Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Orb Weaver Spiderlings

I came across this tiny yellow cluster on my back porch and thought it was a mass of eggs.  But a light touch sent the "eggs" scurrying in all directions and I realized these little beauties were spiderlings.  A moment later, they ran back to their original site and huddled together again.

These tiny yellow dots with black bottoms are Cross Orb Weaver (Araneus diadematus) spiderlings. 

I took this photo of an adult weaver spider in August 2009 in the same location where the babies were found so perhaps this is a relative (mom?).  The females lay their yellow cocoons filled with eggs (up to 900!) in September, so these spiderlings may very well be hers.

After last week's soaking rain, the spiderlings had dispersed, but a day later I found them gathered together in a new location.  They had taken up residence in the plant hanger attached to the porch railing.  I found their drive to cluster together very endearing.  Some of the babies had woven silky runners between the hanger and nearby bushes and were venturing out on their own.  Within a couple of days, they had all gone their separate ways.

Turtle Day

Yesterday was turtle day.  As I was driving home from work, I approached something that looked like a  rock in the road.    As I drove closer, I noticed it was actually a turtle tucked into its shell, so I pulled over and got out of the car to take a look.  It was an eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta).  Lucky for the turtle that the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary was on the other side of the street.  Hopefully the relocation worked out.  

Around 4 PM I received a call from a neighbor who said she had a turtle in her yard that had been there all day.  Would I mind going over to take a look?

Sure, why not?  The kids grabbed a bucket and we headed over, expecting another painted turtle that probably had wandered from the nearby creek.  What we got was something completely different.

This mama snapper had decided that the mulch in my neighbor's front yard was a good spot to lay her eggs.  While my son distracted her front end with a large stick which she snapped at furiously, I was able to maneuver her into a large bucket and get her back to the nearby stream that leads into a larger body of water.  The neighborhood kids got a chance to see an amazing creature and witness her strength.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cornell's Lost Ladybug Project

I blogged about this last year, but just wanted to remind readers that Cornell University is still running its Lost Ladybug Project.  The aim of this citizen science project is to track the changing distribution patterns of ladybugs in the United States.  Scientists are especially concerned about the reduced numbers of native ladybugs.  This project makes a great school science class or family activity. 

My children and I have been collecting ladybug data since last year.  Before contributing, we never thought much about ladybugs or looked at them very closely.  Now, no ladybug is just a ladybug.  The occasional rare find is exciting.  The beetles are photographed, location data is collected, and the photos and data are uploaded to the website where you can see other finds from around the country.

Our two unusual finds for this year include the Eye-spotted ladybug (Anatis mali)

and the rarely seen native Two-Spotted Ladybug (Adalia bipunctata) pictured below.  This one landed on my son during recess yesterday.  He quickly drank the rest of his water and used the bottle to bring the ladybug home to be photographed and uploaded to the website.

Robin chick update

Look how much the chicks have grown in just four days!  Now they're more alert - their eyes are open and they turn their heads to look when I photograph them.  Their previously fluff covered bodies are now filling in with pin feathers.  They'll be ready to go in a couple of weeks, maybe less.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Signs of Spring

One of my favorite signs of Spring - baby birds.  Sometimes the story ends happily, and other times, not so...

I found this beautiful black-capped chickadee egg on the ground near some bushes that abut the back porch.  I've looked and looked, but can't find the nest. 

These two eggs are all that remain of a clutch of four that was laid in a nest in a bush near our front door.  Sadly, the robin parents abandoned the nest which they had built at a very steep angle.  The other two eggs had fallen out after stormy weather.  It looks like the babies were just about to hatch.

On a positive note, these week-old robin cuties are doing quite well.  Their nest is located in a small fir adjacent to our back porch so we can get a good look and track their progress.