rodents, and berries.
Belted Kingfishers typically select clay or sand banks for
breeding. Both adults dig the burrow, using their bills and
feet. The nesting chamber is built at the end of the
burrow and may be up to 5 m (15 ft) in length, but is
usually 1 to 2 m (3 to 6 ft) long (Bent 1940). In this
protected chamber, 4 or 5 unmarked white eggs are laid
from May through July (Stevenson and Anderson 1994).
Both adults share in incubation, which takes 23 or 24
days. Young are fed regurgitant produced by their parents (Wheelock 1905) and fledge at about 23 days of age
One brood is raised per year.
Seasonal Occurrence. Belted Kingfishers are resident in Florida, although more common in the Panhandle an
north Florida in summer, and central and south Florida in winter. They nest April through July.
Status. Belted Kingfishers are rare and very local breeders in the peninsula, although more widespread and
common in the Panhandle. While many Panhandle breeding records were probably located in natural river and
stream banks, the majority of the confirmed breeding records outside the Panhandle were located in artificially
created embankments.
http://legacy.myfwc.com/bba/docs/bba_BEKI.pdf

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Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)


Gulf Fritillary or Passion Butterfly




Gulf Fritillary or Passion Butterfly

Beautiful Gulf Fritillary or "Passion" Butterfly - bright orange catches your eye and the 3 little white dots on each fore-wing are the clincher. Watch for a guest appearance by a spider!
The Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae (Linnaeus), is a brightly colored butterfly common across extreme southern portions of the United States. At home in most open, sunny habitats, it frequents roadsides, disturbed sites, fields, open woodlands, pastures, yards, and parks. It is a regular in most butterfly gardens, including those in more urban settings.

The Gulf fritillary occurs throughout the southern United States southward through Mexico, Central America and the West Indies to South America. In Florida, it can be found in all 67 counties. The butterfly undergoes distinct seasonal movements each year. Adults move northward in spring and form temporarily breeding colonies throughout the southeast. Individual vagrants may occasionally reach into the central U.S., but rarely into the Midwest. Starting in late summer and continuing through fall, huge numbers of adults migrate southward into peninsular Florida. Adults overwinter in frost-free portions of their range.

Adult: The Gulf fritillary is a medium-sized butterfly with elongated forewings. Adults have a wingspan range of 65 to 95 mm. Females are generally larger than males. The sexes are dimorphic. The upper surface of the wings is bright orange with black markings. Females are somewhat darker and more extensively marked. The forewing cell contains three black-rimmed white spots. The undersides of the wings are brown with elongated silvery-white spots.
http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/bfly/gulf_fritillary.htm


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Coyotes Barking and Howling



The sounds or calls of what I think is a pack of Coyotes barking and howling way down in the valley below as I'm walking above the house in the morning. I have only heard these crazy sounds once before - fortunately I had my cell phone handy this time. They have never shown up on my night vision camera traps,  there used to be foxes in the yard all the time - but they are gone this summer and we have a lot of rabbits so I don't think many higher predators other than bears live right nearby. There are a few domestic dogs in the area, but they don't sound like this and I'm no coyote expert by any means so if anyone has any other ideas about these howls and hyena-like barks I'm open to suggestion.



Coyotes Barking and Howling

Chipmunk Cluck Cluck Wood-Knocking Sounds



Cluck - Cluck or Knock - Knock on wood sound or calls echoing loudly through the forests and mountains - these incredible sounds are made by Chipmunks and seeing is believing! After three years of documenting these loud sounds that carry for 100's of yards through the forest and suspecting they were from Chipmunks, but not knowing how they could be so loud I've finally caught the little ones in the act. They put a lot of effort into these calls with full body involvement. This loud calling typically starts in late summer - here in the Great Smoky Mountains it was August 29th. These calls have absolutely nothing to do with a warning call after seeing predators such as hawks as some scientists have concluded in limited studies mostly in the northeast, but likely have everything to do with Chipmunk communication, perhaps territory. These sounds will echo through the forest sometimes for hours with several joining in especially in October. Because Chipmunks are so small and the forest so vast it is very hard to actually find the source of these loud wood-knocking noises, but today I got lucky with one sitting on a pile of rocks at the forest edge - the Chipmunk seemed to enter an almost trance-like state for a few minutes.
Here are the previous recordings in the deep forest - you can imagine how hard it is to find an individual Chipmunk:

