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April 23, 2020 -

                   Our Final ‘ID REPORT’ before the challenge begins!



So, it’s time for our final ID check-in.
The following 12 organisms were pictured on Day 10.
This was the most difficult batch.  Did you have much success?

  1. Northern Watersnake — Large (3-4 ft. long), strong snake generally found near water; usually seen swimming or basking on rocks (as in the photo); color varies between grays and browns, but always has darker bands which appear vivid in water but harder to discern once the scales dry
  2. Watercressfast-growing aquatic plant native to Eurasia but now common in most parts of the U.S., as well; member of mustard family; thrives in cool, flowing streams; edible and increasingly popular in salads and as a garnish; high in vitamin C and claimed to be an aphrodisiac
  3. Snowberry Clearwingfascinating creature, sometimes called ‘hummingbird moth’ for its nectar-feeding habits; fuzzy body has yellow and black coloration, like a bee; however, wings have fewer scales than most moths and appear clear; unlike many moths, more active during day than night
  4. Red Batsmall (body only 2-3 inches long and weight less than an ounce!) and uniquely colored bat; not a cave-dweller; rather, it sleeps hanging from tree limbs, where it is often mistaken for a dead leaf; generally solitary except during migration; hibernates in tree cavities or under bark
  5. Lincoln’s Sparrow*plain, medium-sized sparrow that only migrates through our area for a few weeks each spring and fall; nests mostly in Canada; probably underreported, as it is shy and often mistaken for much more common Song Sparrow, but lacks large central breast spot and has more fine streaks or dashes, not spots, and they’re contained to the upper half of the breast, not extending down so far
  6. Quick Gloss Snailvery small (< 1 cm) land snail; shell usually has 4 or 5 tight whorls; eye tentacles tend to be rather far apart, giving it almost a ‘Far Side’ cartoonish look!  
  7. Pincushion Moss very attractive moss, with dense, tight foliage of bright green; can exceed two feet in diameter, but so short that it has a fuzzy feel to it when dry; looks comfy, but can be deceiving . . . it soaks up a lot of water and people who sit on it usually leave with a wet rear 
  8. Wood Frog*medium sized frog in shades of light brown and tan, with a darker ‘robber mask’–a color scheme that helps them blend in with leaf litter on the forest floor; breed in ephemeral ponds but spend most of life on land, so lack webbed feet; call is strangely duck-like
  9. Marbled Orbweaversometimes called the ‘pumpkin spider’ due to large, rounded orange body, with black or brown speckling; legs have several black-and-white stripes; make large webs on forest understory vegetation near water; can be large (~2 cm) and impressive, but harmless
  10. Rose-breasted Grosbeak a very tricky ID for two reasons:  it’s in flight AND it’s an immature fall bird that hasn’t yet acquired its adult plumage; still the pinkish ‘armpits’ of the underwing indicate it could be nothing but a male of this species; will be one of the most striking birds by spring migration–with large solid blocks of black and white, accented by ruby red ‘bib’ 
  11. Eastern Redcedardense evergreen that rarely reaches more than large shrub/small tree status; many varieties are used in landscaping; winter birds love the waxy bluish berries; bark (all that was shown) is distinctive–reddish-brown and peels into long, flat strips
  12. Yellow-collared Scape Mothfairly large moth, with wingspan of 3-4 cm; body is entirely blue-black, aside from orangey ‘collar’ which makes it look a lot like a giant firefly; can be active day or night, generally in open fields with asters


                                     Extra Credit:  A Leucistic American Goldfinch* — found feeding on the Bauer Property sunflowers last November 10th (see eBird record for more photos) with lots of other goldies.  Leucism is an abnormal plumage coloration caused by a genetic mutation.  It results in large patches of feathers lacking their normal pigment, which can lead to white blotches on parts (or all) of the bird or to the entire feather structure being white.  It is different than albinism, in which an organism completely lacks pigment, even in skin and eyes; leucistic birds still have ‘normal’ coloration on eyes, beak, and legs.  On this particular finch, the wings and tail, which would normally have the darkest plumage on the entire bird, were pure white.  The rest of the bird had some olive/yellow coloration, but it was significantly lighter than a typical goldfinch.  In 40+ years of birding, this is probably only about the 7th or 8th leucistic bird I have encountered in the wild.

*Photo taken on Irvine’s property


Well, that’s it.  PHEW!  You made it!  Ten quizzes of a dozen organisms each–all shown from just one angle, many in less than ideal light, with no habitat or behavior details to help.  That is NOT easy.  We won’t ask for anyone’s actual score; that’s not the point.  However, if you feel like you’ve learned some natural history along the way or have become better acquainted with the use of your field guides or simply gained a deeper appreciation for the incredible diversity we can find right here in the “wilds” of central Maryland, then mission accomplished!  You are a naturalist.  

Congratulations!  You have the curiosity, the motivation, and the observation skills to make great contributions to the 2020 International City Nature Challenge.  We hope you’ll join us!  More details coming right up!