Saturday, April 25, 2015

A sticky kinda night..

I'm a little behind on this post at this point....but that's what happens when field work gets going right!   Two Mondays ago, Mike and I went out with a friend to go experience salamander migration. Every year, these little guys travel from where they wintered to the ponds and areas where they will breed.

We drove up past Lakefield and begun our search.  If the number of frogs that we saw on the roads on our way there was any indication of the night to was certainly going to be busy!  While we are out, we decided to also take some samples for Chytrid fungus.   This is a type of fungus that lives specifically in water and infects the skin of amphibians.  In recent years, it has been causing quite a stir as it has been killing a large number of frogs in many parts of the world.  Amphibians who are infected tend to have a discolouration of the skin, and thus the best way to test for this fungus is to take swabs from the belly, underarm, and mouth.

Amelia and Mike taking swabs of a Blue-spotted Salamander

Our night started with a bunch (and by a bunch I mean SO MANY) Spring Peepers.  As we drove down the road to our search spot, everything we found within the first 40 minutes were peepers.  It was a really nice treat as usually I find Spring Peepers so difficult to spot! After a while, it felt like everything we were moving off the road was a peeper!

Halfway through the road we finally came across some other critters!   These included wood frogs, leopard frogs and also seeing my very first Blue and Yellow-spotted Salamanders!! 

Wood Frog

(left) Blue-spotted Salamander; (right) Yellow-spotted Salamander crossing the road
 I was so awesome to finally be also to see these Salamanders, I'd been wanting to for so long!!!   Such a treat.  I really loved how vibrant the yellow spots were too!  One thing I really didn't call for was how sticky they were!  Especially the Blue-spotted, I think it took almost a full day to really wash it all off.  Here's a few more shots of my favourite!!

Coming in a close second from the night is an awesome Wood Frog that I found! It was absolutely stunning and incredibly red. I had never seen something like it before!!

Hope everyone is having an amazing start to "spring" minus the recent snowfall.

Happy Naturing!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Waxwings

The one frustrating thing about birding for me has always been those few bird species who always look like another similar species.

I've been birding for a few years now and there have been two sets that have always seemed to elude me. The first, is the Canada vs. Cackling Goose.  For the life of me I never seem to be able to pick out that one Cackling goose in the flock.  There have been multiple reported in Peterborough this spring and although I've tried to find it many times now...I have yet to!  The second, is the Cedar vs. Bohemian Waxwing.  For a few years now I have tried to identify one in the field amongst a flock however, the differences always felt so minute, that it was hard to.

A few days ago Mike and I went on a walk to Beavermede Park.  I feel so luck to live across from such an area that when I feel the stress building, it's my retreat. This particular day we had been working since early in the morning and took an hour to go for a relaxing walk.

At Beavermede we saw a few usual species; Canada Geese, Mallards, an Osprey, song sparrows, robins, etc.   We hiked out towards where the campsites were, and this was where we saw a large flock of Cedar Waxwings.   They were everywhere!  At first they all just looked like Cedar Waxwings to me, however I took out my Ibird app on my phone and did a quick scan between the two waxwings to see what differences I should be looking for with both site and sound.

We sat near a tiny puddle where the birds seems to be landing to take a drink.  I began just snapping photos trying to get every bird I could, in hopes that I could spot the differences when I got back home.  While looking at the photos now I do spot the differences, we were able to finally see them in the field!   

At first we focused on the belly, being more of a gray colour than yellow.  In the sunlight, however, this proved to be pretty difficult to gauge.  I then decided that it was likely best to look at the wings instead.  A main difference between the two was that while Cedar Waxings have a solid gray wings (minus the little red waxy tips), Bohemian Waxwings have this same colouring but with white bars across the feathers.  

So while these waxwings landed on the ground to drink, I finally took notice of these differences.  I managed to snap a perfect photo of the two almost side by side (below).  The front bird is the Bohemian, notice the white on the wingbars and the more rufous under-tail.  Behind it, is the Cedar Waxwing with the solid wing colour.  

It was incredibly exciting to finally be able to spot the differences between the two!  It is always rewarding to be able to spot and ID new species, however I found it particularly rewarding in this case since the two have always looked so similar to me.   Now all I need is that darned goose!

Happy Naturing!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Little Lake Cemetery Visit

This past Wednesday I took a drive to Little Lake Cemetary with my labmate Dan, and Walter Wehtje after our lab meeting.  I had gone for a run the night before and saw plenty of ducks, but of course had no binos with me.

Just as I was driving into the cemetery, I saw what I thought was an Osprey fly over, but "it's too early isn't it?!" I thought.  Dan was already at the cemetery and confirmed that it was indeed an Osprey!  We then looked at Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Mallards, Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Ducks, Canada Geese, and 4 pairs of Hooded Mergansers swimming around. Dan mentioned that he saw a Lesser Scaup, however it wasn't until after he left and when Walter arrived that I was able to find it again.

Before Walter arrived, I walked around and noticed a few Chickadees, Robins, Starlings, and a flock of Cedar Waxwings, which were a first of the year for me!

 Just as Walter pulled into the area, I noticed a little "duck" floating really close to the shoreline.  You know those moments were you just assume what it is and carry on?  Well, I ALMOST did that.  I almost drove right by it thinking it was another female mallard, but something made me stop, reverse, and get out for a second look.  I am so glad that I did too, because I saw my year-first Pie-billed Grebe swimming away from me! I don't believe I saw one last year, so it was a nice to be able to check it off.  What little cuties they are too!

We stayed around and looked for a wee bit.  After a while, we finally re-spotted the Lesser Scaup too!  It took us a little while to really find all the qualities that made it a Lesser as opposed to a Greater, however both of us ended up being comfortable with our choice.  Just as we were about to pack up, I heard a very familiar rattling call. was my first Belted Kingfisher of the year!! Can't believe they are all back already!

Within the last few days I also had the first Song Sparrow visit my bird feeder!  The squirrels are still hanging around almost non-stop.  I noticed this grey one yesterday that looked just hilarious shedding and changing into its summer coat. So, naturally, I couldn't resist taking a photo!

I hope that everyone had a great Easter/long weekend!!

Happy Naturing!