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Chipmunk Cluck Cluck Wood-Knocking Sounds

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Blue Cohosh


Blue Cohosh is a beautiful plant when the berries turn ripe in late summer. This was a large patch in the Great Smoky Mountains that covered a hillside. Noted for its medicinal properties it's roots are used to make various mixtures. “Cohosh” is from the Algonquin Indian word meaning "rough," and it refers to the appearance of the roots. The root is used to make medicine.
Blue cohosh is used for stimulating the uterus and starting labor; starting menstruation; stopping muscle spasms; as a laxative; and for treating colic, sore throat, cramps, hiccups, epilepsy, hysterics, inflammation of the uterus, and joint conditions.

In foods, the roasted seeds of blue cohosh are used as a coffee substitute.

How does it work?
It is thought that blue cohosh might have effects similar to the hormone estrogen. It also may narrow the vessels that carry blood to the heart that can decrease oxygen in the heart. Caulophyllum thalictroides, blue cohosh a species of Caulophyllum (family Berberidaceae), also called squaw root or papoose root, is a flowering plant in the Berberidaceae (barberry) family. It is a medium-tall perennial with blue berry-like fruits and bluish-green foliage. It has been used as a medicinal herb by American Indians. Many Native American tribes, and later European herbologists and mid-wives, would use this herb in conjunction with other herbs and fluids for abortive and contraceptive purposes.
From the single stalk rising from the ground, there is a single, large, three-branched leaf plus a fruiting stalk. The bluish-green leaflets are tulip-shaped, entire at the base, but serrate at the tip. Its species name, thalictroides, comes from the similarity between the large highly divided, multiple-compound leaves of Meadow-rue (Thalictrum) and those of Blue Cohosh.

It is found in hardwood forest of the eastern United States, and favors moist coves and hillsides, generally in shady locations, in rich soil. It grows in eastern North America, from Manitoba and Oklahoma east to the Atlantic Ocean.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caulophyllum_thalictroides
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Blue Cohosh

Blue Cohosh


White Baneberry - "Dolls Eyes" Plants That Can Kill You!


Plants that can kill you! White Baneberry ripens in late August and eating only a few berries can induce cardiac arrest and death. Fortunately it has a rather creepy look about it with a characteristic black dot at the end of each white berry that gives it the name "Doll's Eyes" and should say "beware"! In very small quantities it has been used as a herbal remedy in the past by native Americans. Here is some more information:
White baneberry Facts
White baneberry is herbaceous plant that belongs to the buttercup family. It originates from the eastern parts of North America. White baneberry can be found in deciduous and mixed forests and dense thicket. It grows on the fertile, moist (but well-drained), acidic soil, in the partial shade. White baneberry is listed as endangered in Florida and vulnerable in New York due to over-exploitation of the wild plants. People cultivate white baneberry in ornamental purposes because of its decorative flowers and long-lasting berries.
Interesting White baneberry Facts:
White baneberry has erect, multi-branched stem that can reach 1.5 to 2 feet in height and 3 feet in width.
White baneberry produces large, thrice divided leaves (composed of three leaflets) with toothed edges. Leaves are green colored and alternately arranged on the stem.
White baneberry develops small white flowers arranged in the form of dense, globular clusters (raceme) at the end of the branches, above the leaves. Flowers contain both types of reproductive organs (perfect flowers).
White baneberry blooms from April to June. Flowers emit rose-like fragrance which attracts small insects (such as European snout beetles) which are responsible for the pollination of this plant.
Fruit of white baneberry are white berries arranged on thick, red stalks. Fruit ripens during the summer and autumn and remains on the stem throughout the winter.
White baneberry propagates via seed and division of the root.
White baneberry is also known as "doll's eyes" because of its white berries with prominent black spot that look like eyes of porcelain dolls.
All parts of white baneberry (especially berries and root) are poisonous (contain cardiogenic toxins) and they should be avoided.
Typical signs of intoxication are nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, blisters in the mouth, burning sensation, confusion and headache. 2 to 6 baneberries contain enough toxin to induce cardiac arrest in children if they accidently swallow them. Luckily, berries has unpleasant, bitter taste and they are rarely consumed on purpose.
Common name "white baneberry" refers to the color of the fruit and high content of cardiogenic toxins in the berries (bane-berries).
Even though white baneberries are toxic for humans, birds can consume these berries without any visible side effects. Birds eliminate undigested seed via feces and facilitate dispersal of white baneberry in the wild.
Native Americans used root of white baneberry in treatment of menstrual cramps and symptoms of menopause and to alleviate cough, common cold and rheumatism.
Infusion made of leaves of white baneberry was used to stimulate secretion of milk in women in the past.
Native Americans used juice squeezed from the white baneberries as a source of poison.
White baneberry is perennial plant, which means that it can survive more than 2 years in the wild.
http://www.softschools.com/facts/plants/white_baneberry_facts/1958/

