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Will the Big Night be Coming Soon?

Posted by on Mar 4, 2017

Will the Big Night be Coming Soon?

Have you seen any signs of spring yet? We certainly have! Robins are actively feeding, red-winged blackbirds are beginning to sing, and it won’t be long before our resident salamanders come out from their winter refuges. Conditions have to be just right to entice them out from under their chosen cover objects; a warm 40° night with rain sets the stage for spotted salamanders to begin their migration. Will we soon see the required circumstances to set this charismatic species on the move? Keep an eye on the weather and another on nearby pools and ponds so as not to miss the big...

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Roly-poly-pede

Posted by on Feb 27, 2017

Roly-poly-pede

This Giant Millipede (Narceus americanus) doesn’t really have 1,000 legs. However, like all millipedes, it has two pairs of extremities on each of its body segments (centipedes always have only a single pair per body segment). Unlike their centipede ‘cousins’, millipedes lack the modified jaw-like first pair of legs that predatory centipedes use to catch and sometimes envenomate their prey. Instead, millipedes defend themselves by rolling into a tight spiral and/or using chemical defenses that can include cyanide! Worst case scenario, handling one of these beautiful ‘roly-poly-pedes’...

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White-throated Sparrow

Posted by on Feb 26, 2017

White-throated Sparrow

Here is a photo of a White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) toughing it out in a recent snowstorm. Despite the fact that we were in the middle of February, this bird was already sporting its spring courting plumage; evidenced by its bright white throat and vibrant yellow lores. This is one of the first species you can expect to hear singing at the end of winter; their “oh-sweet-Canada” or “poor-Sam-Peabody” tune resonates from the brush. In some cases you might see White-throated Sparrows year-round – some birds will overwinter in the Northeast and head...

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Dragons of the Northeastern Forest?

Posted by on Feb 25, 2017

Dragons of the Northeastern Forest?

Do you still consider yourself to be a kid at heart? I definitely have my own “kid” moments when I’m out in the field flipping logs or dip netting pools to see what may be living beneath the surface of the forest floor or a body of water. One species in particular that I love to find in our northeastern forests is the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum). Known for their large black bodies spotted with bright yellow dots, this charismatic species is hard to miss when out in the open. However, they are typically only seen out and about once a year; during their spring...

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Zombie Fungus?

Posted by on Feb 22, 2017

Zombie Fungus?

During a recent Hemlock Woolly Adelgid survey, one of our volunteers found a little yellow blob attached to a hemlock twig. The mass was clearly not HWA, but curiosity prompted me to bring it back to the office for examination. A closer look under the microscope revealed that the blob actually consisted of a powdery fungus encapsulating a dead spider! After a bit of research, I came to suspect that it might be some sort of Cordyceps; a genus of parasitic fungi capable of taking control of an arthropod, thus directing it to navigate to a favorable position for the fungi’s spores to...

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Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus)

Posted by on Feb 18, 2017

Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus)

There’s always that one subject that is particularly challenging to photograph, and for me it’s the Slimy Salamander. They live in dense forests where the light is quite low and they quickly retreat from bright light, so without a high shutter speed your chances of capturing these secretive salamanders is next to none. What’s more, their jet black body and eyes makes it difficult to get the focus just right. And if you try to move them into a better position, your fingers get coated in their gooey secretions and then you stick to anything else you touch! These elusive...

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