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Day 10 . . . The Backyard Nature Challenge is RIGHT AROUND the CORNER!

April 22, 2020 -

                    Our Final Day of identification practice 

So, it’s almost here!  The international City Nature Challenge begins on Friday morning!  We certainly hope you’ll be joining the fun by posting photos or helping identify what folks in the Baltimore area have been able to find.   The timing is perfect . . . spring flowers are in full bloom, bird migration is kicking into high gear, and, with warmer days ahead, critters of all shapes and sizes are becoming increasingly active and more visible.  And what better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of EARTH DAY than by contributing to citizen science research about the ecological diversity that exists in our modern urban areas?!?



A final Pre-CNC message from our Baltimore Area sponsors, the National Aquarium:


Please consider signing up to be part of the 2020 City Nature Challenge! The challenge kicks off this Friday, April 24, and runs through Monday, April 27. This year’s challenge is an opportunity to connect with other cities across the nation—and the globe—from your home, while documenting the biodiversity found in your own backyard.


And another chance to see the Aquarium’s latest PRESS RELEASE about the event!


Back to our daily check-in . . . The following 12 organisms were pictured on day 9.  Some were pretty difficult . . . How’d you do?


  1. Eastern (Red-spotted) Newt — However, what you see in the photo is the juvenile stage, which is called a red eft.  It lives on land, in moist forest environments, for 2-3 years; one would think such bright coloration would make it easy prey, but efts have toxins in their skin which make them unpalatable to predators.  The adult newts are olive in color (pictured here) and return to an aquatic life for as long as another 12 years! 
  2. Red-headed Woodpecker*tricky ID for the same reason; this is an immature (first winter) and doesn’t yet have the bright red head nor the bold black and white patches on the body; a woodpecker of open woods and more common in the Midwest than the East, this bird was one of six that spent this past winter at Irvine–a rare treat for Maryland!
  3. Greenhouse Camel Crickettechnically a ‘cave cricket’ of dark areas and nocturnal habits; originally native to Asia, made its way to Europe and was noted for living in greenhouses; came to U.S. sometime in the last century and recently has become quite common, living in many of our basements!  
  4. Skunk Cabbagelow-growing plant of swampy areas; starts growing in very early spring–sometimes while still snow on the ground, when bizarre flowers emerge first, as a large cluster (spadix) contained in a purple teardrop-shaped spathe that can reach six inches in height; flowers smell awful (hence the name)–a strategy for attracting pollinators; later in spring, flowers dry up and large lettuce-like leaves emerge from underground stems 
  5. Meadow Vole*quite common but rarely seen; relative of lemmings; smaller ears and eyes than mice, with shorter tail and nose more blunt; otherwise, fairly similar in habits and niche
  6. Orange-tipped Oakworm Mothmemorable, when encountered, for their bright yellow-orange color; caterpillars, which voraciously eat oak leaves, burrow underground to pupate; adult moths have minimal mouth parts and, in fact, don’t even eat; they emerge in early summer, breed, lay eggs, and die
  7. Atlantic Silverside small (3-6 in.) forked-tail fish, with striking metallic silver stripe all the way down body; winters in deeper waters, but spends warmer months in shallows of Chesapeake Bay, where it is one of the most common fish species, and its tributaries 
  8. Worm-eating Warblerrelatively unknown outside of real birding enthusiasts, due to bland coloration, preference for dense understory vegetation, and insect-like voice; black headstripes stand out, as rest of bird is olive-brown (sexes look the same); ground nester, preferring wooded hillsides
  9. Porcelain Berrycommonly known as Wild Grape, even though it is not a native grape; woody climbing vine; ornamental that spreads rapidly because birds love the brilliantly-colored fruits and end up distributing seeds widely
  10. Red-eared Slider can be confused with Painted Turtle, as similar in habitat and habits; look for broad red stripe behind eye; basks on rocks/logs and quietly slides into water at sign of danger; very common pet; in fact, native range is south of Maryland, but released pets have established a healthy population here 
  11. Giraffe Spotsattention-getting fungus often found on dead branches on the ground–especially in winter; unmistakable pattern truly resembles the coat of a giraffe!
  12. Tufted Titmouse*well-known crested relative of chickadees, and also a cavity-nester; population and range expanding, in part because of their fondness for bird feeders, which help them get through tough stretches of winter; loud and distinctive song: ‘Peter, Peter, Peter’ (tough to ID here, as photo was taken under canopy near dusk)

*Photo taken on Irvine’s property



Still consider yourself just an AMATEUR Naturalist?  Or are you officially the Real Deal by now?  Maybe this final ID Quiz will help you decide!

 CLICK HERE when you’re ready to tackle Our most challenging id quiz, #10!