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White Baneberry -  "Dolls Eyes" Plant

Hummingbird Swing Perch



Ruby Throated Hummingbirds enjoy watching over their territory around feeders while "swinging" from this attractive Hummingbird Swing Perch. This is the Songbird Essentials SEHHHUMS Copper Hummingbird Swing from Amazon. Attractive, but a bit pricey at $12 - it works and looks good on a porch or deck. I like the wood and copper look. As you can see in the video there is no shortage of natural perches near the feeders so I was delighted to see this get used as much as it does. It tends to be used most often in the morning and early evening when the hummers are most active. 

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Hummingbird Swing Perch


Bald Faced Hornet Nest


Large Bald Faced Hornet nest in a tree with some nice bird calls in the background. These are dangerous hornets and they typically build their nests in trees in the wild and near houses so if one accidentally disturbs them while mowing or trimming trees you won't outrun them. The worker hornets here are diligently making the nest even bigger. When found away from any human habitation like this nest its best just to leave them alone as they are in fact quite beneficial by preying on other harmful insects - all in the balance of Nature. Interestingly, if you are quiet you can film them quite closely as here with a cell phone - they have guard hornets posted who are always on the lookout for anything threatening so best to give these nest a wide berth.

Dolichovespula maculata is a eusocial wasp of the cosmopolitan family Vespidae. Its colloquial names include the bald-faced hornet, bald hornet, white-faced hornet, white-tailed hornet, blackjacket, and bull wasp. This species is a yellowjacket wasp, not a true hornet (genus Vespa). Colonies contain 400 to 700 workers, the largest recorded colony size in its genus, Dolichovespula. It builds a characteristic hanging paper nest. Workers aggressively defend their nest by repeatedly stinging invaders.

Dolichovespula maculata is distributed throughout the United States and Southern Canada, but is most common in the southeastern United States. Males in this species are haploid and females are diploid. Worker females can therefore lay eggs which develop into males. Matricide might occur after sufficient workers have been raised and queen-destined eggs have been laid, in order to give workers a reproductive advantage. The sting hurts intensely when first stung and will get a bump but in a couple hours it will not be there.
Baldfaced hornets are distinguished from other yellowjackets by their white and black coloring. It has a white or "baldfaced" head, which is the source of its colloquial namesake. These wasps also have three white stripes at the end of their bodies. They are notably larger than other species of Dolichovespula, as adults average about 19 millimetres (0.75 in) in length. Queen and worker wasps have similar morphologies. However, workers are covered by small hairs while the queen remains hairless. Queens are always larger than workers in their colonies, though size distributions can vary in different nests and workers in one colony might be as large as a queen in a different one.

