IMPORTANT NOTE: For those who are interested in participating in the international Backyard Nature Challenge, which begins next Friday (April 24th), you may want to view the recording of today’s Zoom meeting about documenting and uploading your nature observations so that they are counted toward the Baltimore totals. The event organizers at the National Aquarium gave an open Zoom presentation for dozens of amateur naturalists in the Baltimore area this afternoon to train folks about the use of iNaturalist; it was recorded to be distributed to many more interested parties. Please click here, if you would like to watch that training meeting and learn more about the upcoming event or the iNaturalist website in general.
So, Are you still feeling successful with your identifications after Challenge #4?
Things are beginning to become more difficult, as some of these species are harder to find and, hence, less well-known, while others look quite similar to related species and may be difficult to distinguish from a single photograph. The fact that you don’t know the time of year or the habitat type in which each photo was taken also complicates easy identification, as context means everything when making ID’s in the field. Keeping that in mind, let’s see how you did . . .
The following 12 organisms were pictured (each listed with a few ‘fun facts’ to know):
- Common Snapping Turtle (baby) — large (up to 40 lbs), hungry, and with great longevity–can live 70 years; has worm-like extension on tongue, to lure in prey; this youngster was no bigger than 2-3 inches
- White-breasted Nuthatch — common feeder bird which lives in MD year-round; climbs on trunks like woodpeckers, but usually downward, head-first
- Carolina Mantis — native species that is shorter and wider than introduced and more familiar Chinese Mantis; shades of gray, green, and brown, providing wonderful camouflage
- Sassafras — aromatic tree whose fruits, leaves, bark, even roots are popular with a variety of wildlife; leaves of 3 distinct shapes, including trademark ‘mitten’
- Black Crappie — popular freshwater sport fish; dark mottling across most of body; generally crepuscular (most active at dawn & dusk)
- Eastern Fence Lizard — gray or brown, roughly 5-6 in. long, Maryland’s only ‘spiny lizard’; forages on ground, but climbs nearest tree when scared
- Butterfly Milkweed — beautiful native wildflower that thrives in dry prairies & meadows; a favorite of monarchs, hummingbirds, and, hence, gardeners
- Green Stink Bug — not to be confused with Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, which arrived from Asia just 22 years ago and seems to be everywhere now; both are real crop pests that can do severe damage to fruit trees and some vegetables
- Red-tailed Hawk — largest of Maryland’s resident Buteos, prefers wooded edges of field habitats; works the ‘day-shift’ where Great Horned Owls do the ‘night-shift’; a pair has nested at Irvine for several years now
- Coyote — historically western predator, whose range expanded when wolves and mountain lions disappeared; Maryland was one of last states inhabited by them–didn’t appear until 1970’s; rarely seen, since nocturnal and secretive, but occasionally heard around dusk at Irvine; scat easy to find on Bauer Property trails
- Common Buckeye* — beautiful butterfly with several blue-centered ‘eye spots’ on each wing, set against mostly brown/tan background; migratory
- Tree Swallow* — hardy, always the last swallow species to leave in fall and first to arrive in spring; aggressively competes with bluebirds for nest boxes
* Photograph taken at Irvine Nature Center (others in various parts of Baltimore County or City)
As we move into the identification of the organisms on quiz #5, don’t be surprised if you have to do a little more research to pinpoint some of the species. In fact, one would have to know a great deal, covering a wide spectrum of mid-Atlantic natural history, in order to complete all of these ID’s without some help. Of course one learns the most by patiently spending time in the field, observing nature first-hand; but, there’s also much to be said for dedicated time poring through field guides when one can’t be outside. Be patient with that process, and you’ll be amazed at how much you learn.