What's wrong with this picture???
Answer: This bird has no tail! But now that this is obvious, let me note that this isn't exactly a problem. This is a very young first-year bird and just hasn't grown a tail yet. It's fairly common but pretty striking when you see a tail-less bird in the woods.
It is that time of year again when many first-year birds make their appearance. This northern mockingbird has much of its adult plumage, but still shows the breast spotting and other characteristics of a first-year.
Yesterday mockingbirds were in high abundance on the trail out to the river overlook at Dyke Marsh just south of Alexandria, Virginia.
While I can not tell the species of a juvenile mantis, I really like these insects and so am putting up a photo of one (of several I saw) from Centre County, Pennsylvania.
When out catching bats, I get to sleep when most are just waking up. Very pretty in Mingoville, PA as I walk to my tent. This shot was taken at 5:48am.
The gray catbird is a common bird in central Pennsylvania. They are in the Mimidae family of birds, which also includes such birds as the mockingbird and the brown thrasher. All these birds can famously mimic other sounds. Mostly they mimic other birds, but they certainly can do a frog call or other sounds as well.
And while just neat little birds, they do have one of the most superhero sounding names among the birds. There is Superman, Batman, Catgirl and "Catbird." Which is doubly cool since cats are one of the greatest threats to songbirds and the birds really need a hero.
This bird was caught while mist netting for bats, so it was just flying a little too late and had an unusual experience. It was of course released unharmed.
My computer has been doing too many updates lately to blog properly. But to put something fun up here is a katydid. It is a juvenile and does not yet have its full wings, but still a nice looking insect.
The cross orb weaver spider appears to be an import from Europe which has done very well in the New World (seen here in Centre County, Pennsylvania). Generally identified by it's pretty orb web and the cross-like pattern of white blotches on the abdomen, it is a fairly common spider to see around out buildings and such.
This spider spends most of its time at night in the center of the web, but also can do what this one is doing. It is holding a line with its rear leg that leads to the center of the web. Sort of like fishing, it is waiting for an insect to fly into the web and it will feel it on the line it has extended. This allows the spider to be protected and off the web yet still know when it has prey in the web.
If you are not familiar with stinging nettle, this is what it looks like.
This stuff has a world of needles that really give a good sting if you brush up against it. Pretty much a great plant to avoid walking through.
So here is a photo of Josh Foust at a bat roost tree and the forest floor of stinging nettles that we had to walk through to find the tree. Oh the fun of working with bats in the field some days, as this whole valley bottom was full of the stuff.
This moth, the Polyphemus moth, is named after a Greek cyclops Polyphemus. Supposedly for the big eye spots on the underwings. But when the wings are open there are clearly two eyespots making a complete set. I leave it up to the reader to figure out that bit, although this one wouldn't open its wings completely for me.
Sometimes we do catch the larger moths in our bat mist nets. We take them out like we would a bat and release them. Pretty animals.
The Arboretum at Penn State is such a great place to visit, and especially for cavers like me as they did up a fake cave for part of the gardens. Very nice.
Yet while oogling the fake brass bats bolted to the ceiling (future blog post I assure you), we saw something quite real and alive in the cave. Barn swallows.
The truth be told, barn swallows seem likely to have been mostly cave-related nesting specialists pre-civilization. However, they are now are just super happy to nest all over man-made structures, like this neat-o fake cave.
So I have to end with this. Notice all the little globs of mud in the nest, mixed in with a few bits of what look like pine needles. All those mud globs were gathered in the bird's mouth and spit out into a nest. Not just gathering a bunch of sticks for this guy.
Keith Christenson - Wildlife Biologist