D. maculata create egg-shaped, paper nests up to 360 millimetres (14 in) in diameter and 580 millimetres (23 in) in length. Nests are layered hexagonal combs covered by a mottled gray paper envelope. Bald-Faced Hornets create this paper envelope by collecting and chewing naturally occurring fibers. The wood fiber mixes with their saliva to become a pulpy substance that they can then form into place.

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Bald Faced Hornet Nest

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sounds of Katydids and Crickets at Night



15 minutes of very loud, but soothing Katydid and Cricket sounds in the deep dark forest of the Great Smoky Mountains. If you close your eyes and meditate on the deep forest sounds of the night you can pick out three distinct sounds coming from three different insect groups. The background low steady sound is from thousands of forest crickets. These noises start soon after dark and build in intensity to the late night and then gradually taper off toward daybreak.
True Katydids are relatives of grasshoppers and crickets. They grow over two inches long and are leaf-green in color.

Katydids have oval-shaped wings with lots of veins. They resemble leaves.

True Katydids live in forests, thickets, or fields with lots of shrubs or trees. Katydids spend most of their time at the tops of trees where most of the leaves are.

Usually katydids are heard, but not seen.
Unlike grasshoppers and crickets, both male and female katydids make sounds. They rub their forewings (front wings) together to "sing" to each other. Katydid hear each other with ears on their front legs.

Breeding season is in late Summer and early Fall. Females will lay eggs on stems.

Eggs will hatch the following Spring into nymphs. Nymphs are young katydids not fully grown. Katydid nymphs eat and grow, molting their skin several times. Each time the nymph sheds its skin it looks more like an adult. Finally, after its last molt, the nymph has changed into an adult katydid.

True Katydids eat leaves of most deciduous (lose leaves in Fall) trees and shrubs, especially oaks.

Katydids can fly short distances when threatened, but they prefer to walk and climb. When they do fly, it is more of a downward flutter. If a katydid lands on the ground, it will walk to the nearest tree and climb.

Predators of True Katydids include birds, bats, spiders, frogs, snakes, and other insect-eaters.
http://www2.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/true_katydid.htm

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image source University of Florida

Sounds of Katydids and Crickets at Night


Squirrel Attacks Pileated Woodpecker and Steals Its Bugs



Gray Squirrel stakes out a female Pileated Woodpecker on three different days and waits until she has exposed bug infested wood with her powerful beak and then attacks - scaring off the woodpecker and then immediately begins to eat where the Pileated Woodpecker just exposed the rotting wood. It is either doing this to gain access to the tasty ant larvae under the bark or there is something about the wood such as minerals or "medicine" that the squirrel finds appealing. Although it is not uncommon for squirrels and woodpeckers to occasionally have a tussle I have never heard of or seen this unusual behavior before. Clearly the squirrel has learned to take advantage of the Pileated Woodpeckers hard work - no doubt for some nefarious purpose. This may go on all the time in dense cover like this its just that I was lucky to notice it on a stretch of says. Generally the big Woodies are rare visitors to the Backyard.


Squirrel Attacks Pileated Woodpecker

Petting A Praying Mantis - Extreme Close-Up



Making friends with a Praying Mantis hunting insects on the porch! These fascinating insects have personalities and unlike most insects seem to relate to humans and humans seem to instinctively sense their awareness and do not harm them! They of course, are extremely beneficial to have around.


Petting A Praying Mantis


Feral Cat Documentary - Wild Jungle Cat - The Final Chapter



Wild Feral Cat Documentary for true cat-lovers - a nocturnal Jungle Cat survives in the wild behind the Backyard. He avoids all human contact and lives wild and free, but how long can he survive there...? This is the conclusion of the multi-part story.
The story of the first feral cat I successfully befriended and found a home for - perhaps this fellows sister:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-p-Hqfab9Y
Part 1 of this cats story:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnIcgzMlm8Q
Part 2:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVPWvFW0Jwk

Feral Cat Documentary

Video: Feral Cat Documentary - Wild Jungle Cat - The Final Chapter

Monday, August 8, 2016

Squirrel Bot Fly Parasite Documentary


Another reason besides Zika Virus to avoid mosquito bites in Florida! May be disturbing to some viewers! Bot Flies, Warbles, Wolf Worms, Mango Worms - they have many names, but they are nasty and they are back again this hot summer (Florida, late July 2016). This video shows some of the Backyard Gray Squirrels dealing with this mosquito borne seasonal scourge that they suffer every summer. Not all of the squirrels have them - yet. One poor guy has them in his shoulder, leg and testicles which seems particularly nasty. The video shows them stoically carrying on and doing a lot of scratching and biting. Last year at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orx-xLZrry0
I noted they typically fully recover especially with extra food and fresh water provided by kindly humans. It is also interesting to note that the worst off fellow appears to be eating dirt or charcoal as a way of providing essential nutrients and maybe animal medicine. There really is nothing to be done medically for them as catching wild squirrels and restraining them while trying to cleanly remove and disinfect the worm area would be very stress inducing and risk injury and infection. It is said that these type of bot flies do not transfer to humans by mosquito bites in Florida as they do in Central America, but with Zika and everything else around I try to avoid any mosquito bites - but that's nearly impossible!
  
More detailed information can be found at:
http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/flies/squirrel_bot_fly.htm
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Squirrel Bot Fly Parasite Documentary



Woodpecker Couple Inspects Nest Box



A pair of Red Bellied Woodpeckers inspect a new Flycatcher Nest Box. Its now late July and 7 baby Red Bellied Woodpeckers have hatched and fledged in two broods so far this summer so I'm not sure what these two are up to - it could be they just can't resist checking out any potential nest site and give their opinion. Mother woodpecker in particular seems to spend a long time checking from every angle. Some nights the woodpeckers roost in the various nest boxes even though its not breeding season.

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Woodpecker Couple Inspects Nest Box
Woodpecker Couple Inspects Nest Box




Blue Jays Prank Squirrels - and Humans!



Blue Jays seem to delight in terrorizing the Backyard Gray Squirrels and manipulating us humans with their false alarm calls. When I hear these loud group alarm calls I usually grab the camera and head for the door as something interesting may be up! But it doesn't really take much to trick a squirrel or myself and the Jays have learned to use their vastly superior intellect to get more peanuts by drawing me out in the morning this way. They then settle in for a peanut  party which I am too nice to deny them as I have left them alone for a month in Florida, but they do seem to have a bit of a guilty look on their faces.

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Blue Jays Prank Squirrels

Friday, July 22, 2016

Gray Catbird Singing



Unlike their classic cat-like "meowing call" the Gray Catbird sings much like a Mockingbird - a close relative. Unlike the Mockingbird the Catbird is often hidden in heavy cover and you probably hear its song more often than you know. But when you hear the "mewing call" there is no doubt of the Catbirds presence:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfWx6W7B1V0
Gray Catbirds are close relatives of mockingbirds and thrashers, and they share that group’s vocal abilities, copying the sounds of other species and stringing them together to make their own song.
Male Gray Catbirds sing a long, halting series of short notes collected into "phrases," which combine to make a song. One whole song can last many minutes. Sounds include whistles, squeaks, gurgles, whines, and nasal tones. The notes often are imitations of other birds as well as of frogs and mechanical sounds. The series of sounds is random, but certain notes are often repeated. While mockingbirds tend to repeat phrases three or more times, and Brown Thrashers typically sing phrases twice before moving on, Catbirds usually don’t repeat phrases. Females sing infrequently, and when they do, their songs are sung more quietly.


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Gray Catbird Singing

Chipmunk Versus Tufted Titmouse


Tufted Titmice and Chickadees take on a greedy Eastern Chipmunk for superiority of a stash of choice bird seed - note I said "bird seed" not Chipmunk seed! Watch to the end to see who wins this Titanic Battle of wits - I'm not betting on the hairy mammal's little brain!
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Chipmunk Versus Tufted Titmouse